• Population, Peak Oil, and the Most Important Video You’ll see?

    The video embedded below was sent to me by someone with whom I am in contact with in my work with the Transition Network which is a n organisation that seeks to mobilise local communities to move from oil dependence to a more sustainable future given the idea of Peak Oil. For those who don’t know, Peak Oil is the undeniable fact described as:

    Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production is expected to enter terminal decline.[1] Global production of oil fell from a high point in 2005 at 74 mb/d, but has since rebounded setting new records in both 2011 and 2012.[2] There is active debate as to when global peak oil will occur, how to measure peak oil, and whether peak oil production will be supply or demand driven.

    The aggregate production rate from an oil field over time usually grows until the rate peaks and then declines—sometimes rapidly—until the field is depleted. This concept is derived from the Hubbert curve, and has been shown to sometimes be applicable to the sum of a nation’s domestic production rate, and similarly to the global rate of petroleum production. However, the discovery of new fields, the development of new production techniques and the exploitation of unconventional supplies can disrupt this correlation. Peak oil is often confused with oil depletion; peak oil is the point of maximum production, while depletion refers to a period of falling reserves and supply.

    M. King Hubbert created and first used the models behind peak oil in 1956 to accurately predict that United States oil production would peak between 1965 and 1971.[3] His logistic model, now called Hubbert peak theory, and its variants have been used to describe and predict the peak and decline of production from regions, and countries,[4] and has also proved useful in other limited-resource production-domains. According to the Hubbert model, the production rate of a limited resource will follow a roughly symmetrical logistic distribution curve (sometimes incorrectly compared to a bell-shaped curve) based on the limits of exploitability and market pressures.

    Some observers, such as petroleum industry experts Kenneth S. Deffeyes and Matthew Simmons, predict negative global economy implications following a post-peak production decline—and oil price increase—due to the high dependence of most modern industrial transportagricultural, andindustrial systems on the low cost and high availability of oil. Predictions vary greatly as to what exactly these negative effects would be.

    In 2008 oil prices reached a record high of $145/barrel. Governments sought alternatives to oil, particularly the use of ethanol, but that had the unintended consequence of creating higher food prices, particularly in the developing countries. Throughout the first two quarters of 2008, there were signs that a global recession was being made worse by a series of record oil prices.[5]

    Optimistic estimations of peak production forecast the global decline will begin after 2020, and assume major investments in alternatives will occur before a crisis, without requiring major changes in the lifestyle of heavily oil-consuming nations. These models show the price of oil at first escalating and then retreating as other types of fuel and energy sources are used.[6] Pessimistic predictions of future oil production are that either the peak has already occurred,[7][8][9][10] that oil production is on the cusp of the peak, or that it will occur shortly.[11][12] In 2013 the International Energy Agency(IEA) projected that global oil production capacity would grow 8.4 mb/d over the next 5 years. [13]

    So given that either peak oil has been or soon will be reached, what do we do about it? If society is addicted to oil, economically speaking, what do we do when supply shrinks sharply? How do we react? Do we need to be prepared?

    Well, given this peak oil situation, surely consumption is made more problematic when seen in conjunction with human population and its potentially exponential growth. This video is fascinating in using simple algorithmic maths to illustrate exponential growth and the power of prediction.


    I like this guy. He presents simple maths in a clearly understandable way. And, to me, population is pretty much THE ONLY problem worldwide to which all other problems are related. The perception of criminality in urban areas is to do with overcrowding and resulting lack of community from transient workforces. If we localise and downsize, these sorts of problems are solved. But that is far easier said than done.

    At what point do we say we are in the ‘final minute’ as the video presents? This Limits to Growth approach is undergirded by exponential maths, as noted. This states, in very simple terms, that if a pond is full of lilies on the 30th day, and starts with one lily and each day the lilies double such that the second day there would be 2 lilies and the third day 4 lilies, then when would by D-Day for acting and when would it be too late? Of course, one day you will look out on the pond and it will be half-full and you might think “Hey, there’s loads of space left, half the pond, no need to worry!” But this is precisely the point and issue about exponential growth. That day of a pond half-full of lilies would be the twenty-ninth day. One day left to do anything about it. That half-full pond of lilies would double in one day to be full.

    And this is the situation with population, oil, coal and energy consumption and so on. Given that these resources are finite, there is a limits to growth given the dependency on these finite resources. When do we act, and are we in that final day (or minute as the video analogises)?

    Basically, are we going to hit one monster of a shit-storm, and what the hell are we doing to prepare ourselves for it? Is it good enough to claim that technology will get us out of the hole?

    [Follow this link to see how you can get involved with the Transition movement to help your local town, you region, and your country deal with Peak Oil.]

    Category: Environment


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce