It doesn’t matter whether we’ve hit peak oil yet. We still must address global warming. We can’t wait for oil shortages to wean us off our bad habits.

Peak oil is one of the decade’s hot subjects. According to this thesis, proposed by geologist M. King Hubbert, somewhere in our future an oil crunch will occur, as ever-increasing demand exhausts the dwindling supply.

Back in 2009, British environmental polemicist George Monbiot warned that the peak oil disaster was upon us. But in a July 2 London Guardian column he did an about-face.

“We were wrong on peak oil,” he said. “There is enough to fry us all.”

While other energy experts took sides on this issue, the real question isn’t where we are on the peak oil curve, but where we are on the global warming front. And we’re getting dreadfully close to the tipping point there.

Those who thought that peak oil would mean that the world economy would “by necessity” embrace renewable energy were fooling themselves. Even as the alarms were ringing, industry and consumers here remained addicted to fossil fuels.

It’s just not true that the law of supply and demand will bring us painlessly into a solar-powered, green utopia. Barring state intervention and environmental activism, industrial civilization will not rethink its oil addiction, any more than a shark can be talked into going vegetarian. What peak oil means is that the quest for oil will become more nasty, violent and desperate.

And if you expect some leftist ecological revolution in the Third World to come to the planet’s rescue, think again. Latin America’s left-leaning governments love oil as much as any capitalist does.

Socialist Bolivian President Evo Morales can talk all he wants about the environment, but his country is now no less dependent on oil and natural gas exports than it was under previous governments.

And under the leadership of the Workers’ Party, Brazil’s national oil company Petrobras has become one of the world’s largest corporations. Petrobras is now digging for oil in the Atlantic, in waters that are deeper and more dangerous than where the Deepwater Horizon tragedy took place.

What this means for the environment is that none of the peak oil forecast models spare us from global warming’s worst-case scenario.

Whether or not we agree on the precise time of peak oil, we must band together to change the economy’s course or face planetary catastrophe. Local grassroots struggles against fossil fuel extraction operations, like mountaintop removal and shale oil, are an essential part of this effort.

Our window of opportunity for action is beginning to close. We do not have much time.

Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican author, journalist and environmental educator. He can be reached at

You can read more pieces from The Progressive Media Project by clicking here.

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


It's finally setting in: Trump is Trump and he’s not going to change because of winning the nomination.

The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project