The energy constraint

Mathematics allows us to state with certainty that for every resource whose extractable stock is finite, annual extraction of this resource begins at zero, climbs to a maximum and then decreases over time. This conclusion does not apply solely to oil: it is true for all fossil fuels and all minerals (for example, it is highly possible that gold and silver ore have already moved beyond peak production). In the case of oil (1/3 of global energy), those experts closest to the subject estimate that ‘peak oil’ will occur between 2010 and 2020, with ‘peak gas’ (1/5 of global energy) following around 2025. The nature of the peak (whether a distinct spike or a long plateau) and the subsequent speed of decline are subjects of great discussion between experts. Estimates for ‘peak coal’ vary from 2030 to 2100.

 

peak oil

 

Given the importance of energy to the economy, and therefore to society, the implications raised by the occurrence of these peaks are major, and the need to anticipate them is becoming more vital than ever. Unfortunately, the majority of decision-makers in economics and politics do not yet seem to have grasped the importance of the issue.