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Half Gone
January 20, 2006 2:05 PM   Subscribe

As of today, world oil reserves are five percent lower than previously thought. Well informed early toppers like Jeremy Leggett (previously discussed here) won't be surprised by the news, though they may be disappointed that it didn't make bigger headlines.
posted by alms (42 comments total)

 
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

If only people cared. About anything but themselves.
posted by kjell at 2:40 PM on January 20, 2006


Oh yeah, peak oil is bunk though, right?

And we're in Iraq to liberate people, not to grab what's left of their oil.

And we invaded Afghanistan to liberate them from the Taliban and to catch Usama, right? Not to put a pipeline through...

And we don't like Chavez because he's a bad guy, not because he's sitting on top of yet another large chunk of remaining viable petrochemical reserves. Right?
posted by stenseng at 2:54 PM on January 20, 2006


Leggett's article is very informative. For example, I didn't realize that most experts think OPEC has overstated its reserves by 300 billion barrels.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:00 PM on January 20, 2006


It's not unreasonable to think that every single country and company that deals with petrolium is overestimating their reserves by this much. When spoken of, Peak Oil should only be used in the past tense.
posted by my sock puppet account at 3:07 PM on January 20, 2006


As for competition over diminishing supplies, therein lies the stuff of nightmares. The Pentagon established a Central Command in 1983, one of five unified commands around the world, with the clear task of protecting the global flow of petroleum. "Slowly but surely," Michael Klare concludes, "the US military is being converted into a global oil-protection service."

*shudders mightily*
posted by jokeefe at 3:25 PM on January 20, 2006


3) Canada 178,900,000,000 bbl 2004 est.

So when does Canadia get invaded to fight terr?

Canadia is full of the terr.
posted by fleetmouse at 3:34 PM on January 20, 2006


Pretty damn slowly, considering 1983 was over 20 years ago.
posted by smackfu at 3:36 PM on January 20, 2006


I'm having strange Red Storm Rising flashbacks. Sheesh.
posted by verb at 3:37 PM on January 20, 2006


Canada 178,900,000,000 bbl 2004 est.

Not sure about the numbers here, but a lot of that is in difficult and costly to process tar sands.

So when does Canadia get invaded to fight terr?

Canadia is full of the terr.


Don't worry, it looks like we'll be electing a luvverly Bush-friendly administration on Monday, and for no good reason than that we're tired of the current government. Excuse me while I go and bang my head against the wall for a bit.
posted by jokeefe at 4:07 PM on January 20, 2006


So when does Canadia get invaded to fight terr?

Monday. Where have you been?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:08 PM on January 20, 2006


jokeefe, I liked Rick Mercer's editorial comment last week with the photo of a kid talking to Harper - "my dad says if it looks like you're going to win people'll get frightened and vote Liberal".

weapons-grade pandemonium, I hope Canadia's soldiers don't end up fighting each other over who gets to use the gun, eh?
posted by fleetmouse at 4:18 PM on January 20, 2006


Told ya so

Metafilter 20915, October 18, 2002 :

"Hubbert's Peak: the impending oil shortage Is this the REAL reason behind the push to invade Iraq? In 1956. M. King Hubbert, a respected petroleum geologist, predicted - to within a year! - the peak in US oil production: 1970. US oil production has declined every year since. Using the same statistical methods, others now predict a world peak in oil production within a decade or even as early as 2006."
posted by troutfishing at 4:28 PM on January 20, 2006


not to worry
The biggest oil boom going on right now isn't in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or any other Middle East country. It's right in our backyard, in of all places, Canada. Correspondent Bob Simon reports from Alberta that the oil reserves there are so vast, they'll likely help solve America's energy needs for the next century.

60 minutes this coming Sunday
posted by robbyrobs at 4:32 PM on January 20, 2006


I wonder if this is how the dinosaurs died out. They kept burning each other and then some dinosaurs went, "Hey, we'll run out of dinosaurs." But the warning was laughed at. The dinosaurs continued putting each other into their dino-cars. Before they knew it the world was left with only one dinosaur driving a very big dino-car.
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:35 PM on January 20, 2006


TwelveTwo - Dino-Economics..... yup, it's a know-nothing Ponzi scheme.

"they'll likely help solve America's energy needs for the next century" - Pity the ice is melting.
posted by troutfishing at 4:42 PM on January 20, 2006


It's not unreasonable to think that every single country and company that deals with petrolium is overestimating their reserves by this much. When spoken of, Peak Oil should only be used in the past tense.

It is also not unreasonable to think that copmanies and countries may soon begin severly underestimating their provien petroleum reserves, for two reasons. One, if you have less oil (and everyone else has less oil), you can charge a premium for what you have. You have to be careful to trickle it out at exactly the right rate and markup to make sure that you bring in more cash than if you let it flow freely, but that is what OPEC is all about. Two, if having lots of oil means that the US (or Russia, or China, or anyone else with guns) is likely to invade then it makes a lot of sense to hire a bunch of experts to declare that your oil fields are mostly tapped out and not really worth the trouble.

Very little about the oil industry seems reasonable.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:43 PM on January 20, 2006


QUICK let the market fluctuate the price upward on unsubstantiated rumors ! Pr00fit !
posted by elpapacito at 4:47 PM on January 20, 2006


Thanks, troutfishing. That 2002 thread was probably the one where I first read about the subject.

Kevs, in 2002: I don't know why you believe the Hubbert Curve, but you'd be hard pressed to find any geologist or economist who thinks we're running out of oil anytime soon. First, known reserves will last *decades* at current demand equilibrium. As those reserves drop (and this assumes easily recoverable oil, such as that in the Balkans, is not fully developed), the price of oil will go up. As the price goes up, new extraction techniques will be used.

Hahahahahaha ... "running out of oil" indeed. Funny how much has changed since then. New extraction techniques! I wonder how many people back then had heard of "maximum reservoir contact"? (If there's some reader who has no idea, Simmons book is a good introduction to such things.) I do hope we'll get someone here in 2006 to argue the "new technology will save us" angle, but I wouldn't hold out much hope. Peak Oil, as in the actual peak, may not quite be here yet (or it might) .. but it's certainly "here" in the sense that when this latest round of crude price increases makes it through into the price people pay for gasoline, everyone will be talking about it. You may still be able to find a rogue economist or two who don't believe it'll ever come to pass that the world is forced to use less energy one year than it did the previous year, but to judge from the market, your average oil futures trader has got the Peak Oil religion now. We have only to wait a year or two to find out whether the actual peak has already come and gone, or whether it will be delayed as far as the distant future of 2008.
posted by sfenders at 4:54 PM on January 20, 2006


Seeing how much can change in a few years should only make you more skeptical of your own solid views.
posted by smackfu at 5:13 PM on January 20, 2006


Sold my car this summer, haven't looked back.
posted by furtive at 5:20 PM on January 20, 2006


The Oil Drum has a story about the Kuwait reserves thing. Essentially, this should have no effect on anything. It's not like anybody really believed OPEC's public reserves estimates anyway. According to Stuart at TOD there, the reported 24-48 billion barrels is roughly in accord with what you might guess from a Hubbert-style linearization of their their recent production history.
posted by sfenders at 5:39 PM on January 20, 2006


We're putting solar panels on the roof of our housing co-operative, which will provide a decent percentage of our hot water needs (and can later be adapted for photovoltaic hookups). It's a start. One thing that struck me about that article, after struggling through paragraph after paragraph of bad news, was its surprisingly hopeful conclusion. He takes a much more positive view of the potential of solar power than, for example, George Monbiot.

fleetmouse: I liked Harper's recent attempt to calm fears: "Don't worry, even with a majority we won't be able to do everything we want, because there are so many Liberal appointees left around!" So very reassuring.

At least he's kept his mouth shut about trying to pull the plug on gay marriage if he's elected.

Not that this makes me feel any less concerned, of course.
posted by jokeefe at 5:40 PM on January 20, 2006


the canadians really shouldn't feel too special as there's actually plenty trillions of barrels of neocon horseshit to go around for everyone.
WASHINGTON, 29 April 2004 — Officials from Saudi Arabia’s oil industry and the international petroleum organizations shocked a gathering of foreign policy experts in Washington yesterday with an announcement that the Kingdom’s previous estimate of 261 billion barrels of recoverable petroleum has now more than tripled, to 1.2 trillion barrels.
it's true. ordinary, common or garden home-grown horse manure will likely help solve America's energy needs for the next century.
posted by rodney stewart at 8:45 PM on January 20, 2006


not to worry
The biggest oil boom going on right now isn't in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or any other Middle East country. It's right in our backyard, in of all places, Canada. Correspondent Bob Simon reports from Alberta that the oil reserves there are so vast, they'll likely help solve America's energy needs for the next century.

60 minutes this coming Sunday



Nope, the tar sands angle is so much bs. Sure, you can get oil and gas from them, but it takes so much energy to do so that the per barrel cost has been enormously prohibitive. And yes, we'll be able to use that source at a point in the future, when everything else is so scarce/expensive that it's (comparitively) no longer prohibitively expensive to do so.

Peak oil is NOT about *boom* one day we're out of petrochemicals. It's about passing the peak in the curve, where forever more, till a hundred years or so from now, we actually do run out completely. Over the course of that time, oil will get more and more and more expensive, and fewer and fewer people will be able to afford it. It's not about suddenly being out. It's about the very real and dire socioeconomic squeeze we'll face as it gets scarcer and more expensive.

How many of us will be able to maintain our lifestyles as they exist now when gas is $5.00 a gallon?

$10.00 a gallon?

$30.00 a gallon?

etc, etc

Meanwhile, folks in developing and "third world" nations that can just barely afford petrochemicals (from fuel, transportation, trucking, fertilizers, etc.) will much more quickly be squeezed out of the bracket that can access and afford the benefits of petrochemicals.

That means a lot of folks in those countries will potentially starve and die, whereas you or I will simply maybe have to stand in lines for groceries, and get into shape to ride bikes a lot more, or give up our cars for mass transit, etc.

The problem is, aside from the inherent scarcity/affordability issue, the United States government has seen this on the horizon, and the "neocon" strategy of global US hegemony is their response to this. They know, as the other world powers do, that energy = power, so they are acting in whatever way they deem neccesary to grab these last remaining stockpiles of petrochemical energy before the squeeze hits.

That's why Iraq, why Afghanistan, why Dick Cheney put together a top secret energy task force, and why we're making noises at guys like Hugo Chavez.

He knows what's coming too, and he seems determined to use the petrochemical resources at his country's disposal to do what he can for his own people, and the people of his region, and we (the US government) want it.


When George Bush said after 9/11 that "the American Way of life was not negotiable" he wasn't talking about our "freedoms," he was talking about $2.00 a gallon gas, and disposable cell phones, and driving SUVs, alone, to the supermarket, just for icecream and a newspaper.

9/11 and subsequent actions have all been manipulations to position the US/UK to best be able to maintain our relatively opulent way of life in the face of impending petrochemical scarcity.
posted by stenseng at 8:57 PM on January 20, 2006


I admit, the whole Peak Oil thing (er, excuse me, "toppers") scares the shit out of me. But there was one thing in this article that made me reaffirm my belief in capitalism. Way at the end (for those of us who read the whole piece), it stated:

Adapted from "Half Gone: Oil, Gas, Hot Air and the Global Energy Crisis", by Jeremy Leggett (Portobello Books, £12.99). To order a copy for the special price of £11.99 (inc P&P), call Independent Books Direct on 08700 798 8897

Nuff said? Nuff said indeed.
posted by slogger at 9:04 PM on January 20, 2006


I'd claim to be outraged, but I'm currently wasting about 1000 easily identifiable watts so I'd feel like a bit of a hypocrite.
posted by I Love Tacos at 9:22 PM on January 20, 2006


Nope, the tar sands angle is so much bs.

errr... sorry to break it to you, but they've been producing oil from the sands of Alberta in fairly large volumes for a few years already. Production there will continue to increase for a long time.
posted by sfenders at 9:50 PM on January 20, 2006


Nope, the tar sands angle is so much bs. Sure, you can get oil and gas from them, but it takes so much energy to do so that the per barrel cost has been enormously prohibitive.

Wrong.
[I]n Kuwait, it costs a mere $2 to get a barrel of oil out of the ground. It costs Shell $15 to produce a barrel from the tar sands of Alberta—which is why the reserves sat largely untapped throughout the 1980s and 1990s. "The prime driver of what's being extracted is the cost per barrel," says John Gibson, president and CEO of Halliburton's Energy Services Group. "When the price of oil is back down in the 20s and high teens, there's a lot of risk."
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:56 PM on January 20, 2006


George Bush said after 9/11 that "the American Way of life was not negotiable"

Never think for a second that when George Bush speaks of the "American way of life" that he's talking about you. He's not. He doesn't give a shit about you.
posted by any major dude at 9:58 PM on January 20, 2006


Sorry chief. Do the math.

This year, Alberta's oil sands will produce approximately 313,170,000 barrels of oil. This is somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of total Canadian oil production.

By comparison, Venezuela alone will produce approximately 949,000,000 barrels of oil this year.

Total world oil production reached 68 million barrels per day in 2003, according to a count by the Oil and Gas Journal. That's not much above the 66.7 million barrels per day. in 2001. Production has peaked for more than 50 oil-producing nations, including the US (1970) and Britain (1999). China, second to the US in the consumption of oil, was a net exporter of oil until five years ago.

The US Department of Energy predicts world demand will reach 119 million b.p.d. in 2025, with huge increases in China, India, and other developing nations.

Meanwhile, even given potential (and unlikely) doubling of production from the oil sands of Alberta, if production were to plateau here and now, we would still be clocking in around 65-70 million barrels a day.

That don't feed the bulldog.
posted by stenseng at 10:01 PM on January 20, 2006


and of course, unless you ascribe to abiotic oil or some other notion of replensihable hydrocarbons, known refinable oil reserves will only decrease from the ~70m barrels per day mark, while demand rapidly increases.
posted by stenseng at 10:04 PM on January 20, 2006


The cost of extracting tar sands is still expensive, but that really isn't the point anyway, as they will never really help to offset the decline of conventional oil. The amount of natural gas required to liberate the oil from these tar sands is going to be the limiting factor in the future, along with the huge quantities of water necessary.

Furthermore, it's bullshit to believe Kuwait only spends $2 per barrel to produce oil. Matt Simmons has estimated that the Saudis spend between $10-20 per bbl, if you add everything up.
posted by drstrangelove at 10:28 PM on January 20, 2006


Further, tar sands require the injection of hydrogen to make them light enough to flow through pipelines.
posted by stenseng at 10:32 PM on January 20, 2006


Stay tuned for Operation Impending Doom III: The Lemony Fresh Smell of Victory!
posted by muppetboy at 10:41 PM on January 20, 2006


Oh, that lemony fresh smell is petrochemical?
posted by muppetboy at 10:44 PM on January 20, 2006


I've read that it's more cost-effective to recycle the bitumen in road asphalt than process the Canadian tar sands.

Less roads --> Less driving, right? Win/Win!

Canadian tar sands can get more energy-positive by burning its own output (rather than mainlining most of Canada's spendy nat-gas like they're doing now), so it's going to be economically feasible at these $50 bbl prices.

We really really really should be doing solar -- supply/demand is keeping the price (stuff + installation) high & the economics of it iffy.

I lay the failure to push solar R&D at the feets of Clinton. Asshat republicans are in bed with Industry, but Clinton had no excuse.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:51 AM on January 21, 2006


I keep hearing people talking about this in terms of heating their homes or driving their cars. Those consumer end uses are what you experience directly but those impacts will be trivial.

Oil is so much more than just your heat and gas. It isn't just energy that it is used for. It's the plastic on your keyboard. It's your fed-ex overnight shipping. It's your fresh fruit and veggies. There isn't a single thing that isn't touched by it in some way.

I haven't driven a car in 10 years. I live a minimalist lifestyle. Yet I still know that almost every single aspect of my life is utterly dependent on oil.

That's why the "no blood for oil" crowd piss me off. It is so horribly naive that is breathtaking.
posted by srboisvert at 3:12 AM on January 21, 2006


? I don't have that reaction. The DOE report on petroleum usage shows that 80% of petroleum is burned for transportation. By some version of the pareto principle, our collective idiocy with respect to energy policy is responsible for that 80% outflow. 'course the free market will fix things in the long run.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:06 AM on January 21, 2006


I lay the failure to push solar R&D at the feets of Clinton. Asshat republicans are in bed with Industry, but Clinton had no excuse.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:51 AM PST on January 21 [!]


Why not lay 'todays issues' at the feet of James Earl Carter. Jimmy decided that oil from the Mid East needs to flow, and America would use force if needed?

Or how about Ronald Reagan? The guy with the Voodoo Economics - He trashed most of the renewable energy programs of Carter.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:25 AM on January 21, 2006


'course the free market will fix things in the long run.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:06 AM PST on January 21 [!]


Yea, the 'free market'.
Is that where government action movesmarkets?

How about the latest about day trading from Congress

Exactly how can the 'markets decide' when governments interfere?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:34 AM on January 21, 2006


So when does Canadia get invaded to fight terr?

Way too soon. I have noticed that the American media is starting to pay much too much attention to Canada as of late. Y'all have never expressed so much interest in our elections before.

Go away. Quit looking. No one likes the USA when it gets snoopy.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:56 AM on January 21, 2006


(pokes around, admires the decor)
posted by hackly_fracture at 8:38 PM on January 21, 2006


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