Monday, March 31, 2008

What has oil done for you lately?

Oil is the most versatile and energy dense resource ever discovered. So, what has oil done for us? In the past century, cheap oil has defined the space around us, our jobs and our products, our food and our lives.
  1. Cheap oil made the Green Revolution possible. The Green Revolution is really just the pouring of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on monoculture crops. Chemical fertilizers and the -icides are made of fossil fuels. Additionally, oil runs the tractors that plow and harvest and the trucks which ship our produce. The Green Revolution catapulted humanity from 1 to 6 billion people in just a century.

  2. Cheap oil globalized trade. Shipping products all over the world became possible and very profitable.

  3. Cheap oil globalized the job market. Manufacturing moved to the area of cheapest labor, since shipping costs were so cheap they were virtually free. Now only services and retail are local.

  4. Cheap oil introduced us to plastics. Now - think fast - name a product which has no plastic components or packaging.

  5. Cheap oil means cheap transportation and the infrastructure of cheap transport. SUV's. Sports cars. Suburbs. Exurbs. Highways and potholes. Road trips. Strip malls. Shell stations. Road rage. Traffic jams. Smog. Asthma. Airports. Tourism. Weekends in Paris. Spring break in Cancun. 'Nough said.

  6. Cheap oil derivatives are major components of medicines, makeups, any kind of chemical product.

  7. Cheap oil means using oil to mow our lawns, blow our leaves, run our jet skis and our off-roaders. Essentialy, frivolous s&^t.

  8. Cheap oil means cheap heating oil.

So if cheap oil has completely changed our lives, and our world, what does the decline of cheap oil mean? Essentially Peak Oil is the point in time in which the world produces the most oil it will ever produce. At that point, things may look very rosy, and people may be inclined to disregard any warning of problems to come. That is because Peak Oil is the top - the most - the highest. From the highest point, the only way is down.

Some describe Peak Oil as an issue of running out of oil. It is more accurate to say that we are running out of cheap oil. We will no longer be able to act as if energy is free. All the investments we have made, the habits we've formed, the cheap electricity and transportation we have come to rely on, will slowly - or quickly - erode. Unfortunately, the process will not reverse itself quietly, and in order.

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