The idea is as wrong ethically -- it's not man's natural estate to grovel before Gaia; we either stand tall and exploit nature or we die -- as it is wrong economically. As Cambridge Energy Research founder Daniel Yergin points out "The theory [of Peak Oil] is very fashionable ... but it completely discounts technology, which constantly expands our horizons..." Let's explore that idea.
In the sevententh-century Britain was running out of trees to build houses. The problem was solved by the increased use of bricks. In the late-nineteenth century we were all running out of whale oil to light out lamps. It was a problem solved by the exploitation of a new resource: oil.
The stone age didn't end because they ran out of stones; it ended because they went on to exploit better things -- and sitting here as a beneficiary of the Industrial Revolution I'm very glad they did. Given that it's the process of invention and exploitation of resources begun back then that keeps us all alive today, it's important to have some basic understanding of how resources are produced and exploited -- when properly and freely done, it's almost seems as if an invisible and benevolent hand was guiding production.
As George Reisman explains,
the resources provided by nature, such as iron, aluminum, coal, petroleum and so on, are by no means automatically goods. Their goods-character must be created by man, by discovering knowledge of their respective properties that enable them to satisfy human needs and then by establishing command over them sufficient to direct them to the satisfaction of human needs.Julian Simon points out that it's the human mind applied to nature that is the ultimate resource. It's the human mind applied to production that transforms what nature provides into "goods" for human use: in other words, it's the mind itself that produces resources from the raw materials around us. As George Reisman and Ludwig von Mises point out, the idea that resources are running out "comes true only under socialism" -- only under a system in which private property is banned, production is strangled, the tragedy of the commons remains in effect, and (crucially) price signals that indicate the real value of resources are ignored or muzzled. Let George explain.
For example, iron, which has been present in the earth since the formation of the planet and throughout the entire presence of man on earth, did not become a good until well after the Stone Age had ended. Petroleum, which has been present in the ground for millions of years, did not become a good until the middle of the nineteenth century, when uses for it were discovered. Aluminum, radium, and uranium also became goods only within the last century or century and a half.
The value of goods is within us—within human beings—and radiates outward from us to external things...In a free and unhampered market, the production of resources once discovered are coordinated and harmonised by the price system. Produce too much and prices go down, making further production uneconomic. Produce too little, and not only do we get headlines saying we're running out, but (if the politicians have left it free to operate) the price system tells producers that it's time to explore new fields, to bring previously uneconomic fields back into production, and (if prices really go stratospheric) to explore substitutes for these resources that are becoming uneconomic.
Thus, in one sense ... the contribution of nature is zero. Practically nothing comes to us from nature that is ready-made as a useable, accessible natural resource—as a good in [this] sense. In another sense, however, the natural resources that come from nature—the matter, in the form of all the chemical elements, known and as yet unknown, and energy in all of its forms—are virtually infinite in their extent. In this sense, nature’s contribution is boundless...
And this brings me to what I consider to be the revolutionary view of natural resources that is implied in [this] theory of goods. Namely, not only does man create the goods- character of natural resources—by obtaining knowledge of their useful properties and then creating their useability and accessibility by virtue of establishing the necessary command over them—but he also has the ability to go on indefinitely increasing the supply of natural resources possessing goods-character. He enlarges the supply of useable, accessible natural resources—that is, natural resources possessing goods-character—as he expands his knowledge of and physical power over nature.
The prevailing view, that dominates the thinking of the environmentalists and the conservationists, that there is a scarce, precious stock of natural resources that man’s productive activity serves merely to deplete is wrong. Seen in its full context, man’s productive activity serves to enlarge the supply of useable, accessible natural resources by converting a larger, though still tiny, fraction of nature into natural resources possessing goods-character. The essential question concerning natural resources is what fraction of the virtual infinity that is nature does man possess sufficient knowledge concerning and sufficient physical command over to be able to direct it to the satisfaction of his needs. This fraction will always be very small indeed and will always be capable of vastly greater further enlargement.
If it's left unmeddled with, it's the price system itself that provides the motivation for production, for conservation, for exploration and for exploitation; not the maunderings and witterings of Gaia worshippers and economically illiterate politicians who only help to make things worse.