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Wall Street Journal interviews Wayland teacher about ‘peak oil’

WAYLAND—Wayland Middle School teacher Aaron Wissner wants to get the word out that energy is about to get very expensive—a Wall Street Journal article would do nicely.

That’s exactly what he got recently. The business publication sent reporter Neil King Jr. out to Wisner’s Middleville home for three days of interviews.

King arrived on Saturday, Jan. 12, to meet Wissner at a local pizza restaurant with about a dozen others concerned with what they view as a looming oil shortage.

The shorthand term for this is “peak oil.” Wissner can point to research online that explains why he believes oil production has reached its peak; supply will now begin to decline. With demand for that oil staying the same or increasing over time, prices for that decreasing supply of oil will skyrocket.

“Ten years ago, oil was $10 per barrel,” Wissner said. “World oil production is now about 84.5 million barrels a day. We’ve been stuck at that for over three years. Now a barrel of oil is up over $90—it even got to $100 (briefly).

“There are enough oil geologists saying that it’s safe to say that we might have reached our peak production.”

Those high oil prices trickle down to many aspects of modern life. This is something his students at Wayland Middle School are already learning.

On Day 3 of his Wall Street Journal interview, Wissner brought King into his first couple of classes.

“I did a lesson on peak oil,” Wissner said. “I interviewed the kids to demonstrate how easy it was to pick up the concept.”

He asked one of his students what effect the high oil prices will have on farmers in Allegan County.

“I remember one student who said that his father and grandfather were both farmers,” Wissner said. “Fuel prices were cutting into their earnings.”

That, coupled with poor rainfall, put the family into the red.

“He said that if things continue, the changes would force his family out of business. It’s going to have a real impact on the farmers,” Wissner said.

Wissner knows from his math background and his reading about economics that high fuel prices drive a lot of other costs up—everything from food to travel will take hits. He also does not believe advances in technology alone will be able to soften the blow of these sharp price increases.

He may not be able to prevent an oil shortage, but he has committed to help others prepare for the future.

He’s founded a non-profit group called Local Future.

According to the Web site, “Members of Local Future…take the initiative to increase independence for themselves and their communities. Their shared value system of truth, compassion, understanding, sustainability, renewal and community guides their actions toward a vision of a prosperous local future.”

Wissner hopes to replicate similar groups in the Wayland, Grand Rapids and Caledonia areas.

Its next event will be Saturday, Feb. 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the Thornapple Township EMS Building, 128 High St. in Middleville, for one showing of the documentary movie “The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream.”

It is also organizing “The International Conference on Peak Oil and Climate Change: Paths to Sustainability” at Calvin College for May 30 to June 1.

To find out more about Local Future, visit www.localfuture.org.

The Wall Street Journal article was printed in the Jan. 26 issue and may be viewed at that newspaper’s online archives.

Editorial Notes: The article at the Wall Street Journal is online: In a World Short Of Oil, Provisions Must Be Made Contributor Aaron Wissner writes: This is the most accurate of the articles published as follow-ups to the WSJ article. Mr. Lewis includes some very clear explainations, and good examples. A perfect example of how making national news can translate into effective and informative local news. UPDATE: Aaron just wrote an analysis: Peak Oil, Inflation & the Impacts on Families

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