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America and the world wakes this morning to a landscape of new possibilities. We also wake up to a daunting list of problems, most of which are now well known. Yet still there is one problem that was never mentioned by either presidential candidate, no doubt for their own good reasons. The problem is one that has been waiting in the wings since 1859. Or 1846 if you live in Russia.1 These are the dates of the first oil wells in the world, and they mark the beginning of our dependence on oil, a dependence which is now being forced into reverse.

Peak oil and decline has to become a dominant factor in political and business planning because otherwise, the wrong remedies are going to be applied to the wrong causal diagnosis. The world headlines this morning helpfully remind Obama and his new team that they face some severe economic woes. I am sure they are very grateful for that information.2

What they need to hear about are the underlying reasons for the financial meltdown, the credit crisis and ensuing economic contraction. Jeff Rubin, of CIBC, makes the case strongly in a recent report, that high oil prices - caused by supply constraints not meeting demand - are the real cause of the economic crash.

The chart shows that all but one of the last five recessions have followed sharp rises in oil prices.3 Obama's new economic advisers will surely also be looking at such graphs, but will they notice how dramatically different the 21st century price rise curve is, and will they ask why? Unless they do, it seems likely that we see economic alchemy being practiced rather than economic realism. In the past that has lead to exuberance and temporary consumer happiness. This time will be different.

Let us hope that Obama's cabinet will be able to swim through the sea of position papers now deluging them and see that we are now entering a new age of global energy and economic contraction. If they do see this, they may also see that this is the key which opens the door to a new age of local resilience and regional reliance, an age of relocalization.

 


  1. Indeed Canada beat the US by one year to claim the title of first oil well in North America: http://www.oilsprings.ca/history.htm
  2. http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/World-awaits-Obamas-response-economic/story.aspx?guid={A173D91E-6B87-4947-A410-318BC496B5C8}
  3. See Gail the Actuary's story at the OilDrum for more: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4727

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3 comments

"3 Obama's new economic

From: Appletosh, Dec 26, 2008 07:48 AM

"3 Obama's new economic advisers will surely also be looking at such graphs, but will they notice how dramatically different the 21st century price rise curve is, and will they ask why?" I'm not really sure, but I think the answer is yes

pushing policy

From: peggy borgens, Nov 13, 2008 12:32 PM

i will be pushing this administration as the common citizen.

Obama and scientific policy advice

From: Clifford J. Wirth, Nov 5, 2008 05:26 PM

President will need the best scientific advice in the world to develop energy policy. He would be wise to commission the National Academy of Sciences to provide the Congress, president, and nation with energy policy advice. Politicians who attempt to give the public bad news will lose public support. Let the NAS take the heat and give the president and Congress policy advice from the best scientists. Congress and the president will need the findings of the NAS to resist the pressures of interest groups and the energy industry. Cliff Wirth, http://survivingpeakoil.blogspot.com/