Monday, December 05, 2005

Area teachers form outpost to examine peak oil

Peoria Journal-Star

By Jessica L. Aberle
December 4, 2005

Group to host documentary, 'The End of Suburbia,' at Downtown Peoria library

PEORIA - Doug Day wonders, even worries, about what life will be like without fossil fuels. He believes other people need to start thinking about it too.

Day, a theater instructor at Illinois Central College, along with his partner and fellow history professor at the school, Dave Thompson, have formed the Peoria-area Post Carbon Outpost for the discussion of issues related to the concept of peak oil and life after fossil fuels.

"I heard an author interviewed on the radio last June, and I went out and bought his book and have been kind of thinking about it ever since," Day said of peak oil, the idea that at some point the rate of oil production will no longer be able to increase and therefore be unable to satisfy demand. "When I heard this author interviewed what he was saying was fitting in with my view of things, so I reacted positively. Some other people might react skeptically."

Day and Thompson want to take their new found passion to the local masses and educate people on what can be done now to lessen the effects of post-carbon life later. The local outpost will host a free screening of the movie "The End of Suburbia," a documentary on peak oil, at 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Downtown Peoria library auditorium.

"We're just trying to get the word out on peak oil and we think this documentary is a good way of doing that."

The movie is distributed through the Post Carbon Institute, an initiative and operating unit of MetaFoundation, a not-for-profit organization chartered in Portland, Ore. The Institute is an educational institution and think tank that explores in theory and practice what cultures, civilization, governance and economies might look like without the use of (non-renewable) hydrocarbons as energy and chemical feedstocks.

Day said recent Journal Star articles on the Illinois coal industry raise questions about the United States' ability to institute poly-product coal gasification plants soon enough to lessen the economic and cultural affects of peak oil and offer a transition period to better develop forms of renewable energy.

Some subscribers to the concept of peak oil believe the world is in the midst of peaking, others believe it will happen in the next decade, while most experts agree it will definitely happen within the next 30 to 40 years. Regardless, there is no argument that oil and all fossil fuels - including natural gas where shortages are becoming evident, and coal which remains plentiful and America's largest resource - are all finite resources, Day says.

The auditorium will seat up to 200 people and Day and Thompson will be available for discussion following the viewing. Depending on interest, the pair are considering offering additional showings.

Day hopes the movie starts people thinking.

"The question would be this, how quick can we bring coal on as a replacement?" he asked. "If we're going to be entering this peak within the next 10 years how are we going to replace cheap gasoline and oil. We don't have a plan B."

Day contends there is no way, currently, to replace America's dependence on oil in the time available. "We're going to feel it, and we're feeling it right now with our heating bills. I mean it's started," he said, adding currently the United States is importing 15 percent of its national usage from Canada. And that 15 percent represents 50 percent of Canada's national output.

Peak oil will happen worldwide within the next 15 years, Day says. "Some people say we've already hit it.

"I don't know," Day said. "Forty some countries have hit oil peak. The United States hit in the early '70s and that's a well-known fact. ... There has been no other major discovery of oil for years and years and years. Britain, I think this year, will become a net oil importer rather than an exporter.

"The geologists are basically saying that this idea of peak (oil) is going to happen. And these are oil geologists."

For more information on the Peoria-area Post Carbon Outpost or the showing of "The End of Suburbia" contact Day at 694-5149.


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