Letters to the Editor

Oil crisis looms

March 5, 2009


To the editor:

Global oil production will hit its peak in a few decades, at which point oil prices will skyrocket and consumers like the United States and China will quickly drain every last barrel they can afford to buy. As supplies dwindle, an economic disaster dwarfing Katrina will unfold.

The U.S. GAO concluded there’s an urgent need to assess and develop alternative energy technologies to avert “severe economic damage.” The DOE warned of “extremely damaging” impacts if measures aren’t put in place at least 10 years ahead of time.

Peak oil impacts range from dire to catastrophic. At best, we face a crippling recession and widespread inflation. At worst, we face severe global food shortages threatening wide-scale starvation and an overall breakdown of social and economic institutions. And if history’s any guide, we should expect a series of military invasions into every remaining oil field on the planet.

Ask yourself: When oil becomes scarce, how will I get food? How will my water district purify water without petrochemicals? Which of my medications are made out of petrochemicals? How will I get to work? Will I even have a job anymore?

Some point at alternative energy technologies as a silver bullet. But most energy analysts say it’ll be decades before such alternatives are available for wide-scale implementation.

We’ve kept our head in the sand for too long, and rather than address this issue, we continue to focus our attention on more important matters like roundabouts and football fields. I think it’s time to change the subject.

Steve Craven,


Flap Doodle 8 years, 2 months ago

Drive your unicorn-toot powered car & smile, smile, smile.

Chris Ogle 8 years, 2 months ago

If you want someone to voice an opinion... just mention "change the subject" Log v Tom = undecided.

jumpin_catfish 8 years, 2 months ago

Saying "Oil crisis looms" is like saying a comet may hit the earth. Both statements are likely to happen but when and how. We could have a oil crisis next week if Israel attacks Iran. Remember this, just a few short months ago we were told that we would never see $2.00 a gallon gas again so all the scary talk about oil crisis has little if any effect on us. With that said we urgently need development of alternate fuels, if for no other reason national security but the bozos in Washington will never get it done.

devobrun 8 years, 2 months ago

Technology which is too expensive is a result of the need for too much energy to make it.
The reason photovoltaic cells are expensive is that they require a lot of energy to make. Ditto all the other technologies so far. No amount of monetary subsidies change this poor energy balance.

Engineers have been working on these technologies for many decades. They perform poorly because they don't work. No amount of wishful thinking will change the situation. Apparently you have been unaware of the massive amount of work that engineers have put into alternative energy since the time of Edison and Ford.
The only people with their head in the sand are the alternative energy proponents who are ignorant of the efforts that have been around since the first windmill went up in Holland .

Why did engineers choose fossil fuel? Because it worked better than windmills. Did in 1537, does today.

Will viable alternative energy systems come along in the future? Maybe, but not because of government intervention and insistence that we must adopt faulty systems.

It won't be politicians and lawyers saving yer sorry butt.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 2 months ago

"March 2, 2009 -- For those who have endured this winter's frigid temperatures and today's heavy snowstorm in the Northeast, the concept of global warming may seem, well, almost wishful. But climate is known to be variable -- a cold winter, or a few strung together doesn't mean the planet is cooling. Still, according to a new study, global warming may have hit a speed bump and could go into hiding for decades. Earth's climate continues to confound scientists. Following a 30-year trend of warming, global temperatures have flatlined since 2001 despite rising greenhouse gas concentrations, and a heat surplus that should have cranked up the planetary thermostat." http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/03/02/global-warming-pause.html

Kirk Larson 8 years, 2 months ago

Lib_one says: "What will really happen: rising energy prices will create new markets for these alternative energy sources, and entrepreneurs will quickly step in to capitalize. Hmm, well that's what would happen in a free market."

Problem is, energy is not like other sectors of the market. If the price of tennis racquet string goes up, it drives up the price of tennis racquets. If the price of energy goes up, it drives up the price of everything. We need to subsidize the transition to renewable energy before energy becomes too expensive for the "free" (always been a myth) market to necessitate the transition.

JohnBrown 8 years, 2 months ago

Free markets make tactical decisions, not strategic ones. If the national strategic goal is to be moderately energy self-reliant by the time peak oil occurs then free markets are not a reliable way to get there, since free markets will only kick in when we arrive at peak oil...which may be too late.

Free markets are great, but gosh guys, they are not the be-all and end-all. Free markets operating in a vacuum is lawlessness. You need either litigation or regulation to ensure they don't harm the country (remember? "Country First"). And, because they are so myopic, free markets can't prepare the country for peak oil (tho they can respond to it).

Get a grip free marketeers, the trusts were broken up nearly a century ago. Free markets enabled the Japanese to dominate and ruin Manchuria, free markets gave us the economic debacle we have today. Free markets are amoral and not necessarily pro-America. Free markets don't solve problems until they arrive.

d_prowess 8 years, 2 months ago

Maybe I am stretching the relevance to this topic today, but did anyone else see the new wind turbine that the gas station at 9th and Iowa was installing this morning? Does anyone know the cost and energy production from one of those things? Just curious to know if that is what the future will look like on a lot of buildings!

cthulhu_4_president 8 years, 2 months ago

Gosh that letter was scary. I now have an irresistable urge to do whatever Steven Craven tells me to do in order to prevent this catastrophe.

I'm going to start doing my part, and ask Steve Craven every week how I should spend my paycheck!! When oil peaks and the sky falls he and I will be laughing it up at the rest of you starving suckers!!

Fairness_Doctrine 8 years, 2 months ago

Oil is more abundant than ever. Storage stations are near full and tankers are sitting all around the world anchored up and full with oil with nowhere to put it. Who said we have no oil? Did someone put this hogwash on a website somewhere and then someone else read it and blogged it and then someone else read that and here we go. America is getting laughed at by the whole world and some think we are not liked? No, they feel sorry for our dysfunctional sorry butts.

khprather 8 years, 2 months ago

Here's one argument for why we should not rely on market forces to create solutions and why waiting until we've hit peak oil to make the transition is potentially disastrous. http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2006/4/7/12137/51793

"Say we are about one to two years beyond the peak. There is no longer any doubt, the world has come to realize that peak oil is here and oil production will drop a little each year.....forever. ... Every industry is, in one way or another, dependent on energy for growth. If their energy supply starts to shrink, it means that instead of the expected growth year after year, they can expect to shrink a little every year. Now since people invest in the market for capital growth, not capital shrinkage, people will start to pull their money out of the equities market. Which will trigger more market losses and cause more people to dump stock which will in turn trigger..... Well is it not obvious? I mean the realization of an ever shrinking energy supply will, sooner or later, trigger the mother of all stock market crashes and all the massive layoffs and hardships that go with it. This stock market crash will make the market crash of 1929 look like a Sunday Picnic, and likewise the depth of the depression that it triggers.

The second point I would like to point out concerns something that M. King Hubbard often stated. He said: "Were we a rational society, a virtue of which we have rarely been accused, we would husband our oil and gas resources." During the seventies US oil producers tried to keep out cheap imported oil which allowed them to sell more domestic oil. Hubbard sarcastically called this "The drain America first polity."

So what happens when countries like Mexico, Russia and many other oil producing nations become totally rational and decide to husband their oil? Would these countries decide not to drain their country first and save it for themselves? Would not Russia realize the very strong position they would be in if they had enough oil to last for many decades while most of the rest of the world suffered?

Of course Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and a few other heavy producers would not be in such a position because they are almost totally dependent on petrodollars to feed their ever-growing populations. These countries have virtually no internal industries and if oil funds dried up they would be flooded with starving, and perhaps rioting hoards. But for many other countries the problem would not be nearly so severe. They would realize that if they are to survive in a collapsing world, they must husband their oil.

And this drying up of perhaps half the oil on the export market would cause a sudden cliff in the availability of oil for countries like the US, Japan, China and all countries that import more than half their petroleum... I am predicting that the decline is likely to be far more violent and traumatic than most people, even Peak Oilers, believe."

gl0ck0wn3r 8 years, 2 months ago

"parrotuya (Anonymous) says… All markets are controlled and manipulated by the wealthy and the powerful in order to maintain the status quo. "

Someone has a little Captain in him.

Chris Golledge 8 years, 2 months ago

Hey XD40 and Fairness_doctrine,

So what you are saying is that new oil is being produced faster than mankind is consuming it? If that is true, great. Otherwise, it isn't a question of if peak oil will happen, just when.

jaywalker 8 years, 2 months ago

As a rule of thumb, whenever you see logrithmic weighing in so heavily and often on a topic, it's best to just move along. No need to expend brain cells to head-spinning stupidity and stomach lining to nausea.

cthulhu_4_president 8 years, 2 months ago

log: You may want to re-evaluate your usage of the term "Reichwing", as the Nazi party and a majority of fascist governments in our history, came to fruition and power through the policies and parties of the extreme left.

Just a friendly suggestion.

jaywalker 8 years, 2 months ago

Thank you, barry, I needed a chuckle.

Kirk Larson 8 years, 2 months ago

Cthulu, Check your definitions. Communists and Socialists are Left. Nazis and Fascists are Right. No matter what Jonah Goldberg says.

Kirk Larson 8 years, 2 months ago

Glib_One, Your link does not address the question of Socialist or Fascist. It has always been my understanding that Socialism is Left of center, giving government a stronger role in addressing societal (i.e. social) problems while Fascism is Right of center, imposing strict hierarchical rules on personal liberties to preserve social order.

Kirk Larson 8 years, 2 months ago

Glib_One, As to the nature of Fascism, this is why many of us were disturbed by the Bush administration and the apparent goals of the republican party.


jonas_opines 8 years, 2 months ago

Wow, rarely does a point get so pefectly and perhaps unintentionally illustrated as with Logrithmics 9:57am post.

camper 8 years, 2 months ago

"What will really happen: rising energy prices will create new markets for these alternative energy sources, and entrepreneurs will quickly step in to capitalize. Hmm, well that's what would happen in a free market."

Liberty, I agree with you to a point. However, energy is such a large resource, I'm not so sure that a changeover to alternative fuels will come quickly or easily. It will take a lot of investment for not only power companies, businesses, manufacturing, and individuals to convert (or retrofit) its equipment, or phase in new machinery all-together. For this reason, I think when in comes to energy, we need to strategically plan for the future well in advance.

Just my two cents here.

Kirk Larson 8 years, 2 months ago

Ms_Nancy, You miss the point. Why do you think the so-called free market knows what's best for you? Adam Smith's invisible hand is not the hand of god. It is rational to try to plan for the future when the cost of extracting oil will become prohibitive to developing the energy infrastructure necessary to get off fossil fuels. We need to use the (sort of) affordable energy now to make the transition to the long term sustainable energy of the future before we can't afford it anymore. If we just wait for market forces (and the resistance of those who profit from the old ways) to come around, it could well be too late.

camper 8 years, 2 months ago

If strategic planning is liberal, I don't mind being labeled a liberal.

jonas_opines 8 years, 2 months ago

"Why do today's American new-age liberals feel they know what's best for the rest of America?"

The real question is, why do you limit that question to new-age liberals? The answer to your question is stupidly simple, because lots of people think they know what's best for everybody, which makes the real point why you felt the need to only include one particular demographic.

I do already know the answer to my question, of course.

shepdog 8 years, 2 months ago


Hoots 8 years, 2 months ago

Actually, some of the most respected oil experts think we reached our true peak in oil production a couple of years ago in real terms. For the most part we need to find a new game fast. Sure we can make fuel from other things like coal and shale but it becomes ever more expensive and destructive.

Kirk Larson 8 years, 2 months ago

MS_Fancy_Panties, What's the hold up? Is it republicans? You bet, considering that most oil company and auto manufacturer exec are likely R's. Jimmy Carter started us on the right path (conservation and research) but Reagan slashed research into other forms of energy and even removed the solar panels off the White House because he was so deep into Big Oil's pockets. Clinton was useless as far as energy went and, of course, Bush was less than useless. Maybe now we have a chance 30 years late.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.