Skip to comments.What if we don't run out of oil?
Posted on 11/15/2005 7:05:19 AM PST by Dan Evans
The debate over "Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil" has begun to take familiar lines. "Peak oil" adherents continue to insist that oil resources worldwide are depleting. This mantra is repeated almost like an article of faith.
Ever since M. King Hubbert drew his first "peak-production" curve, statements of this tenet are easy to find. Typically, the "Peak-Production" theory is articulated as so well established that further proof is not needed. "Peak production" statements abound in publication. Consider this example written by an energy consultant in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:
Petroleum reserves are limited. Petroleum is not a renewable resource and production cannot continue to increase indefinitely. A day of reckoning will come sometime in the future. The point at which production can no longer keep up with increasing demand will mean a radical and painful readjustment globally to everyday life.
To counter this argument, Craig Smith and I have argued that proven worldwide reserves of oil are currently estimated by the Energy Information Administration at 1.28 trillion barrels, the largest amount every recorded in human history, despite worldwide consumption of oil doubling since the 1970s. Oil prices are currently declining suggesting ample worldwide supplies are available oil prices are not increasing as would be expected if chronic oil shortages were imminent.
In response to an article we published here about Brazil's offshore oil discoveries, one bulletin-board poster commented: "Corsi is pushing his abiotic oil agenda. He keeps repeating the canard that oil comes from dinosaurs. NOBODY BELIEVES THAT!" This prompted a response with a correction and an objection: "I suppose you meant to say 'the canard that oil does NOT come from dinosaurs and ancient flora debris'? That's the reason why we call oil a fossil fuel." Even better yet was this: "Who says that oil came from 'dinosaurs and ancient forests'? What a moron."
Interestingly, many critics seem ready to give up the "Fossil-Fuel" theory of oil's origin, as long as they can continue to advance the "Peak-Production" theory. Regardless where the oil comes from, this particular type of critic argues, we are still running out. This line of analysis misses a key point of the abiotic, deep-Earth theory of oil's origin. If oil is naturally produced within the Earth's mantle, oil may well be a renewable resource.
Then, there were some abusive ad hominem attacks, as expected in this heavily charged political environment in which differences have become polarized. Some posters argue that as a "discredited" co-author of "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry," nothing I write is credible, regardless of how well documented or argued. Here are a couple of examples. "This guy was also co-author of a smear book against John Kerry by the Swift Boat liars ... highly credible!" Or, again: "This man is an architect of the Kerry swift boat smear, so I am unconvinced of his ability or desire to maintain a dispassionate and analytic stance with respect to this topic." Evidently, there are still many who do not accept that John Kerry lost the presidential election of 2004, as there remain many who refuse to accept that Al Gore lost in 2000.
In the final analysis, many on the political Left appear to have gravitated to embrace "Peak-Oil" theories because the argument that we are running out of oil fits in with their overall pattern of leftist political beliefs. Spend any time on the peak-oil bulletin boards and you will find many comments from posters who appear happy at the prospect we may be running out of oil.
Underlying their enthusiasm for "peak oil" is an anti-oil, anti-business attitude that feels our advanced capitalist society is "bad" or "wrong," wasteful of the Earth's valuable natural resources in the pursuit of a materialistic, lazy lifestyle. Posters of this disposition simply want to dismiss any other theory without serious consideration. Here's how one poster summed up that attitude, "Ugh, more abiotic oil crap ..." The ellipsis typically was not followed up by rational argument. Evidently, the poster felt the "Peak-Oil" thesis was just too obvious or well-established to be in need of defense.
I am not that old, but I distincly remember buying Twinkies as a kid for 9 cents. The fruit pies were 13 cents. Not sure what you buy them for today, but I'd be willing to bet they exceed the inflation rate.
The critics of Peak Oil usually do not mention that the world peak has not yet arrived and there would be no effects of Peak Oil at this time. Sometime in the coming decade we will roll over the peak and then there will be effects. Some adherents of Peak Oil also do not mention that the peak is not yet here and seem to think that the effects are already being felt. Neither group seems to get the point.
Compared to the 99 cents a gallon in 1999, prices have gone up big time in constant value. The price index has not doubled since then, yet the price of gasoline has more than doubled.
The thing to keep in mind, though, is that the price of oil was unusually low in 1999. Oil companies were losing money. Anytime you have an industry losing money, you know that the price is ultimately going to go up. Companies in that industry are going to shut down capacity because it's not profitable, and as they do, the price will rise.
No, perhaps not rapidly refilling, but perhaps refilling nonetheless. As I said, it's a theory. It has been neither conclusively substantiated, nor conclusively disproved. Regardless, there are enough feasible energy alternatives. They WILL become cost effective either way. We ain't gonna be without electricity in 50, 100, or 200 years from now.
I've heard Corsi on Coast To Coast AM before, but I'd never associated him with the Swift Vets before. His explanations of this stuff sounds reasonable, and the evidence is there, as you said... Tapped out fields being 'recharged' somehow. Corsi doesn't argue that we shouldn't look at alternatives to oil for our energy needs, as there are obvious problems with burning too much oil, pollution concerns being the most obvious. Rather, he argues that we shouldn't be panicking because of fear-mongering related to "peak oil" theories.
If oil is, in fact a renewable abiotic resource, then much of the fear-mondering related to "peak oil" is nothing but yet another scam that is hurting our economy. Of course, since we don't fully understand the processes or time scales involved in abiotic oil generation, we will have to be careful not to extract more than the earth can produce and renew. We'll find a happy medium somewhere, between oil and alternative energy production that will allow things to continue longer than many people think. Cheap energy is a good thing IMO.
Yes, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. Just because we discovered vast amounts of oil before doesn't mean we'll find vast amounts of oil now.
Keep in mind how we found that oil. After the oil shock of the 70's, US oil companies went world wide in their search for oil that was not controlled by OPEC. They found it. However, now that that oil is already in the pipeline, where are they going to go next?
The only place that has not yet been explored is Antartica. From what I've read, it would take about $80 a barrel to justify that, if you could accomplish it at all from a political standpoint.
This is incorrect. The demand for Energy is skyrocketing world wide. It just happens that currently crude oil is the cheapest, most efficient form available.
Me too. But the mass of people prefer to keep their eyes closed.
I think that's true, and especially on this website. They don't want to confront problems. They just want to do things exactly as they have in the past, and they assume that mother nature will accomodate.
The demand for oil is skyrocketing. It's gone up by about 300% in the last 10 years. It could do the same in the next 10 years.
I've seen estimates for the tar sands region of northern Alberta suggesting that the oil from that source could sustain current consumption levels in all of North America for more than 500 years. It may not be feasible to get most of it now, but in an age when technology improves in leaps and bounds over short periods of time, I'd say there's a good chance we'll eventually use almost all of it.
Hempseed works and the rest of the plant is productive and profitable.
Excuse me, but if you actually READ what I told you, you'll see I make no reference to "Mother Nature". Technology can, and WILL, if left to capitalism, provide alternatives, IF NEEDED.
Will there be problems? Maybe - but it's not the apocolyse.
Oil = Energy. But Energy does not equal Oil.
You might think that. On the other hand, look at the vast investment that the US auto companies made. Now, they are on the verge of bankruptcy.
I have no doubt that the oil companies will make a profit on their investment. That doesn't mean the price of oil wil not go up, though. In fact, it might be a sign that they expect the price WILL go up.
You can't permanently drive up the price of something by talking about a shortage. The only way to drive up prices is to restrict the supply. From an oil company's perspective it is insane to sit on inventory when the price is high.
These charts don't appear to indicate we're close to running out of oil.