Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Crisis or Crossroads?

Dave Roberts at Gristmill got the Sustainable Blogosphere buzzing over peak oil yesterday with this post. Dave makes the point (and offers a letter to the editor with similar thoughts) that peak oil (or, rather, recognition of peak oil) doesn't necessarily lead to renewable energy development:
It's this: Environmentalists seem to have a somewhat naive faith that once the concept of peak oil sinks in, people will move -- as though by the force of tides -- to support renewable, decentralized energy.

But why should that be true? A much more natural, predictable reaction would be to push like mad for more drilling and for more coal gasification. Both more drilling and more coal-to-liquid-fuel production would fit better with our existing infrastructure and practices, however environmentally malign they may be.

The economics of peak oil will scare and motivate people, but there's no particular reason the environmental aspects of it will grip them. You know?
Dave's right on both counts: those of us who have promoted the peak oil concept do tend to believe that it will automatically bring people to the renewables camp, and there are certainly those out there promoting ANWR drilling, coal gasification, and even oil shale as the answers to peak oil. Commenter apsmith makes an excellent point: we're playing with fire to rely solely on peak oil to make the case for renewables, and have to package this concept with global warming, and perhaps even geo-politics and/or energy security (a la Thomas Friedman's "geo-green strategy") to demonstrate that renewable provide the best hope for a sustainable energy future.

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