Running out of gas: peak oil is here

DVD REVIEW

A Crude Awakening:

The Oil Crash

Directed by Basil Gelpke, Ray McCormack and Reto Caduff

Lava Productions, 2007

90 minutes

Are believers in “peak oil” a lunatic fringe? Not according to the compelling and disturbing documentary “A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash.” This newly released DVD provides further evidence that we are depleting the world’s oil supplies at an unsustainable rate.

According to energy experts and scientists interviewed, the world’s major oil fields are in decline. Matt Simmons, an energy adviser to George W. Bush, said supply is diminishing while world demand is skyrocketing. Many developing countries such as India and China, where car ownership is surging, want to emulate U.S. consumption patterns.

Collin Campbell, a geologist for Exxon Mobil, Shell and others, said there are no new large oil fields to be discovered to make up for declining supplies. Cutting edge technology has speeded up depletion, acting like “a giant straw sucking up the last sources of easy oil,” Simmons said.

Simmons cited the United States as a prime example of what is occurring throughout the world. “No one thought we would ever peak,” he observed. For a century the United States was the world’s major producer of oil. Production reached 10.2 million barrels in July 1970 and then dropped, despite a wave of exploration during which four-and-a-half times more wells were drilled. Now the U.S. imports two-thirds of its supplies.

These experts warn that the era of cheap oil is coming to an end, and there will be disastrous consequences if governments do not take action. As the “bloodstream of the world economy,” oil has fueled population and economic growth over the last 150 years. For instance, world population has grown to 6 billion because of large increases in food production using oil-based fertilizers. Campbell proposes that every country cut oil use by a small percentage every year to reflect the diminishing supply of oil, something we need to be doing anyway to halt global warming.

“A Crude Awakening” also explores what new sources of energy can replace oil. Wind-generated electricity can never be a major source because of wind’s intermittent nature. Scientists say solar power holds the most promise.

But problems in harnessing and harvesting solar power have yet to be solved. For instance, to generate the amount of energy the U.S. uses daily, a territory half the size of California would need to be covered with solar panels.

Check out this movie to learn about these issues and more.

tpelzer @shaw.ca