Peak oil, that is. Someday worldwide production of oil, which has increased for 150 years, will get to its highest level (peak), then decline. That decline will be bad news. There will still be lots of oil, but the price will go up up up.

When will “peak oil” happen? A number of smart, serious people say “now” or “in a couple of years.” It’s controversial. James H. Kunstler wrote The Long Emergency (2005) mostly about peak oil. Click here to go to a page that has Kunstler’s recent speech to the Commonwealth Club of California.

Kunstler was already well known to New Urbanists for his earlier books highly critical of suburbia. As you might guess, peak oil increases his disdain for sprawl. Here’s from the speech:

I wrote three books previously about the fiasco of suburbia. There are many ways of understanding and describing this. I now call it the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. Why? Because it’s a living arrangement with no future. It was designed to run on cheap oil and gas and in a few years we’re not going to have those.

Kunstler’s speech is a good introduction to peak oil. For more on this topic, and the inseparable looming disaster of climate change, I recommend The Oil Drum blog. Also interesting is this opinion piece, End of oil heralds climate pain, which expresses fear that peak oil won’t assist in saving the world from climate change.

When oil production starts to fall, the economic impacts could well be devastating. . . As the unemployment lines grow, the political will to tackle climate change may be sapped by the need to keep the lights burning as cheaply as possible.

Maybe. Or maybe the ’emergency’ of peak oil will do something the long term threat of global warming hasn’t–get people to start changing their ways.