Ecologist Says Oil-Supply Peak Nearing
- Dear Friends,
Love and Light.
Ecologist says oil-supply peak nearing
United States will be particularly affected, analyst says
Sunday, April 2, 2006
BY KATE HAWLEY
OF THE JOURNAL STAR
PEORIA - The world's supply of oil will peak in just a few years, plunging the world's economy into recession, ecologist Robert Heinberg told about 165 people at the Holiday Inn City Centre on Saturday.
The United States, heavily dependent on foreign oil, will be particularly affected, said Heinberg, a faculty member of the New College of California, where he teaches "Culture, Ecology and Sustainable Community." Heinberg is an advocate of the "peak oil theory," introduced in the 1950s by M. King Hubbert, a geologist working for Shell Oil Co. Hubbert argued that because oil is a finite resource, it will someday run out. He predicted that the United States' oil production would peak in the early 1970s. It has been in decline since then. There are various predictions about when global oil production will peak, most of them within the next 20 years. "We've entered the peaking period," Heinberg said. "Obviously, many people consider this a radical idea," said Dave Thompson of the Peoria Area World Affairs Council, which invited Heinberg to Peoria for the daylong talk. But there's a growing number of believers, bolstered by analyses including a 2005
report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy. Widely known as the Hirsch Report, it warned of the dire consequences of a global oil peak. "As peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically," the report's executive summary states, "and, without timely mitigation, the economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented." Heinberg advises individuals, schools and municipalities to prepare for disaster. He suggested that Peoria establish a commission to study how the city should respond to fuel shortages. A group called the Peoria Area Post-Carbon Outpost, including Thompson, is studying how to withstand a drastic oil shortage and recession. Critics of the peak oil theory have argued that when oil runs low prices will rise, forcing consumers to seek alternative forms of energy. Natural gas, biodiesel, ethanol and alternative forms of energy will replace oil. Heinberg disagrees. "The market won't
solve the problem." The demand for ethanol will certainly increase - producing a boon to corn-rich areas like central Illinois - but ethanol will not in his view make a big impact on the national energy situation. "Is it a net energy producer? It's controversial," he said. "It's certainly less than oil and gas." The concept of net energy is crucial to Heinberg's analyses. There are ample sources of energy, but many of them take so much energy to produce that their net yield is very low. For example, Heinberg said, sources of "unconventional oil," like tar and sand deposits, are slow and costly to produce. Alternative sources of fuel will take "decades and trillions of dollars to develop," he said, and by then it will be too late to outrace the oil shortage. Heinberg is the author of six books, most recently, "The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies." Kate Hawley can be reached at 686-3114 or khawley@....
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