Saturday, 7 April 2007

Peak Oil - from Obscurity to Public Debate

Currently Peak Oil is pretty much a niche news item on the large scheme of thing. It's getting buried under other big news issues. Not many people are aware of it, or even if they are, they mostly ignore it for various reasons. What is on people's minds and on the media is Global Warming (see graph above for a relative blog exposure of the two phenomenon).

However, it seems like that is about to change...

Forecasting is difficult. Nobody has a crystal ball into psychological events, although physical reality is to some extent within the boundaries of rough forecasts.

However, with that said, here's a forecast:

Peak oil is about to become real to the masses. In a big way. Think this year, maybe during summer already.

The signs are in the air:

All that in the last two weeks alone. It's getting increasingly hard to stay on top of the news. The amount of reporting is growing almost exponentially.

Regardless of whether the estimates of date of peaking are correct, the amount of signal in peak oil discussion is going up and it's reaching more and more mainstream media.

The deniers are getting either more vocal or starting to do a reversal ("yes, there is a peak and it's coming").

Watershed moment in peak oil awareness is approaching. Let's hope the actual peak oil is not yet as close.

When that happens, expect to see the discussion get really muddy. We will move even more from fact based discussion to emotional and argumentative discussion. People will either choose to believe it or not, facts be damned. Some will deny being part of it ("doesn't concern me, I don't drive that much and I don't have a SUV"), while some will just see echoes of history ("Ah, we went through this in the 70s and came out alright on the other side").

In short, the discussion will get more wide, but also the facts are more likely to get lost in all the noise. This will also mean a lot more procrastinating, doing studies, evaluating and huge amounts of lobbying.

And what will be missed by most people in the beginning is that the two discussion (GW + PO) are inexplicably linked. Global warming is almost a direct result of burning hydrocarbons (mostly coal, but also huge amounts of oil and natural gas). What is even more important is what will the world turn to, once it runs out of oil? Coal.

At that point the link between oil production peak and global warming risks will become painfully obvious.