Peak Oil Recognition

In a shocking move (to me), Chevron announced new "advertising [that] targets dialogue about global energy issues" in a press release on July 7. The first incarnation (PDF link) I've seen of these ads is a two-page spread in next month's Wired that basically admits "the era of easy oil is over" on one page while asking people to join them in a dialogue about the future of energy on the other.

Their web page devoted to this dialogue touches on various issues (oil demand and supply, global population, geopolitics, and the environment) ever so lightly, though the admittance of a problem is definitely a start. Ultimately, the web page is a public relations campaign for one of the biggest oil companies in the world, though I do like the ticker on the main page:

What might be a valuable tool is the discussion area, though in its current incarnation it does not work as well as most message boards. The biggest problem is that each opinion is separated from the initial post/topic as well as any other opinions. So rather than a true discussion, it's merely grab-bag of comments with no continuity or thread that would have a better chance of leading to something valuable.

Moving away from Chevron, Peak Oil is a theory proposed by geophysicist M. King Hubbert, hence the theory is also referred to as Hubbert's Peak. Hubbert correctly predicted the peak of U.S. oil production 15 years before it occurred, predicting it to within a span of a year or two. Basically he asserted that the U.S. would reach the halfway point of the available cheap oil in the early 1970s; after that point the oil supply would decline, it would not be able to meet demand, and it would be more expensive to extract. The OPEC oil embargo of 1973 coincides with the peak oil of U.S oil.

His model was found to be sound and was applied to global oil production, with bodies like the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas locating that peak around 2007. The price of oil per barrel - around $60 now compared to $20 less than five years ago - is one indication that we're near that peak, as is our continued presence in the Middle East. Whatever the year for the actual peak, it's the after-effects that have people worried. Hubbert's theory uses a bell curve to illustrate the supply of cheap oil, showing a steep drop - or cliff.

The Hubbert Curve

Some people agree with this steep slide into a post-oil future, most notably James Howard Kunstler - who chronicles the impending crisis in his Clusterf*ck Nation blog - and Matt Savinar, who predicts that, "Civilization as we know it is coming to an end soon." I find it hard to argue that, but it can be read in a multitude of ways, so my reading is different than someone else's or even the author's original intentions. I see that the U.S.'s selfish, gas-guzzling, suburban, long-commuting, NASCAR, SUV ways are going to change whether we like it or not. The degree to which that happens and how is what people and corporations like Chevron are trying to figure out.

Pardon my naivete and cynicism, but I think we should do more ourselves rather than sit back and let the government and corporations take care of everything, because we know who they'll take care of. Drive less. Walk to the store, the library, the movies. Live near where you work. Grow your own vegetables and herbs. Build with local materials. There's a multitude of things we can do ourselves that won't change the world but will at least make us less susceptible to the impacts of Peak Oil, while maybe even making our lives better.