T Nation

Peak Oil

Oil is the ubiquitous underlying issue of our time.

Oil production has peaked in all major suppliers outside of the middle east. Africa has some substantial undeveloped oil but in the scheme of current and future world demand it becomes trivial. Some near Asian nations such as Iran have peaked already as well. The first half of the fossil fuel civilization is either already over or will be within decades at best.

What I find most interesting about this topic is that we have yet to find as a race any clear alternative to maintain our ever growing demand for cheap energy. This ever growing production and use of cheap energy is one of the most powerful and defining characteristics of the first half of the fossil fuel civilization.

It is quite an amazing time we find ourselves in. We are living at the peak of a fossil fuel civilization that the world has never seen and will never see again. Unless a new innovation in energy technology is discovered we will have witnessed the peak of human civilization in terms of energy production and consumption. This is an event not to be squandered or taken lightly.

I think the importance of this issue is under appreciated by too many. We need a more aggressive policy towards searching for replacements for cheap oil energy and more preparation for the possibility that we may not find one. We are far better off facing both of these challenges while we have the time and energy that oil provides us. The longer we wait the more difficult the challenge becomes.

Keep in mind that estimates of oil reserves are based on easily removed deposits and extraction techniques are estimated using technology from the 60’s.

Factor in modern technology and the reserves climb much higher. At $40 or more a barrel oil shale and sands become economically viable.

When we run out of that we can always look at helium3…

http://www.asi.org/adb/02/09/he3-intro.html

I can’t find the old threads where this was hashed to death - I think it was back in '03 or so.

Anyway, the following three posts are a great discussion on this topic:

Pro Side (but not too alarmist):

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2409#more

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2367

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2411

Con Side (but not too dismissive):

http://www.reason.com/news/show/36645.html

And here is an entire blog devoted to debunking peak oil:

http://peakoildebunked.blogspot.com/

I do not believe we are near peak oil but with the increased world wide demand and other issues we certainly are going to pay a lot more for it.

I expect prices will continue to fluctuate but with an overall increase.

For many years prices were essentially stagnant or trailed inflation rates.

I think they will now be leading inflation rates.

This is going to drive our economy to develop more viable alternative fuels.

By the time we actually hit peak oil in the distant future we will be in decent shape but the next few years are going to be rough.

In fact if we develop alternative energy sources quickly enough our oil consumption will peak based on market forces before we hit “peak oil” based on what is in the ground.

I believe, that resources that are easy to drill have already peaked, and it will be a long and fluctuating road toward ever increasing prices from now on. So far, there are no ‘real’ alternative energy sources, they only help to reduce the need for oil; replacement is not possible yet.

[quote]hedo wrote:
Keep in mind that estimates of oil reserves are based on easily removed deposits and extraction techniques are estimated using technology from the 60’s.

Factor in modern technology and the reserves climb much higher. At $40 or more a barrel oil shale and sands become economically viable.

When we run out of that we can always look at helium3…

http://www.asi.org/adb/02/09/he3-intro.html [/quote]

Estimations of reserves are hard to pin down. No doubt technology will improve and expand them.

Interesting link but it starts by assuming that nuclear fusion reactors have been proved viable. Has this happened and I am unaware of it or is this just a speculative article?

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:
I can’t find the old threads where this was hashed to death - I think it was back in '03 or so.

Anyway, the following three posts are a great discussion on this topic:

Pro Side (but not too alarmist):

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2409#more

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2367

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2411

Con Side (but not too dismissive):

http://www.reason.com/news/show/36645.html

And here is an entire blog devoted to debunking peak oil:

http://peakoildebunked.blogspot.com/ [/quote]

Great links I enjoyed reading them. Thank you for taking time to post them.

[quote]Heliotrope wrote:
hedo wrote:
Keep in mind that estimates of oil reserves are based on easily removed deposits and extraction techniques are estimated using technology from the 60’s.

Factor in modern technology and the reserves climb much higher. At $40 or more a barrel oil shale and sands become economically viable.

When we run out of that we can always look at helium3…

http://www.asi.org/adb/02/09/he3-intro.html

Estimations of reserves are hard to pin down. No doubt technology will improve and expand them.

Interesting link but it starts by assuming that nuclear fusion reactors have been proved viable. Has this happened and I am unaware of it or is this just a speculative article?[/quote]

Pure speculation at this point. Although the Helium3 seems to be present on the moon…the rest is yet to be developed.

You have to wonder what the pace technology is now devloping…combined with a pressing need and a great opportunity how long it would actually take.

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
I do not believe we are near peak oil but with the increased world wide demand and other issues we certainly are going to pay a lot more for it.

I expect prices will continue to fluctuate but with an overall increase.

For many years prices were essentially stagnant or trailed inflation rates.

I think they will now be leading inflation rates.

This is going to drive our economy to develop more viable alternative fuels.

By the time we actually hit peak oil in the distant future we will be in decent shape but the next few years are going to be rough.

In fact if we develop alternative energy sources quickly enough our oil consumption will peak based on market forces before we hit “peak oil” based on what is in the ground.

[/quote]

I don’t believe we have reached peak oil either but the problem I see with this is that the remaining reserves are in areas of the world that could make this a practical reality even if it is not a theoretical one.

Bush’s dream of bringing democracy to the middle east seems to reflect our leaders concern for this as well.

Dependency on oil in America is a complicated problem. Our lack of preparation toward lessening our dependency seems unwise.

We know we will run out eventually. We know the vast majority of the supply is less accessible than historical supply due to much of it being owned by state run companies in nations that are opposed to the west in many ways for many reasons. We know that terrorist plan to target the energy infrastructure of the world. Yet we do very little to lessen our dependency.

This makes me feel that this topic is under appreciated. If the people were more concerned about oil dependency so would our leaders.

What are the drawbacks to lessening U.S. dependency on oil?