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Thanksgiving 2005
November 23, 2005 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Happy Thanksgiving 2005 -scientifically speaking, also the last Day of the Oil Age...according to Kenneth Deffeyes, geologist and Emeritus Professor at Princeton University. .."I wind up saying that world oil is going to peak in production on Thanksgiving Day, 2005." Drink a toast to some of the other of Earth's horn O' plenty resources as we herald in the Green Age. ...sure, this is sensational, but perhaps blog worthy...
posted by celerystick (40 comments total)

 
PEAK OIL

"Green Age" in the sense of Soylent Green...
posted by spinoza at 7:42 AM on November 23, 2005


The end of cheap energy will impact people SO hard.....the only cold comfort as I slide down the hill with the rest of 'ya all is I will at least know WHY I'm going down the hill and hitt'n the rocks on the way down.

That, and I'll be avoiding some of the bigger boulders.

Learn to accept the rough ashler for your building....the finished ashler will be hard to justify.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:05 AM on November 23, 2005


Michael Duffy: So Peter, when do you think the oil will run out?

Peter Odell: Well, my guess is Thanksgiving Day in about 2035, if we can be as precise as each other. I’m not quite sure when Thanksgiving Day is, of course, as we don’t have one.

Michael Duffy: We don’t actually have one in Australia either, Ken. Can you just enlighten us…?

Kenneth Deffeyes: It’s the last Thursday in November…but in 2035 do you have a particular day? Or just 2035…?
posted by smackfu at 8:06 AM on November 23, 2005


What time will the oil run out? Afternoon, I hope. I don't want to be stranded at work.
posted by keswick at 8:15 AM on November 23, 2005


smackfu: "Well, my guess is Thanksgiving Day in about 2035, if we can be as precise as each other. I’m not quite sure when Thanksgiving Day is, of course, as we don’t have one."

Well, obviously Kenneth Deffeyes is right and Peter Odell is wrong. Because geology is a science and things like this can be very firmly pinpointed when you deal with science. Tomorrow is Peak Oil Day, in the same sense that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Disputing either of those points marks you as a nutball.

It might not be obvious, so </sarcasm>
posted by Plutor at 8:18 AM on November 23, 2005


Plutor: "Tomorrow is Peak Oil Day, in the same sense that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Disputing either of those points marks you as a nutball."

On second thought, it could mark you as, I suppose, a Canadian.
posted by Plutor at 8:20 AM on November 23, 2005


All I know is that my monthly natural gas bill is twice what it was last year, and that using a bike to get to and from work is saving me from paying a dollar more per gallon at the pump.

Peak Oil is coming, no doubt about it, but I suspect most of us will be priced out of using oil and natural gas well before then.
posted by Rothko at 8:30 AM on November 23, 2005


On second thought, it could mark you as, I suppose, a Canadian.

There's a difference?
posted by keswick at 8:30 AM on November 23, 2005


Scientifically speaking this is retarded.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:39 AM on November 23, 2005


On second thought, it could mark you as, I suppose, a Canadian.

Hrmm... or any non-American? Are there any other countries that celebrate Thanksgiving?
posted by antifuse at 8:55 AM on November 23, 2005


A couple of days ago and Australian friend of mine asked me what the Canadian Thanksgiving was commemorating, exactly. When I realized I had no idea, I looked it up.

Personally, I've always thought of it as Everyone Gets A Day Off In October Day.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:01 AM on November 23, 2005


"Metafilter: sensational, yet blog-worthy."
posted by luriete at 9:09 AM on November 23, 2005


As Deffeyes notes, Peak Oil will only be known in hindsight. Actual production is affected by so many random variables (Hurricaines for example). Thanksgiving 2005 is just a theoretical peak predicted by his calculations-- change some assumptions and you can move it in either direction.

Some clarifying points: I think (and more importantly, so do many geologists) that this is overly pessimistic. But for economic, strategic and environmental reasons, we seriously need to start implementing serious energy policies that get us away from oil and other fossil fuels.
posted by justkevin at 9:09 AM on November 23, 2005


The end is nigh! At least, it better be. I'm still disappointed that there was no massive Mad Max-esque anarchy on Y2K.
posted by unreason at 9:15 AM on November 23, 2005


See also previous discussions here, here, and here.
posted by languagehat at 9:41 AM on November 23, 2005


Peak Oil, Fascism and Genocide RA mp3
Dave Emory"s latest program about peak oil as a ruse by industry justifying record profits,30 min.
posted by hortense at 9:48 AM on November 23, 2005


Here is the document discussed by Mr. Emory.
posted by hortense at 10:24 AM on November 23, 2005


Look, this movement isn't getting anywhere until we can get ourselves a cool city like New Harmony, Oneida, or Salt Lake City. Ooh, and some laws. I propose Bipartite Continence. I'll know what that means when the angels return on Thanksgiving to lead us along the path of economae and virtue.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:26 AM on November 23, 2005


What time will the oil run out?

Well, it’s not oil running out, it’s just that the growth in oil production stops, and as we go over the top of the curve we don’t have any growth for a while and then it starts to go down.


There is no movement, there's only reduced consumption. It is that simple.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:45 AM on November 23, 2005


Nothing to see here.
Move along and keep consuming.
The market provides.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:29 AM on November 23, 2005


It's all the fault of those people wasting gallons of oil to fry their turkeys, isn't it?
posted by gyc at 12:11 PM on November 23, 2005


Money isn't real. Very important to remember that. It just represents energy. Energy is real, and using it has an energy cost attached to it that is not related to money or market forces.

We'll know soon enough if the oil peak is happening now. Personally I think it probably is, but I'm hoping I'm wrong.

The key indicator will be how much oil Saudi Arabia can pump in the next year or five. They're shooting for increasing production every year until 2015, but they've shown no actual ability to increase. If the lack of actual increase continues, you'll know we're in trouble.

And all the money in the world won't help. Well, I guess we could burn it for heat. :)
posted by zoogleplex at 12:14 PM on November 23, 2005


This pessimism is not necessary!

First of all, we will always be able to make oil/ethanol/methanol/biofuels from biomass.

Second, there is enough kinetic energy on this Earth for a trillion humans. (solar, wind, water)

Third, anything that can be made with oil can be made with industrial hemp. It is the world's most versatile and important biomass fiber. Unlike oil, you can feed a village with hemp as well.

Finally, with the advent of nanotechnology and being able to manipulate matter on such small scales- in hindsight peak oil will be seem for what it is- a sham. Hydrocarbons surround us! We will NEVER run out of them!!

The key is transforming the current unsustainable combustive brown hydrocarbon paradigm into a secure green carbohydrate infrastructure- suitable for the natural global capitalism of next century.
posted by David Spoey at 1:02 PM on November 23, 2005


lol hemp lol
posted by keswick at 1:18 PM on November 23, 2005


Zoogleplex: I've said this stuff to you before, and you are still completely ignorant of the economics and science of energy. You need to think a bit about potential supplies and changes in demand that might occur rather than just relying on a single illogical model. The idea that oil production follows a bell curve in a certain part of the world, and therefore will follow a bell curve in the world as a whole is stupid. The reason is that when say, Texas starts to decline, they just start to get oil from other places. If they couldn't get oil from other places they would be looking a lot harder in Texas.

If we globally run short of conventional oil, we have giant supplies of unconventional oil in the form of tar sands, shale, stranded gas to liquids, and coal to liquids. This is even ignoring all of the possible substitute commodities such as more efficient cars or other oil using processes, switching to other fuels in cars such as ethanol, methanol, or hydrogen from nuclear or renewables.

The price of oil may go up, but it's not going to double, and as long as it doesn't, basically everyone in the U.S. maintains essentially the same lifestyle. Maybe they drive a bit less and consume a bit less, but we're not headed for a car-free future or some sort of mad-max society.

In short, Peak Oil=Y2K. People want to believe it because they think it's cool to be prepared for this disaster that everyone is going to get fucked over by, and they like to talk to each other like they're initiated in a secret club that has important knowledge.
posted by cameldrv at 2:26 PM on November 23, 2005


We will always have energy, David Spoey, no doubt about that, so that's not to worry about.

However, it will not always be cheap. The gift that petroleum has given us is massive amounts of extremely cheap energy. This happened because petroleum (to the best of our knowledge) represents millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of years worth of biomass energy - compressed "green carbohydrate," as you call it, which is really solar energy, of course.

The EROEI, or Energy Return On Energy Input, of petroleum has averaged 30:1 - which means that for every unit of energy needed to extract the petroleum from the earth and make it useful (drilling, capturing, refining, transport, etc.), we have gotten 30 units of energy worth of oil. That's not just free energy, it's a massive energy profit. The only reason for this is because it's a few hundred million years worth of compressed sunlight/bioenergy.

No other energy source that you mention has this incredible output-to-input ratio; the next best is hydroelectric with a historical maximum EROEI of 5:1.

But still, you're right, there is plenty of energy around for our use. However, once oil is no longer cheap and easily transportable, energy will no longer be cheap and easily transportable. While you're right about being able to use biomass (not just hemp) to create oil via thermal copolymerization, that process requires a net input of energy that is greater than what you get out of the oil produced. It will be necessary to do this in order to have easily portable motor fuels, but it will result in those fuels being rather expensive.

The problem is not a lack of energy, the problem is the change in economics that will be dictated by lack of available energy for growth.

We need to get space-based solar power transmission working as fast as we can, IMO. There's nothing else that has the potential to continue to fuel the last century's expansion in productivity and economy. If we cannot, the growth economy of the last 100 years cannot be sustained; we'd have to adjust to a far more sustainable energy cycle. This isn't impossible, but it means an across-the-board reduction in the standard of living, with the most materially wealthy nations suffering the worst reductions - or of course, alternatively, the poorest 2 or 3 billion people on earth being allowed to starve to death.

Please do more studying of the worldwide economic implications; start with understanding how much of modern agriculture and food production is dependent on petroleum and natural gas (hint: without present levels of petroleum input, crop output worldwide could drop as much as 2/3).

I'm actually trying to stay optimistic, because ya never know, but I think we're going to get a humbling lesson in how energy really works.

cameldrv: "The idea that oil production follows a bell curve in a certain part of the world, and therefore will follow a bell curve in the world as a whole is stupid."

No. No it's not, not if you start with the idea that the global supply of recoverable petroleum is finite, which is a reasonable assumption given the fact that the world itself is a finite body. The disagreement among people who talk about peak oil is on how much is ultimately recoverable economically. If you believe the supply of petroleum is infinite, then of course there will never be an oil peak. I just don't happen to believe that.

I don't know when the peak will be; I'm hoping later than sooner. I'd be overjoyed if it's not until 2075, because that would mean my life will stay pretty nice. I'm just of the opinion at this point that we are at or near it, and I'm paying attention to what the Saudis can actually produce, as opposed to what they predict they can produce, as my personal barometer.

I don't hold with the worst predictions of the apocalyptic peak oilers like Kunstler; I think things will go much better than that, actually, because I do see changes in demand, they're happening right now all around me. So please don't lump me in with them.

However, it doesn't hurt us to prepare for things to potentially go badly, and to get to work on fixes now as opposed to later.

"The price of oil may go up, but it's not going to double, and as long as it doesn't, basically everyone in the U.S. maintains essentially the same lifestyle."

This is your opinion. There is no proof that the market price of oil will not double, or triple, or quadruple - the price of it has varied wildly in the last 30 years. Of course that means that there is no proof that it won't halve or quarter either. Please be sure to separate your opinions from facts and reasonable extrapolations of actual trends.

Believe me, I'll be very happy if the peak oilers are wrong, and will be happy to be proven wrong by history. At this point, you and I disagree, and I take some umbrage at you declaring me "completely ignorant of the economics and science of energy." I've spent a lot of time reading up on this stuff from both sides of the argument, and my opinion about the cornucopian economists is that they keep forgetting that money isn't real, and the financial market growth economy has been driven entirely by really cheap energy. I think they're going to get schooled pretty hard if and when energy stops being cheap. In the battle between actual materials and energy, and illusory money, I'll take the hard stuff every time.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:47 PM on November 23, 2005


Money isn't real. Very important to remember that. It just represents energy. Energy is real, and using it has an energy cost attached to it that is not related to money or market forces.
posted by zoogleplex

Dead on. While there might be some wiggle room, I don’t see any good reasoning to ride the horse until it drops.

Now I’m going to pour some light, sweet crude on my turkey.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:40 PM on November 23, 2005


zoogleplex: You have made so many misstatements in your post I would have to take more time than I'm willing to correct them. You seriously lack a basic understanding of how markets work. I will summarize the most important ones instead.

EROEI is a stupid statistic about sources of energy because it is using a ratio to obscure what is really going on. You say oil has an EROEI of 30:1, and Hydro has an EROEI of 5:1. What this means is that 97% of the energy in the oil in the ground is available for use, after we used 3% of it in order to extract it. According to your numbers, in Hydro's case, we only get 80% of the energy from the water. Basically this means that if the cost of extracting Hydro and Oil were otherwise equal, hydro would cost about 17% more. In other words, it makes very little difference. Even going down to 2:1 only means our energy costs twice as much. In your math, going from 30:1 to 2:1 is some sort of catastrophe, but in reality, it only means a doubling in price.

Another misconception you have is that energy is the same thing as money. There are obviously lots of other important inputs to an economy, which you would know if you had ever read anything about economics.

The simplest and most straightforward way to completely demolish the idea that peak oil is a serious issue is to note the gigantic coal reserves we have in the United States, as well as many other places around the world. All of this coal can be converted into oil at about $30-40/bbl depending on conditions. You're not going to have oil going up to $120/bbl if it can be produced from easily available coal for $35.

If you genuinely believe in the concept of peak oil, as it is commonly understood, meaning drastic negative changes in civilization, you are wrong and are going to look foolish when it doesn't happen.
posted by cameldrv at 3:51 PM on November 23, 2005


Oh and: "In short, Peak Oil=Y2K."

Y2K didn't have the effect that it could have, because a whole lot of smart people went to work on dealing with the problem before it actually manifested itself. Lots and lots of money was made by computer consulting firms and software companies taking preventative measures - some of which were probably overkill, of course - and the potential failures did not materialize. The Y2K bug thing was indeed a serious problem, but laying out preparations beforehand greatly ameliorated any problems.

Mind you, I'm talking about the area of computer software and hardware problems, database failures, embedded processor clock resets, etc. Those problems were dealt with, and thus things didn't collapse. There was always a real potential for major problems, however.

Of course, the folks who sold everything they owned and moved to the sticks with 3 years worth of food and a lot of ammo, they pretty much overreacted. I think doing that now would also be overreacting.

However, having everyone start taking conservation measures and working on ways to use less energy more efficiently to maintain a steady flow of essential living supplies and helpful research and development, that's a good thing to to whether oil's going to get scarce or not. And it's not that hard, really. A good hard look at the whole "consumption economy" thing is probably a good idea, too.

Smed, can I have a little bit of both white meat and dark meat, please? And don't be stingy with the stuffing.

On preview: cameldrv, drop the attitude. Now. I'm not kidding. You're not showing yourself well, and here's a couple of examples.

"EROEI is a stupid statistic about sources of energy because it is using a ratio to obscure what is really going on. You say oil has an EROEI of 30:1, and Hydro has an EROEI of 5:1. What this means is that 97% of the energy in the oil in the ground is available for use, after we used 3% of it in order to extract it."

No, that is not what it means at all. What it means is that, on average, for every 30 barrels of oil we've gotten out of the ground, we've had to burn 1 barrel of oil to get it out and make it useful. In other words, for every 1 million barrels worth of oil-equivalent energy I expend in drilling, transport, and refining of my oil, I will be able to drill, transport and refine 30 million barrels.

In contrast, for every barrel of oil energy that I expend to build a hydroelectric dam, I will only get, at most, 5 barrels of oil worth of energy from that dam. Which means it makes more sense to use the oil energy to get as much more oil out of the ground as I can than to build a dam. It's much more profitable both energy-wise and financially.

Do you see? I'm not saying we've only taken 3% of the oil out of the ground. All the most reliable estimates say that we've taken out between 45% and 55%.

That takes care of your faulty math on the Hydro thing too.

"Even going down to 2:1 only means our energy costs twice as much. In your math, going from 30:1 to 2:1 is some sort of catastrophe, but in reality, it only means a doubling in price."

No, that's entirely wrong. Going down to 2:1 means that for every barrel of oil I expend trying to produce oil, that means I only get 2 barrels out of the ground. This is a reduction in energy (and financial) profit of over ninety-four percent (94.4%, 2/30=0.0666...)

94% less energy available (profitably) than we have right now would certainly be a catastrophe.

"Another misconception you have is that energy is the same thing as money. There are obviously lots of other important inputs to an economy, which you would know if you had ever read anything about economics."


You didn't read my post very well. Energy is not the same thing as money, as I make clear. Money is an invention of man, which we use as a counter to represent value of things - but drilling down further into what "value of things" means, we discover that what we're really talking about is expenditure of energy.

For instance, water is a valuable thing, since we need it to survive. Unless we live directly under a waterfall, it takes energy to go get the water we need from the river, or to dig a well, or to put it in plastic bottles and transport it to a store. When you pay your water bill, what you are really paying for is the energy expended in building the infrastructure that transports the water to your house, guarantees its purity, etc.

So what money really is is a counter that we use to represent expenditure of energy - usually by other people. You can buy food at the grocery store, or at a restaurant; at the restaurant it costs more, because you're paying someone to cook it for you and bring it to your table (and have a building in which to serve it to you), in other words you're paying others to expend energy making your food. Extrapolate that to everything you pay money for, and you'll see that's what we're really talking about.

Money as we have it today is created out of thin air, by central banks, on the assumption that when they loan it out to people, it will get paid back with interest - i.e., the money will "grow," because people will use it to do things that expend energy, which other people will pay them more money to do than it costs.

This works great as long as there is "excess" energy in the system. When you're getting a 30:1 return on your energy output, there's a whole lot of excess energy in the system. Our entire global consumer economy is powered by this, and this alone. If the world's total EROEI was only 2:1, there wouldn't be anywhere near enough "free" or "excess" energy available to make all this crap we use for a while and then throw in the trash.

"All of this coal can be converted into oil at about $30-40/bbl depending on conditions. You're not going to have oil going up to $120/bbl if it can be produced from easily available coal for $35."

Well, I'm not sure about your $30-$40/bbl estimate, because as you say that depends on many variables. Most important to consider is that your estimate may depend on burning oil to liquefy the coal, which at current prices is cheap. In any event, I agree with you about this one, and coal liquefaction is certain to be a big part of our future.

However, in terms of energy use and cost, it's probably a better idea to burn the coal to make electricity, since the liquefaction process is only at best about 55% efficient, which means the coal will last 45% longer if we don't liquefy it. We'll waste a lot of precious cheap energy if we use liquefaction widely.

I don't believe that civilization is going to collapse horribly, so stop accusing me of that. If I really believed that, I'd be heading for the hills like the Y2K wackos, and yeah I'd look pretty foolish. I'm not afraid to be proven wrong, I'm not standing on this as absolute dogma. There are a lot of variables, and though we've been alerted to a potentially serious problem, we don't have all the facts yet.

I do believe that we have a serious problem to overcome, and that we'd better get on it with as much ingenuity as we can apply, and I do believe that the illusionary world of the stock market and money trading is going to take a serious beating.

I prefer to err on the side of caution, and will be happy if proven wrong. This isn't some silly team sport with winning and losing sides, it's the future of humanity.
posted by zoogleplex at 4:43 PM on November 23, 2005


If you genuinely believe in the concept of peak oil, as it is commonly understood, meaning drastic negative changes in civilization, you are wrong and are going to look foolish when it doesn't happen.
posted by cameldrv at 3:51 PM PST on November 23 [!]


Peak oil == end of cheap energy.

If you don't think rising energy prices have negative effects you've not paid attention to history.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:46 PM on November 23, 2005


I also see no incentive to oil companies to keep costs down. What's the market advantage? It's as obvious as clear cutting or buffalo hunting. We exterminated passenger pigeons for the hell of it. Pardon my conservationism cameldrv, but is there no point where progress, market or otherwise, at whatever speed or whatever cost to the commons is not dangerous?
posted by Smedleyman at 7:59 PM on November 23, 2005


Smedlyman: what is your point? Is it that oil companies won't keep costs down so they can charge more? What happens when the coal companies come in and undercut them on the price? The price goes down. Most of same normal market forces are at work in the oil industry as in any other commodity industry. Conservationism has nothing to do with whether we are going to use a lot of oil. If you can find a way to allow Americans to have the same lifestyle without pollution, we will do that. However, people are not going to go live a 19th century lifestyle just because you think it's more asthetically pleasing or more in tune with nature.
posted by cameldrv at 10:48 PM on November 23, 2005


zoogleplex: There is no serious problem. If we are actually running short of conventional oil relative to demand, (which we might be, but I'm not sure) we have lots of good alternatives. Some of the more complicated ones such as Nuclear-Hydrogen or Renewable-Hydrogen cost more, and thus will probably be taken up later absent some sort of major subsidy. You say we shouldn't waste our "precious" cheap coal on liquefaction, but that's exactly what the market will have it do. We can make gasoline from coal and sell it for $1.50/gal once the refinery situation in the U.S. is straightened out. The market says that if oil is selling for $60 a barrel and you can make oil from coal for $40 a barrel, you make oil from coal, regardless of what you may think is a good idea. As long as we have that backstop, nothing at all is going to happen to the financial markets, or any other area of society.
posted by cameldrv at 10:53 PM on November 23, 2005


For cameldrv: Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management. You're talking like you haven't read it yet. It's a bit simplistic in a way which leaves it open to some justifiable criticism but at least it points you in the direction of the right problems to think about.

We can make gasoline from coal and sell it for $1.50/gal once the refinery situation in the U.S. is straightened out.

So... where'd you get that number, anyway? Does it factor in the recent increases in coal prices? Coal isn't as "cheap" as it used to be. Just how much gasoline do you think could be produced that way in the USA? If coal-to-liquids took over for 10% of what we use oil for, how much of an increase in coal production would be required? How much of an increase in rail transportation capacity for all that coal? Where would the price of coal go?

How long, starting from now, would it take to build a significant amount of coal-to-liquids capacity? If the peak of oil production really was happenning right now, it would quite obviously take too long for comfort. But I think 2008-2012 is a more likely estimate for "the peak" (my money's still on 2008.)

Anyway, whether or not you think the problem can potentially be overcome with minimal pain, saying "there is no serious problem" seems terribly ignorant.
posted by sfenders at 8:48 AM on November 24, 2005


So... where'd you get that number, anyway?

heh, if 80% of the oil market won't sell for anything under $50, you can be sure the coal gasification people will try to offer their stuff at $49.95, take it or leave it. Neither coal nor bitumen will have the production capacity to materially affect prices, so they will just offer their stuff at market prices and pocket the profits.

Same thing with solar. If PG&E is charging 25c/kwhr, you can be sure the solar folks will be charging an amortized cost of 20c+, regardless of production expenses.

the free market is an interesting beastie.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:33 AM on November 24, 2005


Leave for a moment, all the arguments about what might happen and focus instead on what we can, with some certainty, know will happen:

* Demand for oil will continue to rise at a rate than cannot be catered for by current refining capacity.
New refineries take a good few years to bring online, so at the very least, even if there is enough oil to go around, we are unlikely to be able to convert it into the forms we require at the rate necessary for stable economic growth. If we are optimistic and assume these refining shortages will not be severe, people may still massively over-react to negative trends in oil markets. The increasingly widespread assumption that society does indeed face an energy crisis and that the end of the 'Oil Age' is upon us may help ensure this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Stagnated economies, recession or even depression may result from this alone.

* Supply of cheap oil may not be able to keep up with demand.
Ignore talk of recoverable reserves; what are important are oil flows - the maximum amount we can pump out of the ground on a given day. If, as pretty much everyone agrees, flows from current fields cannot be increased, industry will have a financial incentive (or will be given one by concerned national governments) to exploit marginal conventional fields, to exploit environmentally sensitive fields and to begin to bring online new types of oil production such as refining the Tar sands and converting coal. Forget that these new sources of oil are more expensive and thus an inevitable brake on economic growth, and consider instead the lead time required to massively expand these sectors of the energy industry. Unfortunately, even if the proverbial hits the fan next week, it is not likely these alternative sources will have any influence on market opinion in the short-term. We face the same problem as we do with a refining capacity crunch; the unknowable response of volatile markets and scared people.

* Potential new sources of oil, alternative fuels and the much-hyped 'Hydrogen economy' show no likelihood of matching the EROEI of the oil now being produced, let alone the stuff pulled out of the ground a century ago.
Now EROEI does not by itself dictate the price of energy - profiteering by suppliers, supply/demand etc can all have an impact on what it actually costs the consumer. It is still critical to our future, simply because it represents the ease with which we can obtain and use energy. If you have 100 pieces of gold and you have to spend just 1 piece to get another 100, it doesn't really matter how you spend your gold because you can just throw some spare change after the first piece and you're back on the street with a full chest. If instead, you have 2 pieces of gold and you need to expend 1 of them to get your next 1, you can't be quite so profligate. This is a crude simplification but bear with me and further imagine that some of that gold is kept in its original state and not converted into something else (in the same way that massive amounts of oil stays in chemical form and plays a critical role in the production of food and pretty much every thing you wear, live in, own, read this comment with). The squeeze on those 2 pieces of gold becomes pretty intense.
We face in the future this exact shift from a 100:1 world to (who knows?) a 2:1 world. What is now cheap - energy - and what is now abundant - chemical feedstocks from oil - will not be so in the future. Even if we shift away from oil energy peacefully - and there is no reason responsible governments can't make it happen - the world will likely be a very different place to now.
posted by pots at 11:27 AM on November 24, 2005


* bugger. That should read: 'need to expend 1 of them to get your next 2'
posted by pots at 11:31 AM on November 24, 2005


The bottom line is we are going to reach the halfway point where we cannot continue to extract more and more oil from reservoirs for geological reasons and therefore the world will no longer be able to produce increasing amounts of oil on a daily basis.

At the same time, the world's demand for oil is going to increase dramatically as third world countries start to consume as much oil as we do, thanks to technology, which is leveling the playing field for much of the world. Saudi Arabia is producing 9.5 million barrels of oil today and expects to increase to 12.5 million barrels of oil a day in 2009.
posted by sultan at 7:34 PM on November 24, 2005


Very late back to this thread sorry... had a holiday weekend, didn't want to touch a computer.

sultan, i agree with you, and I reiterate, I consider the ability of the Saudis to reach that expected increase to be the warning bell. If they cannot continue to be the "swing" producer, then world oil production is at peak. We will know within 4 years where we're at.

Now of course, because of enhanced production technology and various new areas coming online, the "peak" may entail 5 or 10 or more years of "plateau" in production numbers, as opposed to an immediate decline overall, so there's a pretty good chance that the effects will become obvious, with proper warning, before they become painful. I'm holding onto that hope.

I'm sorry that I can't accept your interpretation of the problem, cameldrv; it doesn't seem to be based on any sort of realistic assessment, but rather on wishful optimism. As I said, I'll be happy to be proven wrong! I'd rather live a nice comfortable life powered by oil.

However, we wouldn't have to go back to a 19th century way of life. I've lived that way, and I don't recommend it. We changed everything since then because life was harder then. It's possible to maintain a high standard of living without all this oil burning, it will just take some imagination and hard work, that's all. The "consumer culture," with constant making of new widgets that are disposed of within a few years (or months!) for new widgets, is not necessary to a high standard of living.
posted by zoogleplex at 6:11 PM on November 28, 2005


Deffeyes, as of yesterday: "I see no reason to retract my Thanksgiving, 2005 prediction."
posted by sfenders at 12:37 PM on November 29, 2005


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