Posted by: energyblogwalter | February 16, 2009

Re: Take Peak Oil Seriously – it’ll be here much sooner than you think : Toronto Star :: February 15th 2009

Apparently they also ran this article as well.  I’ll praise it but also offer where the Star can engage further.

To: Lettertoed@thestar.ca, ckelly@thestar.ca

Re: Take Peak Oil Seriously – it’ll be here much sooner than you think

Dear Editor and C.Kelly,

Thank you for posting this article, “Take Peak Oil Seriously” as it
quoted actual scientists who are studying the problem of Peak Oil.  I
hope that this is a sign of a sea change in the tackling of the Peak
Oil topic in the Star’s editorial department where we can get away
from sensationalism.  The sensationalism will be in tackling issues
like food and transportation in a Peak Oil context.  Also all this
information can be sourced, in multiple countries thanks to the ASPO
(peakoil.net), further leading to credibility.

Oddly though, we have a New in Homes section, a Wheels section, and
various Environmental editors and writers, but not a specific Energy &
Environment section to counter-balance these two former sections.  I
would like to suggest that the Star also “Take(s) Peak Oil Seriously”,
and create such a section to encompass the many issues of Peak Oil,
Climate Change, renovation etc and the feeling of action people are
taking right here in Toronto.  Wheels and Homes refer to only growth.
Endless growth has now come to an end and a new balance is needed.  A
section devoted to this understanding would be most welcome and not
lend itself to fear mongering.

There are numerous simple things that people can do, and sourcing live
real running examples and not pie-in-the-sky fantasy can now be
monitored by the media.  Such investigation is necessary to get away
from hallucination and dealing with reality.

I’d like to offer suggestions to save you time.  As I’ve read about
Peak Oil over the last three years, people tend to get bogged down in
some areas.  With a little help understanding can occur, as well as
further open discussion.

It will be important for the Star to encourage further understanding
rather than reaction.  I would encourage a followup to the issues
raised commonly represented in the online comments.  If Canadians
don’t even know what country they live in and during the proroguing of
Parliament you had to write a news article explaining how a
constitutional monarchy Parliament runs, you’re going to need to
manage expectation here as well.  Namely:

1) what is scalability?
For example, a reader writes that they discovered oil off the coast of
Mexico (or insert country here).  However given the world’s appetite
for 85 million barrels of oil per day, it’s a simple math problem to
divide out how many days that oil would last given whatever estimated
discovery.  When the answer is it takes 5 years to develop the field,
only to yield less than one year of oil, or into weeks, or even days,
any oil discovery must be met with the expectation that it is quite
meaningless.  A majority of Canadians do not use tar sands oil.
Bubble burst #1.

2) if discoveries in the face of demand are meaningless what now?
People will jump on Alternative energies.  Yes they work but only in
their own ways and are not 24/7 365 days a year hot-swappable.  This
is a psychological problem called by Kunstler the “psychology of
previous investment”.  It is here that people become the most afraid.
Car drivers can’t just go to natural gas powered cars overnight.
There is no way that hydrogen will be a meaningful fuel in the time
needed for development.  Ontario government does not allow low speed
vehicle electric cars on the road.  Alternatives do scale, but only
locally.  We don’t know what this means.

Instead of increasing fear, managing expectations here are usually
two-fold: reducing energy needs, while increasing use of thermal and
wind systems.  Sleep at night, wake up during the day.  Live close to
work or public transportation.  Scale down energy, not your life.
Somehow adjust to the fact that at some point you’re not going to
drive anymore and you have to have an action plan to adjust.  This is
also the request of scientists over and over.  Bubble Burst #2.

3) Non-car based traditional human Urban Design.
Now that some people may heed these changes, how we live will come
into focus.  If the Gardiner isn’t used for driving it can be a great
rainwater aqueduct.  If we grow food locally then we don’t have to
truck it.  Trucking the soil in once a year is easier than trucking in
food every week.  People will want to live close to work thus saving
the need to drive.  More people around looking for something to do
will increase cultural institutions like music and shows, just like
Europe.

Without changes to places like Scarbourough, the people there will
become even more worse off.  Europe will not suffer as much due to
their traditional urban design.  Ideas around urban renewal however
are best summed up by James Howard Kunstler, the author of The
Geography of Nowhere and The Long Emergency.  There’s an excellent
youtube video to better illustrate the opportunities here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1ZeXnmDZMQ .  Please watch it.
Especially since you had earlier panned this man as a doomer.  It
would be ironic indeed if you learned what he stands for and became a
fan instead.

4) Mexico Pemex oil is crashing at 9% per year or more
Noone dares mention Mexico.  With Mexico third in terms of oil imports
to the USA, it’s oil is very important to running the American
economy.  If that falters, Canadians will be asked to supply more oil
to the US.  When we cannot scale, or as Obama goes full-tilt into
alternative energy, we will also have to do so if we are to remain our
jobs as a supplier to the US for parts and products.  This will force
us to change our ways more than any policy.

Alas I’m running long again, but even a short introduction into this
topic will scream for even more attention to detail.  Whether we like
it or not it will be our hubris managing between ignorance and
reality.  We need to know what is real and unreal.

Further sources include the documentary The End of Suburbia and
http://www.theoildrum.com and http://www.energybulletin.net
Walter

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