Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Peak Oil" goes mainstream

David Seaton's News Links
I've selected an excellent article from the Telegraph to illustrate the idea that "Peak Oil" has gone mainstream. It is no longer an idea sneered at by "hard nosed realists" as "flaky" or the province of people who go around hugging trees.

The Telegraph is a conservative newspaper of the moldiest sort, not at all "touchy feely", so that any tendency they might have to sympathize with anything like a granolist world view can be readily discounted.

This, then is an article you can show without fear to any skeptical, curmudgeonly relative without fear of being scoffed to scorn. DS

Tom Stevenson: Expensive oil is here to stay, so let's explore what that means - Telegraph

Abstract: The latest report from the International Energy Agency makes scary reading. You don't have to be a "peak oil" doom-monger to believe the world faces an energy crunch. Investors, and everyone else for that matter, need to think through the implications of a significantly higher oil price.(...) You can argue about when the gap between our thirst for oil and our ability to find more of it becomes a major problem, but few now claim that it isn't an issue. There are two sides to the energy squeeze, neither of which looks good. On demand, we all know that energy use is rising but it is questionable whether we have really taken on board the scale of the increase. Population growth is part of the problem, with a rise from six billion people to perhaps nine billion, made worse by rising levels of prosperity. More people are using more energy per head. As Van der Veer says: "China and India are entering the energy-intensive phase of their development. This is the point when people buy their first television or car, or board a plane for the first time. Most people in China and India have never boarded a plane yet." The modern industrial world does not just use a lot of oil, it is fair to say that current western civilisation would not be possible without it. Oil gets us from A to B, it heats us, it fertilises our food, it keeps us clean, it is a constituent of pretty much every man-made thing we touch. Given the developed world's addiction to oil, what is surprising is not that China's oil demand is doubling every 10 years but that it is not growing even faster. The other side of the energy conundrum is supply. Here the harsh truth is that the easy oil has already been tapped. We have already used up the oil and gas that is easy to extract. So while the International Energy Agency thinks there might be as much as 20,000 billion barrels of oil and gas hidden under the earth - as much as 400 years' supply - most of it will never see the light of day. There are also serious doubts about how much oil is really left. Saudi Arabia, for example, has reported reserves of 260 billion barrels every year for the past 15 years, despite having produced about 100 billion barrels over that period. It is no coincidence that Opec production quotas are determined by claimed reserves.(...) What is worrying is that the oil price is at record levels when we have not yet had the first hurricane of the year (expect a big one in 2007, the experts say) or any serious upheavals in the Middle East.(...) Longer-term, the higher cost of conventional energy is good news for alternative energy producers. Wind power, solar energy and biofuels all become more viable as the oil price heads into uncharted territory. Looking a generation and more ahead, I think the unspoken truth about the looming oil crisis is that the so-far inexorable march of globalisation should not be taken for granted. In the great sweep of history, the 200-year oil age may be seen as a blip before a return to a more sustainable, more local economic system. I'm just not betting my pension on that brave new world arriving any time soon. READ IT ALL

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