Peak Oil

Transition is a hopeful response to peak oil through community action.  But what is “peak oil”.

Peak Oil refers to the time when oil production will have peaked  because we will have used half of the oil ever likely to be available (round about now according to some assessments).  Given a high or increasing  rate of global oil consumption,  it is predicted that over time oil  will  become increasingly scarce. It is also estimated that oil will be more expensive and difficult to extract as the more easily accessible oil has already been taken.  Because oil underpins so much of our economy, from transportation through to food production and the manufacturing of  many  consumer products, we as a community and as individuals are very vulnerable to  oil crises and  disruptions of oil supply.  Informed estimates suggest we may have 40 years before  oil and gas  disappear completely but during this period we will have to deal with decreasing availability and increasing prices. The Transition response is to work at building resilience in the local community now and in future years to reduce our dependence on oil  over time.

A very accessible explanation of peak oil can be found on the website Transition Culture, which also explores the wealnesses in some of the easy fix remedies  often put forward as solutions to plug the oil gap, ie new technologies, nuclear etc.

The extract below is from the Institute for Community Solutions, who produced the DVD  “The Power of Community; How Cuba survived peak oil”, which was shown recently in  our  Film Cafe.


A worldwide peak in oil production (Peak Oil) is a proposal first formulated in the 1950s that stated oil extraction would plateau due to limited sources, after which production would slow and begin an inevitable decline. “The International Energy Agency (IEA) acknowledged Peak Oil in its 2008 and 2009 Annual Report. The IEA estimates Peak Oil will occur by 2020 unless major new discoveries are found. The Association for the Study of Peak Oil thinks Peak Oil will occur in 2010 or 2012.” Other groups also put the date somewhere between 2010 and 2020.

Peak Oil and Gas

Even companies that have the most investments in oil, and the financiers who invest in oil exploration, are giving off clear signals that they know Peak Oil is coming. While companies like Shell, ExxonMobil and BP have posted record profits in the last few years, these same companies are spending less and less on finding new oil, as the cost of exploration has already begun to exceed the revenue from the oil discovered. “The great merger mania is nothing more than a scaling down of a dying industry,” said Goldman Sachs in a 2004 report, “in recognition of the fact that 90 percent of global conventional oil has already been found.”

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