Peak Oil vs. Carbon Emissions

I hope that recent events have put a skewer in the ZOMG, PEAK OIL WILL KILL US ALL! drama of the last year. We’ve had demonstrable evidence that increased oil prices caused a very direct decrease in gasoline consumption, and now, with an economic slowdown, oil prices fall even farther.

And yes, if oil prices fall, it becomes less financially viable to pursue large scale wind, solar and other projects. So one could feel free to ramp up on the ZOMG GLOBAL WARMING drama.

The point of this post is that these are two counterbalancing problems – I’m not sure there’s a realistic scenario where you have both sky-high gas prices and significant growth in carbon emissions at the same time. Power plants can’t convert from oil-burning to coal-burning, and most power companies and collectives have a blend of sources – so even the idea of ‘burning more coal and thus more emissions’ as a response to sky-high oil prices is pretty weak.

Plus, high oil prices put a damper on the economy, which then results in lower emissions growth (emissions track to GDP fairly well, all in all)

So I say, pick your poison, and stop trying to worry about both at the same time. It’s not healthy.


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