Friday, September 3, 2010

On taking peak oil seriously

I think I take the subject of energy more seriously than most because of where I live.  Minnesota gets cold enough so there are times when human survival is literally measured in minutes without an external source of heat.  I had a friend in college who ran out of gas on a rural road on a sub-zero January night.  His toasty steel cocoon was below freezing in less than five minutes.  He was VERY lucky someone willing to stop came along in time.  I still remember how scared he was and how cautious the whole experience made him.

And yet, when you think about it, our whole civilization would very quickly collapse if we were to run out of gas.  Maybe not in minutes, but certainly in days.

There is an institution that understands energy as a life-and-death matter along the lines of my friend.  The German Army.  If you Google "oil" and the "German army" you will find out that by FAR their biggest problem in World War II was securing reliable petroleum supplies.  I don't know this for a fact, but I would not be surprised if this significant historical example means that there are several persons in today's Bundeswehr who do nothing but study the global supplies of oil.  In fact, we now know some of their names.
'Peak Oil' and the German Government
Military Study Warns of a Potentially Drastic Oil Crisis
By Stefan Schultz
Suppose it runs out? Mishaps in oil and gas exploration are almost routine, and governments have now started to wonder about a future with dwindling fossil fuel.
A study by a German military think tank has analyzed how "peak oil" might change the global economy. The internal draft document -- leaked on the Internet -- shows for the first time how carefully the German government has considered a potential energy crisis.
The term "peak oil" is used by energy experts to refer to a point in time when global oil reserves pass their zenith and production gradually begins to decline. This would result in a permanent supply crisis -- and fear of it can trigger turbulence in commodity markets and on stock exchanges.
The issue is so politically explosive that it's remarkable when an institution like the Bundeswehr, the German military, uses the term "peak oil" at all. But a military study currently circulating on the German blogosphere goes even further.
The study is a product of the Future Analysis department of the Bundeswehr Transformation Center, a think tank tasked with fixing a direction for the German military. The team of authors, led by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Will, uses sometimes-dramatic language to depict the consequences of an irreversible depletion of raw materials. It warns of shifts in the global balance of power, of the formation of new relationships based on interdependency, of a decline in importance of the western industrial nations, of the "total collapse of the markets" and of serious political and economic crises. more

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