Trend: The gap between future energy demand and the supply of oil looms large.
Eugene Linden in Outside Shot at BusinessWeek.com describes the dilemma that the United States faces as demand for oil supplies increases and supplies decrease. Excerpts below.
Link: From Peak Oil To Dark Age?.
The U.S. is completely unprepared for peak oil, as it's called, and the wrenching adjustments it would entail could easily accelerate global warming as nations turn to coal (see BusinessWeek.com, 4/19/07, "Rx for Earth: Sooner Not Later"). Moreover, regardless of the implications for climate change, peak oil represents a mortal threat to the U.S. economy.
Peak oil refers to the point at which world oil production plateaus before beginning to decline as depletion of the world's remaining reserves offsets ever-increased drilling. Some experts argue that we're already there, and that we won't exceed by much the daily production high of 84.5 million barrels first reached in 2005. If so, global production will bump along near these levels for years before beginning an inexorable decline.
What would that mean? Alternatives are still a decade away from meeting incremental demand for oil. With nothing to fill the gap, global economic growth would slow, stop, and then reverse; international tensions would soar as nations seek access to diminishing supplies, enriching autocratic rulers in unstable oil states; and, unless other sources of energy could be ramped up with extreme haste, the world could plunge into a new Dark Age. Even as faltering economies burned less oil, carbon loading of the atmosphere might accelerate as countries turn to vastly dirtier coal.
GIVEN SUCH UNPLEASANT possibilities, you'd think peak oil would be a national obsession. But policymakers can hide behind the possibility that vast troves will be available from unconventional sources, or that secretive oil-exporting nations really have the huge reserves they claim. Yet even if those who say that the peak has arrived are wrong, enough disturbing omens—for example, declining production in most of the world's great oil fields and no new superfields to take up the slack—exist for the issue to merit an intense international focus.