Reading Daniel Yergin's "The Quest" & a Witty Post About Truthiness

So I’m reading the much-talked-about new tome on energy and the future, Daniel Yergin’s The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, just published. So far I’m not particularly impressed, especially after Dwight Garner’s rave review in the NY Times, which offers this rather dim-witted/simplistic rebuttal to the “peak oil” theorists:
“He considers the notion of “peak oil” — the idea that the world’s supply is rapidly running out — and mostly dismisses it. Thanks to new technologies, estimates of the world’s total stock keep growing. But there are other reasons to move beyond oil, not all of them ecological.”
Yergin states: “Oil production today is five times greater than it was in 1957” (I’m reading it on Kindle, so don’t have a page number to cite.)
That’s all fine and dandy, and simplistic to the point of being misleading. Sure, production is greater, technologies have advanced, there is plenty of oil and we’re not “running out” soon, which the more analytic and level-headed warnings about peak oil theory acknowledge. But oil is finite, and all the greater technology is simply allowing the oil industry to obtain it from more and more difficult sources, such as the deep-water well that malfunctioned in the Gulf of Mexico. How much higher is the world’s population now than in 1957? (A webpage called claims the world population was 2.8 billion in 1955, 6.8 billion now.) How much higher is our energy and oil use than in 1957? (Yergin’s book begins with a recounting of how astronomic our energy usage has become.)
Imagine a forest, a wood pile, and a bonfire. The bonfire is our usage, the forest the total oil on Earth, and the wood pile is what we find and produce. The wood pile may grow larger, but the forest has only so many trees in it. Eventually all of them will be cut down, logical thinking suggests. Jared Diamond does a great analysis of this dynamic in his excellent book Collapse, which contains a chapter about the natives of Easter Island, who apparently cut down all their trees to build the rollers for their massive statues, then perished from ecological collapse.
And for some reason, logic seems to get tossed out the window for many in this argument about peak oil, including by some of its proponents. But this is logical: Oil is a finite commodity. We are getting better and better at finding it, and burning it. The last “Super Giant” oil field was discovered decades ago, and we continue to rely on those (mainly in Saudi Arabia) for the bulk of the world’s oil production. It’s not actually “running out,” which is too simplistic. But it will get more and more expensive to obtain. That idea behooves us to change our ways to greater conservation, and efficiency—which is one thing Daniel Yergin does argue in The Quest. And if we find and burn all we have on Earth, we will have wrecked the atmosphere so severely we will be living in an essentially changed, and most likely chaotic, future.
On another subject altogether, although linked to the reality/spin-doctoring that seems to dominate media these days, there’s this witty rebuttal to a dissing of the “knowledge” of fiction:

Being a novelist, sure, I’m biased toward fiction, toward the role that stories play in culture and civilization. It’s a way we tell ourselves what’s important. It’s a way we communicate our visions of the past and future.

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