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August 22, 2005

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Peak Oil Press

We were just talking about “peak oil” this weekend — the inflection point where production begins to contract (not dry up, just contract) — and little did I realize it was in the NYT Mag as well, written up by none other than my hero Peter Maass.

BUT! Steven D. Levitt, who is not my hero but is a pretty smart economist, brings in da noise, brings in da de-bunk on his Freakonomics blog.

I think I probably agree with Levitt that the big effect of peak oil will be to simply cut the fat (and oh, there is plenty of it) out of oil consumption. This will probably not involve roaming bands of petro-pirates in wind-powered gun-skiffs.

Posted August 22, 2005 at 12:08 | Comments (5) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted


I think Levitt's debunk attempt is pretty reasonable, but he underestimates the degree of turmoil that substantial oil price changes cause. Past a certain point, reduction in demand for transportation miles can only come from living closer to where you need to be, i.e. increasing density of development -- and that might mean a substantial drop in the value of suburban and rural real estate. All just natural adjustments in the markets, sure -- but a lot more potential impact than Levitt's bland phrasing would seem to indicate.

Posted by: Matt on August 22, 2005 at 12:59 PM

Dude, you got a link in Slate!

Also, Levitt is right on. I'm just glad that the higher price of oil makes alternative technologies feasible.

Posted by: Len on August 23, 2005 at 07:25 AM

I ought to add that what sparked the discussion on peak oil in the first place was this Ask MetaFilter thread, looking for some peak oil skepticism to balance out all the hysteria.

No doubt that an oil resource crash will have a huge impact on the way we live. I think you're right that this will "cut the fat" off our lifestyles. I found many articles about politics after the peak and much more. The good news is that the oil crunch will most likely drive us to develop useful alternative energies. Let's hope anyways.

We may develop paltry alternatives, but what we accomplish will continue to be undone (at least in the present) by the ignorant idiots with 1/2 a brian.
The news yesterday was that sales of SUV's are up 6% and that those with incomes over $75k see no hardship (yet) in high gas prices. I pray they end up at
END of the bread line when the great economic depression returns!

Posted by: obewan on May 23, 2007 at 12:40 PM
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