As part of Go Green week, Loughborough Students P&P screened the Basil Gelpke/Ray McCormack award-winning documentary: A Crude Awakening – The Oil Crash. And I have to admit, I was not prepared for the 90 minutes of clear and rational description of this modern time apocalypse.
Without invoking God, thunder lights or any kind of divine rapture, Gelpke and McCormack paint the grimmest of pictures by simply pointing to scientific evidence: peak oil is near.
Some people misunderstand what the term even means. Peak oil is not the complete extinction of reserves, it doesn’t mean we will be running out of oil in the next few decades, what it does mean is that oil production will come to a peak and from then on demand will far outgrow supply. It means that whilst countries and economies continue to grow and expand, with ever more developing countries building their industries and adopting a lifestyle very similar to our own, the supply of oil that supports this process will not be able to match their demands – reserves will shrink and countries will be fighting for barrels that cost more than gold.
One wonders… is oil that necessary? You betcha! 85 million barrels of oil a day keep the world going ‘round! Literally. We fly on planes, drive on cars, commute by train and we ship most of the products we make. And you think ‘well, I’ll just use my bike’. Not quite enough, electric capacity also depends heavily on fossil fuels such as oil and this means our beloved kettles, ipods, computers, toasters, blow-driers. Your entire house is probably a giant plug so imagine turning it all off. And even candles are made with oil nowadays, so you’d be left in utter darkness until someone would think of the olden days and manually come up with an oil-free candle. In fact, most things we touch and use have been dipped in this black gold:
aspirin, balloons, bandages, bras, bubble gum, CDs, brushes, contacts, cortisone, crayons, cream, deodorant, detergents, dresses, footballs, golf balls, guitar strings, hair colouring, hair curlers, ink, insect repellent, insulation, life jackets, lipstick, loudspeakers, medicines, mops, motorcycle helmets, movie film, nail polish, paints, parachutes, paraffin, pens, perfumes, plastics, refrigerators, roller-skate wheels, rubber boots, rubbish bags, running shoes, saccharine, seals, shirts (non-cotton), shoe polish, shoes, shower curtains stereos, sweaters, table tennis balls, telephones, tennis rackets, thermos, tights, toilet seats, toothpaste, transparent tape, tyres, umbrellas, upholstery, vaporisers, vitamin capsules, volleyballs, water pipes, water skis, wax, wax paper. (in wolf.readinglitho.co.uk)
It won’t be easy at all. No more strawberries in winter or kiwis from New Zealand. Much worse, agriculture will suffer such a tremendous shift that mass production of food will surely become highly impractical. The role of oil in agriculture is one of the key reasons for the explosive growth of the world’s population in the last 100 years – population grew from 900 million in 1800 to 1.6 billion in 1900 to 6 billion in 2000. Crazy! We are the ‘lucky few’ to be born in this short-lived spree of cheap oil and just as there was none of that 150 years ago, there will be none of it 150 years from now. We can say we’ll try to reduce energy consumption to stop global warming and environmental disaster but the fact is we have no choice. Oil won’t disappear abruptly, but the decrease in production will require a significantly different world where easy energy is not part of the equation.
We should definitely go green – we absolutely need to. But as of this moment, all the experts in Crude Awakening seem to agree that there is no way – renewables, nuclear and biofuels combined – that the world is prepared for a shortage in oil production. In a not so distant future, rather than green, we might need to be wholly transparent, self-sufficient.
Image courtesy of oilcrashmovie.com