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Wall Street Journal Declares Peak Oil No Longer a “Fringe” Idea

Realizing that it's generally considered passé if not altogether wacky to talk about New York City transportation policy and politics in the context of global energy business, a Wall Street Journal story this morning confirms that global fossil fuel production appears to be hitting a plateau. In other words, Peak Oil is no longer a crazy idea and the faster that New York City can reduce its dependence on gas-guzzling cars and trucks, the better off we'll likely be. From this morning's paper:

A growing number of oil-industry chieftains areendorsing an idea long deemed fringe: The world is approaching apractical limit to the number of barrels of crude oil that can bepumped every day.

Some predict that, despite the world's fast-growingthirst for oil, producers could hit that ceiling as soon as 2012. Thisrough limit -- which two senior industry officials recently pegged atabout 100 million barrels a day -- is well short of global demandprojections over the next few decades. Current production is about 85million barrels a day.

The world certainly won't run out of oil any timesoon. And plenty of energy experts expect sky-high prices to hasten thedevelopment of alternative fuels and improve energy efficiency. Butevidence is mounting that crude-oil production may plateau before thoseinnovations arrive on a large scale. That could set the stage for aperiod marked by energy shortages, high prices and bare-knuckledcompetition for fuel.

The outstanding Oil Drum blog also notes two related but extremely wonky studies by Stuart Staniford and Sam Foucher. The studies suggest that daily production from the world's biggest oil fields are declining at a much faster rate than previously projected.

And, as he does every Monday morning, author James Howard Kunstler puts the issue into perspective; this week, following a trip to the outer reaches of New York state exurbia:

Of course, I am aware that my ability to venture easily into theoutlands of Washington County, New York, is not something that I cantake for granted much longer. A year or so from now, I may have to planahead, even make sacrifices, to travel so distantly from where I live. Inthe meantime, I wonder with the keenest curiosity what is going throughthe minds of the people who dwell out there. Surely they've noticedthat gasoline is $3.25. One can easily imagine the granite countertopin the kitchen where the bills are piling up, the frightening invoicesfrom Master Card and Discovery, along with dunning letters from thecompany that "services" the mortgage. One can imagine the feelings ofdespondency creeping up the veins of the household lord and his lady asthey contemplate the distress sale of their motorboat, jet skis,snowmobiles, and RV -- and the futility even of trying.

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