It seems to be very hard for some people to ‘get’ what the problem with fossil fuels really is. Daniel Yergin, Mr Peak-Oil-What-Peak-Oil? in person, is apparently in Davos for the annual jamboree in which all those clever people who got us in the current mess celebrate how clever they are.
Mr Yergin thinks Peak Oil is a long way off. A lot of other people in Davos would agree, I suspect, though whether this is a matter of superior knowledge, judgement or self-interest I would not like to say.
But what does it matter how far away Peak Oil is? Assume that it is close, or has even arrived. The contradiction between falling supply and massively accelerating growth (courtesy of China, India, etc.) will create an equally massive economic crisis. But what if we assume that Peak Oil is far off, as Yergin argues. What then? We syphon billions of barrels of the stuff up the surface and burn it into CO2? Yes, that’s exactly what we do.
As various people have now noted, we cannot afford to burn more than a small fraction of even the fossil fuels at our disposal now, let alone any additional future supplies – not because of its economic price but because of its environmental consequences.
So, Peak Oil is a huge problem. But so is the oil continuing to flow.
To put the matter in a nutshell, the problem is not Peak Oil. It’s just plain Oil. A uniquely valuable and important commodity, but one for which we haven’t even begun to really pay.