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Most people have never heard of peak oil-the peaking of global oil production. It has devastating ramifications, especially for Blacks and other disenfranchised groups throughout the world. Global warming or “climate change” captures headlines, but according to the U.S. Department of Energy, global oil production will “peak,” or plateau, in the foreseeable future.
Dr. Robert Hirsch of the National Energy Technology Laboratory issued a report, “Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management.” He concluded, “The peaking of world oil production presents the U.S. and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem...and without timely mitigation, the economic, social and political costs will be unprecedented.”
Last year, the National Petroleum Council, representing the oil industry, said, “Because the world’s population is growing and living standards are rising worldwide, energy consumption globally is expected to rise by more than 50-percent over the next 25 years, requiring huge new investments...”
David Miller, M.B.A., a Black energy specialist, notes that predictions of peak oil “in coming decades” are misleading and alleviate a sense of urgency about “running out of oil.” Many believe that time, the markets and/or technology will solve the problem. Miller disagrees. “Now is the time to widely distribute and implement large amounts of capital and research. In the case of global oil peak, this is no longer a luxury.”
An L.A. Times article by staff writer Elizabeth Douglass begins, “With gasoline and oil costing once unthinkable barrels of cash, the notion that things in our petroleum-addicted world will soon get worse, maybe much, much worse, is spreading fast.” She adds, fear of a diminished supply of crude oil has pushed the price way up.
Blaine D. Pope, Ph. D., M.I.A., M.P.A., a colleague of David Miller, applauds Douglass’s article; he urges people to read it and then ask, “What are the implications for the Black community? What should we do?” Pope says that behind today’s oil mania is a deeper dread: That the world has found all the easy-to-reach oil and the supply will fall further and further behind, escalating global demand.
The Times article reports day-to-day cost of oil reflects a sharply weaker dollar, market speculation and geopolitical events such as unrest in Nigeria and other oil-exporting countries. At the same time, producers are barely satisfying the world’s energy thirst, and the market increasingly is fixated on long-term supply. Experts caution that above-ground issues threaten to impose a “practical peak” on oil output that could be just as wrenching as the geologic peak.
Faith Birol, chief economist at the International Agency, a watchdog for industrialized nations, believes the world has reached at least “a peak of easily accessible oil,” (tacitly admitting to “peak oil,” says Blaine Pope.) Birol is leading a reassessment of the worldwide outlook for oil supplies, investment and production. It probably will be bad news.
The Times notes that in five-years, demand for oil may exceed 94 million barrels a day and continue rising, spurred by growth in China and India, according to the International Energy Agency. Experts put daily global production at between 82 million and 86 million barrels and even the most optimistic oil authorities can’t see production keeping up with demand without a boost from unconventional sources. (Pope believes more and more money is being spent to get at less and less petroleum.)
Robert Hirsch’s views reflect the core principle of “peak oil,” that global crude production will crest sooner than expected and then begin a precipitous decline. Some say the peak has already occurred, others feel it won’t arrive for another decade or so.
Peak oil is obviously a complex and pressing issue that affects the entire world. Since Blacks remain economically and politically disenfranchised, they will suffer most from peak oil’s destructive ramifications.
David Miller stresses that Americans are not immune from global phenomena and explores problems and solutions related to natural resource decline, global warming and peak oil: His topics include, energy, food (and culture), water, sea level rise, public/private partnerships and job creation.
Blaine Pope poses this question: “If the representatives of the rich and affluent are getting ready (for global change, including peak oil), what should representatives of the poor and disenfranchised be doing?” Convinced “peak oil is already a reality, he urges that we plan accordingly. “We’ve been sleepwalking around these issues for too long... Our future started yesterday. Don’t sleep this one, my people.”
David Miller’s e-mail:
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail