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Head in the Tar Sands? The New York Times Runs Anti-Peak Oil Op-Ed

Oil-Coated Ruddy Duck in the San Francisco Bay, by wolfpix, on Flickr Earlier this month, the world’s chief energy economist told the UK Independent that global oil production was likely to peak in 10 years, with a “global energy crunch” starting as soon as next year.

Oil-coated duck

Oil-Coated Ruddy Duck in the San Francisco Bay, by wolfpix, on Flickr

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Earlier this month, the world’s chief energy economist told the UK Independent that global oil production was likely to peak in 10 years, with a “global energy crunch” starting as soon as next year.

“One day we will run out of oil, it is not today or tomorrow, but one day we will run out of oil and we have to leave oil before oil leaves us, and we have to prepare ourselves for that day,” Dr Birol said. “The earlier we start, the better, because all of our economic and social system is based on oil, so to change from that will take a lot of time and a lot of money and we should take this issue very seriously.”

Today, The New York Times ran an op-ed by a lifelong oil and gas man who says there’s nothing to worry about, nothing at all.

He doesn’t explain why the head of the International Energy Agency, whose remarks were based on their independent assessment of production declines at more than 800 oil fields around the world, would be motivated to sound unduly alarmist on this issue.

Without once mentioning the threat of greenhouse gases produced by fossil fuels, Michael Lynch refers to “harebrained” renewable energy “schemes” and “expensive conservation measures” (I thought the energy you never used was the cheapest kind?) He argues that the oil industry will figure out how to exploit every last drop, like deep-water oil, the Bakken Oil Shale deposits in Montana and North Dakota, and even that perennial favorite, the Alberta tar sands. Not a word about the increased environmental impact of these methods.

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Pinpointing the exact moment that world oil production begins to decline is really just a parlor game. No one disputes that oil supplies are finite, which is reason enough to diversify our energy sources. And even if supplies were unlimited, few experts dispute that oil dependence threatens humans and the environment because of its role in climate change. Why is the United States paper of record running a column from someone with a vested interest in saying there’s nothing to worry about?

About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.

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