I’ve enjoyed the series very much and your explanation on peak oil is very good. I do remember back in the late 70’s, back when we were suppose to prepare for global winter instead of global warming, Jimmy Carter saying that we might be out of oil by the end of the 80’s. I think we have reason to be concerned about oil, but new advancements are right around the corner. Such as this story on bacteria producing bug that will be producing a million barrels a day in the next 2 and half years.
Lets not forget coal to oil, I’m not sure why that isn’t included in this discussion on peak oil, it would have to skew the numbers.
Nano technology will help with more efficient solar power, there are other means of producing plastics than from oil, hydrogen fuel cells are very close to being a reality. MIT develops a new way to store energy during the day and could be used to make hydrogen to heat the home and run the car. The list goes on of very near future alternatives.
I do agree that our dependence on oil and the unwillingness in Washington to drill until these transitions can be made could bring about economic disaster. Which I think is the point of your series anyway.
I don’t think alternative energy resources could prevail in a short time and quickly replace the use of oil. The problem is that the oil price had been too low for too long in last decade so that people didn’t pay much attention to develop alternative resources ahead of time. Up to now there’re still many economists and analysts who stubbornly believe the price of oil may go back to $30~40 per barrel by itself, suggesting that government doesn’t need to interfere. The particular “interest group” of big oil company and some major politicians in White House, who benifits from the increasing price of oil, may also defer the development of alternative energy… I think Chris is absolutely right that we shouldn’t be too optimistic about our coming 20 years. Current energy crisis is in a global scale, which is quite different than the geopolitic one that we suffered in 1970s.
Respectfully, on the issue of global cooling in the 1970’s, what you think you remember and what was really happening in the scientific community (as opposed to what may or may not have been happening in the reports of a scientifically illiterate press) are not the same.
There apparently were a few climate scientists who predicted some sort of global cooling beginning with Stephen Schneider (a NASA climate research scientist) in 1971 but by 1977, Schneider realized that he had overestimated the cooling effects of aerosol pollution and underestimated the warming effects of greenhouse gases like CO2 and he backed away from his earlier conclusions.
There is a good overview of the global cooling myth at RealClimate.org. See http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=94