Thinking about oil

slaves 2

Today’s energy supply is equivalent – in energy terms – to 22 billion slaves working around the clock. We’re living with this enormous stock of slaves working for us – in the form of oil – but by the end of this century, there aren’t any more of them.

That’s a huge change we’re facing, it effects just absolutely every aspect of the modern world. [1]

The writing is on the wall. Global oil supply can’t meet global oil demand forever, necessitating new energy sources and usage practices. Even if technology allowed us to harvest every last drop of oil in the planet, increasing scarcity and rising prices would necessitate widespread change long before we actually ran out of oil. [2]

oikl wells

BP’s annual report on proved global oil reserves says that as of the end of 2013, Earth has nearly 1.688 trillion barrels of crude, which will last 53.3 years at current rates of extraction.  Of course, nations are finding new oil … but new extraction methods are costly and can pose environmental threats. [3]

This doesn’t mean that the level of production will remain at today’s rate. As wells become depleted, the extraction rate will ‘remain the same’ at fewer and fewer pumps. By 2040, production levels may be down to 15 million barrels per day – just 20% of what we currently consume. By that time, it is probable that the world’s population will be double what it is today and much more industrialised, and therefore oil dependent. [4]

In 2012, the International Energy Agency said “No more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2 °C goal”, the internationally recognized limit to average global warming in order to prevent catastrophic climate change. [5]

oil spills                       oil spills bird

So, if we keep burning fossil fuels at our current rate, we are going to run out of oil before the end of this century BUT, we can’t afford to keep burning fossil fuels at our current rate. Over two-thirds of today’s proven reserves of fossil fuels need to still be in the ground in 2050 in order to prevent catastrophic levels of climate change. [5]                                                                         climate change polar bear

The truth is … that affordable, abundant energy has made life for billions of people much better than it ever was. [6] In September 2011 it was said: no cost-effective, environmentally sound alternative exists for gasoline or diesel, critical fuels for transportation and heavy equipment operation. [7]

We’ve waited too long to develop alternative energy sources and … there’s the likelihood that even all of these alternative sources put together won’t be able to power industrial societies in the way that we’ve become accustomed to with fossil fuels … We’ve created a way of life that is fundamentally unstainable.[8]                                                                                           alternative lifestyle

What we can say now, without any shadow of doubt, is that Petroleum Man is extinct by the end of this century. That poses the thorny, difficult question: ‘will homo sapien be as wise as his name implies and figure out a way to live without oil which is the bloodstream of virtually everything’.


References:                                                                                                     1. Dr.Colin Campbell (@17:22) in ‘A Farm For the Future’ – the full length film on peak oil, farming & permaculture. Rebecca Hosking & Tim Green 17:22 (2009)

2. (April21, 2010)

3. (July 14, 2014)

4. (October 22, 2014)

5.  ( November 12, 2012)

6. (October 23, 2013)

7. (September, 2011)

8. Dr.Richard Heinberg (@12:06) in ‘A Farm For the Future’ – the full length film on peak oil, farming & permaculture. Rebecca Hosking & Tim Green 17:22 (2009)

9. Dr.Colin Campbell (@47:30) in ‘A Farm For the Future’ – the full length film on peak oil, farming & permaculture. Rebecca Hosking & Tim Green 17:22 (2009)







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