Sunday, January 28

Peak Oil and wacko Luddite socialists

This may not make much sense yet because there's a lot of b/g I don't yet have time to fill in. But I thought it would be better to get something down before I forgot about it, so here goes:

I stumbled onto M.K. Hubbert's work ("oil production must eventually peak") around 1990, and went through the thought process most people probably experience on encountering this: The theory/forecast first seems far-fetched, then scary, but that curve he uses is so symmetric that it can't possibly be accurate... (et cetera). But after you go through his reasoning and data, his conclusions start to look pretty compelling.

Recently I happened across another Peak Oil website (theoildrum.com), and was impressed with the quality of the discussion, analysis and range of ideas for how we can cope far more expensive oil (an event often referred to as The End of Life As We Know It (TEOLAWKI)). But in checking out the comments and links on that site, something struck me as odd:

About half of the folks on the site seemed to be wacko Bush-haters. I mean the full-on, tinfoil-hat-wearing types who claim the U.S. government blew up the World Trade Center.

Understandably (and obviously), many people find the concept of Peak Oil unsettling. Then after a period of adjustment, rational folks move on to the "Okay, now what can we do to adjust?" mode. In this vein one of the first (and again, obvious) conclusions is that because of the immense size of the systems involved, acting earlier to ease the transition is better than delaying action. (With the obvious caveat that one doesn't want to waste money/effort in misguided efforts.)

My concern is that prevalence of Bush-hating, war-is-never-the-answer, Loose-Change nuts in the Peak Oil camp will discredit the entire subject-- and thus will make it virtually impossible to implement any effective palliative measures.

Moreover, my impression is that effective solutions to *technical problems* are rarely authored by marketing majors or sociology majors. Rather, solving technical problems takes some actual tech/engineering competence. And it seems to me that *most* folks with a tech/engineering background tend to be somewhat conservative. So if the PO camp becomes dominated by "progressivist" Bush-haters, I think we'll have a *far* harder time devising and implementing effective solutions, since the wackos will regard the engineering types as neocon plants, while the engineers will be reluctant to join forces with people who not only seem to be lunatic-fringers, but seem to regard any engineering proposal more complex than the wheel as the devil's work.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Barb said...

I haven't read any of the background, but my thought as I read through your post was - "What if the ones spinning the data are slightly less whacko versions of the same tin-foil-hat wearing folks?". In other words, is the whacko-ness core to the movement, or is it just engendering a sub-following which sees the topic as feeding their 'No blood for oil' madness?
Just being a devil's advocate.

Assuming reasonably good research and data gathering, then I certainly agree with your concern that we should not let the whackos hijack a real issue and drag it off to the fringes where no real action will be taken to mitigate the future effects.

12:34 PM  
Blogger sf said...

Barb wrote: I haven't read any of the background, but my thought as I read your post was "What if the ones spinning the data are slightly less whacko versions of the same tin-foil-hat wearing folks?". In other words, is the whacko-ness core to the movement, or is it just engendering a sub-following which sees the topic as feeding their 'No blood for oil' madness?

That's a great question, Barb. First let me say that as an engineer and former oil-biz guy I can tell you that Peak Oil is absolutely *not* a wacko theory. It's rock-solid, and the question isn't "if" but "when."

Unfortunately this crucial message is being discredited (for many, anyway) by the presence of so many moonbat leftist/anti-American, anti-business wackos. I mean, some of these guys believe George Bush engineered the whole thing. This is the same crowd that believe we invaded Iraq to "steal their oil." Real rocket-scientists.

Barb: Assuming good research and data gathering, I agree that we should not let the whackos hijack a real issue and drag it off to the fringes where no real action will be taken to mitigate the future effects.

And of course that's precisely the problem: A lot of Americans who would otherwise make prudent adjustments in their lives to make the transition smoother will take a look at the wacko contingent and dismiss the whole concept of Peak Oil on that basis. And that's a reasonable conclusion for those who look at the comments before understanding the data.

The good news is that if you believe global warming is a danger, the gradual reduction of annual oil extraction post-Peak will reduce the world's production of CO2 as effectively as any government action--and at a far lower cost!

2:53 PM  

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