In Lisbon, Portugal during May 19-20th 300 people gathered from around the world to discuss the inevitable. The title of the event was the 4th International Workshop on Oil and Gas Depletion. This was a meeting of the Peak Oil community. Most in attendance had come purely for personal reasons, a very small minority had actually been paid by their employers to attend. The first day walked us through the problems with the reporting of oil reserves data and an in-depth analysis of Hubbert's Curve theory. Predictions were made as to when Peak Oil would hit. But this was not the main focus of the event. The general consensus was that the timing is of little significance, the fact that it will happen is the issue. An issue that still is not being addressed by the world.
Matthew Simmons the CEO of an energy investment institution. Gave a talk about Saudi Arabia and his soon to be released book 'Twilight in the Desert' outlining oil production in that country. His statements affirmed what many in the crowd had already suspected - Saudi Arabia's fields are about to enter depletion, which means global world oil is very close to being in depletion. Simmons was able to use publicly available documentation to piece together evidence for this. An even more alarming fact he uncovered was that Saudi Arabia has been misleading the world since the 70's by over-producing their oil fields.
Colin Campbell the founder of ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil) spoke about the end of the first half of the Age of Oil. He focused attention on the Economics side of the problem "the World faces a discontinuity of unprecedented magnitude, undermining the very fabric of society and economic well being. In short, it faces a Second Great Depression, triggered not by Peak Production itself but by the perception of the long downward slope that follows it." He went on to state that the decline of oil will challenge our essential confidence in "Expansion Tomorrow to support To-day's Debt...in other words, the End of Economics, as presently understood and practiced."
Another very interesting statement he made was "An economic downturn will be accompanied by a fall in the demand for oil and gas such that prices may collapse, rendering the development of Non-Conventional Oil and Renewable Energies uneconomic, compounding the problem."
The consensus of the speakers was that once the world crosses peak production we will be faced with a collapse in global economies. Adoption by the countries of the world of an 'Oil Depletion Protocol' would help alleviate the challenges presented by this transition.
Richard Heinberg the author of 'The Party's Over' and 'Power Down' made a startling comment that the vast majority of Americans will not realize the connection between gas prices, way of life and wars on the opposite side of the planet. If he is right the prospects of what the American public and its government might do in the face of dwindling oil supplies is frightening.
The overall conclusion of the two day workshop was that a transition to low energy living will occur during our lifetimes. Preparation by all levels of society are essential for this to happen both successfully and peacefully.
Following is a simple analogy to help cement the importance and logic of preparation.
Swimming is a skill one gains through hands-on learning. When a person finds themselves in deep water this knowledge can be applied to save one-self from drowning. Learning how to swim is an act of preparation for a circumstance likely to occur during one's life. Waiting to learn this skill for when the problem presents itself is normally not a very successful route to take.
In our current society we have the knowledge of using technology to provide for our everyday needs. In a previous article 'It's back to the farm' I outlined how technology provides layers of abstraction between us and our needs. All technology requires energy to function. When energy availability becomes unreliable we will be forced to provide for our needs in a more direct fashion. Having knowledge of how to do this will be very important. Those without this knowledge will find themselves in very deep water trying desperately to stay afloat. Preparation is the key to survival, especially when facing the inevitable.
Often people draw a comparison between peak oil and Y2K with the conclusion that Y2K was a false alarm so why prepare for Peak Oil. What most people fail to recognize is that in the last year alone we have witnessed a number of software failures within Canada's major banks that denied people access to their own money. This clearly demonstrated how easily technology systems can fail and the ramifications of these failures. The fact that Y2K did not result in any catastrophes is in itself a miracle. Keep in mind that billions of dollars were pumped into preparing for that problem.
Oil and Gas depletion will require the immediate change of our current way of life. Knowledge of how to work and live in a low-energy world will be the preparation needed. Arguably, the toughest part will be on our egos, Peak Oil will be a very humbling experience. We will be forced to acknowledge that the problem is with technology. A problem that can not be conveniently off-loaded to a third party such as government or 'experts'. Which makes this a problem that must be dealt with directly. The solution is one that we are always trying to avoid - personal ownership of an issue.
It's time to face the music, sink or swim - The solution is YOU and in the way that YOU live.