Are we at the peak of oil production?

[image-1]Oil is a viscous liquid that is usually under high pressure deep underneath the Earth. Sometimes it leeches up to the crust and forms puddles. Recall the Beverley hillbillies moment of when Jed Clampett shoots at a rabbit with his shotgun. Lo and behold, he misses and some "Texas Tea" spews forth. Oil is pressurized and naturally has a tendency to flow easily. As the pressure is released by pumping from underground, the production of oil slows down after a number of years. Modern day technologies allow us to pump the oil more quickly by injecting natural gas or saltwater in order to pressurizer the oil well. We cannot create more oil from a well, just pump it more efficiently until its eventual peak production.

In the 1950s, a Shell Oil geologist by the name of Marrion King Hubbert predicted that in 1970 America's production of oil would peak as the pressure and volume of oil in the country would reach it's midway point and production would ramp down from hence forth.

In the late 1970s, Jimmy Carter made a speech to the nation about the peak oil problem, He asked the country to seek a sustainable lifestyle. We were forewarned nearly 30 years ago about an impending drop in production of fossil fuel production worldwide. We as Americans were asked to sacrifice to conserve energy. He even went as far as having solar hot water heaters placed upon our White House.

[image-2]Peak oil wasn't given a second thought in the 1980's when the Regan era administration worked out a deal with OPEC to import oil. A new day dawned in America and the solar hot water panels were removed. We had a massive influx of countries transferring their natural currencies to dollars in order to purchase oil for their nations. This uplifted our financial industry up until it's current glut as well as made sure that America would have a constant stream of cheap oil. It also got us into a massive debt burden, having to import vast amounts of oil on a daily basis to run our economy.

[image-3]In the image at right, you will notice that the peak of oil production occurred shortly after 1970. You will also notice the uptick of production when the Alaska oil fields became operational late 1970s. The current debate to open ANWAR really matters, if we don't curtail our overall use of oil.

Since the 1980's our debt in America has been on a exponential course of direction. Money is energy, We cannot make money without energy. In order to continue on our exponential growth pattern and sustain our economy, we became dependent on foreign fossil fuels. Since that moment, we have been mortgaging the future to live in the present. We must alter our course to avert catastrophe. This graph fails to show the degree of seriousness this is - we are at $11 trillion in debt now, with a projected 2 trillion to add on next year. [image-4]

Dr. King further predicted that the world oil supply would peak sometime after the turn of the century. Human beings have a hard time grasping long term consequences. Is it too hard to conceive that the founders of this way of industrialized living never fully realized the implications of reliance of a finite fuel coupled with a exponentially growing economy?

There are some that believe that the ever increasing rise in gas prices over the past years is a clear indication of peaking. The spike of oil prices and crash in 2008 is said to be the peak point of production. This is a question we cannot fully know the answers to till probably 5 or 10 years out. Raymond James, the investment company that the Buccaneers football team's stadium is named for, released a press release declaring peak oil: “represents a paradigm shift of historic proportions. Unfortunately, mankind better get ready to live in a peak oil world because we believe the ‘peak’ is now behind us.”

The implications of such a statement are frightening when you consider the lifestyle most Tampa Bay area residents live. What if we turned this frightening thought into positive inspired action? Climate change tells us we should get off oil, peak oil tells us we are going to be forced off consuming oil. The peak production of oil doesn't mean that oil will necessarily disappear from our lives, rather it will gradually become more and more expensive forcing us to renegotiate our way of life to use less of it.

When oil gets more expensive people will have to learn to live more within their local communities. People won't be spending as much time watching TV as they will be out in their yards gardening and working at local community gardens to lower their food bills. Ride sharing will be more common, More friends will be found as we will have to once again be social. We will see a reemergence of the Arts. Culture and society will flourish as the normal pathways of life that lead us to stay in our homes and mindlessly consume will disappear. We will have to begin to be productive once more with our own hands, our minds, and our hearts giving us once more a sense of what life really means.

The transition network is a group that started in England that focuses on positive community action dedicated towards creating resilience in their communities against the effects of peak oil. Projects such as community gardens, Fruit tree plantings, as well as ride shares. The main purpose is to raise awareness of Peak Oil and Climate change. There has also been work on a energy descent plan to create pathways to lower energy usage on a community scale. Such plans talk of creating walkable communities out of the suburbs currently in place. Utilizing old empty storefronts and converting them into mixed use areas with both businesses and homes so your daily life could be just a walk away.

In the 1990s, when Soviet Russia collapsed, Cuba lost all of its imports to fossil fuels. This mini-peak oil event allows us to see community responses in action. The first reaction of Cuba was to create all arable land into urban vegetable gardens. A local food system grew over the course of a few years. The transition network holds viewings of this video to raise awareness: The power of Community: How Cuba survived peak oil. Energy efficiency was embraced so was mass transportation in the means of pick up trucks hauling masses of people along with cargo.

I'm the director of a non-profit group that I helped form located in the Tarpon Springs area. We are a group of aware individuals seeking ways to create a more sustainable community to work on behalf of the environment that sustains us all. We've helped hold events in Tarpon Springs and intend to be more active over the coming months. Please feel free to come to and discuss your ideas about creating a sustainable community. If you don't live in the Tarpon Springs area, you can create a group and invite your friends/neighbors to form a group. We will help you in your endeavors. We can help you form a transition network in your area along with give you valuable ideas and insight into what has worked or hasn't worked.

Wouldn't a partnership to create a new culture of community be a noble task to try to achieve? A culture that we are all in this together. We are not competing as individuals we are collaborating together to form a network of individual communities striving to achieve sustainability. Helping people establish a pathway towards getting their local neighborhoods into becoming sustainable by community action. Peak oil is nothing more than a natural occurrence do to our exponential use of finite ancient condensed sunlight. This won't be our last years on Earth nor an apocalyptic time. It will be a transition to a lower energy intensive way of life, one that can be fulfilling and meaningful as old values such as community will have more meaning.

To help plan this we should begin collaborating our thoughts on an energy descent plan for the Tampa Bay area. Such plans have been done in California such as this one: City of Ventura. We could put all of our unemployed citizens to work, creating a community that progressively uses less and less energy over the coming decade. Both fighting the risk of damage to economy through peak oil, as well as mitigating the carbon dioxide released that causes global climate change. It's a "one stone kills two birds" scenario. Cooperation towards a sustainable future that's bright and full of hope. A future that respects both people and planet. We can't rely on the governments to do it and the corporations won't offer it to us. We the people have to demand and design it ourselves. The culture of domination won't allow full equality and a sustainable course of living. Only a partnership society could fully achieve that.

This is a in-depth analysis from a series of videos you can find on YouTube detailing the coming struggles of our country:


Eric Stewart

Director of Code Green Community

Follow me on Twitter: @code_green

Previous Posts:

Domination to Partnership Culture

Transitioning Tampa Bay

For the next century, my generation's greatest challenge will be dealing with our energy sources. Energy is what drives everything in our society. The food we eat, the gas we put in our cars, as well as the electricity we use to turn on our lights - all originating from fossil fuels that were created from condensed sunlight millions of years ago. For millions of years, the Earth only had the available energy source of the sunlight to feed our societies' advancement.

During the 18th century that situation changed when the Industrial Revolution began using coal to fire industry and machinery to do the work of thousands of men. Shortly after the Civil War in the 1860s, oil was first utilized in this new industrialized society. America became the current day Saudi Arabia of oil exports up until the 1970s. Unfortunately for us, becoming the biggest exporter also made us the biggest user of oil. We currently have 5% of the population of the planet but utilize 25% of all the oil that the world consumes - roughly 20 million barrels of oil a day (though less since the recession).

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