Peak Oil as Distraction

I spend a lot of time looking into the current state of peak oil, or as I like to refer to it some times “PEO”, peak economic oil, for the sake of saving confusion.

I find conversations around peak oil often become lessons on economics, energy extraction and the big one: Energy Returned On Energy Invested, which often leads to discussion of the EROEI of other energy sources or fuels. I find this is useful as it helps me, and I hope whoever hears me, think deeper about energy usage.

(Aside: Recently I gained deeper insight into an area I attempt to think about a lot, the energy/water nexus.)


Over the last couple of years we’ve been hearing a lot about the shale gas/tight oil boom and how the US will add to non-OPEC supply, how we’re going to be the Saudi-Arabia of gas. Great, with reluctance I welcome this trend. (natural gas will become more expensive possibly in short and long term scenarios, double edged transition fuel sword)

With reluctance because A. Fracking sucks, yes I saw Gasland I can’t imagine living within <5 miles of a cluster of wells. I freak out at the water use of my neighbors pool, let alone a gas well. (not that almost all other forms of energy generation don’t also use water, fracked gas happens to use it on the production side as well as the generation side too, see link, I still can’t determine how bad it is, or not as the case may be)

And B. I see a lot of people pointing out how the current domestic energy boom is … a boom. Welcome to the blog of semantic revelations. The boom is ephemeral, it will end, the only question, as many like to point out about PEO, is when. (FYI, it’s pretty much happening right now.)

But based on looking at well data, decline and extraction rates, I am not in the camp expecting long lived energy independence (Ex1,Ex2)

If all the hype forecasts are correct, I’ll still be around in 2035, do I want a repeat of the economic stresses PEO brings, but with an economy that shifted to another unsustainable fossil fuel ? Boom is a boom is a boom.

The shale oil and gas boom will likely be a bump on our ride towards levels of energy return from fossil fuels which will become obviously uneconomical. Obvious even to the incurious who will always swallow market hype and avoid uncomfortable thoughts. Jaded, me?


Discovering peak oil theory as mentioned, made me think about energy in a completely different way. Discovering the obvious, that fossil fuels (and everything else) are finite, is the first step on a journey of awakening and also deep skepticism. Skepticism of forecasts, of energy pundits (read economists) who hold cornucopian view of world energy.

Once in a while I have to step back and apply that skepticism to views I hold to be true, after all, if you don’t challenge your point of view, you will not grow. This is how I settled upon the idea of peak oil as a distraction; I get very “involved” in the idea of energy decline and it certainly distracts me from other horrible truths because this “truth” reinforces my pessimism but also offers some optimism and the only form of light at the end of the tunnel.

Those horrible truths include climate change and oil wars which I also spend a lot of time fretting about, but in my diseased mind peak oil offers an out. An out which is a rosey view of Transition, enhanced local economies, regional currencies, a local blacksmith and farmer.

The truth is PEO is exacerbating oil wars and wont help the severity of climate change decrease; there is plenty more death and destruction ahead attributable to both.

To be able to see my fascination with energy markets through the lens of peak oil is to hopefully display a good amount of skepticism, I have to see my extended reading and research as aiding a psychosis, one which has me build an EV, grow my own food and drive a smaller car. The question is, how bad can that be?

Isn’t it a healthy distraction to focus on ones energy and water use ? debatable I guess given any number of ideological slants.

I’ll keep my pessimism for the present but my optimism for the kind of future I want to see.


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