Population, Petroleum, and Systemic Collapse

Article CAIRCO note: 
Peak Oil is real
Article author: 
Population, Petroleum, and Systemic Collapse
Article publisher: 
Council of European Canadians
Article date: 
18 May 2022
Article category: 
Our American Future
Medium
Article Body: 

Oil is everything. That is to say, everything in the modern world is dependent on oil and other hydrocarbons. From these we get fuel, fertilizer, pesticides, lubricants,  plastic, paint, synthetic fabrics, asphalt, pharmaceuticals, and many other things.... When oil goes, our entire industrial society will go with it. There will be no means of supporting the billions of people who now live on this planet. Above all, there will be insufficient food.

A good deal of debate has gone on about the “peak,” the date at which the world’s annual oil production will reach (or did reach) its maximum and will begin (or did begin) to decline... According to BP, it is almost certain that the global peak of oil supply was in the year 2018.... BP and Laherrère also both predict that annual production will drop to about half the present level around 2040 or 2045....

In 1850, before commercial production began, there may have been 2 trillion barrels of usable, recoverable oil in the ground. By about the year 2010, roughly half of that oil had been consumed, but perhaps as much as 1 trillion barrels remain. A trillion may sound like a great deal, but is not really so impressive in terms of how long it will last. At the moment about 35 billion barrels of oil are produced annually, and that is probably very close to the maximum that will ever be possible....

Coal will be available for a while after oil is gone, although previous reports of its abundance were highly exaggerated....

In terms of its effects on daily human life, the most significant aspect of fossil-fuel depletion will be the lack of food. “Peak oil” basically means “peak food.” Modern agriculture is highly dependent on fossil fuels for fertilizers (the Haber-Bosch process combines natural gas with atmospheric nitrogen to produce nitrogen fertilizer), pesticides, and the operation of machines for irrigation, harvesting, processing, and transportation. Without fossil fuels, modern methods of food production will disappear, and crop yields will be far less than at present....

For several reasons, alternative sources of energy will never be very useful, but mainly because of a problem of “net energy”: the amount of energy output is not sufficiently greater than the amount of energy input. With the problematic exception of uranium, alternative sources ultimately don’t have enough “bang” to replace the 35 billion barrels of oil we use annually....

The current favourite for alternative energy is solar power, but it has no practicality on a large scale....

The quest for alternative sources of energy is not merely illusory; it is actually harmful. By daydreaming of a noiseless and odorless utopia of windmills and solar panels, we are reducing the effectiveness of whatever serious information is now being published....