Why is petrol so expensive?
Why is food so expensive?
Why have gas and electricity prices risen so much?
Why has inflation been so high?
The common link to all these questions is oil. All four conventional energy sources (coal, oil, gas and uranium) are finite. Indeed uranium production has peaked, and reserves of conventional gas and
coal are much lower than most people realise. However, the most important fuel in the world today and the one closest to peaking in production is oil. [By peaking we mean that its production will go into decline from maximum output, never to recover.] To return to our first four questions, oil powers the world economy providing 95% of all transport fuels, and the waste by-products of refining materials are used to make everything from pharmaceuticals to plastics. Try finding something that isn’t made from oil, or hasn’t been transported using oil. You will struggle. At the same time our addiction to oil is pushing the climate inexorably out of control.
There are essentially three views of the future which people believe.The first is an apocalyptic one (which many Christians in the US seem to hold). Interestingly this view seems increasingly present in secular thinking as well. The second is a “business as usual” viewpoint in which life continues as it always has (when you think about this one it is contradictory since life never has continued as per usual). In our experience most Christians in the UK hold to this one. The last is a sort of “Star Trek”/”Back to the Future” mash-up with hover boards and teleporting. I love both of these shows/films dearly but along with most other people don’t believe in this view anymore.
In our experience resource depletion is not an area that Christians spend much time thinking about. Andy and I wrote our book to try to alert Christians that the foundations of our current way of life is build on sand and that the future is going to look very different from one many Christians in the West seem to imagine. We don’t claim to have all the answers, but have at least tried to ask some of the right questions.
In the book we try to lay down some broad principles. We don’t think there is a ‘technofix’, some magic bullet that can save us. Renewable technology can help but has its limitations particularly in relation to materials and biofuels. Food is going to be a real problem with a combination of rising population, climate
change induced weather disasters and tightening oil supplies meaning we have to grow much more locally. In fact globalisation and the long supply lines we have become used to over the last 20 years will gradually go into reverse and localisation will become the order of the day. Our community and how we relate to it will become very important. Changing our lifestyles will be vital.
There are challenges and opportunities for Christians in all this, as well as wider society. A challenge for Christians is how we do mission and church. As an example both Andy and I attend gathered churches which people drive to from miles around. Will this be possible when oil is much more expensive? How do we heat and light what tend to be large energy inefficient buildings when energy prices are going to be much higher? How do carry out overseas mission without air travel? No easy answers exist but we need to start
thinking about these questions. One wider challenge is what kind of economy we want. Everything is up for grabs - no one has tried running a modern economy without oil.
There are also opportunities, as products become expensive and scarce, the link between perceived happiness and materialism could be broken, leading to evangelistic opportunities. The pace of life should be
slower. Oil has given us so much opportunity to do stuff, rushing from one thing to another never stopping to think. Finally we believe the problem of climate change and oil supply are indivisible. We need
to tackle them together. To attempt to tackle one without taking into account the other could lead to disaster. We also think responding to peak oil and climate change together makes a more compelling and
immediate argument for many in the West where many of the worst effects of climate change are yet to be seen.
Our book and website offer you the opportunity to explore this issue further. The book also has a Facebook page.