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I don't mean to depress anybody here, but I thought this New York Times book review article should be publicized somehow, some way. And I NEVER read the Times, because I believe 99% of that paper is very very slanted and out of touch with America.

Having said that, I think this is important.

I got this from friend at work, not directly from the Times. It was apparently published in February of this year, but I can't find it in the Times' web archives...so please take it for what it's worth:


Theyre Not Making More Sunday 8 February 2004
The New York Times Book Review
Running out of oil, a physics professor says, will not be fun.


OUT OF GAS
The End of the Age of Oil. By David Goodstein.
Illustrated. 140 pp. New York:
W. W. Norton & Company. $21.95.

By Paul Raeburn

If all you knew about David Goodstein was the title of his book, you might imagine him to be one of those insufferably enthusiastic prophets of doom, the flannel-shirted, off-the-grid types who take too much pleasure in letting us know that the environment is crumbling all around us. But Goodstein, a physicist, vice provost of the California Institute of Technology and an advocate of nuclear power, is no muddled idealist. And his argument is based on the immutable laws of physics.

The age of oil is ending, he says. The supply will soon begin to decline, precipitating a global crisis. Even if we substitute coal and natural gas for some of the oil, we will start to run out of fossil fuels by the end of the century. And by the time we have burned up all that fuel, he writes, we may well have rendered the planet unfit for human life. Even if human life does go on, civilization as we know it will not survive.

Hes talking about 100 years from now, far enough in the future, you might say, that we neednt worry for generations. Surely some technological fix will be in place by then, some new source of energy, some breakthrough. But with a little luck, many readers of these pages will live until 2030 or 2040, or longer. Their children may live until 2070 or 2080, and their grandchildren will easily survive into the 22nd century. Were talking about a time in the lives of our grandchildren, not some warp drive, Star Trek future.

And what about that technological fix? There is no single magic bullet that will solve all our energy problems, Goodstein writes. Most likely, progress will lie in incremental advances on many simultaneous fronts. We might finally learn to harness nuclear fusion, the energy that powers the sun, or to develop better nuclear reactors, or to improve the efficiency of the power grid. But those advances will require a massive, focused commitment to scientific and technological research. That is a commitment we have not yet made. Drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, and scouring the energy resources of national lands across the West might help the constituents of Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska and Vice President Dick Cheneys friends in the energy industry, but it wont solve the problem.

Goodsteins predictions are based on a sophisticated understanding of physics and thermodynamics, and on a simple observation about natural resources. The supply of any natural resource follows a bell curve, increasing rapidly at first, then more slowly, eventually peaking and beginning to decline. Oil will, too.

It has already happened in the United States. In 1956, Marion King Hubbert, a geophysicist with the Shell Oil Company, predicted that oil production in the United States would peak sometime around 1970. His superiors at Shell dismissed the prediction, as did most others in the oil business. But he was right. Hubberts peak occurred within a few years of when he said it would, and American oil production has been declining ever since. There was no crisis, because this country tapped the worlds reserves, and the supply increased along with demand.

Now Goodstein and many others have shown that the same methods, when applied to global oil production and resources, predict a Hubberts peak in world oil supplies within this decade, or, in the best-case scenarios, sometime in the next. Once that happens, the world supply of oil will begin to decline gradually, even though large quantities of oil will remain in the ground. The world demand for oil will continue to increase. The gap between supply and demand will grow. But this time the gap will be real; there will be no other source of oil (from the moon, Neptune or Pluto?) to flow into the system.

When the supply falls and the demand rises, the price will go up. Thats no problem, economists say. With the high price, companies will go after more costly oil, and the market will take care of things.

Maybe not, Goodstein replies. In an orderly, rational world, it might be possible for the gradually increasing gap between supply and demand for oil to be filled by some substitute. But anyone who remembers the oil crisis of 1973 knows that we dont live in such a world, especially when it comes to an irreversible shortage of oil.

In the best-case scenario, he writes, we can squeak through a bumpy transition to a natural gas economy while nuclear power plants are built to get us past the oil crisis. In the worst case, runaway inflation and worldwide depression leave many billions of people with no alternative but to burn coal in vast quantities for warmth, cooking and primitive industry.

President Bush has pointed to hydrogen as the ultimate answer to our need for transportation fuels, but Goodstein correctly points out that hydrogen is not a source of energy. It is a fuel produced by using energy. We can use coal to produce it, or solar power, or something else, but it is only a way of converting energy into a form that can be used in vehicles; it doesnt do anything to ease the transition away from oil.

Out of Gas a book that is more powerful for being brieftakes a detour to explain some of the basics of energy budgets, thermodynamics and entropy, and it does so with the clarity and gentle touch of a master teacher.

Then Goodstein gets back on message. Even nuclear power is only a short-term solution. Uranium, too, has a Hubberts peak, and the current known reserves can supply the earths energy needs for only 25 years at best. There are other nuclear fuels, and solar and wind power might help at the fringes. But the best, most conservative bet for ameliorating the coming fuel crisis is the gradual improvement of existing technologies, he writes. We can improve the efficiency of lights, tap solar power with cheap photoelectric cells and turn to nuclear power. The problem is that we have not made a national or global commitment to do so. Unfortunately, our present national and international leadership is reluctant even to acknowledge that there is a problem. The crisis will occur, and it will be painful. I hope Goodstein is wrong. I wish we could dismiss him as an addled environmentalist, too much in love with his windmill to know which way the wind is blowing. On the strength of the evidence, and his argument, however, we cant. If hes right, Im sorry for my kids. And Im especially sorry for theirs.


Paul Raeburns next book, Acquainted With the Night, a memoir of his childrens experiences with depression and bipolar disorder, will be published in May.
 

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Read this month National Geographic Magazine article "End of Cheap oil."

In it it states that the most politcally volitile countries (mid-east) control this world's most valued resource, oil.

Then read ex CIA Bear's book "Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Out to the Saudis." It's a real wake-up on how the house of Saud controls oil & politics in the US.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
jimvt said:
...It's a real wake-up on how the house of Saud controls oil & politics in the US.
With all due respect, Jim...that's missing the point! The take-home message here is that we're running out of oil. Pick your bogeyman...it doesn't matter if it's Bush, Cheney, Clinton, Gore, Faud, Saud, Haliburton, Santa Claus, or the Grinch! It doesn't matter who controls what oil, or who's in charge of what politics, eventually, the oil will be gone.

I repeat my assertion: Eventually, all crude oil will be gone or unattainable to us. Steering the discussion to the house of Saud is really missing the point, and takes attention away from the REAL problem.
 

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BIF said:
...I NEVER read the Times, because I believe 99% of that paper is very very slanted...
I agree. The Times is too conservative.

From the book review's conclusion:
"Unfortunately, our present national and international leadership is reluctant even to acknowledge that there is a problem."
Providing insight to that, jimvt added:
Read this month National Geographic Magazine article "End of Cheap oil."

In it it states that the most politcally volitile countries (mid-east) control this world's most valued resource, oil.

Then read ex CIA Bear's book "Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Out to the Saudis." It's a real wake-up on how the house of Saud controls oil & politics in the US.
Which prompted BIF to reply:
With all due respect, Jim...that's missing the point! The take-home message here is that we're running out of oil. Pick your bogeyman...it doesn't matter if it's Bush, Cheney, Clinton, Gore, Faud, Saud, Haliburton, Santa Claus, or the Grinch! It doesn't matter who controls what oil, or who's in charge of what politics, eventually, the oil will be gone.
I repeat my assertion: Eventually, all crude oil will be gone or unattainable to us. Steering the discussion to the house of Saud is really missing the point, and takes attention away from the REAL problem.
I disagree. IMO, providing context is not missing the point and revealing the motivations behind the decision-making that has brought us to this peak oil precipice does not dilute the take-home message. On the contrary, I believe gaining insight into the poiltics of oil helps clarify the situation and allows one a deeper understanding of the forces that have shaped our world in the past, and continue to do so today.
BIF, you know as well as anyone what is at stake here. You espouse the importance of this looming crisis and then attempt to de-politicize the discussion and, as a result, de-fang those who would be your allies; that's a self-defeating policy. To argue that "it doesn't matter who controls what oil, or who's in charge of what politics" is incomprehensible. Of course it matters. It matters to every tribe member on Niger's Ogoniland delta. It matters to every dirt-poor family shipping a child off to study in a Pakistani madrassa. It matters to every orphaned street kid in Caracas. It matters to every person left grieving after 9/11. It matters to every desperate suicide bomber on the West Bank. It matters to you. It matters to me. It matters to every sentient being on the planet.

Moo
 

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Point noted. The world is running out of oil. But you are missing one of the key advantages of owning a Prius. A significant amount of braking is done by using the electrical system. Downhill the motor becomes a generator, and thus helps slow the car when you engage the "B" on the shift lever. This is key because as we all know, the world will run out of brake fluid in 2027.

So Happy Jill
 

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Yeah, real interesting thread. Looks like the entire planet needs to find an alternative fuel source.

Guess I should start working on it... :D
 

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Discussion Starter #8
zeorai said:
Yeah, real interesting thread. Looks like the entire planet needs to find an alternative fuel source.

Guess I should start working on it... :D
Yes, indeed. People don't realize the true impact of this. We burn fuel. The same physical/chemical properties that make fuel so beneficial to burn also make it so beneficial to LIFE. In fact, it can be said that oil is LIFE SUSTAINING. As mentioned before, we use it to heat our homes, make plastics to protect and extend the shelf life of things like food and medicine, to till, seed, and sow the land, to transport food to the market and eventually to the people who would starve without it, and so on.

I won't bore you with yet another litany (although it seems I just began one). Suffice it to say, without oil in abundant, inexpensive quantities, we would have:

Less food available to a greater population.
Less medicine available to a greater population.
Less or no plastics products.
Less or no driving; certainly it would be reserved for food production or the very wealthy.
No flying; certainly not for the average person. Maybe only the military or the wealthy would be allowed to fly, but one day, nobody would be able to.

When I tell people "no flying," and when I ask them to show me a widely available, cheap alternative to Jet-A, that's when I can tell if they're really paying attention. Because if they are, their eyes open up wider, and their mouths drop open, sometimes a lot, sometimes only a little... But it is at that point that I know they're truly paying attention.

And the natural tendency to try to blame a particular president, or political party, or company (go ahead, fill in the blank if it makes you feel better), won't do anything except maybe make them feel all warm and fuzzy about the future. But it's just another form of denial, because this thing is so big and so scary, people would rather not think about it.

And all the obfuscation and denial just may serve to only hasten the eventual, because while we're all busy pointing fingers, nothing is being done to address the real problem. The real problem is that there's a physical limit to what's in the ground, and we're using it faster than it's being made.

Remember, we will be dealing with it. If not us, then our children will be dealing with it. If not them, then our grandchildren will be dealing with it. My point is, somebody's going to have to deal with it, sooner or later.

If you have not done your own search on the words "peak oil" yet, I suggest that you do so, so that you too can begin thinking about this problem. And so that you can begin thinking about whether or not you should teach your children or grandchildren to prepare for the possibility of this happening during their lifetimes, however great or small you believe that possibility may be.

We may not be able to solve the problem. But something's gotta give, sooner or later.

At the risk of sounding like a melodramatic scare-mongerer here, I'm convinced of this:

How humanity deals with this problem will tell more about what kind of people we are than any threat we have faced to this point in our entire history.

As always, thank you for your consideration of this. I don't find this topic fun at all, and I'm flattered if you have read this far. Fun or not fun, this thing is very heartbreaking and bothersome, because humanity is so very near and dear to my heart.
 

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Thier is a energy bill that is sitting in congress right now. One party is blocking the passing of the new energy bill, the other is trying to pass it. It has things in it like wind energy, and drilling for oil in the alaskan wilderness The thing is the bill has things in it that some like while others that are not liked by others. Some are just holding up the energy bill strickly for political reasons.
 

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jimvt said:
In it it states that the most politcally volitile countries (mid-east) control this world's most valued resource, oil.


I would beg to differ. The worlds most valuable resourse is Fresh Water. In the coming years, with global warming etc, there will be more and more fresh warter shortages.

Take the UK as an example. An island but every sommer there is a water shortage. No doubt some areas of the USA also ahve this problem. Look at 3rd world areas.

Oil is important for the economy, but we can live with out it, we did for many thousands of years until queit recently, but no fresh water and we all die.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Excellent points.

However, with oil, and the mechanical muscle that its combustion provides, we can make plenty of fresh water by filtration. I believe Tampa, Florida has a desalination plant that actually forces salt water through these extremely fine filters, going against my high school science...but it works by physically forcing the salt out of solution, actually making the water potable.

And water purification and wastewater treatment plants all rely on electricity and parts manufactured by the use of oil. We use oil to make filters, pumps, huge concrete or steel basins and tanks, and so on.

Without the ability to manufacture these filters, make the pipes, pump the water, etcetera, then we would not be able to desalinate or purify great quantities of water in this way. We would probably have to rely on slower methods.

And I submit to you that the freshwater problem is really an oil problem.

Of course, that just sounds silly right at this moment in time. But it will be a major problem when the oil is eventually gone one day. Go ahead, take a guess...200 years? 100 years? 50 years? 30 years? Within our lifetimes, maybe?

When we can no longer make the steel or plastic parts (pipes, pumps, electronics) necessary for massive desalination projects. Or water purification projects. Or wastewater treatment projects, for that matter.

Of course, we'll always be able to do these things, hopefully with the assistance of biodiesel or other technologies, but I suspect it will be done only on much smaller scales. Supporting ever larger populations will be extremely difficult, if at all possible.
 

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I am sympathetic to the dicussion here, and my primary motivation for the prius is the new concept and the eco-impact (or lack thereof). Heck A major factor is I look at lowering energy consumption as a national security thing.

However, I feel obligated to point out that we are making more oil. There is a company Changing World Technologies uses a process called Thermal depolymerization to break any organic matter into constitutent minerals, water, and what is basically crude oil. Currently implemented as a pilot study taking waste from chicken processing and making oil.

Think of it kinda like bio-diesel, except there's a plant or two between the fryer and the gas tank. Interesting thing is that this potentially (emphasis on potentially here) in the future pushes gasoline toward a renewable resource, with no net increase in CO2, similar to running on ethanol or bio diesel.

Tau Zero
 

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The end of oil?

Well, the end of the cheap black stuff at any rate! The BP world survey (considered by some to be the most accurate measure of proven reserves) puts it at about 40 years of reserves at today's rates of consumption. However, that's with only Europe and America using substantial amounts to support their 'Western' lifestyle. The minute the populations of India and China, at almost a billion apiece, stop taking their bikes to work, and start to take their share of the oil (and they will in the very near future), then we will begin to see a BIG increase in the price of oil as supply will struggle to meet unprecedented demand.

But of course, as soon as the price rises, it becomes economically viable to go after the harder stuff. First, it would be using new technologies on the existing oil fields. Then, everyone's eyeing up the oil-sands and tar-shales of Canada, where trillions of barrels lie. Once that runs out, it's on to the next most expensive stuff, which may be cracking coal, and then tapping the methane hydrates trapped in the ocean depths. Indeed, going at it this way, (constantly going at the next available source, no matter how hard it is to get at so long as the market price supports it), senior analysts at Ford think there's enough fossil fuel for 600 years at today's rates! But under that scenario, the earth and practically every environment on it would be raped beyond description.

Having said all that though, there is a more promising economic principle to bear in mind. The minute black-oil reaches a certain price per barrel, people are just going to start using golden-oil, and that stuff can't run out....



:wink:
 

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Golden oil, Clett? I take it you're referring to sunshine?

That's great, and I look forward to that, but don't we use petroleum to manufacture solar panels, batteries, capacitors, control electronics, and electrical wiring, and to provide the transportation to get raw materials to factories, and finished product from factories to consumers?

And doesn't bad weather tend to interfere with solar panels? Difficult to use in parts of the world that receive very little sunshine or very few hours of daylight.

If one were to believe BP's world survey, and if the dryup really is 600 years off, that would be a big load off my mind. I don't want to sound like a wet-blanket, but to me, that's a big "if." Nobody really knows how much of the stuff is still down there. All we're doing is guessing. Royal Dutch Shell had to reduce it's own estimated reserves, at least twice in the past year. What's this, "oops, we goofed? Sorry, our bad!"

Until I see some better science, and maybe fewer "downgraded" estimated reserves, I think we're just guessing, regardless of our fantastic science and instruments. And even if the end of oil is 600 years off, it will still eventually become a problem.

Yes, your comments about China and bicycle riding has great merit. China is growing. China is hungry for oil. China will also soon be hungry for food, and maybe more land, too.

Indeed, we live in an interesting time.
 

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Excellent thread. I am glad to see this topic getting some attention. I don't have much to contribute other than I am concerned about the growing energy crisis, peak oil and the shape of things to come for life on this planet.

I have read (and heard) a variety of articles, from sources like the links that "peakoil" posted, as well as Wired Magazine and some blurbs on NPR. With that said, I like to hear and see people discussing it and sharing information. I really wish we had the straight scoop and all of the raw data, but the fact that there is a growing awareness is a start.

I realise not everyone on this board is driving a Prius to be green, and frankly, I don't think I'm making a huge impact by buying a Prius. I do hope that "they" take the demand for alternative fuel system vehicles seriously, and that "they" come up with changes to our infrastructure to support renewable energy sources. I have no answers, no solutions to offer. I try to limit my waste and resource usage, but here I sit in front of a computer for 12 hours a day for work...begging for the air conditioning to kick back in and feeling guilty about it.
 

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BIF said:
Golden oil, Clett? I take it you're referring to sunshine?
Well, in a way! But I didn't mean making lots of expensive silicon based solar cells. I was actually thinking more about using the cheap self-assembling low-tech solar collectors, otherwise known as plants!

Oilseed rape (as shown above) can give 100 gallons of oil per acre per year. Experiments by the US NREL with algae showed they could get up to 10,000 litres of oil per acre per year when growing it in ponds in the desert! Along the same lines, a recent study showed that algae farming only 9% of the land surface of the Sonora desert would provide enough biodiesel to replace ALL petroleum usage in the USA.

However, it seems that the NREL study, despite it's enormous potential, was scrapped by your government when they calculated that biodiesel made in this way would be about twice as costly as fossil diesel.

What I was saying in my post was, however, that the price of fuel is linked to the price of crude. This website shows the effect of the price of crude on price of diesel (the equivalent to vegetable oil).

[Data taken from website]

- $10 crude = $0.87 per gallon diesel pump price
- $15 crude = $0.99 per gallon diesel pump price
- $20 crude = $1.11 per gallon diesel pump price
- $25 crude = $1.24 per gallon diesel pump price
- $30 crude = $1.36 per gallon diesel pump price
- $35 crude = $1.47 per gallon diesel pump price
- $40 crude = $1.59 per gallon diesel pump price

So, I reckon that by the time we start seeing continual (not spiking) crude prices above about $40 per barrel, people are going to start taking vegetable power much more seriously!



:wink:
 

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Peak oil is a fascinating topic.

The thing about an oil field is you have to empty it slowly. IT isn't really possible to just say "I'll take 10 billion barrels, please" like you're in a supermarket.

So the RATE at which oil is coming out of the ground will slow...which will cause the price to rise. This is true even if there is a "50 year supply of oil" or whatever. One the big fields are past their "peak" oil coming out slows down. Saudi fields were discovered 40 years ago and thus are probably peaking right about now. We peaked in the lower 48 in 1970.

Also about solar energy and whatnot. There is something very important called a EROEI (energy return on energy invested)...for example suppose it take 1 barrel of oil to make a square meter of solar panel...and over the life of that pannel it delivers to you the energy in say, a barrel of oil. What have you done? You've just used oil on the installment plan in the form of solar energy.

It is believed that solar energy has a very low EROEI ie it doesn't return much energy net of the energy put in. Oil has a very positive EROEI, it takes a little to make alot especially when it's coming out of the ground at high pressure.

Now cheaper solar cells are possible, maybe, but it's still in the research stage.

Wind and nuclear have lower EROEI than oil but are still positive (>1 maybe 4-10 which is good)...so those are substitutes somewhat. You can generate hydrogen with nuclear and combine with a carbon to produce a hydrocarbon such as octane or diesel. So they can be substituted.

I disagree that here is a very limited amount of uranium. There's alot and the price is so low that the world hasn't been scoured for it like oil. Also we use only a very small amount of uranium that we find...less than 1%. The rest can be used if it is "reprocessed" (or bred)..this gets rid of the waste too (that stuff you see in pools) or at least minimizes it. It's a separate issue though.

Anyway, as far as the oil sands in Canada there are "trillions of barrels" but they're only 10% oil. The actual amount of oil is about 100 billion barrels and is being produced now at about 1 million barrels per day. Ramping up would be difficult as it is very capital intensive. It's kind of like "strip mining" for coal too. Not very pretty.

The world uses 28 billion barrels per year or so...so Canada, while nice, isn't exactly going to provide the world's oil for the next 100 years.

Methane hydrates have proven unstable and difficult to capture so this is in the theoretical stage too.

In the short run there is no substitute for conservation. In the longer term we have to start talking about nuclear energy as opposed to just screaming like a little child about the waste. The waste is manageable. It's nowhere near as bad as waste from a coal plant and we generate 50% of our power (electric) from coal. France, every liberals favorite country, gets 80% from nuclear. What do they know that we don't? They have the cheapest power in Europe also...the high cost of nuclear here is mostly due to the delays and re-dos b/c of environmental protests.

We have to use wind too...if it is cheap enough it can be used to generate hydrogen. Combining hydrogen with coal or even carbon dioxide pulled from the air equals the magic liquid hydrocarbon. Wind by itself on the grid can only account for a small % of electricity because it is a) intermittent b) a high amount destabalizes the grid and c) located primarily in the upper Mid-West (the best sites are).

Plug in hybrids would be great as they'd take power straight from the grid and into a battery. Power from a battery is 5x as efficient hitting the wheels as a liquid hydrocarbon.

One thing is for sure, in this country, we are not going to drill our way out of it. Best guess scenario published is that ANWR has 10 billion barrels. That's about what he US uses in 1.5 years. It would take years to drain it of course so it would supply us with maybe 5% of our needs (total use of oil in US is 20 million barrels per day) for the next 30-40 years.

Worst case scenario is that we're tapped out in this country and import 100% of our oil from the Middle East in 20 years or so, at who knows what cost. This would be very unstable, IMO.

I blame Republicans for not making it a national security issue and pushing conservation as they should be. Gas should be $3 at least a gallon to encourage alternatives and conservation. SUVs which are inherently dangerous at high speeds (high center of gravity) should be taxed. They are not good vehicles for soccer moms.

I blame Democrats for a knee jerk opposition to nuclear power.
 

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A few notes.

Much of the National Geographic article was taken directly or indirectly from the newly published book by Paul Roberts, The End of Oil.

M. King Hubbert, then a research petrogeologist at Shell, predicted in 1956 that US domestic oil production would peak between 1970 and 1972. At the time, he was widely dismissed. However, US production did in fact peak in 1970 and, in spite of intensive exploration and advancements in drilling and extraction technologies, it has been in decline ever since. For an amazing in depth look at oil: how it was created, where and how we find it and how WORLD petroleum production will peak when Hubbert's methods are applied to the global situation, read Kenneth Deffeyes' book Hubbert's Peak. Deffeyes worked at Shell with Hubbert and now teaches at Princeton.

More good reading on oil:

The Party's Over, Oil War and the Fate of Industrial Society by Heinberg. A dark, depressing analysis of where we are headed which is back to an agrarian local lifestyle with limited travel, scarce food supplies, no power grid... shall I go on?

A dark, but less pessimistic view can be found in The End of Oil, by Paul Roberts (just published). He recently spoke along with S. David Freeman former head of LADWP with 30 years of expertise in the energy field and Bill Reinert, National Manager of the Advanced Technologies Group at Toyota USA on the end of oil. The forum was held at the LA Central Library and about 300 people showed up.

For a thorough exploration of the current and future energy picture the world is facing, read Energy at the Crossroads, by Vaclav Smil, who holds out a reasonable hope of some semblance of industrial society.

No matter who you read in the field, the end of oil is coming. When Hubbert's Peak hits is debatable, but worst case scenarios are now and best case 2030-2040. How BAD things will get is also debatable, but they won't be easy and huge lifestyle changes are likely in the industrial world and even worse desperation in the third world as competition for remaining petroleum resources causes skyrocketing energy prices to trigger steep inflation in all sectors of the economy. In the panel at the LA Library, both Freeman and Roberts hoped the competition would remain merely financial and not turn nuclear as superpowers vie for the last reservoirs of oil to keep their economies humming. And with the increasing number of nuclear players in the world, there is more likelihood of serious conflict. China became a net importer of oil two years ago and its appetite for petroleum in increasing even faster than ours (about 10% per year as opposed to our 3-5% per year).

At the forum Reinert of Toyota was also downbeat on the likelihood of fuel cell cars coming on line any time soon. The entire fuel cell fleet is grounded at the moment due to failures of the stainless steel diaphragm that allows the hydrogen to be drawn from the 5,000-10,000 psi tank it resides in on board the vehicle. As Reinhert put it, you would not want to be anywhere in the vicinity of a diaphragm failure at 10,000 psi.

It is the transportation sector that is really the most problematic since we currently have no reasonable (either financially, technologically or environmentally) replacement for oil in our autos, trucks, trains and planes - and the crunch is coming.

And, as noted, EROIE is a REAL issue. We no longer can poke a stick in the ground and have oil spring out under pressure. Oil, natural gas, coal, uranium - it is ALL getting more expensive to extract from the ENERGY standpoint (forget the cost in DOLLARS - if it takes more energy to get it out of the ground than you get from the coal, gas, etc, then there is no point in even extracting it).

Our only real source of renewable energy is the SUN (and even the sun will burn out some day - just that the burnout is SO far off that we can consider it to be renewable). The prudent thing SHOULD be to do solar, solar and more solar, as well as wind. Heniberg's and Deffeyes' analysis does not hold out much hope of energy production continuing at todays rates, so even in the most optimistic case we are looking at a very energy constrained future - not a pretty thought, and certainly not one that will support our current economic model of growth.

The real nature of the problem, however, is a "non-negotiable" lifestyle that we have all (myself included) become used to. If we start from the premise that somehow we have to continue to live the way we do and buy, use and throw away the things we do, that the economy must continue to "grow" at x% per year, that natural resources are on the "expense" side of the general ledger and not on the "capital" side, then things are going to get really, really bad. As we become more desperate for energy to maintain our lifestyle, environmental laws may be thrown out the window (burn more coal, strip mine for shale oil, create the huge toxic waste lakes that oil extraction from tar sands produces - and by the way, it takes TWO barrels of oil energy wise to extract THREE barrels of "tar sands oil", so 1.2 trillion gets whacked back to 400 million or about 10 years of current US consumption, etc). We as a society may make those decisions, but they won't be easy and they are not without immense consequences. And none of this even touches the issue of global warming and the effects it will have on the world economy. There is now concern that the permafrost is melting and if it does, there are TRILLIONS of tons of methane hydrates which will be mobilized and released into the atmosphere, and methane is 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is.

Heinberg hopes, in spite of the gloom, that some better society that is more fulfilling to the individual will come out of the chaos and industrial decline he foresees. I hope he's right. I have a teenage daughter who I would like to leave a livable world to. Deffeyes in his book says that one day his granddaughter is going to look at him with incredulity and ask "You BURNED all the petroleum???" and his reponse will be "Yup. We burned it. Sorry about that."
 

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kennyb said:
Peak oil is a fascinating topic.

It is believed that solar energy has a very low EROEI ie it doesn't return much energy net of the energy put in. Oil has a very positive EROEI, it takes a little to make alot especially when it's coming out of the ground at high pressure.
EROEI is something no one really talks about much, at least the optimists. As we scour for the last drops of oil and dig deeper for coal we will find the EROEI is ALL that matters. As energy becomes more constrained we will find it harder and more expensive to even attempt to exploit remaining reserves and work on new technologies. Currently the best EROEI is really in wind. Solar is still very inefficient with the best cells turning 15-16% efficiency in the lab and about 10-12% in the real world. And solar cells take a LOT of energy to produce, as does the aluminum in the wind turbines. There is, unfortunately, no free lunch, and oil has really been paying the subsidy that has kept our lunch low cost so far. When oil can't provide the subsidy, our lunch will get pricey and we won't see much caviar on the menu...

We have wasted 30 years since the embargoes of the 70's happened. The economic and lifestyle consequences of those days are child's play compared to what awaits us if we continue to burn it all up and do nothing to plan and build the NEW infrastructure we need now. "Disruption" does not even begin to hint at how bad things could get.

A glimpse of some of the types of impact we will see can be seen at http://www.endofsuburbia.com, a recent documentary done about the impact of the end of oil on our suburban way of life. Take a look at the site, and buy the DVD (disclaimer: I have no connection financial or otherwise to this site or its products) - it will get you thinking and they won't be happy thoughts.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
...a "bump" to keep the discussion moving...


Clett, Kennyb, and Charlieh:

Wow, excellent thought processes. You folks and the others who have replied here have really contributed some great information, and it shows that a lot of people are doing more than just watching reality-television or playing video games.

I am heartened by this. Worried about the future, yes, but heartened that this topic is being discussed, and not being "poo-pooed" with dismissive statements.

I'll shut up now, and let the conversation continue.
 
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