The Long Emergency, Peak Oil and Doom Mongering

Jul 30, 2005 12:47 · 638 words · 3 minute read

I get all my political news from Rolling Stone. (Yeah, right.) In reality, though, The Long Emergency over at is a book excerpt about the coming crisis brought on by “peak oil”. Peak oil is the term used for reaching the maximum possible oil production. It’s all downhill from there. I was aware of peak oil’s coming, but I wasn’t aware that some are predicting that 2005 is the year we reach it.

The Long Emergency (excerpt) is long on doom projection and short on useful suggestions. I don’t know if the book itself offers more. The main suggestion for dealing with the problem is to build more nuclear power plants, though the author is not certain we have the means to do it.

While I do believe that peak oil is going to cause a huge shift in many ways, I don’t buy into the extremes of the doom mongering of the Long Emergency. One author, reading articles and formulating opinions on the coming crisis, does not have the ingenuity of millions of people around the world working in the various fields that can help the situation.

The positive aspect of articles like this is that they raise awareness. The Bush administration has not been good at making people aware of reality, and rushing up to Alaska to get a couple pints more of oil is not a viable solution. As more people become aware of peak oil, they will start seeing business opportunities.

The Long Emergency focuses on how difficult it will be to replace all of those fossil fuels. However, the problem can be attacked from both the production *and* consumption angles. I bet that *everything* we use can be made more energy efficient. Consider that 10 years ago, a “60 watt” lightbulb took 60 watts of power. Today, you can get a bulb of equivalent light output that takes just 15 watts. Computers have been made more energy efficient for the sake of longer-running laptops. Hybrid cars get double the gas mileage of traditional cars, and 3-4 times the efficiency of the SUVs that are clogging our streets.

If you take everything in your house and make it a few times more energy efficient, things like solar power become far more viable.

Doing all of this will cost money, but it is money that we’ll have no choice but to spend.

Update 10:44AM EDT: It’s worth pointing out that the Senate has just approved a sweeping energy bill, which is the first of its kind in 13 years.

The bill provides $14.5 billion in tax breaks and potentially billions more in loan guarantees and other subsidies to encourage oil and gas drilling, improve natural gas and electric transmission lines, build new nuclear power reactors and expand renewable energy sources, especially construction of wind turbines.

Let’s not forget that the Bush family has significant oil industry ties, so it shouldn’t be overly surprising that this bill was, as CNN put it, a “tepid response to reducing the country’s consumption of oil”.

Cory Doctorow had an interesting quote to go along with the death of the broadcast flag: “The fact is, elected lawmakers are not suicidal enough to break their constituents’ televisions.” Considering that the automotive and oil companies represent 8 of the top 10 global companies, according to Fortune, I’m sure that the lawmakers are very leery of “breaking” their constituents’ cars as well.

This Congress and administration is not going to be forced into action. It’s possible that the president will not be forced into action between 2008 and 2012 as well. Assuming that peak oil is actually being reached this year, I’m guessing that crisis mode will start for sure before 2016. Let’s hope that the response to that particular crisis is not to throw out chunks of the Bill of Rights.