U.S. Toyota bigwig refers to “the inevitability of peak oil”

I don’t plan these hiatuses, but they do happen anyway. Welcome back to The Teeming Brain after a two-month pause during which I felt no internal compulsion to post, and during which time I was extremely busy with other stuff anyway. I hope 2008 ended and 2009 began on a good note for everybody reading this.

To kick things back into some semblance of motion, I could talk about the editing and revising work I’ve been performing on my forthcoming book, or the professional blogging work I’ve been doing, or the other paid Web writing I’ve recently done, or my experience of teaching four college classes during the fall semester, or any number of other things.

But instead I’ll start with a revealing and recent reference to peak oil by a high-up figure in Toyota’s American wing. (You do remember that peak oil is a major preoccupation here, don’t you?)

It seems everybody is now getting in stride with the idea that peak oil is simply and undeniably a reality. This includes France’s formerly denial-oriented International Energy Agency, which made waves recently by reversing its former stance (see, for example, “IEA Radically Changes Assumptions on Peak Oil,” December 15, 2008). The Montreal Gazette ran a major cover story just yesterday titled “The Age of Oil Is Ending.” And so on. Of course, the question of whether the reality of an all-time peak in world oil production will lead to the epochal upheavals and breakdowns predicted by most peak oil theorists is still much in debate. If you’ve read The Teeming Brain for any length of time, you know my own amateur expectations. Economic upheavals have long been predicted as the opening act of the peak oil drama (and hey, I’ve been pretty accurate in knowing who to listen to for the past couple of years about the reality of impending financial-economic troubles, haven’t I?). But the question of whether we will indeed see such a peak seems to be more and more settled.

And so I’m here to offer just one tiny example of this consensus. It’s from a Bloomberg story dated yesterday (1/10/09) that reports on Toyota’s plan “to sell a tiny, battery-powered car in the U.S. by 2012 that can be recharged at electrical outlets.” What, pray tell, might be Toyota’s motivation for this? It’s stated in the opening paragraphs:

“Last summer’s $4-a-gallon gasoline was no anomaly, it was a brief glimpse of our future,” Irv Miller, U.S. group vice president of environmental and public affairs for the Toyota City, Japan-based company, said in the statement today.

“We must address the inevitability of peak oil by developing vehicles powered by alternatives to liquid-oil fuel, as well as new concepts, like the iQ, that are lighter in weight and smaller in size,” he said. “This kind of vehicle, electrified or not, is where our industry must focus its creativity.”

So there you have it. “The inevitability of peak oil” is now being openly referred to by a Toyota spokesperson. Many other examples of this are rampant. I suggest — both to you and to myself — that we begin to prepare for this Big Event both physically and psychologically, if we haven’t already done so. And I suggest — both to you and to myself — that we resolve right now, if we haven’t already done so, to become aware of the pernicious and fallacious tendency to blindly assume that the sprawling, car-based, energy-intensive, technocratic, economically globalized way of life that we have built in recent years and decades is the desirable and normal state of things that we should direct our efforts and resources toward saving.

See you soon (honestly!).

About Matt Cardin


Posted on January 11, 2009, in Economy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. The top story of the year is that global crude oil production peaked in 2008.

    The media, governments, world leaders, and public should focus on this issue.

    Global crude oil production had been rising briskly until 2004, then plateaued for four years. Because oil producers were extracting at maximum effort to profit from high oil prices, this plateau is a clear indication of Peak Oil.

    Then in August and September of 2008 while oil prices were still very high, global crude oil production fell nearly one million barrels per day, clear evidence of Peak Oil (See Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly,” December 2008, page 1) http://www.peakoil.nl/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/2008_december_oilwatch_monthly.pdf.

    Peak Oil is now.

    Credit for accurate Peak Oil predictions (within a few years) goes to the following (projected year for peak given in parentheses):

    * Association for the Study of Peak Oil (2007)

    * Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly” (2008)

    * Tony Eriksen, Oil stock analyst; Samuel Foucher, oil analyst; and Stuart Staniford, Physicist [Wikipedia Oil Megaprojects] (2008)

    * Matthew Simmons, Energy investment banker, (2007)

    * T. Boone Pickens, Oil and gas investor (2007)

    * U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2005)

    * Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Princeton professor and retired shell geologist (2005)

    * Sam Sam Bakhtiari, Retired Iranian National Oil Company geologist (2005)

    * Chris Skrebowski, Editor of “Petroleum Review” (2010)

    * Sadad Al Husseini, former head of production and exploration, Saudi Aramco (2008)

    * Energy Watch Group in Germany (2006)

    * Fredrik Robelius, Oil analyst and author of “Giant Oil Fields” (2008 to 2018)

    Oil production will now begin to decline terminally.

    Within a year or two, it is likely that oil prices will skyrocket as supply falls below demand. OPEC cuts could exacerbate the gap between supply and demand and drive prices even higher.

    Independent studies indicate that global crude oil production will now decline from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time, demand will increase. Oil supplies will be even tighter for the U.S. As oil producing nations consume more and more oil domestically they will export less and less. Because demand is high in China, India, the Middle East, and other oil producing nations, once global oil production begins to decline, demand will always be higher than supply. And since the U.S. represents one fourth of global oil demand, whatever oil we conserve will be consumed elsewhere. Thus, conservation in the U.S. will not slow oil depletion rates significantly.

    Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. There is no plan nor capital for a so-called electric economy. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment. The independent scientists of the Energy Watch Group conclude in a 2007 report titled: “Peak Oil Could Trigger Meltdown of Society:”

    “By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame.”

    With increasing costs for gasoline and diesel, along with declining taxes and declining gasoline tax revenues, states and local governments will eventually have to cut staff and curtail highway maintenance. Eventually, gasoline stations will close, and state and local highway workers won’t be able to get to work. We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel and gasoline powered trucks for bridge maintenance, culvert cleaning to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, and roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, large transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables from great distances. With the highways out, there will be no food coming from far away, and without the power grid virtually nothing modern works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated building systems.

    It is time to focus on Peak Oil preparation and surviving Peak Oil.

  2. I’m sorry, my friend Paddington Bear told me that we’ll have plenty of oil through the 21st century, once all those eco-freako-fascists let us get at it. Plus oil shale and stuff. Get with the program, MattC.

    (And anyone visiting MattC’s blog, where I don’t usually comment – Matt knows I’m kidding)

  3. Thanks for the detailed analysis and warning, Mr. Wirth.

    KP: You must be kidding about being kidding. Paddington’s points are irrefutable. 😉

  4. Hi. Good to make you acquaintance. You may be interested in taking a look at http://novacadia.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=83…or not.

  5. BTW, I’ve got you linked. Later.

  6. That’s the beauty of having my own personal bear: I just ask him what to think, and he tells me. In no uncertain terms.

  7. KP — You are so very lucky to have such a bear. I need one of those myself.

    Sebastian — Thank you for the link, the comment, and the linkback. I will indeed look forward to reading your site.

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