I heard the American peak oil commentator Richard Heinberg talk this evening at the University of Western Australia. Oil production is currently just keeping up with oil consumption. By approximately 2010 however we’ll be wanting to put petrol in our cars at a rate that will not keep up with how many barrels of oil are being pulled out of the ground (even taking into account projected new discoveries of oil deposits). So the current increase in the price of oil will turn into a much sharper increase. We’ll have reached a peak oil crisis. With this knowledge we can continue with business as usual, in which case in four or so years time a yearly increase in demand for oil combined with a yearly decline in the global supply of oil will surprisingly quickly reek havoc on our social and economic system. Or we can prepare for a world in which oil isn’t always there in endless supply, and thus avoid an unpleasant jolt.
On my way home from the talk I passed by these big badges of oil dependence standing beside the Fremantle harbour. For over the last hundred years we’ve used the magical substance contained within these silver monoliths to replace human and animal labour. It is hard for us to imagine that it won’t always be around in such large quantities as we’re accustomed to. It won’t.