Peak Oil, or We’re All Gonna Die

I’ve recently been made aware of the concept of “peak oil”, which says that since there is a finite amount of oil on earth, we’re eventually going to reach the top of the bell-shaped production curve. After that, prices increase dramatically, and since so much of what we need to exist is tied to oil, we return to pre-oil population levels. In other words, about 4 billion of us die off.

I learned of this through a somewhat alarmist web site called Life After The Oil Crash. It’s basically a scare-the-bejesus-out-of-you piece, but does seem to cover most of the arguments against it. If you check the breaking news section, there are a couple articles by respected news organizations that support it.
     The controversy isn’t whether oil will run out, but when. A new study reported by CNN states that oil reserves are overestimated, and we’ll see peak oil about 2010. Even if it’s 2035, as some think, it’s one of those things we have to start worrying about now. Clean forms of energy, like wind and solar energy, just won’t cut it. Even if we cut back, there are too many of us, and we use oil way too much (it’s critical for agriculture, plastics, etc.). Dirty forms of energy, like coal, do too much environmental damage. Our best bet is helium-3 fusion reactors, which don’t exist.
     Ok, here comes my conspiracy theory. Bush’s top energy guy is aware and concerned about peak oil. If he’s convinced Bush of this, it explains:

  • Invading Iraq, which allows them to renegotiate oil contracts, now with American companies.
  • Ignoring the Kyoto Accord, which allows us to utilize coal more. That’s more harmful to the environment, but delays peak oil.
  • Increasing spending on research for alternative energy.
  • Creating a base on the moon, which is chock-a-block with helium-3.

There are several reasons he wouldn’t admit all this:

  • Avoid panic.
  • Avoid an oil stock crash (Shell downwardly revised their reserve estimates, and several oil stocks went lower).
  • It makes America look selfish and imperialistic.
  • Incumbent politicians don’t like to be the bearer of bad news.

Like I said, it’s a conspiracy theory, and perhaps the hardest thing to believe is that the Bush administration (or any presidential administration) would be so forward-thinking.