27 August 2009

Peak Oil and Risk

Got a mail yesterday from Suyodh about an article in NYT debunking the Peak Oil theory. As a risk analyst looking at Economy, Ecology and Energy, his comments below are enlightening to get a perspective on how humans perceive risk.

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, "Morning, boys. How's the water?"

And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, "What the hell is water?"

...

The most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. - David Foster Wallace

For the young fish if it is water, for us humans today, it is energy that we are largely blind about, and in effect, take for granted. Every organism's existence is about energy exchanges. We surely know what energy is, but as a species, do we give it the amount of thought that it deserves?

Simplistically:

Energy flows into -----> ORGANISM ---------> Tissue build-up; Work and Waste flows out (+energy diffusion in conversion process)

That said, 'Peak Oil Is Heresy' advocates will not find a much better qualified spokesperson than Michael Lynch, the writer of the below NYTimes article.

What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so. --Mark Twain

Check out: www.theflatearthsociety.org/forum

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Suyodh has not commented on the article as – Peak Oil is a Waste of Energy :)

The article itself by Matthew Lynch, former director for Asian energy and security at the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and energy consultant, is worrying to say the least – apart from misleading arguments, the final policy conclusions contradict his stand:

This is not to say that we shouldn’t keep looking for other cost-effective, low-pollution energy sources — why not broaden our options? But we can’t let the false threat of disappearing oil lead the government to throw money away on harebrained renewable energy schemes or impose unnecessary and expensive conservation measures on a public already struggling through tough economic times.

As always, in contentious articles, readers’ comments are the most enlightening, and thankfully the more than 100 comments left on NYT all contest Lynch’s arguments.

Meanwhile a debate goes on at the Economist Free Exchange

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