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Environmentalist David Orr on peak oil, climate change and our response to them

(original: “Professor urges unity in addressing environmental concerns”)
Tim Simpson. The Ranger (San Antionio and The Alamo Community College)
Professor discusses problems of energy production and the relationship to American culture and politics.
Americans of all political stripes share common concerns about the future but are divided by a cultural mentality that works against them, an environmental studies professor said.

“We have lost a vision and a coherent vision of the future of this planet at a time we need it most,” David Orr, chair of Oberlin College’s Environmental Studies Program, said.

Orr spoke on “What’s Left of Conservatism?” at Trinity University’s Chapman Graduate Center Great Hall.

…Another issue facing the world is the harm done to the environment by current energy sources. According to Orr, the real danger lies not in “global warming,” which he claims is a misnomer, but in “global destabilization.”

Orr said the sea line will rise for the next 1,000 years even if carbon emissions stopped today. If climate change continues, disease will increase, and, according to the World Health Organization, the death toll will rise.

“What it says is we can look forward to a future of nonlinearity, of surprises,” Orr said, referring to the projected data.

…Orr cited the book “Collapse” by Jared Diamond saying that civilizations have ended when they’ve failed to see problems that have already arrived or solve problems that were evident. He also referred to “crisis of crises,” or a situation in which a society is plagued by multiple crises at the same time, making it difficult to handle any of them.

Part of the energy problem is the continued use of inefficient technologies while better ones exist or could be cheaply developed, Orr said, calling nuclear energy a “very expensive way to boil water.”

“In other words, we have better ideas than we’re implementing,” Orr said. “One of the problems we have is we hear this stuff, and it doesn’t really affect us on a bottom level.”

He elaborated, saying that if he was to pull out a gun or perform some other physically violent action, it would ignite a proactive response in the crowd. “Something would kick in with you,” Orr said. “It doesn’t really kick in with verbal things.”

Part of the problem, Orr explained, is that America has become so polarized that it is hard to talk about some problems. “It’s time for us to talk beyond these boundaries,” Orr said.
(23 February 2006)

Heinberg and experts debate fall in oil production

Rick Jurgens, Contra Costa Times
WALNUT CREEK – After a century of rapid, petroleum-fueled growth of industry and motor vehicle travel, the world drinks from an oil cup that will soon be half-empty. Some say it already it is.

That was the message delivered Wednesday night to an audience of 60 people gathered in a church nestled in a Walnut Creek hillside. They listened politely as two speakers readily agreed that an era of cheap and abundant oil would soon end but disputed how best to prepare.

…Since petroleum replaced oil from whales as a leading fuel source, producers have worried less about shortages than about flooding the market with petroleum products and driving down prices, Richard Heinberg told the audience. “It was easy to get addicted to the stuff,” added Heinberg, a teacher at the New College of California and author of “The Party’s Over: Energy Resources and the Fate of Industrial Societies.”

…Heinberg and consultant Jose Alberro, a former executive of Mexico’s state-owned oil company with a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago, agreed that oil supplies will dwindle. “There is no doubt whether we’re going to run out of oil,” Alberro said. “The whole issue is timing.”

Alberro illustrated the possibility of over-reacting to warnings about finite resources by citing an 1865 economic tract in England warning of the “probable exhaustion of our coal mines.” Alberro predicted that oil and natural gas prices would decline over the next decade, reflecting reduced demand and increased production spurred by recent high prices.

Alberro argued that prices will continue to be the best tool to prompt consumers and producers to adjust to changing conditions in the petroleum market. Tighter fuel-efficiency requirements for automobiles and a 50 cents a gallon tax on gasoline would also help, he said.

But Heinberg warned against too much reliance on the market to organize society’s response: “The price signal of a global oil peak will arrive at least 10 years too late to provide for a seamless transition.”

Instead, he argued for a plan to impose mandatory annual cuts by both oil importing and exporting nations.

“Quota rationing would make more sense than price rationing,” he said.
(23 February 2006)

Beyond Peak Oil scenario competition

Mick Winter, Beyond Peak
Peak Oil could lead to many things. From what most Peakers say, those things are all negative. Almost all agree that it will lead, in one way or other, to The End Of The World As We Know It, or as commonly known during Y2K days, TEOTWAWKI.

Some predict returning to the semi-rural days of the early 1900s. Other suggest we could return to pre-industrial and even early-agricultural days. Still others suggest a return to Paleolithic times, where necessary skills include making your own obsidian knives and starting fires with a flintstone.

But are these really our only options? Is the only future for humanity a bleak one? Is the only way we can go…down?

We’d like to think there are other, more positive, possibilities…

Unfortunately, although we’d like to believe in these positive possibilities, we haven’t the slightest idea how they could come about. That’s where you come in.

We invite you to enter the First Annual Beyond Peak “Things Might Get Better” Peak Oil Scenario Competition. Send us your scenarios by (on or before) March 31, 2006. The first place winner will receive $100 cash. Second place gets $50, third place $25, and fourth and fifth places get glory and Honorable Mention. All of the top five scenarios will be posted on the Beyond Peak website. (If there are more than five that are really good, we might post them, too.)
(24 February 2006)
The original has links to about a dozen scenarios for a post Peak world.

Matt Simmons at the Miller Center of Public Affairs
Matt Simmons, Global Public Media
Matt Simmons speaks about his newest book at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs.

“Matthew R. Simmons, who advises energy companies on mergers and acquisitions, suspected two years ago that the Saudis, despite promises of endless supplies of oil, might not in fact know how much oil remains to be recovered. What happens if the Saudis cannot satisfy the growing thirst for oil in the United States and China? In Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy Simmons outlines his fears and predictions.”
(30 November 2005, but just posted at GPM)

Author William Clark on Radio New Zealand’s “Nine to Noon”
William Clark, Radio New Zealand via Global Public Media
William Clark, author of “Petrodollar Warfare”, on increasing tension between Washington and Teheran. From Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon.
(20 February 2006)