Impact on Society
Since the industrial revolution oil has been the most important energy resource for economical growth. The world in its current state relies completely on oil. Without oil, humanity's way of life will be forced to change.
The impact peak oil will have on the world depends on how fast oil production will decrease and whether or not effective alternatives for oil are adopted on time. Without effective alternatives, products made by oil such as plastic will become rare.
Oil is so essential in today's society that peak oil will have a great impact on food production, culture, trade, transport, medicine, economic stability and war&geopolitics. In the USA every joule of food consumed takes 10 joules of fossil fuel to produce, a global famine seems inevitable.
The 'Hirsch Report'
In early 2005, the U.S. Dept. of Energy released a study named 'Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management'. It is known as The Hirsh Report, named after its author Robert L. Hirsch on behalf of the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).
The Hirsch Report warns that: "Peak oil presents the world with an incredible risk management problem. As peaking is approached, fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically, without timely mitigation, the economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented. Effective alternative options exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to have substantial impact, they must be initiated more than a decade in advance of peaking."
Not long after the Hirsch Report, Hirsch made another report stating the world should invest at least 1 trillion dollar per year in oil crash programs for at least ten years, before peak oil happens. Obviously, no significant investment or research has been made. Hirsch was not asked to research when peak oil was going to happen.
Positive Effects of Peak Oil
There are many negative aspects regarding peak oil, however observers also see positive effects. When the oil price rises, the world is forced to use alternative energy sources. These sources are clean unlike fossil fuels, and help to control global warming.
People who follow David Holmgren's Permaculture, a way of life where stable and productive systems are harmoniously integrated with the land that provide for human needs, believe peak oil could have a positive change on the world if nations act with foresight.
Cuba was forced to use permaculture after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. The oil shortage was a disaster for Cuba, but it eventually led to a new way of life which many Cubans now enjoy. The crisis is known as the 'Special Period in Time of Peace in Cuba'.