Working towards a resilient low energy future for Helston and district

What is Peak Oil?

We've been increasingly dependent on fossil fuels including oil for about two hundred years. These fuels drove the industrial revolution and made possible the enormous technological and information changes that have taken place.
Of the various fossil fuels, oil is the most transportable, easiest to store and is remarkably energy dense. It has been estimated that 40 litres of petrol in a car tank is equivalent in energy to about 4 years of human manual labour. The world uses an awful lot of oil, something like a cubic mile of the stuff each year and global demand is increasing.
Fairly obviously, the day we started using oil was the day we started to run out of the stuff. It is estimated that so far we have used about half the world's realisable reserves and so one would think that we've got plenty left in the ground to last for years and years yet.
It's very true that untapped reserves will last for a long time but there is are problems in that we have used most of the "easy" oil. This means that in future extraction and processing costs will rise. It also means that oil will be harder and slower to extract. These have been the characteristics of every oil field exploited so far and there is every reason to expect it to be the case in the future for every oil field left to us. This then is Peak Oil. It is the point beyond which oil becomes more expensive to extract and also beyond which production will start to inexorably decline.
There is a very real problem in this. From the day the first oil well was drilled demand has driven supply. Oil has been very cheap until recently because it has been simple for supply to follow demand in this way. After the point called Peak Oil this relationship will no lnger exist. Our increasing global demand for oil will no longer be satisfied. Supply will dictate demand as prices rise, perhaps suddenly and steeply. The people controlling the remaining oil will potentially have great power over those who need to use it.
The problems of Climate Change and Peak Oil are interlinked. There is a risk that as we hit difficulties with oil supply we will turn to other fossil energy sources, such as tar sands. Our difficulty here lies in the nature of these resources because they all produce even more greenhouse gases than oil.
Both Climate Change and Peak oil mean that we have to commit ourselves to a programme of relocalisation and energy descent. In our communities we have to plan and work towards this low energy future. If we ignore Climate Change and concentrate on the implications of Peak Oil we run the risk of climate chaos. On the other hand, to concentrate on Climate Change solely is to risk economic meltdown and an inability to put in place the very infrastructure that we need in order to utilise more sustainable energy technology.
If you would like to find out more about Peak Oil click here for the website of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil.