Just one day after the New York Times ran a long article declaring that the theory of peak oil "is almost certainly correct," ExxonMobil has taken out a cheery advertisement on the Op-Ed page to let us know that, really, there's no problem.
"The [peak oil] theory does not match reality, however. Oil is a finite resource, but because it is so incredibly large, a peak will not occur this year, next year or for decades to come."
O.K., folks, now it's time to get worried. When Exxon tells us to relax, Armageddon is undoubtedly right around the corner. Let's not forget: For years, Exxon has been the single largest corporate donor to a rogue's gallery of conservative think tanks that make a living pretending that global warming is no big thing. Is there a corporation on the planet that has less credibility?
How the World Works doesn't know whether, as Princeton geologist Kenneth Deffeyes maintains, we've already passed the point of peak oil: when there is less oil left to be extracted than has already been consumed. And we have a lot of sympathy for the almighty power of the price mechanism. Simple economics suggest that new technologies for extracting more oil from already existing fields and new oil from Canada's oil sands and the Rockies' oil shale will eventually become feasible (although Exxon neglects to mention that it will be skyrocketing oil prices that provide the necessary incentives).
But the underlying thrust of Exxon's message is that we have every right to be complacent, and that isn't just ridiculous, it's criminal. Demand for oil is increasing every day, and production is just barely keeping up, right now. It is in the best interest of the planet, the global economy, and every living creature that we devote all available resources to conservation, energy efficiency, and the development of alternative sources of energy and conservation. Exxon, sitting on top of a year where tight oil supplies have led to some of the greatest windfall profits any corporation has ever enjoyed, can't tell us there isn't a problem. Exxon is the problem.