Reality Blind - Vol. 1

would plummet. As oil prices fluctuate, so too do world estimates of how much oil can ultimately be recovered . Put another way, there is very little $20/barrel oil left on Earth, but a whole lot of $500/barrel oil exists. But what sort of global economy could be based on $500 oil? Not this one – configured as it is to rely on cheap energy.

There exist many estimates of how much oil, coal and natural gas is left – a low, base, and high scenario shown above 165 . Despite reserve numbers leaping up and down with every major fluctuation in the market price of oil, it is reasonable to argue, we are close to the top red star on the carbon pulse graph above. But even if this weren’t the case, and oil production could keep growing for a while longer, this would not change the overall picture on the time scale of the above graphs: in the future, our descendants will have increasingly less oil (and coal and gas) and, after a century or two, effectively none. TaaL: Predicting the exact timing of when the most oil availability will happen is, of course, very tricky. But considering that human energy consumption has been increasing exponentially, it shouldn’t take too long. The exponential function has an interesting property: it finds limits very, very quickly. If your rate of energy consumption is doubling every 20 years, then doubling the resources only buys you… just 20 more years. (But you’re not doubling your resources; you’re depleting them… faster and faster all the time). This is something totally obvious to a species like mine, which thinks long- term, but which seems to be nearly invisible to your species, or at least to your culture: unless you decided to intentionally husband the resources to last for thousands of years, the human period of fossil energy will be


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