How To Explain Peak Oil To Anyone

Sharon August 1st, 2007

It has occurred to me that there must be a simple way of explaining peak oil to everyone - but most solutions have concentrated on creating a *single* simple method of explaining peak oil, when what is needed is a highly specialized approach, designed to help people grasp the issue in the most basic terms imaginable. Being a helpful sort, I have undertaken to provide those explanations. Thus, all you need to do is evaluate the person you are explaining things too, and from there, insert the proper explanation. BTW, just in case you can’t figure this out, this is intended to be funny and is bound to offend someone, probably everyone. Deal.

-If the Person is a lot like: Homer Simpson

The way to explain it is: “Beer comes from oil. You use oil to run tractor to grow barley. You use oil to run fermenting equipment. You use oil to ship beer to liquor store. You use gas, made from oil, to drive drunk to the store to get beer. No oil means no more beer - ever.”

The solution you offer is: “More beer good. Beer comes from oil. Must. Save. Beer.”

-If the Person is a lot like: An Uber-Soccer Mom

The way to explain it is: “Yes, I heard how awful it was that the coach criticized your Christina - I agree, that he was completely out of line to hurt her self esteem like that. Speaking of self-esteem, did you know I’ve lost 11lbs on the 100-mile diet? I feel great, and I fit into some clothes I haven’t worn since Jared was born. All that fresh produce and unprocessed food has been so wonderful - Mike says I look younger too, and it seems to improve my skin. And Jennifer is a lot less hyperactive since we’ve been biking everywhere. And Lisa is writing her college application essay on the impact of our environmental lifestyle changes. My friend Rita who is a guidance counselor told me that this will really help differentiate her from all the soccer players and school newspaper writers for the people at Yale. Green is the new black, you know.”

The solution you offer is: That you will be thinner, happier, sexier and your kids will be smarter if you do this stuff. Oh, and btw, it saves energy too.

-If the person is a lot like: Rush Limbaugh

The way to explain it is: “Evil people in China and India are burning up all of America’s oil. Those selfish bastards are trying to compete with us just so that they can have running water, and the democrats in congress won’t let us nuke them like we really should. They are trying to prove that Americans can’t compete without a lot of energy. We need to prove that we’re better than they are, with or without oil, because God loves America best. With Jesus to help us conserve, we don’t have to have oil.”

The solution you offer is: Conservation is Patriotic, and a good way to stick it to people in other countries.

-If the person is a lot like: Paris Hilton

The way to explain it is: “Without oil to manufacture tv sets, run “Entertainment Tonight” and power all that tv, no one will watch what you do. No one will care if you have sex on the internet, go to jail or kill Brittney Spears with your bare hands while mud wrestling on reality tv. Yes, you’ll probably still be rich enough to buy oil, but all the good hotels will be having brownouts, and everyone will be so busy trying to get alone that they won’t care about you. Oh, and if they get a chance, you servants will probably kill and eat your little rat-dog.”

The solution you offer: “Think how much attention Angelina Jolie got by adopting all those poor kids. Maybe you should take some of your money and adopt a whole town in Bangladesh and go carbon negative. You could have a series on almost any network but Fox about making your home environmentally sound and helping poor people get access to renewable energy.”

-If the person is a lot like: Grandpa Simpson

The way to explain it is: “You know, back in the old days we didn’t have all this newfangled technology crap. We just did good, hard work, and knew the value of a dollar. Back then we didn’t need tv, or cell phones or cars. We didn’t sit around downloading music from that there internet, we had real music, in real speakeasies, and we danced for hours. And that porno-graphy on that there filthy computer - in our day we had to do real work to see naked women, carve real peep holes through rock-hard chestnut boards. These kids today are too fat and spoiled to dance, and they wouldn’t know what to do with a hoe or a horse or a jackknife if it bit them in the ass. We need legislation to get them off the streets and back onto the farms!

What to suggest: National service programs, Chain gangs and Victory Gardens

If the Person is an Aging Hippie:

What to say is: “You were right about everything. Absolutely everything. Growing your own food. Renewable energy. The economy. Drugs. How sexy greying ponytails are. Not trusting old people…oh…wait…” Well, almost everything.

What to suggest: Stop looking so smug.

-If the person is a lot like: An Economist

The way to explain the problem is this: “Ok, just for a moment, let me ask you to suspend your belief for just a moment. Imagine that unicorns and faeries roam the forests, that the sun goes around the earth and that the US has a meaningful third party. Ok, now imagine that it is just possible that we can’t actually substitute grain for gasoline, or benzene for water. And further imagine that people dying is bad, even if it seems like it is good for the economy.

What to suggest: Give up now.

-If the Person is: Your Dubious Spouse

What to say: “I’m doing this because I love you and I want us to have a positive future. Preparing for a low energy future will definitely bring us closer together and make our marriage stronger, happier and sexier. I can’t think of anything more romantic than discussing our feelings, the current depletion rate and the latest apocalyptic novel while canning okra in the 90 degree heat. And I think you are never more beautiful than when you are putting up rainwater cachement.

What to suggest: A literal roll in the hay. Move the scythe first.

-If the person is a lot like: The President of the United States

What to say is: Ask Dick. He’ll explain it to you.

What to suggest: Immediate impeachment with a heavy, blunt instrument.

44 Responses to “How To Explain Peak Oil To Anyone”

  1. Correneon 01 Aug 2023 at 9:34 pm

    That is genuinely hilarious! Wonderful to know we can still laugh through all the doom and gloom stuff I’ve been reading.

    Seriously, though, I grew up with a dad who is mostly like the economist. The perspective that I learned is giant farms and pesticides and such are good because they are more efficient (need fewer people to work them), and because we’re able to make more and more food with fewer and fewer farmers. Those farmers should really stop complaining and give up and move to the city and get a better job. Seriously. If I bring up the plight of the poor, the homeless, or people in poorer countries, I get eye-rolling and accusations of being a bleeding-heart liberal.

    So, the ONLY way to explain to my dad why I am trying to reduce my environmental impact is that it will save money.

  2. feonixrifton 01 Aug 2023 at 10:39 pm

    For the Grandly Patriotic:

    We’re a sovereign country, we shouldn’t be bowing to demands from other nations just because they happened to have useful geology. What happens if we disagree too strongly with Saudi Arabia, or Russia, or anywhere else we’re importing from? As it stands now, they can make us hurt. We’re vulnerable because of our dependence on oil. Renewable, sustainable, home-grown energy IS national defense. It puts the jobs, decisions and profits in the USA where they belong.

  3. Cheleeon 01 Aug 2023 at 11:38 pm


    Thanks so very much.

  4. Valerieon 02 Aug 2023 at 12:07 am

    Oh my gosh that was so funny! Thanks for sharing :D

  5. Sacheenon 02 Aug 2023 at 12:29 am

    This is the funniest thing I have read about Peak Oil since I discovered it (very recently, maybe to recently to make a real difference). Thanks for the humor and I might actually try the hippie comment on my parents who are far removed but I think the inner-hippie could be coaxed back out!

  6. EPMon 02 Aug 2023 at 2:28 am

    Sharon, this one is truly fabulous! I’ve been reading for a while now and I do admire how you manage to provide us with such lucid, articulate and well-thought-out postings given all the demands of family and farm on your time. I find so many of your postings that I can forward to family and friends to help educate them about peak oil and to help them understand a little more why we do some of the things we do. Keep up the excellent work!

  7. daharjaon 02 Aug 2023 at 3:41 am

    I’m an aging Hippie. Should I start looking smug right now, instead of scared as hell about the transition humanity has to make in the next 50 years?

  8. roelon 02 Aug 2023 at 5:04 am


    stop watching so much TV

  9. Christinaon 02 Aug 2023 at 6:51 am


    I probably belong to the ageing Hippie category and yes,we were right about everything, weren’t we? (well, maybe not the drugs, but I never used them)

    /Christina in SW Sweden
    off to pick the last gooseberries, keeping that smug look on my face ;-)

  10. chaos girlon 02 Aug 2023 at 9:42 am

    It’s possible that I’m a little bit in love with you, now.

    Great post!

  11. Gwynon 02 Aug 2023 at 10:54 am

    Great post!

  12. MSquirrelon 02 Aug 2023 at 10:55 am

    I loved the Rush Limbaugh one. I think I used feonixrift’s one several years ago before I heard about Peak Oil, and I used it just to be annoying to some Limbaugh Dittoheads.

  13. Anonymouson 02 Aug 2023 at 11:28 am

    Sharon, this is so funny! But under the Economist heading, didn’t you mean to say that they should imagine we have a meaningful SECOND party?

  14. RASon 02 Aug 2023 at 1:09 pm

    Hey Sharon, what if you’re a *young* hippie? LOL.

    This is so good, I’m going to pass it around to some of my friends. I hurt my sides laughing.

    P.S. Don’t be surprised if the Secret Service swings by to talk to you about that last line. No, I am not joking.

  15. Lorettaon 02 Aug 2023 at 1:35 pm

    I’m starting the day with a smile on my face! Thanks!

  16. Pat Meadowson 02 Aug 2023 at 3:17 pm

    I knew I was right all along. But it’s been a long, lonely slog….

    Don’t I deserve to look even just a tiny bit smug? :)

    Aging Hippie (aka Pat Meadows)

  17. Anonymouson 02 Aug 2023 at 5:59 pm

    If you are like my Jewish mother-in-law -

    Tell them “Oy! When you said ‘Don’t worry about me. I’ll just sit here in the dark.’ I thought you were just trying to make me feel guilty. Now I realize you were just doing your part to save energy and deal with Peak Oil. I need to find something else to feel guilty about.”


  18. Anonymouson 02 Aug 2023 at 6:04 pm

    “If you are like” make that “If the person is like…”

    Which brings me to: If the person is obsessive-compulsive -

    Tell them that worrying about Peak Oil can last a lifetime, unlike that Y2K thing. Ready, set, obsess!


  19. Anonymouson 02 Aug 2023 at 6:28 pm

    What can I cay Sharon - I LOVE your writing!

  20. ~Dawn Con 02 Aug 2023 at 6:30 pm

    Grampa Simpson rocks my world!
    Thanks for those explanation, I smiled all the way through.

  21. Danicaon 02 Aug 2023 at 7:56 pm

    “And I think you are never more beautiful than when you are putting up rainwater cachement.”

    I wish my husband would say this to me! :)

  22. Anonymouson 02 Aug 2023 at 8:22 pm

    with all of the intellectual posturing , no one has the guts to speak the ‘R’ word. that word is rationing.

    it just goes to show that most americans do not want to give up their ‘happy motoring’ .

  23. Anonymouson 02 Aug 2023 at 10:50 pm

    Sharon!! OMG!! This is the funniest, dare I say, best thing you’ve ever written!!! Holy crap, I’m laughing my you know what off here…Grandpa Simpson?!?!? Too bad that 40+ miles is too far to get together for dinner, huh? ;) Well, maybe once a year or something…
    Heidi in NY

  24. jewishfarmeron 03 Aug 2023 at 12:26 am

    LOL, Roel, I don’t have any tv reception at all, and didn’t watch much for about a decade before that. All my Simpsons cultural knowledge comes entirely from my college days, now almost 15 years ago. But how much could it have changed?

    Heidi, we’ve *got* to get together. The problem will be babysitting ;-) .

    Rebecca, horribly, I thought about that. Do you think I can play dumb and say I thought the word “impeach” meant something innocuous ;-) ? Or “blunt” ;-) .

    Anonymous, if you search the word “rationing” on this blog, you’ll see I’ve written about it quite a number of times, including arguing that it can be made politically possible.


  25. Charles E. Owens Jr.on 03 Aug 2023 at 2:19 am

    Thanks for the great sense of humor. I got the link from Http:// a post someone made for all you oil peak junkies and people wanting to know what might be really happening in the world today, they have a nice general energy news section called the DrumBeat, lots of the best news stories of the day all in one thread.

    Thanks again for the laughs.

  26. Anonymouson 03 Aug 2023 at 3:42 pm

    Love it - thanks for a great post!
    You should really submit this to a print publication - magazine, op-ed in your newspaper, something.

  27. Shadowon 04 Aug 2023 at 2:52 pm

    Pure brilliance! That’s one of the best outlines for a PSY-OP Doctrine/Campaign I’ve ever read. Identifies the target audiences, factors in their culural norms, perceptions and sensitivities, and provides a clear framework for highly effective delivery of the core message. And they never even know that that’s what you’re up to…. Outstanding!

  28. Anonymouson 06 Aug 2023 at 7:23 pm

    doesn’t impeach mean to offer an organically grown, local, in season peach, watered with cached rainwater?


  29. mrs pon 08 Aug 2023 at 9:24 pm

    Great post! Laughter is sorely needed these days. I enjoyed this and these are the tools we need to answer the questions of our friends and neighbors who don’t want to look at the lemons. Although it’s tongue in cheeky, it might just work on my spouse. He’s on my side but doesn’t see the severity of things. Let’s hope we’re all a little off about it but if we’re not…none of us are really prepared for tomorrow.

  30. Anonymouson 18 Aug 2023 at 5:54 pm

    Hilarious! Interestingly enough, the chihuahua was actually bred to be a meat dog.

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