Richard Heinberg on 100 days of the BP gusher

07/29/10 Kelly Benjamin
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As the 100 day anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf rolled around this week, WMNF's Kelly Benjamin spoke with Richard Heinberg, senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and former advisor to the National Petroleum Council on Peak Oil and the ramifications of the BP tragedy. Benjamin asked Heinberg what should be learned from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in respect to the continued reliance on petroleum as the chief energy source for the planet.

"Well, what we should learn is that this is the twilight of an age. The last several decades of cheap abundant oil have lulled us all into a kind of trance where we think that this is normal, where we think that filling up our car at the gas pump is just sort of our right as Americans, and we can count on our children and grandchildren being able to do the same thing. And it's absolutely clear, it should be absolutely clear everyone, at this point, that it's simply not true. That the days of cheap oil are over. Why are we drilling in a mile of ocean water? Because that's what's left. We've found, and drilled, and pumped the cheap easy stuff. What's left is going to be more expensive to produce, more expensive to buy, more expensive for our environment, and more expensive for our national geopolitical strategy. Since 1970, when U.S. oil production peeked and went into decline, our national security, our national defense or military policy has focused, I wouldn't say exclusively, but to a very large extent on protecting supply lines and access to the oil of the Middle East, of South and Central America, and other parts of the world. It's a loosing game. The Chinese, for one thing, are beating us at it. Rather than using the world's most expensive military, they're just going and buying up access to these resources. They're using bribery rather than threats, and bribery turns out to be a lot cheaper. So, we're playing a loosing game in terms of geopolitics with oil. Our economy is going to be shredded to the extent that we continue to rely on this stuff, and to the extent that we refuse and we put off the effort to rapidly ween ourselves from the reliance on oil."

"We've talked about the dwindling of oil resources globally. What's the latest time line that you would be comfortable talking about for when that will happen?"

"I just was reading a recently published academic paper earlier today on global coal supplies, that's even more pessimistic than my own assessment. I published a book just last year called Blackout, which is about global coal supplies. The conclusion I came to is global coal production peek probably around 2025, something like that, maybe 15 years from now. Well, this academic paper or scientific paper is forecasting global coal production peek for 2011, just next year. So, what this means, basically, is if oil is peeking and coal is peeking at about the same time, then that means global energy is all downhill from here. That means increasing competition for what's left. It's going to mean the end of economic growth as we've known it. Really, we're at the cusp of an entirely new era right now. It's really hard, I think for most people, to even begin to comprehend what that means. Even for those of us who study this all the time, and are kind of steeped in the data and the analysis. It's really hard to step back and appreciate just what it means that this whole era of rapid economic growth that we've all grown up in. We just have expectations based on all of this continuing for years, and years, and years. The reality is that it's coming to an end, and it's going to have impact, not only on our economic system, but also our political system. You know, all I can say is educate yourself, start to prepare, build more resilience in your own life, and build a resilient community. That's what it will take to make it through."

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