Peak Oil ~ what is it & what bearing does it have on green building?

Peak Oil is a notional point in time. It is reached when the rate of global oil production hits its maximum level from which the only way is down. In these terms downs means escalating costs of extraction & production, restricted supply, unfulfilled demand and increasing prices.

The foundations of the peak oil concept lie in the Hubbert peak theory of Marion King Hubbert that accurately predicted that United States oil production would peak in the early 1970’s. The term Peak Oil currently usually used in relation to world oil production as a whole. Conservative estimates place the date at which Peak Oil is reached at between 2020 & 2030, whilst more pessimistic commentators will suggest that the point has already been passed.

Whilst much of the comment and speculation around the subject reads like Princess Di or JFK conspiracy theorists letting their imaginations run wild, there are tracts of thought that can help us in consideration of designing our homes and living environments sustainably.

So what has this got to do with barn conversions?
Most obviously, restricted oil supplies lead to expensive energy. We are already being subjected to soaring energy costs and uncertainty (whether or not this is related to Peak Oil I’ll leave to you to decide). Under these conditions sustainable, self-contained energy solutions become attractive not just from a isolationist perspective, but also a financial one.

We must also consider the wider impact of oil supply as it extends its tendrils into so many other aspects of modern life. The plastics, chemical fertiliser & pharmaceuticals industries all rely heavily on oil. What alternatives are there and how can we insulate ourselves from the impacts of change? This question when coupled with the challenges of climate change has lead to the transition town movement.

A Transition Initiative is a community working together to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and address this BIG question:

“for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?”






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