Saturday, October 14, 2006

Peak Oil and Global Warming - Guest Editorial

Reader pekadillo posted a thoughtful comment on a recent post -- with his permission I am sharing it with everyone.

Blackall Range Relocalisation
I've come to similar conclusions (...) I've recently been attempting to hitch the concepts of Peak Oil and Climage Change together into a big flashing arrow pointing towards what I consider to be the most reasonable solution: relocalisation.

Here's what's I've got so far. Feel free to do what you want with it.

Twin Forces

The twin forces of Climate Change and Peak Oil are pushing humanity to change our way of life.

In one ear, Climate Change tells us to stop burning fossil fuels or suffer the upheaval of environmental collapse.

In the other ear, Peak Oil reminds us that we have only a little time left to use our currently abundant oil and gas to effect change.

Two Complementary Problems

Peak Oil and Climate Change are huge problems in their own right. However, they are connected in many ways.
For example, if we attempt to enter the age of expensive oil without attempting to curb our demand, we will be forced to turn to dirty fuels such as coal and shale oil as oil and gas supplies decline, exacerbating global warming.

If we attempt to ignore global warming, our ability to address global problems such as oil decline will be diminished as we struggle to deal with environmental collapse, reduced agricultural output, refugees, economic recession, and other severe issues arising from climate change.

Thus we must solve both problems at once.

One Ultimatum

Both problems make the same ultimatum: we can make changes in an orderly manner soon, or change will come only a little later, in the form of a disorderly collapse of our existing way of life.

There are two major potential strategies before us.
1. Techno-fix
2. Re-localisation

Technofix strategies
"Fixing the fix for the fix"

This approach aims to allow us to continue more or less the way we are now, by applying technology to the problem. Our electricity is supplied by solar, wind, nuclear, and 'clean coal'. Our transport is powered by biofuels, hydrogen, fuel cells or batteries.

Technofix solutions are problematic for several reasons, including the following:

* They rely on cheap, abundant energy and a strong economy to implement and scale up
* They require expensive, large-scale infrastructure modifications that take a long time to complete
* They ignore other problems which also arise from unsustainable resource use, eg habitat loss, pollution, resource depletion, etc
* They add new levels of complexity to an already complex network of factors, inviting unexpected consequences
* They don't take into account energy returned on energy invested (EROEI) and actually do more harm than good

Re-localisation strategies
"Transportation systems are a symptom of being in the wrong place"

In this approach, we change our systems to use less energy and resources. Relocalisation aims to make local regions more self-sufficient, and less dependant on cheap transport and other external inputs. Food, energy and other products would be produced as locally as possible.

This solution has a number of advantages:

* It reduces demand on resources and reduces the need for transport
* It can be implemented even during an economic recession
* It builds community
* It encourages responsible economic development
* It can be begun NOW without having to wait for scientific breakthroughs
* It is compatible with long term sustainability
* It has the potential to reintroduce skills lost in the recent past
* Relocalised communities eat healthier food and get more exercise

In short, a strategy based upon relocalisation not only addresses both global warming and peak oil by withdrawing their root causes, it also brings with it number of positive effects for our society.


At 6:02 PM, October 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even without considering the two issues together, nice articulation of alternative approaches and the pitfalls of the techno-fix.

"Re-localization." Great summary. Consider the phrasing stolen.


At 1:33 AM, October 20, 2006, Anonymous kfzinfo said...

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At 1:28 AM, December 09, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, nice post. Keep up the good work


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