Depleting fuels

The literature alerting us to the threat of an imminent global natural gas and oil supply peak is sizeable, with central implications for cities (Campbell and Laherre 1995; Klare 2002; Heinberg 2003; Goodstein 2004; Campbell 1998, 2003, 2005). All actively consumed finite resources follow the bell curve of depletion; hence the neat in-tandem production peaks predicted to roll across the countries and regions of Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East. Liquid fuel supply reserves may stretch to the middle of this century; but the statistical plateau of global oil production - the combined peak of all wells - may already be behind us. Price increases make the mining of so-called unconventional and speculative resources -steam or CO2 injection of declining oil wells, methane ice - clathrate - exploration, tar sand mining and oil shale production financially feasible. In addition to the mounting financial burden they bring, they are also environmentally costly, inherently water and energy intensive practices yielding diminishing return in the larger economical sense. While delivering profits for some they merely delay the inevitable. Projections of global oil production plateaus have not differed fundamentally since Marion King Hubbert presented his incisive observation half a century ago, accurately timing the US oil production peak for some

15 years later, 1970. Later, he predicted the global peak to occur by 2000 while a more recent estimate has been adjusted to 2010 (Hubbert 1956, 1971; Campbell 2005). The more recent Energy Watch Group commissioned study by Schindler and Zittel has not only placed the global oil peak at the year 2006, but also projected the total ' super-peak' of all fossil and uranium supplies combined to take place prior to 2015 (Schindler and Zittel 2007).

In historical terms, the global supply peak is with us, as even acknowledged by both OPEC and the International Energy Agency (European Tribune 2006/2007) - at a time when the global fossil fuel demand continues to rise, and a burgeoning global population has grown addicted to uninterrupted supply. Unless fundamental changes occur, and a transition to new and sustainable energy practices takes place, a rapidly widening supply gap is unavoidable, bringing about price surges and mounting military missions around the globe. The vast bulk of oil resources are limited to a shrinking number of brittle regions: the Middle East, Africa, and the Caspian Sea. And like natural gas or oil, coal is geographically limited: only six countries produce 90% of global coal reserves. The present drive into increasingly costly and damaging recovery methods only confirms that we have entered the dusk of the fossil fuel era, while continued and overwhelming fossil dependency increases the risk of a cataclysmic supply disruption to cities.

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