Passenger Pigeon

A Passenger Pigeon

The term peak oil was first coined in 1956 by geophysicist  M. King Hubbert who predicted, correctly it turned out, that oil production would peak in the United States around 1970 and that global production would peak some 40 years later and decline rapidly thereafter.  He was right about U.S. production. There is still some disagreement about his global projections, but many scientists feel that world oil production peaked in 2005 and that in spite of better technology and new finds, it will be downhill from here on in.

Mankind has done this before. Once, the passenger pigeon was the most numerous bird species on the planet. In the nineteenth century, great flocks, a mile wide and three hundred miles long , darkened the North American skies for days.  Nobody thought they could ever become extinct.  The last passenger pigeon died in a Cincinnati zoo in 1914.

Pumping Jack 1

There is not an endless supply of oil

In 1956, when Hubbert first unveiled his theory of peak oil, he was almost laughed out of the room.  At the time, Texas was awash in oil and the reserves of the Middle East had barely been tapped. People and nations were getting rich. From tanks and guns to cars, jet planes, and the new oil based plastics and polymers-business was booming.  As much wealth was created in the United States between 1950 and 1965 as in the previous 300 years.  Nobody wanted to hear that oil was a finite commodity.  They still don’t.

But here’s the truth.  Even with modern technology and better production techniques, less oil is being pumped and less oil is being found.  One of these days it is going to run out. Meanwhile there are billions of people on the planet driving cars, taking planes , using  petroleum based plastic products and  being fed with food produced by big agribusiness which depends totally on mechanized farming and petroleum based pesticides and fertilizers for high crop yields.  Our whole way of life in the developed world, not to mention our global economy and financial system, is fueled by oil .

Peak oil is real. It is here and it is now. We need to find new ways to feed, clothe, and warm ourselves and alternatives to fossil fuels to transport ourselves from place to place.  Sustainable, renewable energy sources  are available. Let’s make them work.  If we don’t do something radical to change the way we live, not only will oil go the way of the passenger pigeon,  so will we.

One Response to “Passenger Pigeons and Peak Oil”

  1. Great piece! Hope people pay attention before oil goes the way of passenger pidgeons.

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