Here is a bit of an introduction.
Western style consumer lifestyles are highly resource and energy intensive. This paper examines the energy intensity of these consumer lifestyles and considers whether such lifestyles could be sustained in a future with declining energy supplies and much higher energy prices. The rise of consumer societies since the industrial revolution has only been possible due to the abundant supply of cheap fossil fuels – most notably, oil – and the persistence of consumer societies depend upon continued supply, for reasons that will be explained. But recently there has been growing concern that the world is reaching, or has already reached, its peak in oil production, despite demand for oil still expected to grow considerably. Put more directly, many analysts believe that demand for oil is very soon expected to outstrip supply, with a recent study by the US military reporting that, globally, spare productive capacity could entirely dry up by 2012 and by 2015 demand for oil could outstrip supply by almost 10 million barrels per day.
What this means – even allowing for some uncertainty in timing and extent – is that the world is soon to face a situation where economic and geopolitical competition escalates over access to increasingly scarce oil supplies. One consequence of this (a consequence already playing out) is that oil will get more expensive. Since oil is the ultimate foundation of industrial economies, when it gets more expensive, all commodities get more expensive, and this dynamic will have pervasive implications on the globalised economy and the high consumption lifestyles that fully depend on that economy. This paper reviews the current energy supply situation and considers the fate of consumer lifestyles in the context of an imminent stagnation and eventual decline in oil supplies.
To read the rest of the paper click here.