The time for seeing globalisation as an invincible and unassailable behemoth, or localisation as some kind of lifestyle choice, is over. The end of the Age of Cheap Oil is rapidly coming upon us, and life will radically change whether we want it to or not.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PEAK OIL
We rely on Oil for Everything!
All the key elements of industrial societies, for example
transport, from going to the shops to international trade
extracting fossil fuels, mining or recycling and manufacturing goods
fertilisers and pesticides, growing, processing and packaging food
home heating, providing clean water and disposing of sewage
construction of roads, factories, hospitals, schools, shops, houses
much electricity generation
are reliant on cheap and plentiful oil and/or gas, which is why we use so much of the black stuff. (about 80 million barrels per day at present).
Great! But there are some snags.
Snag 1. Burning oil and gas releases carbon dioxide which adds to global warming.
Snag 2. Obviously, oil companies started extracting the most accessible oil. This was relatively easy and cheap. But the World's population increased and anyway we all wanted (not least Chinese and Indians) to increase our standard of living. Even when people have enough for a reasonably comfortable life the advertising industry and built-in obsolescence make sure that they keep working more to buy more, The worst nightmare of politicians and economists is that GDP might stop growing. So the world needed, and will continue to need, more and more oil.
Snag 3. Two things have happened: (a) some oil-rich nations (OPEC plus sometimes others) got together and and in various ways tried to limit production; (b) (more significantly in the long run) production from existing oil fields started to peak and then to fall as the oil was extracted. These caused the price to rise, which made it economically attractive for oil companies to seek oil in difficult and dangerous places. Regardless of environmental damage, like the Canadian tar sands.
Snag 4. Peak Oil. New oil is only being discovered at about 1/5 the rate of production. Sooner or later it will run out. But long before that, total world oil production will peak and start to fall – slowly at first, but then rapidly. Demand for oil will be greater than production, by a little, and then by a lot. The only way to bring demand into line with production is for the price to rise. And because oil is so useful the price could rise by a lot. Peak Oil occurs when we've extracted around half of the recoverable oil and what is left is more expensive to extract, slower flowing and of lower quality.
A growing body of international experts have calculated the peak will occur sometime between 2010 and 2020. There is so much uncertainity about the true level of oil resources that we will only know for sure in hindsight. Economic recession could delay Peak Oil by a year or two.
Eventually, regardless of price, when the oil needed to extract a barrel, exceeds a barrel, the exploration, drilling and pumping grinds to a halt. The oil's no longer worth extracting even at a million dollars a barrel! Long before that we must learn to live without oil (and then gas and then coal)
Peak Oil represents a real challenge in Buxton, a town which relies on transport for tourism, food, manufacturing output to name a few; many of us have to travel outside of Buxton for work. But there are ways to start to prepare for and cope with Peak Oil.
One objective for a Transition Town is to make it easy for people to work together. For example, to share lifts to work, to develop cycle ways, to reuse and recycle or to grow avariety of their own food using organic methods.