Peak oil is going to happen soon and could lead to the collapse of democracy, according to a secret German military report that has been leaked online.
Der Spiegel reports that a German military think tank warns that there is "some probability that peak oil will occur around the year 2010 and that the impact on security is expected to be felt 15 to 30 years later."
The document warns that this could threaten democracy , creating "room for ideological and extremist alternatives to existing forms of government." Fragmentation of the affected population is likely and could "in extreme cases lead to open conflict."
Besides the political upheaval, it warns of market failures, colossal tax hikes, food shortages and widespread rationing.
But then, maybe the prospect of peak oil might be just the thing governments need to address climate change. According to a Lloyds of London study, climate change, breakneck development in China, India, Brazil and South Africa and constraints on easy to access oil are creating the problem.
Graham Wayne in The Guardian says peak oil might actually give governments room to tackle climate change without alienating vested interests.
"Since it will happen far sooner than any of the more serious impacts of climate change, we should abandon attempts to stop fossil fuel use because of climate change and concentrate on reducing fuel use, controlling energy prices and keeping national economies reasonably stable. That's a sell the public will buy into: the price of petrol or heating oil, the security of their jobs, the scarcity of resources – these are things the public can feel and see, and that contrarians cannot obfuscate out of ideological opposition. Peak oil is inevitable. Something has to give, and it's consumerism. Governments know this perfectly well. What they really need is some externality, something abstract they can blame – deflecting the public wrath from the ballot box. Western governments need a villain. Oil at $200 a barrel fits the bill perfectly."
A similar point is raised in a new study from The Australia Institute which suggests we have to bring in road pricing, get rid of low fuel taxes, invest more in public transit systems and encourage use of alternative fuels like biodiesel, ethanol, LNG and CNG.
It looks like we might run out of cheap oil before we work out what to do about climate change. The prospect of peak oil might force us to deal with both issues. Can we kill two birds with one stone?