Yesterday I took a much needed break from Mesh Potato hacking and pedaled into Adelaide University to see a lecture by Kjell Aleklett, who is the president of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas who is visiting Australia this week.
Couple of important points that I took away:
- Kjell explained the physical process by which oil percolates through porous stone to oil wells – he then made the point that economists think that oil flows are propelled by money, not physical processes. In other words economists (and therefore governments) think money can overcome physical supply problems. Oops.
- The estimates of greenhouse gas emissions and hence global warming are based on continued growth of fossil fuel use. However these estimates do not take into account the actual peaking of oil, gas, and coal supplies. When the limited supply situation of fossil fuels are modeled, greenhouse emissions are constant over the next 50 years. If fossil fuel supply is limited, you limit huge increases in carbon dioxide concentrations.
- All current economic models assume unlimited future growth. Growth requires fossil fuels, which are reaching the limits of physical supply. For example if our population increases, we need a new suburb, and new cars to handle commuting. So if fossil fuels are limited, this means that from now on economic growth will be curtailed. No economic growth means the current economic systems break.
Some thoughts on our obsession with economic growth.