German Military on Peak Oil: In Medium Term, Global Economy Would Collapse

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Der Spiegel has confirmed that a leaked German military report on the consequences of declining oil production is authentic. The study found that peak oil -- the point at which global production reaches its apex and declines henceforth -- could have dramatic negative repercussions for, well, modern civilization.

Global oil consumption has been outpacing new finds for quite some time, and we know that we can deplete the oil resources of particular regions. For example, U.S. oil production peaked decades ago; the best month of oil production in this country came in October 1970.

Put those facts together and it's not hard to see why most energy experts agree that oil production will enter a permanent decline soon, if it hasn't already. Where differences arise is about what exactly peak oil will mean and what alternatives to petroleum power may become available. The German report spelled out one of the negative scenarios quite clearly:

The German military study, which was analyzed and partly translated into English by Der Spiegel, declares that once peak oil begins in earnest, economies around the globe -- including Germany's -- will probably struggle with price shocks as a result of higher transportation costs, and "shortages of vital goods could arise."

"In the medium term the global economic system and every market-oriented national economy would collapse," the study continues.

Read the full story at New York Times.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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