The End of the Cheap Oil Era

06/09/2010 08:17 AM

There is no cheap-oil future for us, and if humanity doesn’t make the transition to a sustainable energy source, Mother Nature will.  Robert Rapier, Chief Technology Officer of Merica International, issued this warning during an opening presentation at Footprint Forum aimed at providing a briefing in some of the ways we are hitting ecological limits.

According to Rapier, we are reaching the point at which rising human demand for oil is outpacing our ability to discover new sources of oil. As populations grows and large segments of humanity seek to improve their standard of living, supply will simply not be able to keep up with demand, driving the price of oil up and availability down.

According to Rapier, peak oil—when oil production rates begin an irreversible decline – will have a direct effect on global warming. “When there’s a decline in oil production, the first thing we do is turn to coal plants and tar sands,” he said. “We will demand that because we have built a society on cheap oil. But eventually fossil fuels will run out.” That would address the problem of climate change, he said, but most likely not in the way people would like to see it solved.

Rapier is Chief Technology Officer for Merica International, a bioenergy holding company.  He has authored a number of articles on energy and sustainability, including a chapter on renewable diesel for “Biofuels, Solar and Wind as Renewable Energy Systems: Benefits and Risks.” Rapier’s presentation was given during a session titled “Challenges,” during which several speakers laid out key issues exacerbating today’s environmental challenges.

Download Rapier’s presentation.
Read Rapier’s blog, R Squared.


Other speakers included:

  • Duncan Pollard, Director of the Conservation Practice & Policy Division for WWF International, who spoke of the alarming decline in biodiversity. (Download Pollard’s presentation.)

  • Martha Campbell, president and CEO of Venture Strategies for Health and Development and instructor at the University of Berkeley, who spoke on challenges in population growth, particularly in low-income countries. (Download Campbell’s presentation.)

  • Claus Conzelmann, vice president, Head of Safety, Health & Environmental Sustainability for Nestlé, who spoke on the alarming decline in water supply due to climate change,  and the rapid increase of water consumption. (Download Conzelmann’s presentation.)
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