As nobody who carefully watches global oil production expects it to increase in coming years, we are left with "total productive capacity" which is currently estimated by the IEA to be 89.7 million b/d. This is about 3 million b/d above what we are currently using -- maybe. Most of this spare capacity is supposed to be in Saudi Arabia; a land of eternal optimism where oil reserves never go down no matter how much is pumped up and sold. Many are skeptical that all of this "spare capacity" is really ready-to-go, reasonable quality, sustainable production capacity. If not we are in worse shape than we believe."
Many people in this small town still live in the old Mayan ways and build one-room homes from sticks and palm thatch, with hard-packed clay floors, an open cooking fire, and hammocks. After Hurricane Wilma the government came around and gave away free cinderblock and metal roofing, sand, and bagged cement and urged everyone to replace their damaged homes with something more modern and storm-resistant. The government built free cement cube houses, put in cement floors and ceilings, and the people bought electric stoves and refrigerators, ceiling fans and sometimes even an air conditioner.
After a while those grey cubes would develop a sheen of black mold — concrete beads moisture in this climate — but the people would just paint over the mold. The people also got TVs and stayed home at night rather than going out walking around the neighborhood like they used to.
Once in a distant motel out of boredom we watched a TV program popular with USAnians called Extreme Makeover — Home Edition. In this show they find some poor, struggling family who have been beset by some misfortune and a team of celebrities comes in, tears down their old toxic house (using a wrecking crane and packing it off to the landfill in large containers) and builds them a new toxic house, much larger, with a huge energy footprint. We could not help but wonder, watching that, how that poor, struggling family would pay the new energy bills and whether anyone had investigated to see how many of those families sold their new houses and moved to something they could afford, or were just shamed by their neighbors into sticking it out and had to work extra hard to pay all the bills. The show gives new meaning to “house slaves.”
One irony of the Mexican rural aid program is that there is not enough State-subsidized electricity to support the building upgrades, so brown-outs and black-outs are more frequent now, and will become even more so as PEMEX, the national oil company that fuels the electric plants, nears its stated crude oil exhaustion date of 2012-2014.
We directly experienced what this will mean when we returned one night to find the power off, meaning that we could not cool down the house. In some ways it was a blessing because we did not have to listen to the neighbors’ televisions, but without the ceiling fan, sleeping was very difficult. We did what we often do in Tennessee when it is very hot (and where we have been off air conditioning since 1994) — we took a cold shower. In fact, several, every couple of hours through the night, to keep our body temperature at safe levels and get enough rest for the following day.
This could well be the future, when many places much farther from the Equator will experience similar conditions — hot days, hot nights, no power, maybe scarce water, and the consequences of earlier decisions for design of the built environment. While we lie back and try to sleep, we imagine that we are just in a boot camp here. This is basic training.
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah told Saudi scholars studying in Washington that he had ordered all Saudi oil exploration to cease "in order to keep the earth's wealth for our sons and grandsons.”
— Peak Oil Review, July 12, 2010