HAVANA TIMES — Much of what I have written and have yet to write about Peak Oil is humorously addressed in the animated documentary There is No Tomorrow (See below). Written and directed by Dermot O’Connor, the film was produced by Incubate Pictures, in association with the Post Carbon Institute.
Below, I have summarized some of its main ideas:
- Nearly two trillion barrels in oil reserves have been discovered since we began to consume oil, and we have already consumed half of this.
- Individual countries tend to reach their production peaks 40 years after their discovery peaks. The world’s discovery peak was reached in the 1960s.
- 54 of the 65 countries with the largest number of black gold reserves have already surpassed their production peaks.
- In the 1960s, six barrels of oil were being discovered for every one barrel consumed. Today, this formula has been inverted: between three and six barrels of oil for every one discovered are consumed.
When the world oil production peak is reached, oil prices won’t experience an astronomical rise but will rather experience radical fluctuations.
- Initially, some 100 barrels of oil could be obtained for every 1 barrel invested in the production and refining process (TRE = 100). Today, only 10 barrels are obtained for every barrel invested (TRE = 10). The trend is downward. When the TRE is equal to or less than one, in other words when we begin to invest more than what we obtain, oil will cease to be a source of energy and will become an energy-depleting substance.
- The world coal production peak will be reached before 2040, but there’s already very little left of the high-energy hard coal.
- The world gas production peak (including conventional gas production) will be reached before 2030.
- If we were to produce all of the electricity generated by burning fossil fuels with nuclear power plants, uranium reserves would be exhausted in one or two decades.
- The fast nuclear reactors essayed in Japan and France (it was once thought they would be the answer to the energy problem) have proven an expensive failure.
- Attempts at achieving nuclear fusion are meeting with technical obstacles that cannot be overcome at the moment.
- All of the world’s solar panels generate as much electricity as two coal plants.
Like a Ponzi scheme, the capitalist system must either grow or die.
- Before the First World War, agriculture was maintained using solar energy – it was sustainable. Today, we need seven calories of fossil fuels to produce a single calorie of food.
- The world fishing peak was reached at the end of the 1980s. At today’s consumption pace, all edible fish species will be wiped out by 2048.
- La preparación todavía no ha comenzado. The Hirsch Report, published by the US Department of Energy, estimates that two decades is the minimum amount of time that today’s societies require to prepare and avoid collapse as a result of Peak Oil. We have not yet begun to prepare.
- Energy shortages, the exhaustion of resources, the loss of fertile land and pollution all stem from exponential growth.
- Society can take a step back to a simpler state – this does not necessarily entail total collapse or regressing to the Stone Age. Whether there is or there is no tomorrow depends on what we do as of right now.
I am particularly interested in stressing that Peak Oil does not in any way resemble the apocalyptic movements that abound on the Internet and the media, for consumption by the stupefied masses. It is not a prophesy; it is not necessarily apocalyptic and it has nothing to do with a conspiracy theory.
Its main assumptions (the documentary mentions some) are backed by regular science and are easy to comprehend. One needn’t resort to complex paradigms, quantum physics or relativity, or be an enlightened or privileged mind, to realize this.
The main “problem” it poses is that, in an indirect way, it speaks to people of their egotism, their lack of awareness, and of the need to make an effort and take a risk to change their current way of life, in the face of an uncertain future. This is a hard pill for the masses to swallow.