Peakoil and Global Warning: A Link?
Global warming is one of the most talked about issues facing the world and it is one that people are desperate to find a solution to. Peak oil doesn't get as much discussion but is at least as serious a problem since it will have a dramatic impact on our economy. A lot of people believe that the two problems are related and that solving one will also solve the other. This may be true but it is far from universally accepted. The one thing that everybody agrees on is that there are going to be dramatic changes in the way we meet our energy needs in the future.
There is pretty clearly a link between peak oil and global warming because one of the distinguishing features of peak oil is that we us up all of the easy to access oil first and leave the stuff that is harder to get at until production has started to decline and prices rise. Getting at the less accessible oil is going to require the use of more energy than was used to get the easy stuff. The result is that more carbon dioxide will be released from extracting the oil so this will increase global warming.
In addition to being less accessible the oil that goes into production in the future will likely not be as clean as the oil that we currently have. That means it will have a higher sulfur content. The result will be that more energy will be used in refining the oil and again it will result in more emissions being released into the atmosphere. A related issue is that more coal will be used as an alternative to oil for energy production. Since coal produces more emissions both when it is produced and when it is burned there will be an increase in global warming.
There are a lot of people who believe that peak oil will have the opposite effect and cause a reduction in greenhouse gases. The theory goes that as the price of oil rises after the peak there will be more emphasis put on alternative sources of energy. The belief is that those alternatives will be things like solar or wind power or other source of clean energy like biofuels or hydrogen. While this is possible it seems unlikely primarily because we are nowhere near the peak for coal. We have hundreds of years of coal supplies left so they would actually be the cheapest option when it comes to alternatives to oil.
The real link between peak oil and global warming is that they are both the result of our dependence on fossil fuels and that they will both have serious economic impacts. There are going to be significant changes in our economy and probably a serious decline in our standards of living as the result of peak oil and global warming unless we can quickly come up with an alternative.