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October 26, 2006

Comments

Chris

In Australia we are VERY interested in news on both Global Warming as well as Peak Oil and their links to Jihadism because all are inextrciably entwined.

Our take on the situation is that:

Al Gore's film, 'An Inconvenient Truth' , makes one realise that the scientists and oil industry specialists, who have done the research, have now reached consensus that both are real and we're causing it.

As an article in the London Times put it: We are now faced with Pascal’s Wager. If we take some precautions and the scientists have got it wrong, the price of doing something is not that high and can be beneficial anyway. However if we do nothing and they're right, it could be the end of life as we know it.

The key seems to lie in how we generate and use energy from now on. That needs some serious planning attention for four main reasons:

1. 'Global Warming' is now accepted as fact by a consensus of global scientists - even though some political 'leaders' remain in denial for the time being. Eventually there is likely to be stronger legislation requiring the elimination of CO2 emissions wherever possible, and drastic reductions where not. Transport currently accounts for 30% of such emissions and is therefore a prime target. Coal fired electricity generation currently accounts for another 30%. Making it less polluting will be costly, take time and be likely to increase the consumer price of electricity.

2. 'Peak Oil' as a concept is accepted by the oil industry. There’s also the likelihood that few, if any more 'huge' oil wells will be found. There is still an argument about when the global oil production peak will be reached: most likely it’s between 2010 and 2040 (the news today makes it more urgent). In the meantime, partly due to the high economic growth rate of China and India, it’s likely the demand will continue to increase while at the same time production is falling. But the cost of production after an oil well has peaked is up to five times the cost of pre-peak production. So it’s a good bet that oil prices will continue to rise over time - despite the fact that Saudi Arabia will try to keep oil prices low (as they did after the oil shock of 1979) in order to kill off investment in alternative energies. But this time the Peak Oil, Global Warming and National Security concerns now make the adoption of alternative energies a moral issue as well as a survival imperative.

3. Although not so interesting to your US readers, Australia will record a $20 billion trade deficit for crude oil within a decade as local production continues to fall. So says the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), who told a federal parliamentary inquiry that falling levels of oil production in Australia show no sign of reversing.

4. The bulk of remaining oil reserves are located in the Middle East, currently in political turmoil. Some claim that we are already experiencing our first 'oil war' in Iraq. Iran is now openly threatening to use the oil weapon should the UN impose sanctions over its nuclear ambitions, while at the same time calling for the elimination of Israel. That confidence is based on the knowledge that they have us over a barrel - so to speak.

People are starting to realise that the West is currently funding both sides in the war against terrorism and would like their transport needs to be free from dependence on mid-east oil. In any case, if oil production is on the decline, we need to stop burning it because its derivatives are needed to manufacture so many other essential products from fertilizers to medicines.

Decision time - The scientists are saying we have 10 years to start making some sensible changes.
We need to think through the consequences of all this and - at both a personal and a community level - make decisions about what changes we need to make to our use of energy. (As soon as the technology becomes economically viable, in our household, the aim is to become clean energy independent, for both home/business use and transport. We expect such micro solar electricity generators to be available within two years and Electric Vehicles with acceptable range and performance within the next five years.)

Chad K

Just a personal note. I love this blog, it has tons of valuable information... but posting peak oil stuff will likely make you seem kooky. Whether or not it's real today, the people pitching it have been doing so for 30 years [and have been wrong for 30 years]. The evidence hasn't changed, technology has. Peak oil always comes on the assumption that technology won't improve.

Jeff Becker

I really like the fact that this blog is focused on energy solutions. A number of other blogs cover peak oil news (https://www.energybulletin.net/) and peak oil estimates (https://www.theoildrum.com/).

My suggestion would be that if you run across a good article and it isn't covered right away in energybulletin, pass it along to them. They generally appreciate a good tip.

I don't think this is the place to discuss the merits of peak oil estimates. TheOilDrum has that pretty well covered.

Bde2200

The peak oil priesthood is like a watch that doesn't work. If you wait long enough, it will eventually show the correct time. The watch is of no value, however.

Christopher Marlowe

Are you sure you aren't reposting peak oil headlines from 1996, or 2003? All those peak oil headlines look alike, somehow. Like a parrot repeating its few memorized lines, over and over.

Michael Cain

"No gasoline" by 2010 would require an exprecedented collapse of production in North America. The US still produces eight million barrels/day. Canada and Mexico combine for another seven million (although they don't export that much, of course). In that time frame, much more interesting to ask "What price would balance supply/demand at half of current consumption?"

Harvey D.

Interesting thoughts Chris. It all rolls in together. Unfortunately, peak oil may not come as quickly as some scientists think for various reasons:

1. Canadian tar sands and American shales contain up to 2500 billion barrels each. That could mean enough oil for USA and Canada for some 550 years.

2) Transportation could easily become 50% more efficient. Electric energy consumption could similarly be reduced by various conservation programs by up to 50%.

3) Half (or more) of the fosil fuel currently being used could progressively be replaced by alternative clean energies by 2030.

However, is is obvious that the current energy flow is creating an increasingly unsustainable situation because:

Energy = Fossil fuel = pollution = Global warming.

We have to change the equation before is it too late and have reached the point of no return. The solution may be in conservation + changing the way we produce and use energy:

1 Reducing total energy consumption through multiple improved efficiencies and innovations could postpone (and may even avoid) the unavoidable.

2 Progessively but agressively switching away from fossil fuel to alternative - cleaner energy sources may be a better more secure solution.

3 Leave the Tar sands and Shales alone. Too messy throughout each process. There are better ways to get energy for transportation, homes and industries.

Demesure

Harvey wrote: "Unfortunately, peak oil may not come as quickly as some scientists think for various reasons..."

It's like saying "unfortunately, we are too prosperous". What a strange post-modern type of thinking.
BTW, I agree that posting peak-oil headlines does not serve well your excellent blog.

Big Gav

Well - I love the Energy Blog because of the coverage of a lot of energy related technologies that don't get much coverage elsewhere - but I fail to see why Jim shouldn't post a few peak oil headlines from time to time.

If peak oil is 30 years away like some people believe then one reason for the "energy revolution" disappears and we'd put more of our eggs in the natural gas basket to try and mitigate global warming. Peak oil is the reason why that isn't a wise course of action...

RoySV

Please keep the occasional mention of Peak Oil on the is Blog. Sometimes there really is a wolf. However, I think Global (H/W)arming is a level above even peak oil.

Thanks for this excellent resource!

Harvey D.

Demesure:

One does not have to waste energy, over use fossil fuel and drive oversized gas guzzling Hummers to be prosperous.

Using cleaner energies more efficiently does not necessarily translate into a reduction of prosperity. One may look as prosperous with 2 or 3 PHEVs parked outside than current gas guzzling SUVs.

Even GM management now believes that common sense, lighter, more efficient, cleaner, plug-in hybrids vehicles are what the majority will want in the near future. GM says that they will try to catch up with Toyota and Honda, starting in late 2007 or early 2008 with new PHEVs. Even a PHEV Hummer III is on the planning board.

The PHEV technology is adatable to all size of vihicles. With more efficient, longer lasting quicker charge batteries + lighter more efficient alternative fuels on-board generator it could reduce fossil fuel consumption considerably.

Engineer-Poet

Michael Cain:  The US produces a bit over 5 million bbl/day, not 8.

will w

I love your blog, and I'm very interested in peak oil stuff - it's really the foundation for a lot of alternative energy technologies - and the rate at which it occurs (ie how quickly oil becomes scarce) determines the extent to which many emerging technologies take off.

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