21 Jan 2008
Is Peak Oil the Best Way of Looking At This… Might ‘Trough Oil’ Be More Useful?
In a conversation at the weekend with climate change expert David Wasdell of the Meridian Group, we mused upon the appropriateness of the term ‘peak oil’. I thought you might be interested to hear, in advance, what I wrote for **The Transition Handbook** when I got home from talking with him. When we look at the standard Hubbert curve, we see a mountain, a rise followed by a fall, an ascent followed by a descent. There is a sense that we have reached the peak and that now we have to grit our teeth for the long journey home, akin to an over-excited child at a birthday party being told it is time to go home. Perhaps the sense that we need to instill, Wasdell suggested, could come from turning this much viewed graphic upside down. We might more usefully use the term ‘trough oil’.
Rather than a mountain, we could view the fossil fuel age a fetid lagoon into which we have dived. We had been told that great fortunes lay buried at the bottom of the lagoon if only we were able to dive deeply enough to find them. As time has passed we have dived deeper and deeper, into thicker, blacker, stickier liquid, and now we find ourselves hitting against the bottom, pushing our endurance to the extreme, surrounded by revolting tar sands sticky oils, the scrapings of the fossil fuel barrel. We can just about see distant sunlight still glinting through the water above us, and our desperate urge to fill our lungs begins to propel us back upwards, striving for oxygen.
Rather than being dragged every step of the way, we propel ourselves with focused urgency towards sunlight and fresh air. Viewed like this, the race for a decarbonised, fossil fuel-free world becomes an instinctive rush to mass self-preservation, a collective abandonment of a way of living that no longer makes us happy, driven by the urge to fill our lungs with something as yet not completely defined yet which we instinctively know will make us happier than what we have now. Perhaps arriving in a powered-down world will have the same sense of nourishment and elation as finally breaking through the surface and filling our lungs with fresh morning air, marvelling once again at the beauty around us and the joy of being alive.