Peak Oil Demand
Richard Heinberg suggests that peak oil demand in reality is peak oil. We’re not so sure. Supply and certainly demand are confusing, somewhat abstract concepts. Better stick with the razor-sharp, well-defined and measurable concept of transaction, where demand and supply meet. Someone drives his car to the petrol station, pours 53 liter in the tank and – sigh – pays 100 euro (135$) at the counter. Transaction completed, 53 liter supply/demand entry added to the bookkeeping.
Yes it is true, transactions are down, because prices are up and wages have remained the same or even went south, and savings are gone, so something has got to give which hurts least: driving. Does this prove peak oil? This Bell-shaped ASPO-curve and peak-extraction 201x?
Not so fast. There is another scenario thinkable, the Michael Klare / Josh Fox-Gasland2 scenario, that is the possibility of a very prolonged plateau, deep into the future, of 1xx$ oil, where carbon fuel reserves to the tune of trillions of barrel of oil equivalent, are waiting to be harvested with ever more refined sophisticated technologies, but won’t be harvested, because gradually fossil fuel will lose the price competition against renewables. Apart from additional environmental damage due to fracking, this is not necessarily the worst of all scenarios, and preferable over all sorts of die-off/four horsemen scenarios.
The ASPO model was purely based on supply and it’s geological constraints. Images or cars lining up for petrol stations and wallets fuel of money, but no gas. Not going to happen. The more likely scenario will be: ever less, almost empty gas stations (empty of customers that is), ready to sell you all the gas you need, against high prices.
In this scenario you could very well speak of peak demand rather than peak oil. The last few trillion barrel equivalent of carbon fuel will remain in the ground, because nobody is interested anymore to pay these prices. And the world will carry on, economically in a much lower gear, with empty highways and airports, with lots of people tapping on their 3 Watt solar powered tablets, every now and then looking out of the window to watch the potato plants grow in the backyard, with 15 C/59 F room temperature and everybody wearing body warmers, batteries included, slashing heating cost with a factor of ten.