Thinking About Technocracy

Where to from here?


with 2 comments

This from December’s Scientific American:

Our world relies on oil for everything: fuel, plastic even food. And with prices now plummeting one might predict a return to the age of abundant, cheap fossil fuel.

Not according to the International Energy Agency, which now predicts “peak oil” as early as 2020. Peak oil is the point at which the world’s oil producers are drawing as much oil out of the ground as they will ever be able to. Paired with continued growth in demand from places like the U.S. and China, that’s a recipe for much higher oil prices.

A majority of oil executives surveyed by the consulting firm Deloitte agree. They predict an end to cheap oil within the next 25 years–and an even larger majority think it will cease to be the cheapest energy source.

But rather than searching for ways to stretch the oil we still have–like a modern Hanukkah–it makes more sense to accelerate development of clean alternatives such as electric cars or biofuels from algae–and avoid dirty ones like turning coal or tar sands to liquid fuels.

As a Saudi oil minister once said: “The Stone Age didn’t end for a lack of stones. And the Oil Age may not end for lack of oil.”

—David Biello


Written by ryanlanham

January 12, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Posted in Crises

2 Responses

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  1. The IEA is a voice for the oil industry and 2020 for Peak Oil is wishful corporate thinking. Peak Oil is now.

    The top story of the year is that global crude oil production peaked in 2008.

    The media, governments, world leaders, and public should focus on this issue.

    Global crude oil production had been rising briskly until 2004, then plateaued for four years. Because oil producers were extracting at maximum effort to profit from high oil prices, this plateau is a clear indication of Peak Oil.

    Then in August and September of 2008 while oil prices were still very high, global crude oil production fell nearly one million barrels per day, clear evidence of Peak Oil (See Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly,” December 2008, page 1)

    Peak Oil is now.

    Credit for accurate Peak Oil predictions (within a few years) goes to the following (projected year for peak given in parentheses):

    * Association for the Study of Peak Oil (2007)

    * Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly” (2008)

    * Tony Eriksen, Oil stock analyst; Samuel Foucher, oil analyst; and Stuart Staniford, Physicist [Wikipedia Oil Megaprojects] (2008)

    * Matthew Simmons, Energy investment banker, (2007)

    * T. Boone Pickens, Oil and gas investor (2007)

    * U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2005)

    * Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Princeton professor and retired shell geologist (2005)

    * Sam Sam Bakhtiari, Retired Iranian National Oil Company geologist (2005)

    * Chris Skrebowski, Editor of “Petroleum Review” (2010)

    * Sadad Al Husseini, former head of production and exploration, Saudi Aramco (2008)

    * Energy Watch Group in Germany (2006)

    * Fredrik Robelius, Oil analyst and author of “Giant Oil Fields” (2008 to 2018)

    Oil production will now begin to decline terminally.

    Within a year or two, it is likely that oil prices will skyrocket as supply falls below demand. OPEC cuts could exacerbate the gap between supply and demand and drive prices even higher.

    Independent studies indicate that global crude oil production will now decline from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time, demand will increase. Oil supplies will be even tighter for the U.S. As oil producing nations consume more and more oil domestically they will export less and less. Because demand is high in China, India, the Middle East, and other oil producing nations, once global oil production begins to decline, demand will always be higher than supply. And since the U.S. represents one fourth of global oil demand, whatever oil we conserve will be consumed elsewhere. Thus, conservation in the U.S. will not slow oil depletion rates significantly.

    Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. There is no plan nor capital for a so-called electric economy. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment. The independent scientists of the Energy Watch Group conclude in a 2007 report titled: “Peak Oil Could Trigger Meltdown of Society:”

    “By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame.”

    With increasing costs for gasoline and diesel, along with declining taxes and declining gasoline tax revenues, states and local governments will eventually have to cut staff and curtail highway maintenance. Eventually, gasoline stations will close, and state and local highway workers won’t be able to get to work. We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel and gasoline powered trucks for bridge maintenance, culvert cleaning to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, and roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, large transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables from great distances. With the highways out, there will be no food coming from far away, and without the power grid virtually nothing modern works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated building systems.

    Documented here:

    Clifford J. Wirth, Ph.D.

    January 12, 2009 at 11:50 pm

  2. It seems to me one approach to calculating oil has never been taken. Oil must represent per unit a certain amount of living matter. Couldn’t we compile the feasible biomass based on historical estimates of time and climate? In other words, couldn’t we figure what the feasible inputs might have been and then figure out the possible outputs?

    Ryan Lanham

    January 12, 2009 at 11:56 pm

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