This should be a wake-up call to us all: the world could be running out of oil faster than officials have previously reported.

A whistleblower at the International Energy Agency (IEA) claims that the agency, encouraged by the United States, has been underplaying the rate of decline of existing oil fields while overplaying the discovery rate of new fields. The IEA's World Energy Outlook report forecasts oil demand and supply and is used by many in the private and government sector to develop energy and climate change policy.

If the allegations are true, the world's governments have been operating with bad data. Peak oil is a reality, the numbers seem to indicate that we're past the peak, and if we're looking at a steeper decline on the downside we could be in for a global world of hurt. Our lives are built with cheap oil; if prices rise faster than society and technology, particularly of the green variety, can absorb it, many, if not most of the systems that support our lives could be severely disrupted.

Remember how freaked out people were when gas cranked over $4 a gallon? It wasn't that long ago. The news was filled with stories of people paying a lot more for food at the grocery store, school districts emptying their coffers to pay fuel bills, and poor people making it through winters with thermostats set to 45 because heating oil was so expensive.

Think about how much more productive and stable society would be if our energy supply was clean and reliable — in both price and availability. There is no peak solar, the cost of harnessing the wind doesn't double because of bad news out of the Middle East. The truly big jumps in our evolution as a society will only come once we build a strong, sustainable base to grow from. Right now everything we've achieved is floating on an instable base of oily playing cards. One blow in the wrong place, and the whole thing could collapse.

That's the status quo, an oil base of unstable playing cards. It seems to me that it's a far greater risk to keep doing things we've always done them.

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