Here is a letter-to-the-editor that appeared in Monday's Colorado's Rocky Mountain News:
There are a couple of things I want to observe about this point of view.Recently, our governor, Bill Ritter, our senator, Ken Salazar, and one of our representatives, Mark Udall, testified in Washington to postpone the recovery of oil in western Colorado ("Oil shale hits roadblock in Senate," May 16).
They caved in to special interests that want to prevent any exploration of oil in this country even though oil prices are skyrocketing and gasoline prices are making ordinary Americans go broke. Their acts are shameful!
It has been known for many years that there is about twice the amount of oil under western Colorado than is under all of Saudi Arabia.
The successful mining of this oil could make the United States self-sufficient. As it is, we are sending billions of dollars to countries that are our enemies to provide the oil necessary to run this country.
How could our elected officials betray the citizens of Colorado and the rest of the United States for political gain - to gain the favor of special-interest groups that want this country to move back to the Dark Ages? We need to contact our elected officials and tell them that we need this oil.
First, in the age of the internet, it is astounding that folks will so blithely display purposeful ignorance. It takes about thirty seconds to find out about oil shale. Here's the Wikipedia citation: Oil Shale. So, oil shale isn't 'oil' in the first place and refining what it contains -- 'kerogen' -- into a usable liquid fuel is difficult and terribly expensive in terms of environmental costs, monetary costs and energy costs. Indeed, there is not even now an efficient, effective way to extract large quantities of kerogen from the rocks under western Colorado. In other words, because the author of this letter wouldn't take five minutes to inform his political opinion, he looks like a fool.
But, of course, knowledge and facts are beside the point ... which brings me to my second observation. The writer of the letter-to-the-editor intuits that we are in the beginning stages of what could be a catastrophic loss and tragedy for human beings, especially in the United States. What we witness in the letter correlates with the Kübler-Ross model of the 'Five Stages of Grief' on a global scale.
I see most Americans by-and-large in the first two phases of the five stages of grief concerning the arrival of peak oil. We hear 'denial' and 'anger' over the high cost of gasoline and the fact that oil production has plateaued in the face of increasing demand. 'Bargaining', 'depression' and 'acceptance' are sure to come as energy costs continue to rise and shortages finally intrude upon our everyday lives.
As in the letter, there is denial that anything we have done before has has any consequences on our present state. Waste, convenience, materialism, and insatiablility simply cannot have been an ingredient in our past behavior that has squandered a precious natural resource to the point where scarcity could be a new possibility. For all of the marvelous technological advances that derived from the hydrocarbon age, we have acted like the oil would flow forever and have wasted it equally on frivolous and unnecessary toys and endeavors.
Now, in the face of gasoline price increases, the denial becomes angry: it is the fault of environmentalists; it is the fault of government bureaucrats; it is the fault of greedy oil executives and speculators; it is everyone else's fault expect for the writer, folks like him and their gas guggling SUVs, motor boats, RVs, ATVs -- and their lust for cheap consumer goods. If only the environmentalists would go away we could drill ANWR, the Florida and California coasts. and we could strip mine all of the oil shale out of western Colorado ... then gasoline would cost pennies per gallon again -- everybody could drive Hummers and we could keep on buying greeting cards shipped in from China that cost 89 cents.
But denial and anger will not change the truth. The first news report below tells the real tale -- the third largest contributor of crude oil to the U.S. is Mexico ... and that country's petroleum production has peaked and is in decline.
The essay by James Howard Kunstler further illustrates the consequences of peak oil.
The nation is full of people these days like the writer of the letter-to-the-editor ... sadly, their denial and anger will only further injure themselves in the long run ... but you know better, of course. Don't you?
Petroleos Mexicanos, the state-owned oil company, said April crude production fell the most in more than 12 years as output at its largest field declined faster than the company forecast.
Crude oil production fell 13 percent to 2.767 million barrels a day in April, Mexico City-based Pemex, as the company is known, said today on its Web site. Output a year earlier was 3.182 million barrels a day. The decline was the largest since October 1995, when output fell 29 percent.
Pemex Chief Executive Officer Jesus Reyes Heroles set a goal of producing 3.1 million barrels of crude a day in July of last year. The company has only met that goal once since it was set. Output has been on a decline since reaching a peak in December 2003. Since 1999, proved reserves have been more than halved to 14.7 billion barrels of crude oil equivalent.
``There is no clear sign that this decline is going to slow down,'' said David Shields, an independent energy analyst in Mexico City. `` I don't think there is any point in trying to forecast an annual average.'' ...
... Output at Cantarell, Pemex's biggest field, fell 33 percent to 1.07 million barrels a day, according to the Energy Ministry. That was the lowest output since March 1996 at the field, which peaked at 2.192 million barrels a day in December 2003 and once accounted for about 60 percent of the company's output.
The company forecast output at Cantarell would fall 15 percent annually until 2012.
Exports fell 14 percent to 1.439 million barrels a day. Pemex, the third-largest supplier of crude to the U.S., has said it will cut exports as output falls so that it can refine more of its own oil.
Everywhere I go these days, talking about the global energy predicament on the college lecture circuit or at environmental conferences, I hear an increasingly shrill cry for "solutions." This is just another symptom of the delusional thinking that now grips the nation, especially among the educated and well-intentioned.
I say this because I detect in this strident plea the desperate wish to keep our "Happy Motoring" utopia running by means other than oil and its byproducts. But the truth is that no combination of solar, wind and nuclear power, ethanol, biodiesel, tar sands and used French-fry oil will allow us to power Wal-Mart, Disney World and the interstate highway system -- or even a fraction of these things -- in the future. We have to make other arrangements.
The public, and especially the mainstream media, misunderstands the "peak oil" story. It's not about running out of oil. It's about the instabilities that will shake the complex systems of daily life as soon as the global demand for oil exceeds the global supply. These systems can be listed concisely:
The way we produce food
The way we conduct commerce and trade
The way we travel
The way we occupy the land
The way we acquire and spend capital
And there are others: governance, health care, education and more.
As the world passes the all-time oil production high and watches as the price of a barrel of oil busts another record, as it did last week, these systems will run into trouble. Instability in one sector will bleed into another. Shocks to the oil markets will hurt trucking, which will slow commerce and food distribution, manufacturing and the tourist industry in a chain of cascading effects. Problems in finance will squeeze any enterprise that requires capital, including oil exploration and production, as well as government spending. These systems are all interrelated. They all face a crisis. What's more, the stress induced by the failure of these systems will only increase the wishful thinking across our nation.
And that's the worst part of our quandary: the American public's narrow focus on keeping all our cars running at any cost. Even the environmental community is hung up on this. The Rocky Mountain Institute has been pushing for the development of a "Hypercar" for years -- inadvertently promoting the idea that we really don't need to change.
Years ago, U.S. negotiators at a U.N. environmental conference told their interlocutors that the American lifestyle is "not up for negotiation." This stance is, unfortunately, related to two pernicious beliefs that have become common in the United States in recent decades. The first is the idea that when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. (Oprah Winfrey advanced this notion last year with her promotion of a pop book called "The Secret," which said, in effect, that if you wish hard enough for something, it will come to you.) One of the basic differences between a child and an adult is the ability to know the difference between wishing for things and actually making them happen through earnest effort.
The companion belief to "wishing upon a star" is the idea that one can get something for nothing. This derives from America's new favorite religion: not evangelical Christianity but the worship of unearned riches. (The holy shrine to this tragic belief is Las Vegas.) When you combine these two beliefs, the result is the notion that when you wish upon a star, you'll get something for nothing. This is what underlies our current fantasy, as well as our inability to respond intelligently to the energy crisis.
These beliefs also explain why the presidential campaign is devoid of meaningful discussion about our energy predicament and its implications. The idea that we can become "energy independent" and maintain our current lifestyle is absurd. So is the gas-tax holiday. (Which politician wants to tell voters on Labor Day that the holiday is over?) The pie-in-the-sky plan to turn grain into fuel came to grief, too, when we saw its disruptive effect on global grain prices and the food shortages around the world, even in the United States. In recent weeks, the rice and cooking-oil shelves in my upstate New York supermarket have been stripped clean.
So what are intelligent responses to our predicament? First, we'll have to dramatically reorganize the everyday activities of American life. We'll have to grow our food closer to home, in a manner that will require more human attention. In fact, agriculture needs to return to the center of economic life. We'll have to restore local economic networks -- the very networks that the big-box stores systematically destroyed -- made of fine-grained layers of wholesalers, middlemen and retailers.
We'll also have to occupy the landscape differently, in traditional towns, villages and small cities. Our giant metroplexes are not going to make it, and the successful places will be ones that encourage local farming.
Fixing the U.S. passenger railroad system is probably the one project we could undertake right away that would have the greatest impact on the country's oil consumption. The fact that we're not talking about it -- especially in the presidential campaign -- shows how confused we are. The airline industry is disintegrating under the enormous pressure of fuel costs. Airlines cannot fire any more employees and have already offloaded their pension obligations and outsourced their repairs. At least five small airlines have filed for bankruptcy protection in the past two months. If we don't get the passenger trains running again, Americans will be going nowhere five years from now.
We don't have time to be crybabies about this. The talk on the presidential campaign trail about "hope" has its purpose. We cannot afford to remain befuddled and demoralized. But we must understand that hope is not something applied externally. Real hope resides within us. We generate it -- by proving that we are competent, earnest individuals who can discern between wishing and doing, who don't figure on getting something for nothing and who can be honest about the way the universe really works.