Monday, November 9, 2009

Top 10 Euphemisms for Peak Oil

Occasionally, you just need to avoid saying Peak Oil. In some company, it's tantamount to betrayal, in others, too much like a fart at the dinner table. Nothing stinks so much as the truth, right? Other people believe peak oil is the realm of cults and conspiracy theorists, and as such, if you want to discuss it without an auto-reflex of denial on the part of your communication partner, you have to use some other terms.

In some company, peak oil is taken as a given and therefore, there's no need to discuss it - just the repercussions. And finally, if you are writing brochures, websites or a book about the peak oil predicament, sometimes you just want to use a few different phrases, instead of the same one in every single sentence. From the vague to the technical to a few indirect references, here are some euphemisms to let you talk about PO without actually mentioning the term, should you ever need to do so.


Use this one when you you are among peak oil friends and need a little dark humor. We all know what happens after production starts crashing. Not the end of the world - just the end of the world as we know it.

9. End of cheap-and-easy-to-extract oil

Too many times, when you say peak oil, people hear "the end of oil," and start having flashbacks to all the times they've heard THAT one before. No, no, you say - just the end of reasonably priced oil that we can get to.

8. Oil dependency and depletion

Alliteration! I like this phrase because it includes the word "dependency." This euphemism is a good way to describe peak oil if you want to start by discussing how we eat, drink, shop and drive oil. After people understand how much they use it, sometimes the implications of the "depletion" half of the term become fairly obvious.


Another inside joke for peak oil followers. As in, "after Cantarell crashes and Mexico stops exporting oil, we'll really see TSHTF" (the s^%t hit the fan).

6. Our energy challenge

Here's the wonderfully vague approximation of peak oil that we have chosen to use in many of our Transition Town OKC marketing materials. Non-specific enough for you? Or does it sound too much like a game show?

5. Oil demand destruction

A way to sneak in some economics phraseology. "Demand destruction" means "you can't afford it any more, so too bad if you wanted to go to work or buy food or heat your house with it."

4. Energy transition

Energy decline is probably more accurate, but let's face it, declines are downers! We'll have a transition instead. The only thing I don't like about this one is that people may start believing that we are "transitioning" to a world of equal amounts of cheap and disposable energy - just produced by solar, wind, ethanol, biodiesel, etc. The transition I'm thinking of involves a lot more efficiency, curtailment, and complete systems redesign than just replacing our oil use with the so-called alternatives, which don't have nearly the same energy density as oil.

3. Global peak and decline in oil production

OK, seriously, this one basically says "peak oil." Still, you manage to avoid putting the two key words together.

2. Foreign oil dependency

The ultimate for communicating with people who have conspiracy theories of their own. As in "Those damn furreners who want to keep our oil under their soil."

1. Elimination of spare petroleum production capacity

MMMMMM, deliciously technical. Another way to say, "we're close to being oh-so screwed." I believe I found this one in Oil 101 - kudos to author Morgan Downey for pages of peak oil discussion without ever once mentioning the actual phrase peak oil.

Here's a nice quote from Mr. Downey: "Even in the most extreme optimistic scenario, conventional oil production will cease to exist well before the end of the century - a fact even the most optimistic oil company agrees with."

Any way you say it, peak oil is a serious topic. No reason not to have a little fun with it now and then, though, is there?


xxancroft said...

Good blogpost idea.

Alison Cummins said...

Oh, I just say "when oil costs a lot more than it does now." Most people nod sagely and agree that yes, that will happen.

CambridgeLady said...

Very good post.

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

I should mention Mr. Downey, author of Oil 101, who I quote in this post, left me a comment on another article - "Peak oil is a certainty. There, I said it."

Mike Grenville said...

what about 'energy crunch'

Anonymous said...

You neglected my favorite du jour- "near-term supply crunch". This one seems to be favored by those who just can't bring themselves to use the term "peak oil", as it would be a concession that the peakists were correct all along

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

Thanks for everyone's ideas! I also like the Long Emergency and the undulating plateau (for different situations, obviously).

LisaF said...

How about "energy uncertainty?" The more vague, the better, right? :)