The problem is, it’s just so hard to be an alarmist these days. Temperatures aren’t rising, U.S. CO2 emissions are down, and now it turns out that peak oil won’t peak. What’s a scare-monger to do?
“Peak oil proponents — the guys and gals who believe overconsumption combined with scarce resources will lead to stratospheric energy prices — are now clinging to the hope that the shale oil and gas boom will fizzle out as the cost of drilling climbs,” reports Business Insider.
“For the most part, the boom has held up, though no one believes it will last forever. But there is a fifth-column phenomenon this group has completely overlooked that will once-and-for-all obliterate their arguments: energy consumption efficiency.”
Put simply, we won’t run out of oil and gas (and other fuels) because we’re using less and less of them.
Not because demand is down, but because efficiency is up.
“Contained in Exxon’s new Outlook for Energy report is the following damning statistic: Electricity generation will grow by 90 percent by 2040, but the amount of fuel needed to generate that electricity will only have to grow by 50 percent,” the magazine reports.
“And the projected increase in energy demand is 20 percent less than the demand increase seen from 1980 to 2010. The IEA has previously projected that electricity will become more affordable over time in most regions as income levels increase faster than household electricity bills.”
In one sense, this is a victory for the conservationists. It’s difficult to quantify, but the EPA’s Energy Star program no doubt played a part. Consumers were encouraged — but not forced — to spend their money on more energy-efficient appliances. Consumers were rewarded for their purchases with tax credits — and lower electricity bills.
Although the General Accounting Office has criticized the Energy Star program’s implementation, it was at least a free market approach to saving energy.
The free market deserves a lot of the credit for the failure of peak oil claims, as well. Companies, as well as consumers, seek to trim their expenses, and energy is always a big expense. There’s a built-in motivation for efficiency that everyone responds to.