Energy Endgame

The Energy Endgame

What are the basic facts concerning declining oil supplies?  What are the right questions to ask about all the implications of this situation?  The following is one attempt at identifying the basic facts and the key questions.

First, we have to establish the facts about past oil extraction/consumption.  Then we have to establish what's left in the ground.  The figure below from the Hubbert Peak web site shows Petroconsultants' best estimate on the numbers and the associated trends.

Second, we also need some rough calculations on how many people can ultimately be supported with different renewable energy scenarios, ie, different BTUs per person per year, and how much time we have until total reliance on renewables becomes necessary.  Based on the data in the figure below, Folke Gunther at Lund University in Sweden estimates that only 1-3 billion people can be supported with renewable energy sources.

Third, we need to anticipate how climate changes resulting from the burning of all these fossil fuels will influence our abilities to adjust and adapt.  The NOAA graph below--from ice cores at the Vostok station in Antarctica--indicates what could be in store for us in this regard.

Since global population increases are mostly a function of the availability of cheap energy resources, and since we're already very near or at the peak in global oil extraction, we're also very near or at the peak of global population.  There's no way they both won't go down in the future.

So the question then becomes what is the optimal goal for a "soft landing" into a sustainable, renewable energy economy in 20-40 years?  How do we avoid a "hard landing?"  How do we manage the transition?  Who decides?  Will it be everyone on the planet through democratic processes, or will it be a few people in G7, CFR and other elite corporate/government networks?

As it is now, who makes decisions now about our global future?  Who decides the price of oil?  Who decides the subsidies for different industrial sectors and products?  Who declares war?  Who decides trade policies?  Who decides financial policies?  Who decides agricultural policies?

Given the fact that the corporate/government elites have no intention of giving up any of their wealth and power, it's more than likely that given the choice (which they have heretofore preempted), they will opt for slavery and/or depopulation rather than energy and wealth redistribution.  Enslavement of third world and inner city peoples is already proceeding rapidly under the aegis of the WTO, IMF and WB.  We know what their plans are in this regard.

They have conventional, biological and nuclear weapons at their disposal.  They doubtless have detailed contingency plans to use those weapons to eliminate the least profitable segments of the global population (probably favoring biological weapons).  How do we find out what their plans are in this regard?  How do we counteract them?

What is their vision of an energy-scarce global future?  Where do they see the global economy and population going over the next fifty years?  What are their optimal scenarios for oil at $50 per barrel?  How about $100 per barrel?  How about $200?  How will scarce energy resources be allocated between military, industry, agriculture, transportation, and heating? 

What is our vision of all these things?  And what is our definition of a process that could get us to that vision?  Even though oil prices have temporarily fallen from their highs of this past winter, they are certain to go up again, maybe sooner, maybe later.  It's not a question of whether; it's only a question of when. 

If we are unprepared for all the ramifications of our energy-scarce future, we leave the decisions and policies to corporate and government elites, and we suffer the consequences.  Is this something that we are willing to do?