Category Archives: Water Security

Is “Peak Oil” Dead?

In recent times, discussions on “peak oil” on the internet have substantially decreased as though the belief in an impending crisis due to a decline in oil production is no longer there. This has come about in part because of substantially increased production of shale gas and tight oil in the US and perhaps due to a decreasing demand for oil in developed countries to try and counter its high price. As a result some are saying “peak oil” is dead and we have enough fossil fuel to meet our energy needs perhaps for another 100 years and the US will regain energy Independence. Unfortunately, this thinking grossly overstates the truth as the new publication “Snake Oil” by Richard Heinberg makes clear.

For the past 200 years, the increasingly available, cheap coal and then oil and natural gas has “fuelled” our modern, global civilisation to heights never experienced before in history.and probably never to be experienced again. However, research clearly shows, that there are limited quantities of these fossil fuels and as these riches deplete they become increasingly expensive and less profitable to extract. “Peak oil” is the term that has been coined to identify when the quantity of oil produced reaches its maximum. The fact that there will be a point of maximum is undisputed. What is disputed is how soon that will occur. The recent production growth of shale gas and tight oil has made some believe that “peak oil” is now a long time in the future. However, recent research reflected in Richard Heinberg’s new book argues compellingly, that the the new sources of growth will maximise and decline quickly so that “peak oil” has only been postponed for a few years.

So in reality, the situation has not changed very much. The collapse of our modern, global civilisation is still certain, only it has probably been delayed just a few years. This gives us perhaps a few more years to ramp up alternate energy sources, but the eventual economic decline is still certain, “peak oil” is still very much alive. Crude oil production is still sitting on the production plateau that began in 2005 and costs are continuing to slowly increase as the slight production growth is relatively expensive. Economic growth no longer seems possible in a long term sense although we may see local growth for short periods. The developed world remains challenged by increasing debt propped up by money creation to keep the GDP climbing.

So we are living on borrowed time, sustained by human ingenuity, but rapidly approaching the point of no return. In some ways, the world has never had it so good as our average lifespan is so long and worldwide interconnection for many purposes is amazing. In other ways, it has never been so bad with 1 billion people living in poverty and some nations on the edge of collapse and with many people, especially those living in the very volatile Middle East, suffering tremendously. If war broke out in the Middle East in a scope that would severely curtail oil supply, this would have very immediate and severe economic consequences world wide. We are still living on the edge.

My conviction remains that the coming collapse of our modern civilisation is certain and likely within the next few years although human ingenuity could delay it, but human injustice precipitate it. In fact, it might be argued that collapse has already begun, although I’m sure many would dispute this and say growth will recover. It’s a bit like the long running dispute about global warming being anthropomorphic in that it takes a long time for the emerging trends to show a clear pattern.

My conviction as a Christian is that this coming economic collapse, water and food supply crises, global warming and the emerging military conflict in the Middle East are the beginning of the end time trouble that the Bible predicts. What is about to happen is irreversible and will ultimately lead to the return of Jesus.

To me, this is not a “doom and gloom” perspective. I look forward to the return of Jesus and to the end of human suffering and the proper dealing of the enormous injustices propagated throughout history. I also realise that those living unrighteously will fight very hard to protect their investments into wealth and position, leading to severe conflict for a short time.

Everyone without exception can find protection from this coming trouble by sincerely calling out to God for help. Although the church is far from perfect with many within not truly following Jesus, there remains a substantial core within the church that love Jesus and are living in the joy of God’s presence. Seek them out for they can really help to guide you to find God and are seeing amazing miracles of provision, protection and healing. At the same time, the prophetic sense I have is that there will be a major shift towards greater trouble around 2015 to 2016. Now is the time to prepare.

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Our Energy Future

There is growing, world wide debate and research about energy supply and cost, its impact on climate change, food supply and water security and the world’s economy. Underlying all these outcomes is the world’s burgeoning population, currently over 7 billion, which published research such as the annual “Living Planet Report” now suggests it is at least 1.5 times the population that our planet earth can sustain. Currently, we are managing to support this population, but primarily because of high technology which depends critically on energy supply and cost.

There is growing evidence that we are rapidly approaching the “Limits to Growth” projected in 1972 according to that books business as usual scenario. Our human ingenuity is enabling us to maintain our current prosperity levels and may continue to succeed in this for a number of years, but our conviction is that the limit will soon be reached which will precipitate a world wide crisis. It may be very soon or a number of years away, but we do believe that it is inevitable.

If we took action now, the pundits suggest we could still prepare for and learn to manage the lifestyle changes which are inevitable. However, the world authorities cannot help taking decisions along the lines of what will sustain or cause growth in their own nations now, because immediate demands and potential financial gains override the potential long term future pains. I’m still impressed by the title of James Hansen’s book on climate change, “Storms of my grandchildren” where he makes a powerful plea for strong action now against global warming to avoid creating a world of great difficulty for our future generations.

As we see it, our sinful human nature is fundamentally selfish and greedy and ignores God’s clear guidance to us and so we are inevitably destroying our future. For inevitably we will use wealth and resources we discover to improve our own house first before we will use it to help others.That same selfishness and greed is evident in our nations today as it has been throughout history as we prioritise their own nations welfare above that of other nations. In contrast, the Biblical standard is to love our neighbour as ourself which is a fundamentally different principle. History is repeating itself today for if we examine the past (research has looked into this closely), all previous civilisations have eventually collapsed, even the most powerful. So we believe that unless we change our fundamental character and self-preservation priorities, the current civilisation must eventually collapse. We see that the evidence of impending collapse is all around us.

The problem, is that although some of our experts continue to suggest rightly and wisely what we need to do, the fundamental nature of our modern, world wide national leaderships, does not have the inner power and philosophy to motivate and instigate those changes. As a well known writer penned many years ago, fundamentally “the love of money is the root of all evil” accurately reflects are human mindset from the beginning of history. To change our deep inner motivations requires a dramatic, fundamental religious change that only some are prepared to make.

We need to listen to the modern voices of such people as Richard Heinberg, Gail Tverberg, Lester Brown, Janes Hansen and many others who see the writing on the wall for the world of today. We should also visit web sites such as the Post-Carbon Institute and Peak Prosperity and others who are sounding powerful warnings and constructive suggestions about our future. Yes, there are many other voices that differ from these, but a study of their backgrounds suggest that many of them have a vested interest in the present which exceeds their longer term interest in the future.

I came to investigate all these things, because I first saw them in the Bible and wished to verify what I felt it was saying. I was stunned to find that the picture the Bible presents of the approach to the end times matches very well what we see unfolding today. Most end time theologies anticipate some of the things we see happening in the Middle East, but are far from seeing a picture of our modern civilisation and its collapse due to economic decline, food and water supply and global warming.

Energy supply and cost is a key factor. Our modern civilisation is founded on energy supply from fossil fuels, primarily coal, oil and natural gas. We have been extracting the fossil fuels at an ever increasing rate and as we do so, they have become harder to extract and increasingly expensive. In a general, big picture sense, this had made industrial production and farming and pretty much everything we do increasingly expensive and less profitable. There is still large resources available, but they are approaching the point where the cost of extraction is closing in on the financial return from the investment. So developed nations which rely more on industry are coming into increasing debt which they are finding increasingly difficult to reduce.

Enormous effort is now bring made to keep the good things going. Huge gains in efficiency have been made, but at the cost of making our world systems increasingly interdependent and tightly coupled. What we are doing is holding off collapse, but at the price that when it does happen it will be increasingly catastrophic in its impact the longer we continue this route. We are doing this in order to try to preserve the current glory, but at the price of long term pain rather than implementing some pain now to preserve a less glorious, but less painful future.

My perspective on all of this that what we are seeing unfold is heading towards the end time picture that the Bible presents which leads to a climax when Jesus returns. I see that it is not reasonably possible for there to be another global civilisation as long as we continue to live with a “me first” philosophy. We have lived contrary to God’s direction and are now reaping the consequences of our free will choices. God is not to blame for the current crisis and enormous suffering. We are. God has given us all we need and then some. We just haven’t listened.

References

The Living Planet Report, WWF, http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/2012_lpr/

Limits to Growth, The 30-Year Update, Meadows, Randers and Meadows, Earthscan, 2005.

Storms of my Grandchildren, James Hansen, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2009

Richard Heinberg is a well known author of books such as “The Party’s Over” and “The End of Growth”.

Gail Tverberg has a web site “Our Finite Planet” and is well respected for the continuous stream of quality articles she writes.

World on the Edge, Lester Brown, Earthscan, 2011