Mud City Press

The End of the Age of Oil

Homo sapiens became something more than another mammal on the planet when they gained control of fire. Using fire to create energy for heat, food preparation, the making of tools and weapons, and later transportation is the story of civilization. Midway through the nineteenth century, we entered an age where the burning of nonrenewable fossil fuels–coal, natural gas, petroleum–became the primary source of energy. The availability of cheap fossil fuels enabled the industrial age and the growth of modern society. Automobiles, electric power plants, plastics, fertilizers, explosives, everything from energy production to synthetic materials to agriculture to transportation to war depends on fossil fuels–primarily crude oil. More than half of everything we consume is either grown with, made of, delivered by, or packaged in petroleum products. For quite some time now, cheap oil has sustained the way we live.

Land of the Free
"Land of the Free, Home of the Brave" by Mark Henson. All rights, US and International, reserved by the artist.

That is rapidly changing. After a hundred and fifty years of increasing petroleum use, we are halfway through Earth's reserves. The price of a barrel of petroleum was $12 a barrel in 1998. It topped $145 in June of 2008, fell back to $30 by January of 2009, climbed back up and stablizied in $75-80 range for almost two years, then this spring topped $100 a barrel again. This volatility is clear evidence that oil production is at or nearly at a peak and that we are witnessing the first tremors of economic adjustment. Energy cost volatility will cause continuing upheaval in the economy and put vast financial pressure on the middle and lower classes. Tracking carbon footprints and relocalization, concepts you may or may not be familiar with, will be key social trends in the years to come. Finding a clean alternative to oil yesterday or simply living with less energy is absolutely critical to the future and direction of humankind tomorrow.

Table of Contents

Overview:

ENERGY
Petroleum, as a cheap source of energy, has been the key ingredient to the growth and development of our current industrial age. Petroleum, however, is a nonrenewable, finite natural resource. The word "finite" needs emphasis here. Current estimates suggest petroleum production will soon peak and be priced out of common use. As our economy and our production of food are critically dependent on cheap oil, we must either find a new way to produce clean efficent energy or moderate the way we live. MORE.

Related Articles:

SEARCHING FOR A MIRACLE
This report by Richard Heinberg is number four in the False Solutions series published since 2006 by the International Forum on Globalization. It is intended as a non-technical examination of a basic question: Can any combination of known energy sources successfully supply society's energy needs at least up to the year 2100?
THE HIRSCH REPORT: Peaking of World Oil Production
This is the landmark report by the United States Government on peak oil–impacts, mitigation, and risk management.
WORLD OIL CRUNCH LOOMING?
SCIENCE MAGAZINE enters the peak oil discussion. This article in their November 21st, 2008 issue may have been long overdue, but SCIENCE is one of the most respected scientific journals in the world; that they have decided to delve the realm of peak oil marks an important step for academic science.
THE BACKGROUND IS OIL
This is Dale Allen Pfeiffer's classic on Peak Oil.
THE GREEN WHITE HOUSE
What if the United States got serious about energy? What if Congress really took on climate change? What if the White House included cutting edge energy design and environmental awareness? Here's one man's vision for what 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue might look like.
COMMON SENSE AND FOSSIL FUEL MANAGEMENT
We've used up about half the planet's petroleum reseres. Environmental studies and foreign policy both scream for us to find alternatives. Instead we use more and more oil each day. From one petrol-addict to another, when in the world do we stop this nonsense of burning fossil fuels like there's no tomorrow?
THE ABIOTIC CONTROVERSY
Richard Heinberg addresses the idea that "aboitic" hydrocarbons might exist deep below the earth's crust. If true, would this challenge the concept of peak oil? Heinberg gives his always articulate and educated response.
REVISITING THE LIMITS OF GROWTH: Could the Club of Rome have been correct, after all?
This is an energy policy white paper written in October of 2000 by Matthew R. Simmons. In the next year, Simmons would be a member of the Bush-Cheney Energy Transition Advisory Committee and the Independent Task Force on Strategic Energy Policy. Let there be no doubt that peak oil was a critical part of all energy discussion in the Cheney-Bush White House. Video Clip: Matthew Simmons on CNBC 3/7/2008
PEAK OIL:The Real Connection between Iraq and 9/11
Explore the world of Peak Oil through the eyes of Mark Robinowitz.
DESCENDING THE OIL PEAK
In March of 2007, the Portland, Oregon City Council published a report on Peak Oil. This report lays out a comprehensive plan for preparing Portland for rising energy costs. For anyone interested in finding out more about Peak Oil, what it means economically, and how we might prepare for it, reading this report is a good place to start.
TAR SANDS VERSUS CLEAN WATER
This excellent article by Mark Robinowitz explains why tar sands are not the answer.
OIL, SMOKE, AND MIRRORS.
This is an intriquing video documenatary on the connection of Peak Oil to 9/11. Whether you go for the premise or not, this forty-five minute piece includes excellent footage of interviews with Richard Heinberg and Colin Campbell. Check it out.

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