Pop Quiz:

What are the scariest two words in the English Language?

A. Global Terrorism
B. AIDS Pandemic
C. Thermonuclear War
D. Global Warming
E. Peak Oil

If you answered A: Global Terrorism, then I'll bet you live in the United States, and you watch at least the amount of television required by law (i.e. four to five hours a day.) Buzz! Thanks for playing, but A is not the correct answer.

If you answered B. the AIDS Pandemic, unless you live in one of the many so-called Third World nations,say, in Africa or Asia, then you would also be wrong. Not scary enough by half. AIDS is a preventable disease, and unless you've never heard of it, you can avoid its deadly effects. Whoops, wrong again.

If you answered C. Thermonuclear War, you'd almost be right, even though most people thought we had "dodged that bullet" ten or fifteen years ago, it may yet ricochet back to us courtesy of our hero, the correct answer, but even that old nightmare doesn't hold a candle to the "next big thing" in doomsday scenarios.

So now you're saying, "well it must be D. Global Warming, because we've all read that global climate change will submerge major cities and kill millions with catastrophic changes in weather patterns, and even though the US Government seems to be turning a blind eye to this potential disaster, most reputable scientists that have expressed an opinion have said that this is the real thing," I know you're saying that because a large portion of the world has experienced some of the foreshadowing effects of this phenomenon. Ask anyone in Western Europe if things are different. But, even though global climate change is a serious matter, it is not the correct answer to the question at the top of this writeup.

So we're left with E. Peak Oil. That doesn't sound at all scary, does it? It sounds like a company name, like Sun Oil, or Standard Oil. But it's not.

Peak Oil sounds pretty harmless, until you hear the explanation of what it means. Simply stated, peak oil is the point at which crude oil production is permanently outpaced by its demand. At that point, oil becomes increasingly more expensive to produce, thus forcing an ever-increasing pressure to satisfy its demand. When this happens, oil and natural gas and all of its many by-products) will increase in cost until practically no-one except the very wealthy will be able to buy it. This will, of course, be felt at the gas pumps, but also at the grocery store, because the production and transportation of food, at least in the US, requires gasoline or diesel-powered machinery. Plastics, non-recyclable that is, are produced in part from crude oil by-products as well as fertilizer, and practically everything we have grown so accustomed to here in the good old 21st Century.

All oil production follows a bell curve, whether in an individual field or on the planet as a whole. On the upslope of the curve production costs are significantly lower than on the downslope when extra effort (expense) is required to extract oil from reservoirs that are emptying out. "Peak Oil" is the oil industry's term for the top of the bell curve.

The situation is so dire that even George W. Bush's Energy Adviser, Matthew Simmons, has acknowledged that "The situation is desperate. This is the world's biggest serious question."

According to Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, "America faces a major energy supply crisis over the next two decades. The failure to meet this challenge will threaten our nation's economic prosperity, compromise our national security, and literally alter the way we lead our lives."

While some government estimates suggest that the year 2020 will be the peak oil year, we've all heard recently government estimates for other economic trends and statistics that have been, well, horribly optimistic. A more realistic estimate is between the years 2004 and 2010. But we won't know what the actual Peak Oil year is until 3 or 4 years after it happens.

Every industry, without exception, is dependent on cheap, readily available oil and gas. The economic meltdown that followed the stock market crash will seem like the an unpleasant day at the beach compared to the devastation that will begin once peak oil occurs.

Think of the last two "wars" that the US has been involved in. There is little to refute the position that the Middle East is in the process of being annexed because of its resources. When the US finally "owns" Iraq, which country will be next? Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia?

The significance of this Perfect Storm of crisis, opportunity and political expediency amounts to much more than paying a couple more dollars a gallon for gasoline. These circumstances will result in continued war, starvation, economic and social collapse, and massive numbers of dead human beings.

When viewed in the context of Peak Oil, the often irrational policy choices made by the Bush Administration and the British Government under Tony Blair begin to make a perverted kind of sense. The invasion of Iraq, and the tough talk against Syria and Iran afterwards belie a sense of desparation, regardless of the various official justifications offered for war.

Regardless of your political ideology, ask your congressperson, or your preferred presidential candidate what his or her policy is regarding Peak Oil, but don't be surprised if you have to do a bit of educating them on the subject.

Note: I found the link to this little eye-opener, as well as many others at a place called http://www.democraticunderground.com. Check it out!

Disclaimer: The above was synthesized (paraphrased, summarized, what have you) from a website known as www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net with the exception of the administration quotes and the bit about the bell curve which was lifted from www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net verbatim.