Wednesday, April 6, 2011

By Request, Peak Oil

Jerry has been concerning himself lately with Peak Oil, which is currently defined on Wikipedia as "the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline." If I understand correctly, the worry comes from the fact that most of our socioeconomic reality is dependent on oil; a decline in and eventual depletion of oil will likely mean drastic social and economic changes. The change could be for the worse, which is, I believe, the big fear here. Prices of just about everything will skyrocket into prohibitivity. Many, maybe most, people will lose their jobs because they won't be able to afford their respective commutes. The world economy will collapse more that it has in the entire history of economics. More people will be dying of poverty-related problems than not.
Maybe I'm just too optimistic and/or sadistic, but I'm looking forward to Peak Oil. The idea that Peak Oil is avoidable seems farfetched to me, but I hope that Peak Oil can be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
Our social and economic systems are outdated and need to be replaced or reformed. On the 2011 March 28 episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Mansour O. El-Kikhia pointed out that the Westphalian system of nation-states has been in place, virtually unchanged since 1648, and that this system is outdated, almost obsolete. Using the social media uprisings in Egypt and the American wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya as examples, El-Kikhia asserted that the Westphalian system of sovereign nation-states cannot last much longer. I agree with him, and I would add terrorism, the European Union, the internet, the Great Recession, and Peak Oil as factors in the upcoming fall of Westphalianism. Taken alone, Peak Oil would probably be catastrophic. Taken with the other aforementioned factors and other current and future world situations, however, Peak Oil might make the world a better place. My advisor in college said that he drives a gas-guzzler conscientiously, in an effort to force the world to find alternative energy solutions more quickly. I'd rather we move away from oil by choice, but if we move away by necessity, at least we still move away. The right thing for the wrong reasons is still an improvement. If Peak Oil is what we need to finally shake our oil addiction, I say bring the pain. After we ride out the withdrawal, we'll be stronger for it.