By Ilan Kelman
Claims have recently been circulating that peak oil is wrong. Apparently, new petroleum discoveries and new ways of extracting oil undermine suggestions that oil production must inevitably fall.
“Peak oil” has many definitions, generally referring to the apex of oil production. Intensive debates are ongoing about whether or not the world’s oil production has peaked and will no longer increase.
These debates are moot for the big picture. Production can be controlled, as per the Oil Crisis in the 1970s. Meanwhile, demand changes according to the state of the economy: people need to be able to afford oil in order to buy it.
None of that changes the fact that oil, by definition, is a finite and polluting resource. Even if we start importing fossil fuels from other planets or asteroids–or use magic to turn water into oil (yes, I am being sardonic)–a fundamental question about oil remains: why must we depend on a finite, polluting source?
No transition to a different approach to energy is easy. But we know enough–about reducing energy demand, about alternative energy supplies, and about the disastrous social and environmental consequences of relying on fossil fuels–to start it now.
Even if peak oil occurs in 100 or 500 years, no justification exists to use fossil fuels as quickly as we can.