Friday, September 30, 2011

Hubbert's Mesa

Much has been written about "Peak Oil" and the work of M. King Hubbert, sometimes referring to it as "Hubbert's Peak".  Using the term "peak" however is misleading.  Hubbert basically said that the extraction of a nonrenewable resource basically fit a bell curve.  If you take a close look at the top of a bell curve, you will see the slope at the absolute top is perfectly level, and the area around it is mostly level.

Real graphs do not follow the idealized graphs, however.  They have various ups and down, minor peaks and valleys.  Combining these with a relatively broad, flat expanse at the top, real graphs of resource usage look more like mesas than peaks.  If you look at a graph of world oil production, it looks like we entered the flat stage around the year 2000.

From World Oil Production - Looking for Clues as to What may be Ahead

Why this is important is because this allows petroholics to adjust to a stable oil supply.  Consequently they are in denial about the coming declines.  When the declines do come, especially the first few, they can be attributed to extraordinary circumstances, like a war, an uprising, or a natural disaster in a major oil exporting nation, like the Iranian revolution in 1979.  People come to expect that things will "get back to normal" afterwards -- and for the first couple times, they may be right.  And as the graph shows, the period from 1989 to 1993 was also relatively flat, due in large part to the collapse of the Soviet Union.  We can't be sure that we have truly past the peak until long after it happens.  But sooner or later the oil supply will finally dramatically and irreversibly drop off.  When it does, the majority of petroholics will have no clue what is happening and will be bewildered.

For those who are making the Long Ascent, however, it will be a welcome return to what has truly been normal for most of humanity for most of history.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Petroholics Anonymous

Peak Oil has a very slippery slope.

Will there come a time when the oil production reaches an all-time high that will never be broken? Absolutely. It is almost necessarily so. Even if oil is created abiotically, we would have to not be using it faster than it is being created to make a difference. A century and a half of observing the behavior of individual wells precludes that possibility.

But, does that really matter?

To someone who is addicted to the ever increasing consumption of oil, of course it matters.

As with all addictions, most addicts have a hard time seeing beyond their addiction. Even for those that see how their addiction is hurting them, very few are able to overcome it on their own.

When the addict keeps needing more and more, though, there comes a point where they just can't get enough. When some clever heroin addicts reach this stage, they go to a methadone clinic to reset themselves. When some clever oil addicts reach this stage, they go camping or take a survival course.

Hi. My name is John Wheeler. I am a fossil fuel addict. I have been using for 45 years. I am using right now. The device I am using was made with and even has parts from fossil fuel, and it is powered by fossil fuel. I don't have all the answers, but I admit I have a problem. That is the first step on the Long Ascent.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What is the Long Ascent?

Imagine a world...

... where no one is fat;

... where everyone is fit;

... where no one dies of heart disease or diabetes;

... where everyone out of diapers has meaningful work;

... where no one wastes his or her time on mindless drivel;

... where everyone keeps learning for their entire life;

... where no one is very poor or very rich;

... where everyone has their basic material needs covered.

Some of these results will occur naturally.

Some of these will require a tremendous amount of effort.

Some of these will occur because the only alternative is extinction.

It will be a long, hard climb, but the sooner we start the Long Ascent, the faster we get there.

"The future promises us lives as humans were meant to live them — free, respected as persons, respected as peers, subject to none. It promises us a true community — something most of us have never really experienced. It promises a mind-boggling diversity of belief, tradition, culture and lifestyle." -- Jason Godesky, Thirty Theses