Thu., August 12, 2010 12:08pm (EDT)

Peter Maass: 'The Violent Twilight Of Oil' Looms
Updated: 4 years ago

The Gulf Coast oil spill was a sober warning about the risks involved in extracting oil and gas from deposits miles under the earths surface in increasingly remote locations -- and another reminder that our dependence on fossil fuels is not without cost.

Months before the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burned and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, journalist Peter Maass wrote Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil, arguing that our relentless pursuit of diminishing oil stocks has brought on a host of evils on the world -- especially in the countries that hold the deposits we crave. Maass says that in many developing countries, oil breeds corruption, heightens social divisions, increases violence and degrades the environment.

In an interview with Fresh Air's Dave Davies, Maass explains what he means by the term "twilight of oil."

"We've been [using oil as a primary fuel source] for about a century. When you now look at how much oil is being produced -- about 85 million barrels a day -- and how much longer it's going to continue to be produced at these high levels, even the oil companies themselves -- who are the most optimistic -- say 'Maybe another 20-30 years, we'll be able to maintain or increase the amount of oil we're producing every day,'" he says. "That is the tail end. That is the twilight. ... It's going to remain the primary source for the decade ahead but there's also going to be the new period where we have to find other sources of energy in order to find the energy that's going to power our economy for the decades and centuries ahead."

Peter Maass is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine. He has written for several other national publications and has reported from the Middle East, Asia, South America and Africa. His new book is called Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil. [Copyright 2010 National Public Radio]