Does Peak Oil mean the end of the industrial age?

I’m thinking about moving to the boonies and brewing beer for a living. It’s the only thing I know how to do that seems even moderately useful once industrialized society grinds to a halt.

Of course, I could be nuts or a tinfoil hat type. You be the judge. Links follow.

  1. The Hubbert Peak for World Oil

It is widely accepted that oil is a finite resource; there are basic laws which describe the depletion of any finite resource:

* Production starts at zero;
* Production then rises to a peak which can never be surpassed;
* Once the peak has been passed, production declines until the resource is depleted. 

These simple rules were first described in the 1950s by Dr. M. King Hubbert, and apply to any relevant system, including the depletion of the world’s petroleum resources.

The rate of production of a natural resource can be plotted on a graph against time. This gives a picture of the lifetime of that resource…
2. Evolution of Oil Assessments

This site shows the peak of oil production as estimated annually since 1989. The depletion midpoint (Peak Oil) starts at 1989, and steadily marches forward to 2003 in the year 2003. This one’s just a sidenote, skip it if you don’t feel the need to see for yourself.


Truly apocalyptic Mad Max type look at what the world will look like when there is no more gas for cars or trucks, and water stops pumping into cities.

This guy predicts that the worldwide human population will shrink from a then 8 billion to a future 500 million.

Excerpt from one article on that site: The Olduvai theory is a data-based schema that states that the life expectancy of Industrial Civilization is less than or equal 100 years. We shall develop the theory from its early roots in Greek philosophy down to respected scientists in the 20th century. This approach is useful because, although the theory is easy to understand, it is difficult (i.e. distressing) for most people to accept — just as it was for me.

The Olduvai theory deals neither with the geology or the paleontology of the Olduvai Gorge. Nor is it prescriptive. Rather, the theory simply attempts to explain the historic world energy production (and use) and population data in terms of overshoot and collapse. I chose the name “Olduvai” because (1) it is justly famous, (2) I’ve been there, (3) its long hollow sound is eerie and ominous, and (4) it is a good metaphor for the ‘Stone Age way of life’. In fact, the Olduvai way of life was (and still is) a sustainable way of life — local, tribal, and solar — and, for better or worse, our ancestors practiced it for millions of years.

And another one

The Limits of Science and Technology

Present society seems to have come to the comfortable conclusion that no great problems can now overtake us. The thought that “Scientists will think of something” is a popular public placebo by which to ignore the facts. Will something come to the rescue?

Pimentel and Giampietro (1994b) have warned:

Technology cannot substitute for essential natural resources such as food, forests, land, water, energy, and biodiversity… we must be realistic as to what technology can and cannot do to help humans feed themselves and to provide other essential resources (p. 250).

Bartlett (1994) has observed the general complacency about the future and writes:

There will always be popular and persuasive technological optimists who believe that population increases are good, and who believe that the human mind has unlimited capacity to find technological solutions to all problems of crowding, environmental destruction, and resource shortages. These technological optimists are usually not biological or physical scientists. Politicians and business people tend to be eager disciples of the technological optimists (p. 28).

What Bartlett is saying is that “We scientists might NOT be able to think of something.”

To put it bluntly, science and technology cannot indefinitely rescue the human race from whatever predicaments into which it gets itself – the overriding one now being population size, its current exponential growth, and how it can be supported in the future.


These guys have recently started reporting on world oil shortages. There are a few links to stories on ABC news and the BBC.


“My forecast is that between 2000 and 2005 the world will be reaching peak production from our known fields, and after that, output will decline.” But demand will keep growing inexorably.

Will oil prices stay down well after the turn of the millennium and then start to go up? Not necessarily. Once the markets recognize that production has peaked while demand grows, prices could move up in advance of any actual shortages.

If Bernab is right, oil and oil shares should be good investments for those who can take a long-range view. But there are other, more dire implications. “It will shift the power in the oil market back to the Gulf region,” he points out. More than ever, the Middle East will become a potential powder keg for war.

Back to your humble Narrator.

That said, what does the future hold for us? I go back and forth between a distinct uneasy feeling to laughter.

From what I’ve read, world peak oil production was probably in 2000. Prices should pretty much go nowhere but up from here until the end of civilization as we know it. Food prices should also pretty much just skyrocket until only the wealthy can afford food.

Well, I mean in industrialized societies where the vast majority of the population is not involved in food production. The Midwest should be OK since there’s tons of good farmland there. They’ll eat.

But LA? This place is a desert with millions of people living in it. This is going to be a ghost town. You will probably be able to pick up a mansion in Newport Beach in 50 years in exchange for a Whopper with Cheese.

I know, I know. My tinfoil hat is showing. But am I wrong, crazy, both, or none of the above?

Oil cost so much to burn it, as sacarsity grows, price will go up, other energy alternatives will take it’s place as they will be cheaper. We will never run out of oil - never, just we won’t want to use it at $5/gal when we can run a cold fusion generation at the equivalent of $0.01/gal, or waht ever future technology holds.

There are a couple problems with this thread. First, you are too free with quoting from copyrighted sources. Generally, quoting more than a paragraph or two is too much. Second, this is more of a debate than a factual question. I’ll close this thread since there is already a debate on this subject in the GD forum: “Peak Oil”: Grim Reality or Alarmist Myth?

moderator GQ