Peak oil and global warming. Cause for optimism


Just a few years ago, peak oil and global warming were considered fringe ideas. Within the past year or so they both passed into the mainstream. When you think about, that’s not only quite startling, it’s also – dare I say it – quite hopeful.

Gosh, did I say hopeful. Environmentalists don’t use that word much, too often preferring instead to horrify those they wish to convince with scenarios of collapsing societies – when they’re not bemoaning how comatose the American public is.

These ideas, peak oil and global warming, are still quite new. But they are most definitely filtering into society at large. Wal-Mart now sells hundreds of millions of CFLs and probably, more than anyone, has mainstreamed their usage. A just-passed bill in the US bans the use of incandescent light bulbs after 2014. In 2006, no one thought CFLs would become so popular by 2008. But they have. And by 2014 we’ll be using the even more efficient LEDs rather than CFLs anyway.

Scientific American just did a lengthy proposal saying that solar in the American southwest could power much of the country. Others have figured out how to store solar power so it can be used at night. The CEO of GM says EVs will replace gas engines. Railroads are seriously studying using fuel cells to power locomotives. GE is putting $2 billion into renewables research.

And this is just the leading edge of what’s coming. In just a few years we’ll see huge strides forward in the creation of clean, renewable energy and transportation.

So, I think, there is real cause to be optimistic. Because increasingly, people do get it, and are working towards change.

  • DJ

    I agree wityh you: things are looking hopeful– depending on how you define hopeful. We must not forget that we have already passed the point at which climate change can be prevented. Already sea levels have risen enough to cause people to lose their homes in some coastal areas in the Pacific. Already drought has set in in parts of the world. And there’s a lag in effects– today’s CO2 will not affect us until tomorrow. So significant climate change is already upon us.

    The question is, how quickly will we act to prevent it from getting worse? I find myself depressed at times over how many hotel rooms I stay in which have not a single CFL in them– and how many homes I visit that have none either. The continuing waste of energy appalls me. Yet, when viewed using the metaphor of a supertanker, which takes a long time to slow or turn, we have indeed made progress. (It’s just that the rocks are so damned close!)

    As we change, one thing that will have to go is our consumer culture– an economy based on waste. This is where I disagree with some people whose vision seems to be eco-friendly consumer crap for all– and that the alternative is a miserable existence in a yert scraping a mean existence off the land. (That could yet happen– and it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared– but there are alternatives.) I think instead that we’ll begin to move past the notion that “stuff” will make us happy– we’ll live simpler lives, and we’ll enjoy it more.

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