Thursday, September 28, 2006

Peak Oil -- something else to be in denial about

This analysis of an easy to understand, easy to deny, energy trend has been around for several years now. In a nutshell, it takes energy to produce energy. Therefore at the point that the energy invested equals the energy produced it is no longer feasible to continue production. (This is the reason that there can be no such thing as a perpetual motion machine.) Or as this writer so elegantly puts it:

If it takes the energy of a barrel of oil to extract a barrel of oil, then further extraction is pointless.

Well, yes.
But it is surprising how few people have ever thought such a thing. I have, of course, because I have spent my life in the food business. Cooking in all its forms has been my life. And when I first read a description of how oil is "refined" I saw it as nothing more than a big cooking project. No one needs to tell me about how important gas and electric bills are. I got it the first time.

The recent whiplash of gas prices got a lot of attention. Radio talk show host Neal Boortz got a sarcastic bunch of mileage a few days ago by saying that according to some source I didn't hear mentioned forty-two percent of Americans believe that gas prices are now going down because the president is causing it to happen. The thinking is supposedly that lower gas prices will be politically helpful to Republicans in upcoming elections. He was inviting listeners to call in to explain the mechanism -- exactly HOW George Bush makes gas prices decline...

The lunacy never stops, does it? Prices are determined by market forces, and the forces behind the current dip in prices are not too different now than before the retail price of gas spiked (Hullo. Spiked. Get it?) and is now returning to "normal." But the new normal is (Surprise...) a bit higher than the previous "normal." And so it goes. Back to the point.
Of the 65 largest oil producing countries in the world, up to 54 have past their peak of production and are now in decline, including the USA (in 1970/71) and the North Sea (in 2001). Hubbert's methods, and variations on them, have been used to make various projections about the global oil peak, with results ranging from 'already peaked', to the very optimistic 2035. Many of the official sources of data used to model oil peak such as OPEC figures, oil company reports, and the USGS discovery projections, upon which the international energy agencies base their own reports, can be shown to be very unreliable. Several notable scientists have attempted independent studies, most notably Colin Campbell and the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO).

This link-filled article is worth a look. Lots of reading. A lot of educated guessing, with the emphasis more on education than guessing. But in the end, the trends are not hard to figure. Thanks again to 3 Quarks for the heads up.

1 comment:

John Buehler said...

Great article on Peak oil, one of my pet topics that comes up a lot in my live talkCast at talkshoe. I hope you'll stop by for a listen or login during the live show to add your two cents worth. Find it at Rebuilding Eden