Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Peak Oil

I have been planning a post on this for some time now, but since it is somewhat related to the story below (I plan to connect this up in later posts) I might as well get it out there now.

At a basic level, "Peak Oil" theory is based on the fact that oil is a finite (unrenewable) resource. The theory states that the production of oil therefore can be plotted as a bell curve (the y axis being amount of production, and the x axis being time). At the top of this curve (the "peak") oil production is at its maximum, and as you move to the right of the peak (forward in time) oil production steadily declines.

The illustration (top right) is from a paper advanced by M.K. Hubbert in 1956. The dates given along the x axis are theoretical based on data available at that time, and have since been updated by others.

You can read further about this in the Wikipedia article. My favorite website on this is here, although they seem to have recently taken the unfortunate step of including a lot of propaganda for global warming (try to ignore this -- the two issues are not related).

Anyway. The implications of this theory are that at some point in the future (near or distant, depending on who you believe) the demand for oil (which is steadily increasing and will continue to to so) will begin to far outstrip production (which will begin to decrease). Because of the importance of oil to the global economy and to our everyday lives, this will cause all manner of negative consequences.

Does this relate to what is going on in Iraq? Stay tuned.


Kingfish said...

There is a great program on one of the Discovery channels I caught on 'Peak Oil theory.' I have also read some other articles about this. The most interesting ones relate to how the Chinese economy factors in.

China is making deals with anyone and everyone and they have the currency to make that happen. I shouldn't have explain the slope on that.

The program was interesting, while expelling doom and gloom for Americans addicted to oil, it also goes a step further and outlines some alternatives.

Brazil and Sweden are on plans to be completely Oil free in the next 15 years. Brazil uses almost all ethanol produced by its farmers in country.

The bottom line is, if the theory is proven correct, oil will not sustain the U.S. economy forever. I think we all know that. Hell, we knew it when we were standing in gas lines in the mid-70's.

I think what frustrates everyone is the lack of real initiative from our government to shrug off the big money oil lobby and get going in a better direction. I believe that eventually the market will dictate the course of action, but will it be to the prolonged detriment to the economy while that is being done?

I think it is ridiculous, in a country with our mental and research resources, that we know what to do but somehow cannot.

I don't want to step off into the environmental side of this but if people thought the U.S. could pollute, wait until everyone in China and India is expelling CO2 into the atmosphere.

It is going to be a fun trip as we get older.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately, biofuels are also dependent upon burning fossil fuels (primarily oil) to produce crops. and, it is estimated that for every calorie of food produced in the u.s., 10 calories of fossil fuels are burned.

Kingfish said...

I might buy that but I do not see your point. If your saying that biofuel isn't the answer because it takes oil to harvest, that is a dismissive argument.

There are some wind farmers out here in West Texas that might able to prove you wrong in the not so near future.