'Peak Oil' far, far away


Interesting article on ‘Peak Oil’ hysteria by Michael Lynch in NYT.

nytimes.com/2009/08/25/opini … ef=opinion


The old peak oil question rears its ugly head again! It’s becoming a bit like the global warming, cooling, changing or whatever debate.

While there are so-called chicken littles running around, the main concensus as far as I can gather is one where there isn’t a dispute that in-the-ground oil exists in sufficient quanitities to feed our current needs but that the demand for crude should hypothetically increase as the likes of China, India and other emerging economies strive to reach our Western standards of consumption. Also, as your excerpt pointed out, we have newer technologies which can extract oil but these technologies are costly and therefore increase the price per barrel of oil. There is also the question of the types of oil being recovered. Sweet crude is becoming a rarer commodity. Thus, the price per barrel is increasing as more refining of non-sweet crude takes place. In fact, the debate (and market pricing imo) currently revolves around the expectation of future sources of new demand and the costs of extraction.

The entire ‘peak oil’ debate is a misnomer anyway, and the NYT reporter probably knows this or he/she shouldn’t be reporting on such an important topic. The ‘peak-oil’ nomenclature derives from the fact that discoveries of new, previously unknown sources of oil (may) have peaked - not oil supplies themselves.


The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.


It’s just aswell, those stones were awful tough to burn and they were fuck all use at generating energy. Very inefficient.


Same Michael Lynch as here peakoil.com/peak-oil-discussion/ … el%20lynch
He posts/posted as Spike if I remember correctly, if it’s the same person I wouldn’t waste my time with his latest article.


Thank goodness we have the truly terrifying and immediate global financial crisis to distract us from the more decadent and long-term global warming panic.


I’m not sure if you’re being factitious or not jihle. But in all seriousness peak oil isn’t that scary. The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.


Another Green canard exposed. Besides propping up the party of property developers-what are the Greens for?


Would people please stop using that line…


The bronze age didn’t end…


I don’t have time to do a major critique about this maybe later but the basic problemas are:

A small number of very large wells in Saudi Arabia in particular supply a huge proportion of the worlds oil, these wells have very high EROEI (energy return on energy invested) and they will be almost impossible to replace when depleated. Data about these wells is scarse but many are belived to have reached their peak.

Total oil production globally peaked in 2006 in barrells per day. Whether this is due to economic or physical reasons is not certain. But the high oil price was a major cause of the economic crash.

Many of the most productive and easily accessible oil producing countries and regions Russia, North Sea etc. are in decline.

Since the 1980s we have burned oil at a higher rate then we have found it.


This is the problem with the “We’ll always develop new ways to extract oil” analysis. We’ll race past peak oil and not even know it until some years down the line.


But this is the point of the line that is annoying TUG (it involves stones - nuff said). The reason that we’ll move from oil (which is currently a fairly inexpensive source of energy) is because it’ll become less attractive as it becomes more expensive. As that happens we will start researching other methods of energy production. And as time goes on they will be come less expensive. At some point alternate energy sources (probably solar) will be coming down and will meet oil on the way up. When that happens we’ll start moving away from oil in large numbers.

Solar power is the current front runner. Currently its too expensive. But as it is researched it is dropping in price. When oil starts getting really expensive we’ll start researching it a lot more quickly. This research will be done because there will be money to be made from undercutting oil rather than anybody giving a rats ass about the environment.

Bjorn Lomburg explains in his book Cool It that apparently the entire energy needs of the planet could be met by setting up a big solar-power plant in the sahara. I forget if it was a few square miles, or a few dozen or even a hundred square miles would be required. A drop in the bucket of the Sahara at any rate. Obviously transporting all that energy would be problematic to say the least of it. But the point he was making is that if it is possible to power the entire planet from a single power-plant in an area where land-values are very low it should be possible to do the same with many smaller plants if and when it becomes economically viable/necessary to do so.


I agree there is a case to be made that the bubble in oil price and the bubble in food prices were a major cause of the economic crash.

Confused central bankers raised rates too agressively.

The bubble in oil price was fed in part by the cult of peak oil. The bubble in food prices was caused by
overambitious renewable energy targets (specifically biofuels, since dropped).

If you accept dkin’s thesis about high prices, you have to assign blame for the crash to armageddonist malthusian whackjobs.

Fascism grew from the 1930’s depression. Was eco-fascism a cause of ours :question:


The problem is that peak oil discussion typically happen in the context of what we should be doing about alternative energy sources. The argument goes that since we’ll always develop new ways of getting cheap oil then we don’t have to worry about those alternative energies. As I mention above true “peak oil” will actually be something occurs in our past, not present or future so we’ll be in the crisis before we realise it. We could be in it right now.

Solar has come along a lot but for little old Ireland we’re probably looking at some other form of energy.

I’ve seen calculations of varying degrees of optimism but yes the sahara could yield quite a lot of energy if an efficient energy storage and transportation system is found (e.g. hydrogen). Even if we could make lots of energy there then right now we have no way to get it elsewhere efficiently and safely.


Interesting. But while we are getting better and better at getting oil out of the ground it is tending to become more and more expensive out over time nonetheless. So the motivation to move to alternate power sources is there. Albeit possibly not strong enough to movie us quickly enough to avoid tormoil if oil became more scarce all of a sudden.

Maybe not. I got a tour of “The Green Building” in Dublin city centre a few years back. This was built sometime in the late 90s I think as an experiment. Money was no object - they threw every single available technology at it to see what stuck. And apparently one of the surprising things was how much energy they got out of the solar panels. They told us that they did not expect to get anything like the amount of energy out of the solar panels that they got.

But there are alternatives. The green building also has a very deep geothermal tap that supplies electicity. The building is a net exporter of eletricity.


ze germans are on the case



Peak oil isn’t really a green issue other than it draws attention to the green contention that sustainability is a key concept that needs to be adopted in economic models in order to avoid massive economic shocks i the future. If Peak oil is imminent it strengthens this argument, if it’s not for 1000 years it weakens it.

It’s used by greens often to support alternative energy sources but it has no bearing on the AGW debate.

The thing about tar sands is that they only become economic at OIL price levels that are far higher than we have today.
EROI (energy returned on energy invested) is a key concept in understanding peak oil.

To illustrate the concept even if there were 1000 years supply of oil available in some deep fold of the earth under the sea, if it cost more energy to extract it than it would generate upon extraction then it would be pointless to extract it.

The most convincing argument in favour of peak oil is the rate and size of discovery of new oil fields.


If you want a really excellent resource on the energy issues facing the world visit the Oil Drum - europe.theoildrum.com/
Peak oil should really be peak cheap oil, conventional sourced oil output peaked in 2005, we were able to tap into alternative sources (Canadian tar sands), but still had a huge run up in prices until 2008 when the credit crunch hit. It is not certain yet did the run up in oil prices trigger the credit crunch, or the oil spike trigger the credit crunch.


Peak Oil is a simplistic term, we will probably never run out of oil but it will get so expensive that burning it in engines will become ridiculous. It has much more useful applications.

No cheaper alternative energy source has been discovered yet. For all the talk about alternatives, nothing has come up to compete with cheap oil so we can imagine that the future will involve more expensive energy with all the implications - more localised & concentrated production and people. Farming will have go through a big upheaval as fertilizer will get expensive and alternatives will be developed.