Saturday, June 17, 2006

Peak Oil and Why Bikes Will Save the Earth


Want to know why we'll ALL be riding bikes soon? Why the GTA and every other urban center on earth HAS to create a biking infrastructure and legitimize cycling as a method of travel?
It's called "Peak Oil."
Peak Oil is the point at which humans have extracted half of the oil which exists in the earth. This first half, the half that we've used up, is all the easily accessible oil - picture the gushers in Texas where you have oil towers billowing oil up into the sky. This half was easy to get, cheap to get, and this half made us VERY THIRSTY for oil..., leading to the development of SUV's and suburbs.
The remaining half of the world's oil is stuff like the Alberta Tar Sands. This oil is DIFFICULT and EXPENSIVE to get. Also, drilling and refining this kind of oil is environmentally damaging - think of ocean oil rigs trying to extract oil from the deepest most inaccessible parts of the ocean and having Exxon Valdez style accidents. Picture what is happening in Alberta, where they mix the tar sands with hot water in order to start separating the oil from the sand - this was originally FRESH water which is then polluted and useless, and we're talking HUGE amounts of water. Not to mention the fact that much of this "sand" is under forests which have to be clearcut to get at the oil. For an interesting American view of the tar sands, check this out:
www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/01/20/60minutes/main1225184.shtml

As we pass peak oil, which we're doing right now (estimates for the "peak oil" date hover around 2008, though some very optimistic ones stretch to 2040), the world has very big decisions to make. We have about 6 1/2 billion people in the world who are addicted to a cheap supply of oil. And think of this - China and India are just starting to develop their oil thirst. We will soon have their huge populations demanding their fair share of the world's dwindling oil supplies. What does the future hold? Well, war. The Americans have already invaded Iraq to make sure that Saddam didn't have the ability to interrupt the oil flow from both his country and from surrounding oil suppliers like Iran. If full out wars don't erupt, at the very least prices will spike, and it will become less and less possible to fill your car up with gas and drive from your suburban cut-out house to your job in the city. In fact, we might turn to the Amish to beg them to teach us how to survive without our cars and our oil heated homes.

So, being a biker, I have to admit that I'm more or less keen for the day when people can't afford to drive their SUVs. I picture abandoned cars all over the place, huge wrecking yards, and major transportation arteries like the Don Valley Parkway and the 401 having two lanes for some sort of public transport and emergency vehicles and two lanes for bicycles.
Want to learn more about Peak Oil and related topics? Check out the documentary The End of Suburbia (link on right). And find these books: "The Long Emergency" by James Kunstler;
"Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage" by Kenneth Deffeyes; "Resource Wars" by Michael Klare; "Out of gas: the end of the age of oil" by David Goodstein; "Oil Crisis" by Colin Campbell; "Powerdown: options and actions for a post-carbon world" by Richard Heinberg.

There is NO DOUBT that peak oil is approaching, that our lifestyles have to be reassessed. Ever wonder why BP - British Petroleum, is renaming themselves Beyond Petroleum? Have you seen Chevron's new website at www.willyoujoinus.com ? The first thing you read on the homepage is this: Energy will be one of the defining issues of this century. One thing is clear: the era of easy oil is over.

Get your bike out of the garage.

2 comments:

griffin said...

GREAT blog! In reference to the demise of the internal combustion engine, I don't so much picture the wrecking yards and such, I have this fantasy of having the full width of the roads as the ultimate bike path. No worries of being hit by mad drivers, colliding with car doors that pop open unexpectedly, or having to swerve around cars parked in the bike path (or having them swerve into the bike path!)

Jon said...

I followed a link from WR to yer blog. It's a good read, keep it up.

I feel like in order to have a deep understanding of peak oil and its consequences for us, you have to consider both sides. I'm not entirely convinced and am stoically riding the fence, mostly cuz reading the bike blogs, I only hear from one side.

I want to see all of us conserve, save the planet with "rideable works of art" and stop ridng the cheap oil auto-gravey train, but we've a ways to go to convince your average Billy Bob. Anyway, for you viewing pleasure, here are some opposing view points:

http://www.reason.com/links/links080806.shtml