Editors Note:  The following two articles appeared in Public Health Reports / January-February 2009 / Volume 124. They appear here through the kind permission of the Journal. Mainstreaming articles discussing these issues are an important step for education and acceptance.

Energy and the Public’s Health: Making the Connection (PDF) – Michael T. Osterholm and  Nicholas S. Kelley

Rarely does a scientific article come along that begs to be read by a much broader audience than the subscribers of a niche journal. Frumkin and colleagues have achieved such a feat in this issue of Public Health Reports. Their article, “Energy and Public Health: The Challenge of Peak Petroleum,” should be required reading for every public policy leader, business executive, health-care provider, and general public health professional. It makes a connection between an old world where the use of carbon-based energy was largely related to wood burning and simple crop production, and a current world that is growing closer to exhausting the fossil fuel stores created by many millions of years of geologic processes. Frankly, it’s quite hard to imagine that we have largely cannibalized the “easily obtained carbon-hydrogen bound energy” that is as much a part of our planet earth’s history as is evolution. But the depletion is happening, just as Frumkin and colleagues have detailed…

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Energy and Public Health: The Challenge of Peak Petroleum (PDF) – Howard Frumkin, Jeremy Hess, Stephen Vindigni

Petroleum is a unique and essential energy source, used as the principal fuel for transportation, in producing many chemicals, and for numerous other purposes. Global petroleum production is expected to reach a maximum in the near future and to decline thereafter, a phenomenon known as “peak petroleum.” This article reviews petroleum geology and uses, describes the phenomenon of peak petroleum, and reviews the scientific literature on the timing ofthis transition. It then discusses how peak petroleum may affect public health and health care, by reference to four areas: medical supplies and equipment, transportation, energy generation, and food production. Finally, it suggestsstrategies for anticipating and preparing for peak petroleum, both general public health preparedness strategies and actions specific to the four expected health system impacts…

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