[extropy-chat] Peak Oil - the new Y2K?

Hal Finney hal at finney.org
Tue Apr 19 23:43:03 UTC 2005

Recently I have been exposed, somewhat belatedly, to the next apocalypse
that everyone can lose sleep over: Peak Oil.  According to advocates of
this principle, we are at or near a peak in worldwide oil production.
As demand increases with economic growth, and as major economies like
China and India try to develop a middle class life style, any lapse
in production growth is going to put an enormous squeeze on the world
economy.  This will manifest most immediately in shockingly high oil
prices that will make today's $50-60/bbl look like nothing.  This will
be followed by worldwide depression, economic failure, food shortages,
riots and ultimately an apocalyptic collapse of civilization.  Google
on Peak Oil for the gory (literally!) details.

I can't help but be reminded of Y2K, which produced a similar litany of
collapse and failure.  It looked pretty credible at the time, and there
were a number of respected experts predicting serious problems.  Yet as
we know, Y2K passed with barely a blip.

Will Peak Oil go the same way?  On the one hand, it seems inevitable that
we will run out of oil within a few decades at least, forcing a costly
transition in our transportation and energy infrastructure.  But on the
other hand, oil futures prices are moderate, OPEC and oil companies are
taking a business as usual attitude and are neither hoarding oil nor
drastically increasing exploration efforts, as might be expected if they
think it will be worth $100+/bbl in a few years.

I'm still educating myself on the matter and don't have a strong opinion,
other than that it is clear that most of the web sites involved are
presenting biased data, and most of them are trying to sell something.
That was also the case with Y2K.  This doesn't mean that they are wrong,
but it does mean that it is important to look at the facts impartially and
unemotionally and not be swayed by personal preferences, hopes or fears.


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