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Peak OilPosted Tuesday, October 13, 2009, at 9:41 AM
It's A Gusher!
First off, the term peak oil refers to the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. There is a lot of debate about what will happen after the peak is achieved (everybody seems to agree oil is a finite resource), and how close we are to that point and the challenges it may present is hotly debated.
Here are a couple what I consider credible sources about when peak oil occurs Both seem to have spent a lot of time coming to their conclusion, and I think both want to get it right...
One side of the debate says that there are plenty of oil reserves for a variety of reasons, and of course the opposite side says we're past or very near peak oil today, and change will quickly be thrust upon us. So here are a few things to consider...
Peak oil theory has a history at least since 1956 when a geologist named M. King Hubbert with Shell Oil predicted overall petroleum production would peak in the United States between the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Turns out he was right. This same guy says, worldwide peak oil will be achieved about now.
Since everybody says there is a peak oil date, one has to wonder when that really will occur if it hasn't already, and how will it effect us? From all the reading I've done so far, we have hit the break over, or we're as much as 30 or 40 years away. Please don't confuse the term peak oil with oil depletion There will be oil in the future, but the amount available will start to decline and prices will go up without new energy sources.
We've already hit cheap peak oil. In the not so distant past, oil drillers talked of "gushers", and little was needed beyond a hole in the ground to extract oil. Today, pressure injection techniques and other high tech methods are being used for deep sea drilling and enhanced existing field production. In other words, the easy stuff is already gone.
Nobody knows for sure how much oil is going to be extracted. Worldwide oil reserve estimates have been increased time after time, largely because of new technology that allows enhanced existing field production and extraction from very remote or difficult areas. One oil company employee comment I read was that he thought the peak must be near, just because of the extremely difficult places exploration and extraction is taking place.
So is peak oil really a big problem?
Though there are limited resources and they are more expensive to extract and deliver, oil will be available for years to come. Alternatives to oil fueled engines such as ethanol and bio-petro fuel blends have been developed, and development of advanced fuels like hydrogen are occurring. Like a friend said today, no matter what comes up, there always is a way to make things work.
On the other hand, transportation including agriculture consumption is the largest user of oil by far in the US. Scarcity and higher prices can be offset some by conservation, but the squeeze will be put on consumers addicted to oil if current trends continue. International need for oil could lead to economic and shooting wars (some say they already have). The worldwide social and economic problems created could become very unpleasant indeed.
Depending on what you end up deciding, the near future could be anywhere from real ugly to just a bump on the economic highway. Peak oil and global climate change have been linked so understanding the background might be useful for understanding the debates about cap and trade and climate legislation.
Here are two differing opinions that I recommend you spend some time with if you are interested in peak oil and how it may effect us.
And finally, a US Army Corps of Engineers 2005 executive report gives the military viewpoint about energy reserves, sustainability, affordability, and security. It's a big report, but on page 5 and 6 is a pretty good general summary.
If you've checked out the listed sources above, you know most of what I do about peak oil. It's a complicated issue especially when you factor in emerging economies such as China and India with their burgeoning populations looking for oil reserves. This is one of those topics we can't afford to get wrong.
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