EPIBuilding a Sustainable Future
Lester R. Brown

Chapter 2. Beyond the Oil Peak: Introduction

When the price of oil climbed above $50 a barrel in late 2004, public attention began to focus on the adequacy of world oil supplies—and specifically on when production would peak and begin to decline. Analysts are far from a consensus on this issue, but several prominent ones now believe that the oil peak is imminent. 1

Oil has shaped our twenty-first century civilization, affecting every facet of the economy from the mechanization of agriculture to jet air travel. When production turns downward, it will be a seismic economic event, creating a world unlike any we have known during our lifetimes. Indeed, when historians write about this period in history, they may well distinguish between before peak oil (BPO) and after peak oil (APO).

The peaking of oil production is approaching at a time when the world is facing many challenges, such as rising temperatures, falling water tables, and numerous other damaging environmental trends. Adjusting to a shrinking oil supply is part of the economic restructuring needed to put the economy on a path that will sustain progress.

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1. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Energy Information Administration (EIA), “Select Crude Oil Spot Prices,” at www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/crude1.html, updated 28 July 2005; John Vidal, “The End of Oil Is Closer Than You Think,” Guardian (London), 21 April 2005; Alfred J. Cavallo, “Oil: Caveat Empty,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 61, no. 3 (May/June 2005), pp. 16–18.