Substitution isn’t the solution to peak oil
The growing recognition that the world is at or nearly at the all-time peak of conventional oil production (meaning from that point on, oil flows will inexorably decline at some unknown rate) has prompted a furious search for replacements, all intended to keep the high-carbon, high-flying, automobile lifestyle going.
Like crack addicts warned of a future shortage, we are literally searching the corners of the Earth to figure out how we’re going to get our fix when times is tight.
But given our climate crisis, peak oil could be appreciated as a push in the direction we already have to go (a decarbonized society). If we adopt the oil depletion protocol suggested by Colin Campbell, and made more widely known by Richard Heinberg, we can improve our resiliency, our health, and our social well-being — and avoid the chaos that comes when a junkie loses his supplier while still stuck in full-blown addiction.
New Scientist offers yet another argument for this approach:
It sounds counterintuitive, but burning oil and planting forests to compensate is more environmentally friendly than burning biofuel. So say scientists who have calculated the difference in net emissions between using land to produce biofuel and the alternative: fueling cars with gasoline and replanting forests on the land instead.
They recommend governments steer away from biofuel and focus on reforestation and maximising the efficiency of fossil fuels instead.
The reason is that producing biofuel is not a “green process.” It requires tractors and fertilisers and land, all of which means burning fossil fuels to make “green” fuel. In the case of bioethanol produced from corn — an alternative to oil — “it’s essentially a zero-sums game,” says Ghislaine Kieffer, programme manager for Latin America at the International Energy Agency in Paris, France (see Complete carbon footprint of biofuel — or is it?).