Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is Peak Oil So Stupid It's Not Even Wrong?

[An] argument — that the “easy oil” is gone and that extraction can only become more difficult and cost-ineffective — should be recognized as vague and irrelevant. Drillers in Persia a century ago certainly didn’t consider their work easy, and the mechanized, computerized industry of today is a far sight from 19th-century mule-drawn rigs. Hundreds of fields that produce “easy oil” today were once thought technologically unreachable. _NYT
As the author of the above NYT OpEd points out, peak oil doomists have too much at stake to look at both sides of the production and reserves equation. For peak oil fanatics, every jump in the price of oil is further proof that "the peak has passed!". "Over half the oil has already been pumped, all the easy oil is gone, and prices can only go up!", they keep saying time and again -- only to be proved wrong time and again.

Once an idea has infiltrated deeply enough into a human's thoughtways, it cannot be easily exfiltrated. But if the brain is alive and open to the outside world and its reality, it can happen. Just like oil wells that were once considered exhausted are now frequently found to produce as much or more using improved technologies as they produced originally. This will continue to be the case for most of this century.
Easy oil is probably running out because it was the first to be discovered and burned. But it wasn’t so “easy” when it was discovered. By the same token, the difficult oil of today will be tomorrow’s easy oil, thanks to the learning curve of technology expertise. Overall, “difficult oil” exploitation will be the survival and even prosperity key for many Western oil companies in a world that will be increasingly dominated by national oil companies.

It will take time, but I dare to make a prediction. By 2030 more than 50 percent of the known oil will be recoverable. Also, by that time the amount of known oil will have grown significantly, and a larger portion of unconventional oils will be commonly produced, bringing the total amount of recoverable reserves to something between 4,500 billion to 5,000 billion barrels of oil. What’s more, a significant part of “new reserves” will not come from new discoveries, but from a new ability to better exploit what we already have.

To be sure, by 2030 we will have consumed another 650 billion to 700 billion barrels of our reserves, for a total of around 1,600 billion barrels used up from the 4,500 billion to 5,000 billion figure. Yet, if my estimates are correct, we will have oil for the rest of the 21st Century._ScientificAmerican
Of course the oil markets themselves will remain volatile for as long as oil remains so irreplaceable. The oil markets will move up -- sometimes dramtically -- and they will move down. All of that will be based more upon socio-politico-economic events than upon the accessible supplies of oil in the ground.

The peak oil craze has much in common with the carbon climate catastrophe craze, and the population penetrance of the two fanaticisms tends to overlap significantly. But neither is based upon sound science, and both are largely driven by political and economic undercurrents -- out of sight of most unwitting adherents.

A relatively smooth transition into the post-oil era will require the use of a wide range of fossil fuel reserves -- including offshore oil, shale oil, oil sands, coal, gas, etc. The energy starvation approach of the Obama / Pelosi reich is not benefiting anyone except the prophets, politicians, and profit-takers of doom. The Obama / Pelosi policies are creating and worsening the scarcities the doomseekers have predicted. Political peak oil, political energy choke off.

And while Obama is using scarce US resources to prop up oil companies in Latin America, agents of his own reich are preventing US oil companies from engaging in the same type of offshore drilling that the latin companies are receiving Obama dollars to build up.

At this point, Obama's energy and economic policies are as disjointed as a cubist portrait, and as dysfunctional as an Arab or African government. One might even call the man a clown, if one were feeling particularly prejudicial toward clowns at the time.

Previously published at Al Fin



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