Wednesday, April 25

Peak Bicycling

I ride up hills because I enjoy the challenge, and I really enjoy bombing down the backside. The proprioceptive stimulation I get from rocketing down from airy heights is unrivaled. The effort to climb to the heights will challenge your will and stamina. The bomb-run descent will test your focus and reflexes. Up and down makes for good cycling.

Much like my attraction to a good climb on my bike, peak oil follows an up and down path. The difference is that, while the good climb up was good the dive-bomb back down the other side isn't going to provide such a fun ride.

Consider a 2007 Energy and Capital post by Keith Kohl. In 2007 when oil was at $80 a barrel Mr. Kohl wrote:
"In 2002, we all would've agreed that $50 for a barrel of oil would be ridiculous, considering prices were $20 a barrel. A few years later, we would have said that $60 oil would never sustain itself, and prices would soon be back to $30. All of a sudden people are saying that $100 oil is within reason?"
Today (4/23/12) Brent crude was at $118/bbl and WTI was at $103/bbl. And we know that oil hit $147/bbl not so long ago. We are seeing the signs of peak oil all around us. Consistently high oil prices, expensive drilling methods like deepwater, fracking and tar sand extraction, and socio-political volatility in and around oil producing countries all point toward a reality that we're not familiar with as a society.

"Gentlemen, we have just turned gold into lead." --Matt Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert, on tar sands 

In The Transition Handbook, permaculture guru and Transition movement founder Rob Hopkins writes:
"It [tar sands] is literally scraping the bottom of the barrel, and rather than negating the peak oil argument—as those who say "look, see, there's loads left" propose—this confirms the peak oil argument: that we have reached the mid-point of the Oil Age, and the era of cheap oil is well and truly over."
It is so important not to focus on the negative aspects of peak oil and the impending post-carbon age, but to take advantage of the perspective to be gained and apply it in a more examined life. That doesn't mean you have to plant a garden in your backyard and get chickens and rabbits. That does seem to be a fairly strong urban trend, and despite my typical loathing of anything remotely trendy, I find myself fantasizing about having a very robust urban homestead.

I think in this case, the trend is following sound reasoning that leads to the same widespread conclusions: that our industrial food supply is suspect, and if we don't seek out some self-reliance we're setting ourselves up for a social catastrophe of historic proportions.

On our road trip this past weekend I couldn't ignore the range of gas prices across the continent. In Colorado we paid about $3.69 a gallon and in Kentucky everyone was breathing a sigh of relief at $3.81.

Thankfully we had rented a Nissan Sentra and enjoyed 30+ mpg for much of the trip. We noticed a marked difference between the Sentra's mpg and that of our beloved Forester Gump. Even still, I couldn't help continually fantasize about doing the trip by bike instead of by car. And on my mind was always the reality that costs fluctuate much less when you travel by two wheels than when you go on four.

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