Jay Parkhill July 25th, 2007
First came Peak Oil– the idea that we are at, nearly at, or past (depending on whom you ask) the point where more oil has been removed from the ground than there is let to extract. Shortly after came Peak Gas, Peak Coal and Peak Uranium before someone put the pieces together and pointed out that the common factor among all these “peak” theories is that the world produces energy for the most part by using finite resources- and called the whole concept “Peak Energy“.
Follow the idea downstream and you start to wonder about the underpinnings of modern society, and technology in particular. Never mind that a Second Life avatar uses as much electricity as the average citizen of Brazil- check out Data Center Knowledge for a glimpse at how important a consideration energy is to web-centric businesses. Yesterday’s PG&E outage in San Francisco certainly shows how even local disruptions can affect the web in a big way.
Writer James Kunstler posted a recent polemic in which he points out that technology has led us to this point in history, and yet we put our hopes in technology to lead us out again. To paraphrase, the question he asks is “where will we get the energy to build hybrid cars, solar panels and wind farms” when oil costs skyrocket?
Global warming activists have started talking about “stabilization wedges“- numerous varied efforts each designed to reduce or replace a portion of CO2 currently being emitted through fossil fuel use, and using currently available technology.
I think this idea is right on- or at least more realistic than saying we need to return to localized economies- but it’s going to be a close race. If we can’t bring together enough wedges it’s going to be tough to maintain a technology-based society- and then there’s the question of how to rebuild a society where all the readily-available energy resources are tapped out.
I hate to end this on such a glum note. I’m certainly hopeful, but as I said, it’s going to be close.