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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Peak Oil Politics

Peak Oil is a subject that will likely play a larger role in Minnesota politics in the near and distant future.

Minnesota consumes a lot of petroleum products. Petroleum is a resource we don't produce in this state. As the worldwide supply of oil (and natural gas) is depleted, we're going to see a lot of changes in Minnesota.

When the discovery and production of a finite resource like petroleum begins to level off, the analysts say that resource has "peaked". The U.S. production of petroleum peaked in the 1970's. Some analysts say that the world production of petroleum has peaked or will peak very soon.

There's still a lot of oil in the ground, but the problems that arise with oil depletion don't begin to occur when the last drop of oil is pumped... they begin where the rising curve of increased petroleum use intersects with the flattening curve of oil production. The first sign of a tight supply of oil is rising prices at the gas pump.

While petroleum is used in the manufacture of a wide variety of products, gasoline is a petroleum product that Minnesotans have come to depend on since the middle of the last century particularly for transportation. Public officials will have to begin to dismantle the policies that favor a petroleum dependent transportation system and begin creating a transportation system that is less dependent of petroleum.

What can we expect from our politicians? Some will deny reality and support the petroleum-dependent status quo. Others will respond by offering alternatives. Some politicians are already talking about investing more in LRT, BRT, hybrid cars, ethanol, creating walkable and bike-able communities.

I will be keeping an eye on this and other transportation matters over at the Twin Cities Daily Planet Transportation page.