Wednesday, March 16 at 7:30 pm
A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash
by Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack
All of the major energy experts including M. King Hubbert are interviewed in this film. Just about every conceivable concept related to the world’s energy use, past, present, and future, along with great comments regarding the various alternative possibilities (solar, wind, nuclear, hydrogen, etc.), are illustrated in this film. Oil is depicted as a “miracle elixir” – an incredibly efficient energy source so cheap it has transformed human civilization and makes it possible for us to sustain a global population of nearly 7 billion people (and projected to reach ten billion this century).
Yet in the big picture the “oil age” will be remembered as a mere 200-300 year “blip” in human history – a brief orgy of cheap energy. This is a limited commodity and when gone we are unlikely to have a good replacement. Alternate energy sources lack oil’s cheap abundance and efficiency. If we convert to nuclear on a global scale, in addition to hazards of waste disposal, we will shortly deplete the earth’s uranium. Solar and wind power are simply inadequate to the task of replacing petroleum. Hydrogen and ethanol are expensive and require petroleum to produce. Much is made of discovering more reserves and expanded production, but these are being absorbed by huge new markets in Asia and Africa and so they merely accelerate our dash toward depletion. The U.S. alone uses nearly 21 million barrels of oil per day. This volume is equal to the flow of water over the Niagara Falls in 19 minutes. This kind of volume is obviously unsustainable for very long, as is our human population now in overshoot. We must do what we can to ward off a cataclysmic implosion of the world’s seven to ten billion human population.
Most people today are concentrated in vast urban areas which produce no food and little water. Food must be shipped into cities 24/7 via truck, rail, and air on a massive scale. When that becomes economically unfeasible, a few local farmer’s markets will not fix it. Starvation, disease, and local militias could run rampant until populations are reduced to economically sustainable local levels. Already catastrophes related to oil have gone down – the megadeath in Iraq, the propping up of dictators, the oil production waste sites in Nigeria and Ecuador, and so on. We must discover our power as consumers, investors, citizen advocates, conservationists, activists, socially responsible entrepreneurs, organic farmers and gardeners, and so forth, and make our way towards a world that would be not only sustainable, but a lot more fun.
This alarming film shows just how oil permeates so much of our lives in the products we buy and the way we live. Our lives depend on oil not only for energy. All the plastic is made from oil. The food we eat depends on oil for fertilizers, pesticides, and of course for the fuel to drive tractors, etc. In fact the “green revolution” that made it possible to feed billions more on the same (or comparable) arable surface as in the 1950’s depends on the availability of cheap oil. There is still no energy source as cheap or as compact as oil (in terms of energy per gallon — for instance it takes 50% more ethanol than gasoline, by volume, to run a car). We will soon begin to produce less oil, helpless to meet demand. Cover-ups of reserve declines by many oil producing nations, a lack of viable alternatives, and a lack of time to make an effective transition ring the alarm bell loudly. But there is a positive side to oil depletion that this film does not mention: a new oil-free world should help with the global warming.
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