Sierra Club clueless about coming peak oil problems


The Editor

The Sierra Magazine

The Sierra Club


To the Editor:

Your recent lead series oof articles, "Can Technology Save the Planet?" (Sierra Magazine, July-August 2005) was very naive to say the least. Somehow, it assumes that we humans can maintain or increase our present population (6,000,000,000+) and still increase our standard of living (standard of exploitation of the natural world). It has a strong Pollyannaish tone. As a retired engineer/technical writer, I have grave doubts as to whether "unleashing" engineers can "save us."

All of these articles gloss over, minimize or completely ignore the rapidly approaching overwhelming impact of "peak oil," which we are either fast approaching or have already passed. This looming disaster will make all previous human problems seem like very small potatoes indeed.

The good news is that by 2050 AD global warming will just be a memory because we will have burned up virtually all of the oil. The bad news is that we will have burned up virtually all of the oil. Total world oil production probably peaked about five years ago; now we are on the downside of pumping out the remaining world's oil reserves. This is based on a simple bell-shaped oil production curve: production starts out low, climbs, peaks, declines and ends. It is true for both an individual oil field and total world oil reserves.

Check out some of the future attractions coming our way at some useful web sites such as the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre in the UK at // Also check out:,, and

Life in 2050 A.D. will not be pretty if you are used to the oil-based petroleum-dependent consumer economy of the last one hundred years or so. Try no gasoline (or try gasoline priced at twenty-seven dollars per gallon ($27.00/gal), basically the same thing). Try life without cars, SUVs, delivery trucks, commercial fertilizers (from natural gas, which will also be nearly all gone by 2050 AD), pesticides, pharmaceutical drugs, computer chips, personal computers and plastics for starters. All of these products are grossly dependent upon petroleum-based energy.

To possibly avoid the worst and most terrible aspects of this looming disaster, humans will need to all work together as they never have worked together before. We need to immediately cut our reproduction rate by at least 90%. We need to greatly intensify our basic and applied scientific research to convert solar radiation (sunshine) into electricity in an economical manner. We need to research how to switch our petroleum-dependent industrial and consumer infrastructure to some alternative energy sources. Right now, we can begin to phase out our wasteful use of plastic food containers and to replace them with traditional paper bags, tin cans, glass bottles, cloth bags and waxed-paper containers.

This rapidly looming end-of-oil crisis will be studiously ignored by Republicans, Democrats and the corporate media until this unprecedented disaster hits big time and when it is much too late to do much to protect ourselves.

Yours truly,

James K. Sayre

20 June 2005



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