Neil Jackson: Why is peak oil important?
Colin Campbell: Peak Oil is a turning point for mankind. It is a big subject.
In short, the population only doubled over the first 17 centuries of the last millennium. But then came coal followed by oil and gas, and the population increased six-fold. These new energy sources, especially oil, the easiest, allowed the rapid expansion of industry, transport, trade and agriculture allowing the economy to expand greatly. It was accompanied by the growth of financial capital as banks lent more than they had on deposit, confident that Tomorrow’s Expansion was collateral for Today’s Debt.
But now we face the dawn of the Second Half of the Age of Oil when supply declines from natural depletion, meaning that debt goes bad (as is already happening) and the economy contracts. Today’s oil supply support 6.7 billion people, but by 2050 the supply will be enough to support no more than about 2.5 billion in their present way of life. So the challenges of using less and finding other energy sources is great.
The transition threatens to be a time of great tension : there are already tribal wars in Africa, disturbances in many places including rioting in Greece. Urban conditions will become especially difficult.
NJ: Are we progressing towards implementing technologies to utilize alternative energy sources at a fast enough rate to prevent an economic collapse, or at least to minimize the impact the advent of Peak Oil is having/will have on the global economy?
CC: I doubt that renewable energies will ever replace oil and gas sufficiently to maintain the past order of things or still less allow economic growth to continue. They are of course greatly needed for the surviving communities.