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Peak Oil: The eventual end of the oil age

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Publication date: 2008-07-31
First published in: Washington University in St. Louis
Authors: Jonah J. Ralston

Abstract:

Humanity’s dependence upon a reliable and easily obtainable supply of oil places the modern lifestyle in a precarious position. Will this source of energy always be readily available? At what point will global production of this resource peak and then thereafter begin an irreversible decline? What would be the consequences of a peak in global oil production? With the demand for oil continuing to rise over time, how will modern societies adapt if supply is unable to meet increasing demand? What policies will governments implement in an attempt to address these issues? This research project seeks to address these questions. A significant portion of this analysis is dedicated to assessing the merit of claims made regarding the existence of peak oil and the varying estimates as to its likely occurrence. Peak oil’s potential effects on financial markets, modern transport, food prices, and international affairs are also explored, including a discussion of the ways to mitigate against these effects. The primary findings of this analysis are that peak oil is a real phenomenon, that it will likely occur in the not-too-distant future (if it has not already occurred), and that governments and communities should be implementing proactive policies to address peak oil otherwise it could result in severe ramifications for modern society.

Peak oil is a phenomenon that has received little mainstream attention even though the potential consequences of its untimely arrival could be considerable. Since peak oil challenges the status quo, peak oil’s proponents have been subjected to an unfortunate backlash by established interests. It is hoped that this analysis will assist in bringing more attention and clarity to the issue. The better understanding that individuals and policymakers have of peak oil, the more likely it is that appropriate decisions will be made in preparation for the eventual end of the oil age.

This research project was defended on July 31, 2008, at Washington University in St. Louis.

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