Friday, July 13, 2007

Solving Peak Oil & Solving Climate Change: Opposite Sides of the Same Coin

For U.S. policymakers and business leaders who continue to push for slow, gradual steps to both fight climate change and dramatically reduce America's dependence on oil, a new report released by the International Energy Administration (IEA) this week - summarized in this stark analysis by Chris Nelder - provides a sobering dose of reality.

As Nelder notes of the IEA:

On Monday this week, they had what I would consider a "come-to-Jesus moment," walking before the whole world to the front of the tent, admitting their unworthiness and publicly confessing their sins.

The confession was in their bombshell "Medium Term Oil Market Report," which looks at the global oil market over the next five years. And it was stark:
Despite four years of high oil prices, this report sees increasing market tightness beyond 2010 . . . It is possible that the supply crunch could be deferred--but not by much.

That was enough to set blogs and presses and email systems afire the world over. I was deluged with emails and phone calls about it. So I checked it out.

It's a decent piece of work, 82 pages with lots of good charts and data. It was also a welcome break from the delusional projections that the IEA has made for its entire 30-year existence, consistently predicting that supply will magically meet whatever the demand was projected to be.

Because for the first time, the IEA admitted that they have some doubts about oil supply keeping up with demand.

So does reducing our dependence on oil still require slow gradual steps to prevent 'wrecking the economy' now? Or will taking slow, gradual steps now just ensure that the economy falls to pieces in a couple of years under the weight of a severe oil shock - because we didn't act fast enough to reduce U.S. oil demand in time to get ourselves ready for the arrival of the Peak Oil train? Given the findings of this report, these are crucial questions that our leaders need to answer now.

The Climate Change Parallel

At the same time as headlines about the IEA's announcement of imminent oil decline graced the headlines earlier this week, headlines continued to pour in about the catastrophic impacts of climate change that are either happening now or are well on the way. For example just this week alone:

The last few months have seen articles whose dire warnings are echoing louder and louder:

Wow. Nothing short of overwhelming!

All this as our policymakers propose renewable energy legislation that is meek compared to that of Germany, Japan, and California. And while they are forced to slug it out with Detroit over making moderate (and vastly inadequate) changes to fuel economy by some year over a decade from now. How will history judge their lack of action?

The Good News: Two Birds With One Stone

The good news, of course, is that both of the frightening problems described above - Peak Oil and climate change - are really opposite sides of the same coin. The same high levels of carbon emissions that are causing and accelerating climate change are also a result of a 'modern' lifestyle in which humans are slurping up our oil supplies at absurdly unsustainable levels, putting our environment, economy, and quality of life in great danger of collapse.

Thus, taking "Apollo Project" type actions to both reduce our demand for oil (and other fossil fuels) can help solve both problems - the old kill two birds with one stone!

That would mean less risk to our economy and quality of life posed by both oil shocks and climate change, less pollution-causing cancer and asthma in ourselves and our children, less need to spend taxpayers' $billions fighting energy wars in distant lands where the natives hate us (and thus greater ability to cut taxes), and more money in all of our pockets as more efficient technologies require people to purchase less fuel and electricity to operate them. In other words, the solutions to Peak Oil and Climate Change will help sustain our environment, economy, and quality of life alike!

This is a big reason why people talk about sustainability and the benefits of going green. It just makes so much sense to both people and planet! But will these solutions come to pass in time to avoid having to implement them out of some dire necessity?

Only time will tell. The clock is ticking, and it's getting late in the game...

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