Peak Oil & Alternative Energy
Peak oil refers to the condition where the discovery and extraction of oil in the future will be increasingly costly and difficult, which will mean higher prices for every product that is based on petroleum. To think that any response to the increasing scarcity of oil will be painless is naive. We in the western industrialized countries have come to expect the high level of ease and material wealth we currently enjoy. As the resources needed to supply this standard begin to diminish while at the same time become demanded by more and more "emerging" peoples, will we find ourselves clinging desperately to what we now have? Will we go to war to preserve a standard of living, or will we completely devastate our environment to get our oil, as we are doing with the Alberta, Canada tar sands oil extraction? See the video "Corporate Tyranny and Big Oil's Lies. It is a question that should haunt us all. There are those who believe we are already at war to cling to our "share" of that oil.
Oil is the most visible of the limited resources that are being sought after by an increasing number of people. But there are other, even more vital resources coming increasingly under similar stresses of growing demand and finite supply. Clean water may already be more valuable than oil, and there are no alternatives to replace it, as aquifers are depleted and other groundwater sources are contaminated. Topsoil takes so long to build that it might as well be irreplaceable, and yet we are losing an astonishing amount of our topsoil worldwide every year.
Conservation is the fastest way to reduce our dependency on foreign oil. For instance, a one-mile-per-gallon improvement in fuel efficiency of automobiles would save twice the amount of oil that could ever be extracted from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. An eight-mile-per-gallon increase in fuel efficiency would eliminate the need for all Persian Gulf imports. Auto makers have the technology to do this. Conservation does not, however, contribute to massive corporate profits.
Alternative energy sources--solar, wind, hydrogen, geothermal, biomass, fuel cells--and the development of renewable energy resources have already proven themselves to be clean, efficient sources of energy. The Union of Concerned Scientists notes that 100 square miles of solar panels in Nevada would provide 100% of US electricity. In 1991, the US Department of Energy published a National Wind Resource Inventory in which it noted that three of our 50 states--Kansas, North Dakota and Texas--could produce enough wind energy to satisfy national electricity needs. With improved technologies since 1991, this estimate would now be much higher. Denmark gets 18% of its electricity from wind turbines. Using alternative to trees for making paper would also save enormous amounts of both power and forest resources.
We can all do something to contribute to both conservation and alternative energy sources, and we offer various resources that work to those ends.