Green Piece: Oil obstacles: Hitting a peak

In Columns, Columns, Opinion

“Green: concerned with or relating to conservation of the world’s natural resources and improvement of the environment.”

I’m a guy that believes that being green can improve the world substantially. I want to re-brand the whole green concept to you, because it seems that it’s gotten a bad rap time and time again.

Inevitably, many people have come to the conclusion that this whole movement is all about climate change. I want to throw that whole misconception out the window, especially since there are many global warming naysayers out there.

For those of you who believe that green technologies and methods are around solely for the purpose of curbing the greenhouse effect, let me submit to you that there are a variety of reasons that going green can benefit you.

In writing this column I hope to show that going green can be delightfully selfish rather than simply altruistic. It saves people money and leaves them healthier in the long run.

I’m not a hippie, nor am I some sycophantic brown-noser attempting to appeal to the sensibilities of liberal professors or scientists. I’m a cash-strapped student just like many of you. I’ve felt the pain of going to the gas pump when prices are $4.65 a gallon, and I’ve frequently wondered how I could save money in the face of rising energy costs.

I want to dig deep into the reasons that we see things like this happening. Climate change is a multifaceted argument that can be disputed depending upon one’s perspective, but nobody can deny that the world is changing in other ways.

Which brings me to today’s topic. Global Warming pales in comparison to this great unknown; it is one you won’t hear about from politicians.

What we’re learning about today, ladies and gents, is Peak Oil Theory.

Believe it or not, we’re running out of oil. That’s something that most of you are probably already aware of, but did you know that a great number of scientists believe that within a century, the human race will have exhausted all its oil supplies?

Peak Oil Theory, in a nutshell, basically says that for years and years we’ve been drawing up oil from our planet.

We don’t get oil from one centralized location, but rather from pockets in various locales throughout the earth.  From these pockets we extracted a record high in 2011, with 83.6 million barrels per day.

After a certain point, we are going to reach a peak in these locations, a point we’ve already gotten to in many places. The United States is believed to have reached its peak around 1971.

The peak is basically the point at which we will extract the largest amount of oil possible from an area and, in all subsequent years, the amount that we’ll extract will be marginally smaller than the year before. It’s believed that at some point we will reach a worldwide peak in which all the pockets of oil within the world will start to yield less oil.

Then, when demand starts to greatly exceed what’s being produced, the global economy will start to spiral downward as prices rise (such is the idea Peak Oil supporters have, at least). A lot of credible organizations and experts believe that we’re coming up on that time much more rapidly than anyone else realizes.

Some say we’re already upon it, and others believe it’s right around the corner.

In fact, a recent study from Shell indicates that by the end of this decade, demand will exceed the amount of oil in the world. That’s not a surprising figure when you consider that we’re making less oil and the population is rising. This is one reason we see gas prices at such alarmingly high rates.

We’re quickly coming upon a time when the worldwide extraction of petroleum will significantly decrease; perhaps it’s time to embrace the green movement. As students, we’re in the perfect position to bring our job skills together in a world that can work toward green jobs and alternative green energies.

We’ve already seen the rise of electric hybrid vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt as well as an increased interest in solar technologies. There’s been a resurgent popularity in riding bikes as people are making strides toward using less fuel.

And although this is an issue that we’re currently still trying to work out, it’s not unsolvable. This is just one of many reasons that going green is gravely important in our modern world.

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  • Firstly, peak oil is not a ‘theory’. It’s a mathematical certainty that has been proven for individual oil wells and on a regional and global scale.

    The world peak in conventional oil happened in 2005. Peak ‘all liquids’ is most likely happening right about now. We certainly do not have another 20 years until the peak, nor ten.

    As for the Chevy Volt, it runs primarily on coal. Coal is not a green fuel. Solar panels are intensely dependent upon oil and once the oil becomes too expensive to extract, we may as well say goodbye to anything but passive low-tech solar.

    The answer to peak oil is not technology. The only true solution is to reduce our consumption of energy. For those of us who don’t get prepared to do that, and who hope for some kind of alternate fuel to save the day, peak oil will be an unprecedented disaster.

    My advice: sell your car, move close to work, school and essential services. Buy or rent a small home that has a small heating/cooling bill. Learn to grow vegetables either in your home’s garden or in a community lot. Stock up on canned food. Since virtually no one is doing any of this, there will come a time when supermarket shelves are empty and there will be long lines for food. Food transportation currently ONLY happens thanks to oil and when gasoline and diesel prices go through the roof, food prices follow suit. People will go hungry – make sure you’re not one of them.

    In other words, when the music stops, make sure you’re already sitting in a comfortable chair.

  • Oh, and get a bicycle with large panniers and/or a trailer for everyone in your family. Start using it for commuting and groceries.

  • Adam Grant

    Fortunately, there’s lots of solar energy to around, and one can double the capacity of a solar installation by building another one next to it. It’s also possible to turn sunlight into electricity without photovoltaic cells by gathering it with mirrors and using the concentrated light to boil water or some other working fluid.

  • Tony

    “This is just one of many reasons that going green is gravely important in our modern world.”

    Hopefully we get to the point where population growth is a focus of ‘going green’. But it will be a long time before someone has the nerve to tell a family of 6 that they aren’t green, despite the fact that they recycle everything they can and turn out the lights.

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