The Agenda

On Peak Oil

Randall Parker, one of my favorite bloggers, is profoundly concerned about the coming of Peak Oil. I’m much less so. Rather, I share Vaclav Smil’s perspective on the issue:

Extraction of any mineral resource must decline and eventually cease, but oil will continue to be a major contributor to the world energy supply in the coming decades. Whenever it comes, news of a peak in global oil production should be greeted with calm. Energy transitions throughout history—from biomass to coal, from coal to oil and gas, and from direct use of fuels to electricity—have always resulted in more productive and richer economies. Modern society will not collapse simply because we face yet another of these grand transformations.

But it is certainly possible that rising oil prices will prompt a painful readjustment in how we live, work, and commute, and it might also lead to cascades of change in the international distribution of power. Peak Oil enthusiasts have been abuzz about a leaked report from the Germany military on the potential impact of rising oil prices on the global security environment. Robert Rapier has, with the aid of a German-speaking friend, posted an invaluable summary of the contents.

Overall, the authors expect a reduction of “free market” mechanisms in oil trade, and a rise in more protectionism, exchange deals, and political alliances between suppliers and customers, which could lead to significant geopolitical shifts. Equally, the authors expect this interdependency to shape foreign affairs of oil importers, making them more tolerant towards rogue behavior of suppliers out of sheer need.

This strikes me as the most plausible aspect of the report, and it strikes me as a good reason to find better mechanisms for making our energy supply chains more resilient. Some of the scenarios regarding domestic political turmoil, etc., seem less likely. That said, loss aversion is a very powerful force in the developed world. Who knows what will happen if mobility patterns and supply chains are seriously disrupted? Again, I agree with Smil that any transition won’t be abrupt. But I’m not willing to rule out the possibility! 

Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Sinking Collusion Ship

The entire Trump-Russia collusion narrative was always implausible. One, the Washington swamp of fixers such as Paul Manafort and John and Tony Podesta was mostly bipartisan and predated Trump. Two, the Trump administration’s Russia policies were far tougher on Vladimir Putin than were those of Barack ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Problem with Certainty

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Including those of you having this read to you while you white-knuckle the steering wheel trying to get to wherever you’re going for the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Worst Cover-Up of All Time

President Donald Trump may be guilty of many things, but a cover-up in the Mueller probe isn’t one of them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, attempting to appease forces in the Democratic party eager for impeachment, is accusing him of one, with all the familiar Watergate connotations. The charge is strange, ... Read More
World

Theresa May: A Political Obituary

On Friday, Theresa May, perhaps the worst Conservative prime minister in recent history, announced her resignation outside of number 10 Downing Street. She will step down effective June 7. “I have done my best,” she insisted. “I have done everything I can. . . . I believe it was right to persevere even ... Read More
PC Culture

TV Before PC

Affixing one’s glance to the rear-view mirror is usually as ill-advised as staring at one’s own reflection. Still, what a delight it was on Wednesday to see a fresh rendition of “Those Were the Days,” from All in the Family, a show I haven’t watched for nearly 40 years. This time it was Woody Harrelson ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Other Class War

There is a class war going on inside the Democratic party. Consider these two cris de couer: Writing in the New York Times under the headline “America’s Cities Are Unlivable — Blame Wealthy Liberals,” Farhad Manjoo argues that rich progressives have, through their political domination of cities such as ... Read More
Culture

The Deepfake of Nancy Pelosi

You’ve almost made it to a three-day weekend! Making the click-through worthwhile: A quick note about how National Review needs your help, concerns about “deepfakes” of Nancy Pelosi, one of the most cringe-inducing radio interviews of all time, some news about where to find me and the book in the near ... Read More
U.S.

America’s Best Defense Against Socialism

The United States of America has flummoxed socialists since the nineteenth century. Marx himself couldn’t quite understand why the most advanced economy in the world stubbornly refused to transition to socialism. Marxist theory predicts the immiseration of the proletariat and subsequent revolution from below. ... Read More