Monday, January 31, 2011

Peak Oil

Normally, peaks are good things.  Not so when it comes to oil.
"Peak Oil" refers to that magic moment when the maximum amount of petroleum extraction has occurred.  After that, it's a steep drop.  There is a goodly amount of disagreement and controversy over the notion of "peak oil."  Certain parties believe we have already passed the point of no return.  Other precincts maintain that there is no such thing as "peak oil" and it's the concoction of the liberal agenda (sound familiar?)  I have a family member who works in the oil industry and I candidly asked him last summer how close we are to peak oil.  "Not for a long, long time," he responded.

One publication does not paint so rosy a picture.  Business Insider argues that we hit peak oil in 2005.  In fact, they cite World Energy Outlook 2010 as having a more realistic model than the majority of the oil industry: "According to its latest study, the IEA (International Energy Agency) now expects global total liquids production to increase to just 96 million barrels per day by 2035! Bearing in mind the fact that the world currently produces 88 million barrels of total liquids per day, the IEA is now essentially implying that output will only increase by 9% over the next 25 years!"

Output slowing.  While the world's demands for oil grow by leaps and bounds every day.  So what happens if we're currently on the downside of the curve?  Do we all just start walking to work?
We should be so lucky.  An end to affordable oil means basically an end to civilization as we know it. Matt Savinar runs a site called Life After the Oil Crash.  While I'm not so quick to support his views on the veracity of peak oil, he does do a very good job of making people aware of just how dependent we are on oil and not just for transportation.
-Take a look at all the plastic objects in your immediate vicinity right now.  They all take oil to produce.
-The pesticides and fertilizers we use to grow food are made with oil.  The tractors and other farm implements needed to produce and harvest food all run on oil.  Yeah, we kinda need food, don't we?
-Computers and the internet itself require oil to operate.  A computer needs ten times its weight in oil to be manufactured.  The vast server installations that keep the Net up and running are powered with electricity, electricity that is often generated guessed it...power plants fueled by oil.  Even if the power plant is runs on coal, it still takes oil to mine and transport the coal.

So it's kind of a big deal, yes.  And as of right now, the world has no contingency plan of what to do after the crash, a crash that I am beginning to be convinced is on its way.
Enough of my postulating.  What do you think?  Are we near peak oil?  Does such a thing even exist?  If so, what are you planning to do after the crash? 

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  1. On Facebook, SteveTop said: "In the past, the problem with the peak oil theory is that it assumed that our technological capability was static. Although I agree that we'll eventually reach a point where the remaining oil is in places that we just can't get to unless we develop technology that allows us to defy or redefine the laws physics as we know them. I would like to think that if we reach that point, we will have come up with a better energy source than oil."

    Good point, Steve. I hadn't thought of the technological angle.
    But you're right, the only way to solve the multiple problems involved is to find a new, sustainable energy source.

  2. Sounds like you're a newbie to the Peak Oil thing. One important point: It's about RATE of extraction and not so much about "amount".

    You might want to start here:

  3. Thanks, Step. I'll check out the link.

    By the by, you may wish to check Wikipedia's definition of "Peak Oil." Seems like they have a different conception of it than you do and you might want to edit.

  4. Hey Step? Do you think you could a write a piece on Peak Oil for here? I'd really like to read your take on it, perhaps tie it in with Global Warming (another area of interest for me.) Since I usually come at things from a futurist/science fiction writer's point of view, maybe you could give us your vision of what a world after Peak Oil would be like? If interested, you can contact me at Thanks!