Congressman Roscoe Bartlett: Peak Oil and the “Lunatic Fringe”

In a talk at the Bloomberg School last week, Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R–MD) asked the audience: “I’m not a perfect fit for the Republican mold, am I?”

The talk was about peak oil, a concept that he’s been stumping in Congress for over a decade. A modern-day Cassandra, he’s been “on the floor” in Congress to talk about peak oil and world energy supply 53 times. “I was on the lunatic fringe 10 years ago,” he said, suggesting that the concept is now gaining more ground.

“Peak oil is here,” he said several times during the talk. “We’ve reached the peak and fell off.”

From among many charts and statistics, Rep. Bartlett pointed several times to crude oil production as the indicator of peak oil. Today, he said, we produce half the oil we did in the 1970s. For the last five years, we’ve been “stuck” at 84 million barrels of crude oil a day worldwide. Although about half of the estimated oil in the earth has been pumped, supply is not the problem, he said; discovery, development, and production are the problems because we have taken the low-handing fruit. “We are running out of the ability to pump it fast enough,” he said. The U.S., with 4.5% of global population, uses 25% of the world’s crude oil produced. Read More >

Fracking and Food Systems in the Time of Peak Oil

Philadelphia, September 2011Last Wednesday while executives from the Marcellus Shale Coalition met inside the Philadelphia Convention Center, I joined several hundred activists outside to rally against high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, aka “fracking.”  This relatively new natural-gas extraction process is at the center of a growing tension: the urgency to discover new, “unconventional” fuel sources to replace diminishing conventional fossil fuel supplies, and the process required to adequately assess potential environmental and human health risks before embracing new energy sources.

In some communities where fracking is underway, alarm has been raised because fracking has been implicated in public health risks, tainting drinking water supplies and more recently even poisoning animals raised for food.  (This chart explains fracking’s potential impacts on agriculture.) Read More >