150. "DICK CHENEY" PEAK OILERS
One of the oddest aspects of peak oil is attitudes toward conservation. On the face of it, you would think that peak oilers (i.e. those who are aware of the impending decline in oil production) would be very pro-conservation. And, indeed, this is often the case (Amory Lovins being a good example).
However, as I have debated people about peak oil, I have noticed a surprising thing: many peak oilers are actually anti-conservation. I call these people "Dick Cheney peak oilers" because they essentially have the same view of conservation as Dick Cheney:
"Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."Generally, peak oil has strong left-wing overtones (environmentalism, resistance to the Iraq War, contempt for Halliburton etc.) So why would peak oilers think like Dick Cheney?
Here's the first reason: Pessimists are committed to the idea of breakdown or collapse, so they fret about supply, like Dave over at the Oil Drum:
Here's the main point: Can anyone, anywhere, point to a large new secure supply of crude coming online anywhere in the next few (5) years that solves the supply and demand equation in that time frame and beyond? I think not.When the IEA draws some crazy curve which says world demand is going to be 121mbd in 2030, pessimists like Dave really take it to heart. They genuinely think that the world is going to need that much oil. That is why they are pessimistic. The world will need 121mbd, but it's unlikely that amount will be forthcoming, so the system is going to breakdown.
I, on the other hand, am an optimist. I believe that most oil is wasted and conservation is actually quite easy. I don't believe we need most of the oil we are using today, so the failure to meet the 121mbd target is not really a big deal. Like I wrote back to Dave:
The error in your ways is that you are thinking only in terms of supply side solutions. You think that the failure to meet demand is a terrible problem. It's not. Most oil demand is for frivolous, wasteful uses (like single person commuting in the U.S.) It's a form of addiction, and demand destruction isn't a bad thing, it's "healing" or "getting better".I've found from experience that comments like the above really make the pessimists' blood boil. For example, here's a response from EricB:
To answer your question: The large new supply of secure crude is going to come from conservation, i.e. U.S. commuters riding two-to-a-car instead of one-to-a-car etc.
You make me VERY VERY angry with talk like that.Isn't that interesting? EricB -- a guy who is firmly in the doomer camp -- is talking like Dick Cheney. We can't conserve because we really need the oil.
YOU CANNOT "CONSERVE" WHAT YOU DON'T HAVE.
Conservation is DEAD. Let's call it "adaptation." Adaptation to scarcity. And no one can even pretend to know how this is going to affect a nation like the US that has ignorantly hogged oil for decades.
What you call "waste" is another fool's necessity.
The fact is: we don't need most of the oil we consume. The oil used to fuel personal automobiles, for example, is totally unnecessary to live (or even to live at a first world standard of living). How do I know this? Because:
a) People lived for millenia without cars.
b) Even today, the vast majority of the people in the world don't have a car, and they aren't dying.
c) Lots of people live a comfortable first-world lifestyle without a car. I happen to be one of them.
So the sound bite "You can't live without a car" needs to be recognized for what it is: corporate brainwashing. Peak oilers who argue that supply shortages will be devastating because we need cars are on the Dick Cheney team. They are unpaid volunteers doing PR work for Halliburton, Exxon and GM.
This topic often turns into a debate about the "housing stock" in the U.S. Even if the pessimists grant that the U.S. doesn't really need the oil (because cars and sprawl are not strictly necessary), they will say it isn't "realistic" for the U.S. conserve because the housing stock is "locked in". Which, of course, sounds just like Dick Cheney. Americans must waste oil because they built their houses way out in the exurbs, and now it's too late. Like Dick Cheney says: "The American way of life is not negotiable."
But let's think about the term "housing stock". What is "housing" anyway? All you really need from housing is a warm place to sleep, some blankets and pillow, a roof over your head, a place to take a crap, and (ideally) running water.
So here's a conservation tip for people out in the exurbs: sleep at your office or workplace during the week, and commute on the weekends. That will reduce your commuting fuel usage by 80%, even with single person commuting.
Of course the pessimists will moan and howl over this one. It pisses them off that I am unmasking the "peak oil problem" for what it really is: a trivial lifestyle issue. Sleeping at the office just isn't "realistic". It's more realistic to think that the overweight American populace will wage bloody riots in the street -- because sleeping at the office a few nights a week is so ridiculously unthinkable. The American way of life is not negotiable, doncha know.