Monday, January 21, 2008

Peak Oil: The Video Game recently ran an article covering video game coming out called Frontlines: Fuel of War. A war tactics game, the story is driven by the scenario that peak oil is reached in 2006. Tensions rise as the cost of oil begins to escalate quickly, and the oil laden regions of the world including the Middle East, Latin America, and Russia become politically and socially unstable. Within 8 years, the international conflict leads to nuclear warfare, leaving all countries in a state of chaotic disarray. The result is the replacement worldwide of democracy with military governments whose primary goal is to obtain oil from the few regions still capable of production.

While the game is of course heavily dramatized, it's interesting that the energy crisis has become legitimate enough to be used as the premise behind a big budget video game. The article goes on to discuss the dissenting stances by different experts in the oil industry on just when peak oil will arrive. Though we hope that the when of peak oil will be later rather than sooner, the game presents a very scary situation. If we hit peak oil tomorrow, what would happen? In the midst of China's tremendous industrial growth, how would the United States be affected? I personally think that the game is a great way to spread awareness among younger people regarding our political relations that are built upon oil and gas ties and how serious the situation is. While peak oil may be decades away, it's important that we are prepared both nationally and internationally for diminishing opportunities to tap into near limitless amounts of oil reserves.

It's important to see that a call for change does not necessarily advocate swapping our dependence on oil to nuclear, hydro, wind and solar. Better engineering & developing technology is important for increasing oil recovery capabilities as well as developing transportation systems that have superior fuel economies. Better education will increase public awareness and increase conservation efforts. Many people in Texas would rather die than give up their gas guzzling pickup; it is almost a source of pride here to be obstinate in the face of conservationist. It will be interesting to see how this public sentiment would stand up if a situation such as that presented in Frontlines ever comes to pass.

The webpage for the game itself can be accessed here:


John Losinger said...

Very interesting post.

Per your comments regarding "gas-guzzling pickups," I think it is important to remember that, especially in Texas, these pick-up trucks are often used for legitimate purposes (i.e. for hauling heavy payloads on ranches or for pulling trailers, etc.).

I think the larger problem lies in the culture of SUV's, as well as the increased commuting distances Americans traverse each day (i.e. "suburbanization"). The problem is further exacerbated by the classification of SUV's as light-duty trucks, and their subsequent exemption from CAFE standards.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I also drive an SUV. Although I do plan on trading it in sometime in the near future, I also realize that its gas-guzzling ways will still persist in the secondary market.

The phase-out of fuel inefficient vehicles will be a slow process, but I think that it is, slowly but surely, actually a process now. I think the demand for more fuel efficient vehicles is there; both for environmental and economic reasons.

You are certainly right that much of the problem stems from the (U.S. domestic) supply side. Vehicle manufacturers make large, gas-guzzling SUV's because people want to buy them.

That said, I think the industry is slowly getting the picture. For example, GM is now offering a hybrid version of their 2008 Tahoe/Yukon SUV and demand for the Toyota Prius is quite spectacular.

Tom Dyson said...

The much older "Fallout" series (1997) used the same setup for how the world was destroyed. Admittedly, not a "big budget" game though, so your point still stands.

John Losinger said...

CORRECTION: In my original reply, I meant to say "demand" instead of "supply" (in the U.S. SUV market).