Kunstler has been accused of being overly pessimistic and gloomy about the future. That's not surprising given the emphasis on state sponsored scientism by the Bush regime. Not being overly fond of religion (he once said "Religion is a kind of low-grade showbiz for that half of the nation under the median IQ") hasn't improved his standing with the Theopublicans either. Saying things the petro-jihadists don't like doesn't mean he's wrong.
So what is "peak oil"? I'll let Kunstler explain that himself.
"The few Americans who are even aware there is a gathering global energy predicament usually misunderstand the core of the argument. That core states that we don't have to run out of oil to start having severe problems with industrial civilization and its dependent systems.
The term "global oil production peak" means that the time will come when the world produces the most oil it will ever produce in a given year, and after that production will inexorably decline. It is usually represented graphically in a bell curve. Peak is the top of the curve, the halfway point of the world's all-time total fossil fuel endowment.
The best estimates of when this peak will actually happen are somewhere between now and 2010. In the past year, after revelations that Shell Oil misstated its reserves, and the Saudi Arabians proved incapable of goosing up their production, the most knowledgeable experts revised their predictions and now concur that 2005 is apt to be the year of all-time peak production.
It will change everything about how we live.
Some other things about the global energy predicament are poorly under stood by the public and even by our leaders.
The first is that this is going to be a permanent energy crisis. It's not going to go away this time. We will not over come it. We will have to accommodate ourselves to fundamentally changed conditions.
The second explains the first: no combination of alternative fuels or systems will allow us to keep living the way we do. They will not even allow us to keep running a substantial fraction of what we are currently running. This is particularly true of the so-called hydrogen economy. There isn't going to be any hydrogen economy. The idea is a fraud. It represents the wishful think thinking of American leaders in politics, business, and even technology. I call this the "Jimmy Cricket Syndrome,” the notion that wishing for something makes it come true.
The peak oil idea is based on the theory that oil is a finite resource. It was created by certain organic and tectonic processes millions of years ago, and there was only so much of it formed - a lot, but only so much. The earth does not have a "creamy nougat center" of inexhaustible "inorganic" oil, as some of the wishful would like to think."
This is not about running out of oil. There will always be some oil left. That isn't the problem. The problem is that we have skimmed off the cream (so to speak) in the form of easily accesible, sweet, light crude.
"The oil that remains, meanwhile, the second half of Earth's all-time total endowment, is the oil that is harder to get out of the ground. The first half was easy to get to. Most of it was accessible on land, in places where the weather is pretty good and the working conditions favorable - in Texas, for instance. Much of the remaining oil lies in forbidding places, in the Arctic, or deep under the ocean. It will be much more difficult and expensive to get out. Quite a bit of it will never be extracted because it will take more than a barrel of oil in energy to extract a barrel of oil."
James Howard Kunstler books:
The Long Emergency
Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape