Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Intermediate Technologies

Consider for a moment the classic Hubbert curve:

I have always liked the way that the curve showed the depletion of a non-renewable resource.  Simple and elegant, It would appear to me to be pretty close to the truth.  So the world has now seemed to have passed the peak, where the maximum amount of oil pumped is in the past and now it will be getting harder and harder to access oil.  It isn't going away, it will just be harder to get.

So, all the peak oil blogosphere is going apeshit, talking about the end of the world as we know it.  Fine, in an absolute sense, that will occur.  But it will just be the end of a phase, not the end of mankind.

US energy consumption, by source, 1850-2000. Vertical axis is in quadrillion BTU
Lets look at the left side of the curve.  A whole bunch of folks in the world today remember those times.  They weren't that bad.  You might even argue that the 50's and 60's were pretty good times here in the USA and we used a whole lot less oil than we use now.

So what all this means to you and I is simple.  We go back to one car per family.  We wear sweaters and hats to help stay warm.  Kids go to school by walking or on the bus, Dad gets to works on a streetcar or in a carpool.  Mom stays home and cooks and steers clear of processed foods.  Not everyone goes off for fulfilling years of college to end up running a spreadsheet.  Everybody squeezes a little harder on their nickels.

It really won't be the end of the world folks.  We will do what every family has to learn in hard times, that pinching pennies is the normal scheme of things, that old cars can work a long time.  That vacations in the south of France are once in a lifetime things. 

We will just stop being spoiled.  Time to get over the tantrums.

1 comment:

russell1200 said...

Nice try.

We have 6-3/4 billion people today. Not sure how far back you meant by "people still remember", but relatively few people remember much beyond WW2. In 1940 our population was around 2-1/4 billion.

That is an awful lot of mouths to feed.

It also ignores the fact that the underlying issue behind peak oil is world population. We are running out of a lot more stuff than oil, and even renewable resources (water) are not being given time to renew.

Because we are wealthy country, with less population concentration (at least in some areas) we may wind up being better off. But there is a world of hurt out there waiting to happen.