[saymaListserv] Peak Oil
nc_stereoman at charter.net
Thu Mar 3 10:45:28 JEST 2005
Daryl sent out his "Peak Oil" essay to a few people prior to posting it on
the listserv. I replied to his essay, offering a somewhat different
perspective on the issue, and he has asked me to post it here.
It may well be that a significant amount of petrol is
trapped in such inaccessible strata that it would
require more energy than can be extracted from a bbl
of refined petrol to extract a barrel of crude. So
defining "peak oil" as the point at which half of the
petrol is still in the ground is somewhat
counterintuitive if a goodly portion of that half is
not economically extractable.
A somewhat more practical definition IMHO is derived
from looking at the continuum of cost-of-extraction.
In the beginning, discovery of new resources vastly
outpaced increasing demand, and as extraction
technology improved, the energy cost per bbl of
extracted crude declined significantly. It became
extremely profitable to extract far more than the
market demanded, as the storage of reserves cost far
less than what the stored reserves were worth.
Coming up to present day, we see a steady decline in
discovery of new resources, with known resources
requiring increasing amounts of energy to extract,
and demand rising so fast that stockpiles of reserves
are being depleted because the value of the stored
reserves is less than the cost of increasing the rate
of extraction. This point in time is the alternative
definition of "peak oil": the point in time where the
cost of increasing the rate of extraction of known
resources became greater than the cost of depleting
Using this definition, we can look backward from the
present day and place the point of "Peak Oil" about
fourteen years in the past. Remarkably, this point
coincides almost exactly with the first invasion of
Estimates that I have read indicate that there
remains somewhat more than 600 Billion bbl of petrol
in the ground worldwide, perhaps as much as 1
Trillion bbl. These numbers sound very large indeed
until one factors in the actual rates of consumption,
currently about 30 Billion bbl per year and growing
at a current rate of 8% per year. At this rate, all
of the petrol will be depleted in far less than
twenty years, not merely half, but all. In fact, half
of the world's known petrol has just about been
depleted already, so even by your definition, "Peak
Oil" is upon us.
It is a curious anomaly of our current political
climate that citizens are being cajoled and scared
into allowing the government to borrow several
Trillion dollars to forestall a Social Security
"crisis" that is forty years in the future, while
nothing whatsoever is being done to address the Peak
Oil crisis which is hardly a decade in the future.
Something is wrong with those priorities.
nc_stereoman at charter.net
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