Peak Oil and Other Peaks

‘The 2008 crude oil price, $147 per barrel, shattered the global economy. The invisible hand of economics became the visible fist, pounding down world economic growth to match the limitations of crude oil production.’ Kenneth Deffeyes (Petroleum geologist)

Richard Heinberg’s excellent new book ‘The End of Economic Growth’ has an excellent chapter called ‘Earth’s Limits: Why Growth Won’t Return’. He has a great website/blog at

We have heard a lot about Peak Oil: the idea that oil production will peak and shortages develop long before oil actually runs out. See

File:PU200611 Fig1.png

Basically it is possible we are already at Peak Oil or quite close to it, and what Richard suggests, is that as a result we will find it almost impossible to re-start and sustain global economic growth, because as it resumes, oil prices will rocket, choking off economic growth.

But what is even more interesting, is that Richard lists the other Peaks we are currently facing in equally vital resources. So if you have the stomach, here are some other peaks:

  • Peak Coal: 2020
  • Peak fresh water TBD but not too far away
  • Peak grain per head of the population 1985
  • Peak phosphorus for fertilizer to feed us: around 2030, though only China, the US and Morocco have much and the former two have no restricted or banned export
  • Uranium 2042
  • Most of the major other minerals vital to industry have 25-30 years left if global growth resumes and China continues its meteoric rise.
Of course in fundamentalist, free market economics, higher prices will solve this problem by conjuring reserves that do not exist out of thin air, ignoring the market reality that profit seeking mining companies have already mined the easy to find, high grade, easy to exploit sources. Someone joked that an economist is someone who believes you can exploit a finite resource infinitely. So what are the believers going to do? Will we see a time when Conservatives start wanting to conserve?? Or will they go into blame shoot the messenger, conspiracy, paranoia gulch mode. Can we please have a moderate conservative who understands the world systemically.

About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict History, Conflict Processes, Economic Conflict, Environmental Conflict, Uncategorized, Ways to handle conflict and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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