Peak Oil Publicity – Finally

The Gazette had a front page story about Peak Oil this Saturday. This is the first time to my knowledge this subject has been given such high visibility to the general public. Le Devoir has reprinted some AFP stories but this subject has a lot less visibility in Canada compared to Europe.

In my opinion this is a subject long overdue to be publicized to the general public. I’ve actually read quite a bit about this issue and my first letter to the editor in July 2007 was about this subject.

Most people assume that we have years and years of oil before we “run out”.  The “run out” number is typically calculated by dividing the estimated reserves by the current production to arrive at a certain number of years. The implication of this is that everything will continue as normal until the magic day when oil will just stop flowing completely. The reality is much different and alarming.

The production of oil has been shown to generally follow a bell curve for individual wells, individual fields and entire countries. What remains is to show it for the entire world which has not happened yet but is only a matter of time. Our society’s problems will instead begin when the available supply starts to decline (or peak) not when it “runs out”.

Another dynamic was well illustrated last year when oil skyrocketed to 150$ a barrel. People seem to think that you just poke a hole in the ground and oil just bursts out of the ground. This used to happen but not any more. Oil that is being found today is much harder to get than in the past and requires sophisticated technologies and a lot of money to finally bring it into production. Declining production from the easy oil and more expensive new oil will combine to push oil prices very high in the future.

Why is this important?

  • Oil is used for 95% of all energy used for transportation
  • Oil represents 43% of all fuel consumption.
  • Our agriculture is heavily reliant on oil: for every joule of food energy consumed, 10 joules of fossil fuel energy is consumed.

This is an issue that every citizen should become informed about and demand action from their representatives at every level of government.

What can you do as an individual?

  • In the short term you can switch to a more fuel-efficient car, reduce the number of cars you own, and start taking public transit.
  • In the long term, you can move to a neighborhood where you are not so dependant upon the car where you can walk to various activities and shops.

Our government needs to play a larger role to stop encouraging car use by:

  • Stopping building highways and bridges that encourage people to live further away from their jobs.
  • Investing in public transit infrastructure such as tramways, metros, buses, inter-city trains.

We need to take action now to be ready when the crisis hits.  So far, unfortunately, not much as been done.

If you are interested in this subject here are some books that will make you think:

And some Web sites:


1 comment so far

  1. Clifford J. Wirth, Ph.D. on

    The Gazette has no place for comments, so I will leave my comment here. 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.

    It is time to focus on Peak Oil preparation and surviving Peak Oil.

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