Earth’s Limitations: How Peak Oil Threatens Economic Growth

In the second video in the series “Peak Oil and a Changing Climate” from The Nation and On The Earth productions, Richard Heinberg, senior fellow with the Post Carbon Institute, discusses how depleting oil supplies threaten the future of global economic growth. 

According to Heinberg, historically there has been a close correlation between increased energy consumption and economic growth. If the economy starts to recover after the financial crisis and there is an increased demand for oil but not enough supply to keep up with that demand, we may hit a ceiling on what the economy can do.

“What politician is going to be able to standup in front of the American people and tell them the truth?”  Heinberg asks. “Every politician is going to want to promise more economic growth and blame the lack of growth on the other political party…. The whole political system starts to get more and more polarized and more and more radical until it just comes apart at the seams.”

For Heinberg, however, there is still hope: alternative energy sources, though difficult to implement on a large scale, do exist, and a grassroots movement is strongly advocating for new thinking about our energy consumption.

Go here to see the first video in the series.



Photo credit: wikimedia commons
By Sara Jerving at The Nation


David N.
David N7 years ago

Thanks for the article and the video.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago


Michelle Lindsay
Michelle Lindsay7 years ago

Someone needs to step up, and i sincerely hope that it happens soon!

Doug G.
Doug G7 years ago

I have read that the U.S. reached peak oil sometime in the 1970's. But this didn't seems to affect consumption habits.
With more countries demanding more oil and with the fact that all oil extracted is pooled and sold collectively on the world market, the U.S. is guaranteed to be in a pinch, regardless of any new fields that may develop.
Tar sands expends more energy than it produces, making the whole enterprise suspect.
Conservation means sacrifice. I doubt many, having grown up in an age of abundance, will be game to participate.

Mark B.
Mark B.7 years ago

Peak oil threatens economic growth? Sounds great! Economic growth in developed countries has already run its course and is now doing more harm than good. There is no longer any correlation between growth and the actual well-being of people in rich countries. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise as we produce ever more waste and consume ever more resources - all in the name of growth. Sure, growth is essential in poor countries but in the developed world, we need to start thinking about how to reduce our production and consumption levels without destroying the economy in the process (i.e. stable de-growth).

Nancy Sasko
Nancy Sasko7 years ago


William R.
William R7 years ago

Everyone who can afford to put a windmill up or put solar panels in thier yard or on thier roof should do so. This would put money in your pocket as well as cut your electric bill by 2/3rds. Doing this will also cut into big oils profits as electric companies won't have to buy so much oil. It will also cut down on coal use for the same reason. I know everyone can;t afford to do this.

Scott Vonwolf
Scott haakon7 years ago

We do need much more energy. While developing new sources we can use the immense resources currently available. First is pipelines for gas,petroleum,and better land use for ranching. Grass fed cattle provide more nutrition and can be produced because of freezing method that are in place not that were not available 60 years ago.. We do not want to revert to the middle ages.

michel gadoury
michel gadoury7 years ago

China and India,progess will fade world's resources and progress will fade

Micha Shepher
Micha Shepher7 years ago

The truth is that growth is bad. No politician will ever say that, even though the smart ones realize the truth.

Our only hope is gradual shrinking, then a long stable period of non-growth, just like in the middle ages.

That's the truth.