Peak Oil and The Road To Turmoil

Posted on 10 Dec ’11

Peak Oil

I came across an interesting graph, I thought I would blog about. It is known as the Hubbert Peak Oil Graph (see below). What is interesting about this graph is that it was devised back in the 50’s as a theory to show when we run out of fossil fuels to keep the world running.

Peak Oil itself (according to Wikipedia) is the point in time when maximum petroleum extraction is reached worldwide and we are in terminal decline. This logistics theory quite accurately predicts these values based on the a number of constraints and variables e.g. number of wells in production, number of regions/countries etc. Another key factor to note is that as the rate of population has grown around the world, so has the production rate for fossil fuels.

Today it is also known as the “Hubbert Peak”. If you look closely, we are going to cross the peak between 2015-2020 i.e. next 3-8 years. You might be saying it a while away yet (which is what I was thinking), and not real enough – so read on.

The Road To Turmoil

The turmoil will come, when we are in the decline phase of this graph (post say 2020). Think about it, world oil / petrol reserves are drying up essentially. So my predictions are:

  • Rate of population growth across the world continues to increase
  • Rate of fossil fuel production will decrease (and everyone has seen the madness and fluctuations in the world commodities markets recently e.g. oil & gas prices over the last 10 years) – keep a close eye on this one and the sharp rise in prices up-to and beyond 2020). This even considers the number of new reserves that my be found.
  • As these resources dwindle, the usual economic effects of job losses, industry shrinkages will become apparent. In some cases where entire economies that are built around the fossil fuel industry  i.e. similar to the way the Australian economy relies heavily on its mineral exports, will collapse.
  • Economic wars, and potentially followed by real wars to control the last few morsels of fossil fuels. The fallout from these economic and potentially humanitarian disasters will be dealt with and eventually absorbed (or ignored) as we do currently.
  • A new dependence will emerge before we reach the end of fossil fuels, whether its hydrogen based fuel cells (which mean our water supply will be a precious commodity), or solar cells technology (which means our SUN will become the commodity), or wind and water energy.
  • A new dependence theory will emerge, and we will need to start worrying about when and how that new commodity will end.

The peak oil theory was developed by a guy called M. King Hubbert. Very interesting read altogether, so check it out if you have some time…and sorry for the apocalyptic undertone – a bit early in the morning I know.


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