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What You Need to Know about Peak Oil

Introduction

Apocalypse. The end of the world as we know it. A return to the Dark Ages. Those are some of the scarier phrases used to describe the upcoming peak in global oil production, commonly known as simply "Peak Oil." Peak Oil refers to the point at which new oil production can no longer keep up with declining oil fields, and this results in a yearly decline in the amount of oil produced. Since the world has become increasingly dependent upon petroleum year after year,1 declining petroleum production has the potential to severely disrupt our lives through much higher prices and fuel shortages.

Discussions of Peak Oil really began to enter the mainstream in 2005. Congressman Roscoe Bartlett gave a speech about Peak Oil on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.2 After Hurricane Katrina caused oil and gasoline prices to spike3 people began to ask serious questions about our oil supplies. The issue began to receive more attention from the mainstream media.4 This essay will discuss the history of Peak Oil discussions, the potential ramifications from a peak in oil production, the influences of the supply/demand imbalance, and finally what you need to do to prepare for Peak Oil.

History

The history of the study of Peak Oil goes back to the 1950s, when Shell geophysicist M. King Hubbert5 reported on studies he had undertaken regarding capacities of oil and gas fields. Hubbert predicted that oil production in a particular region would follow a bell curve, rising to a peak when half of a field had been extracted, and then going into decline. Hubbert applied his reasoning to oil production in the continental U.S., and in 1956 he predicted that U.S. oil production (not including Alaska, which was not granted statehood until 1959) would peak in 1970.6 Hubbert’s prediction came true,7and a peak in oil production became widely known as a Hubbert peak. Figure 1 shows a graphical representation of the peaking of oil production in the lower 48 states.8

346_article_52_thumb_usproductionpeakfromeia

’’’Figure 1.‘’’ United States Production Peak as Predicted by Hubbert. |border

Many followers of Hubbert’s methodology have attempted to apply his techniques to predict a peak in production for the entire world. Hubbert himself predicted a worldwide peak in 2000.9 Figure 2 shows a graph from Hubbert’s 1956 paper in which he predicted a peak in 2000 based on worldwide reserve estimates of 1.25 trillion barrels of oil.

346_article_52_thumb_hubbertfig20

’’’Figure 2.‘’’ Hubbert Curve Predicting Worldwide Oil Production.^^^Ibid. p. 32.^^^|border

To date, many incorrect predictions for worldwide production have been made, causing some to question the reliability of Hubbert’s method. Michael Lynch, of M.I.T., has documented some of these failed predictions.10 Princeton professor Kenneth Deffeyes, one of those who have made several premature predictions, wrote on February 11, 2006:11

"In the January 2004 Current Events on this web site, I predicted that world oil production would peak on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2005. In hindsight, that prediction was in error by three weeks. An update using the 2005 data shows that we passed the peak on December 16, 2005."

In the same article, Professor Deffeyes wrote, "By 2025, we’re going to be back in the Stone Age."

Government agencies such as the Energy Information Administration (EIA) contrast with those who believe that a peak is imminent (or has already taken place). The EIA, using estimates of the world’s conventional oil resources provided by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), analyzed 12 different scenarios and concluded that the peak will occur "as soon" as 2021, or as late as 2112 depending on the specific assumptions utilized.12 Their reference case forecasts a peak in 2037. The following list summarizes some of the dates that have been predicted for Peak Oil:13

  • 2006-2007 Bakhitari, A.M.S. Iranian Oil Executive
  • 2007-2009 Simmons, M.R. Investment banker
  • After 2007 Skrebowski, C. Petroleum journal Editor
  • Before 2009 Deffeyes, K.S. Oil company geologist (ret.)
  • Before 2010 Goodstein, D. Vice Provost, Cal Tech
  • Around 2010 Campbell, C.J. Oil company geologist (ret.)
  • After 2010 World Energy Council World Non-Government Org.
  • 2010-2020 Laherrere, J. Oil company geologist (ret.)
  • 2016 EIA nominal case DOE analysis/ information
  • After 2020 CERA Energy consultants
  • 2025 or later Shell Major oil company
  • No visible peak Lynch, M.C. Energy economist

While the timing of the overall peak in world oil production is still highly debatable, world oil production outside of the OPEC countries and the former Soviet Union has already had a documented peaked. Figure 3 shows the oil production peak for various countries.14

346_article_52_thumb_hubbertworld2004

’’’Figure 3.‘’’ Non-OPEC, Non-FSU Oil Production.|border

Peak Oil Implications

Contrasting Opinions

Given the wide range of Peak Oil forecasts, as well as sharply contrasting opinions on the effects of Peak Oil, it should come as no surprise that the battle lines have been drawn. Some reports suggest that we need to take immediate action to avoid severe economic consequences.15 Those on the other side would suggest that the forecasts of imminent peak unnecessarily frighten people, and that in reality there are solutions to mitigate Peak Oil when it does eventually arrive.16 It is not an easy task to determine who is correct.

Let’s first consider the view that a looming oil peak will cause civilization as we know it to come to an end. Those who hold to this viewpoint are commonly referred to as "doomers." Part of their argument is that the entire food chain is highly dependent on cheap fossil fuels, and after Peak Oil there will be worldwide food shortages. As oil production declines, so must human population. The American way of life will be in particular danger because we have built our societies around cheap oil. We live in suburbs 30 miles from our jobs. We drive vehicles that are not fuel efficient. These things will not be practical after Peak Oil. As oil becomes expensive, people will start to move closer to their jobs, resulting in a collapse of the suburban housing market. So the argument goes.17,18,19,20

On the other side of the coin are the "Cornucopians." They represent a wide range of views, but all believe that the devastating effects predicted by the doomers are highly unlikely. Some believe that a yet to be invented technological solution will spare us. Others believe that alternative fuels can supply the additional energy as prices increase. Some believe that market forces will provide the answers; as oil becomes more expensive, fewer people will buy it and alternatives will begin to become competitive.21,22,23

The Role of Government

In 2005, the Department of Energy commissioned a report from Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) on the risks we face due to Peak Oil. Commonly referred to as "The Hirsch Report," after principal author Dr. Robert L. Hirsch, it warns of the potential consequences of approaching Peak Oil unprepared. The report emphasizes the seriousness of the problem we are facing, and indicates that mitigation efforts should begin immediately. In the executive summary, the report states:24

"The peaking of world oil production presents the U.S. and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem. As peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically, and, without timely mitigation, the economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented. Viable mitigation options exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to have substantial impact, they must be initiated more than a decade in advance of peaking."

Furthermore, the report warns:

"The problems associated with world oil production peaking will not be temporary, and past ‘energy crisis’ experience will provide relatively little guidance. The challenge of oil peaking deserves immediate, serious attention, if risks are to be fully understood and mitigation begun on a timely basis."

Governments could do much to prepare for and mitigate the effects of Peak Oil, but some of the steps that would be necessary are likely to be politically unpopular. By taking steps to encourage energy conservation, worldwide oil supplies would be extended, postponing the peak and giving society more time to adjust to declining petroleum supplies. Politically popular ideas could be the encouragement of conservation via tax breaks or rebates,25,26 and increased funding for development of certain alternative energy technologies.27 Politically unpopular ideas may be a reduction in speed limits,28 increased fuel efficiency standards,29,30 and an increase in the gasoline tax.31

The End of Cheap Oil

Even as the debate over the timing and implications of Peak Oil rages, a more immediate issue appears to be at hand. That is the end of the era of "cheap" oil. Supply and demand are in such tight balance that it is putting steady upward pressure on world oil prices.32 The announced projects for expanding oil capacity over the next few years will be hard-pressed to keep up with demand, maintaining the pressure on oil prices.33,34 Some oil companies are even beginning to publicly acknowledge that "the era of easy oil is over."35

The escalation in oil and gas prices after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is probably a good preview of what life will be like when Peak Oil is upon us. Prices will spiral higher and higher, and people will be forced to spend more of their budgets on gasoline, natural gas, and heating oil. Higher energy costs may lead to higher costs throughout the economy, leading to higher prices across many sectors. Blame will be cast in many directions. Currently, oil company greed, supply and demand imbalances, the transition to ethanol as an oxygenate, government policies, and speculation are all being blamed on rising energy prices.36,37

Geopolitical Implications

Peak Oil promises profound geopolitical implications. Much of the remaining oil reserves are in countries unfriendly to the United States. As oil demand begins to outstrip supply, this will give those countries increasing influence on the world stage. Cash will flow into these nations as it flows out of consuming nations like the United States. Countries like Venezuela, Iran, and the former Soviet Union have the potential to benefit from Peak Oil, as they will hold significant leverage over the consuming nations.

Michael Klare, author of the book Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum was asked in a 2001 interview about the potential for conflict over access to oil. Klare stated:

"The greatest potential conflict remains the Persian Gulf area, because this is where the greatest concentrations of oil are located and where we also see considerable discord and instability. Right now, the United States has about 25,000 troops in the Persian Gulf, and many more are available in the United States for rapid deployment to this area. We have also stockpiled vast supplies of armaments in the region. So this is the area where U.S. troops are most likely to become involved in conflict over oil. But there are other areas where we might become involved. For example, the United States could become involved in future conflicts in the Caspian Sea basin, as that area becomes more important as a source of energy. Conflict could also erupt in the South China Sea, as a result of a struggle between China and its neighbors (some allied with the United States) over the control of offshore oilfields. Indeed, the recent collision between a Chinese fighter jet and a U.S. reconnaissance plane is a possible harbinger of such conflict."38

When asked what he expected the world to look like in 2050, Klare answered:

"I would expect a much higher level of international conflict over access to critical sources of oil and water, such as the Persian Gulf area, the Nile River basin, the Jordan and so on. Conflict will also erupt within many countries, as various groups (whether defined by class, ethnicity, tribe or religion) fight over the control of arable land, energy supplies, water and so forth. We could also see unprecedented levels of international migration, as people move from overpopulated and drought-stricken areas to countries with adequate supplies of land and water. In many cases, these migrations would spark violent resistance from those already living in the more desirable areas."39

Fueling the Future

Barring a total collapse of civilization as envisioned by some of the "doomers," humanity will have to find some alternatives to petroleum as demand begins to outstrip supply. Some of the shortfall is likely to result in increased conservation as energy becomes more expensive. But there will still be a demand for alternatives to petroleum, especially for critical services (e.g. ambulances, fire and police protection, military, etc.). The following is an examination of several of the more prominent alternative fuel options.

Renewable Alternatives

Renewable alternatives can’t come close to meeting our present usage of motor fuels. The consumption of gasoline in the United States exceeds 135 billion gallons. Diesel consumption exceeds 40 billion gallons.40 However, several of the alternatives have some potential for mitigating the effects of Peak Oil.

Ethanol

To put the problem in perspective, ethanol is by far the largest volume alternative fuel produced in the U.S. Total ethanol production in the United States in 2005 was approximately 4 billion gallons, and consumed 14% of the entire corn crop.41 Because ethanol contains a lower energy density than gasoline, this is the energy equivalent of about 2.8 billion gallons of gasoline. In other words we are using 14% of our corn crop to produce an alternative fuel equivalent to 2% of our gasoline consumption. If we turned 100% of the corn crop into ethanol, we would produce the equivalent of less than 15% of our annual gasoline consumption. And this analysis doesn’t even take into consideration that ethanol requires substantial fossil fuel inputs in order to produce it, reducing the net energy produced even more.42

The potential for producing ethanol from biomass is greater. Cellulosic ethanol can be produced from waste biomass, such as municipal solid waste, wood chips, corn stover, switchgrass, etc. The primary stumbling block is that the conversion process is still too expensive for cellulosic ethanol to compete with grain ethanol, which has slowed down market penetration of ethanol produced in this way. A new cellulosic-ethanol plant requires almost 5 times the capital expenditure of a new corn-ethanol plant.43 Also, special enzymes are required for breaking the cellulose down into simple sugars, which can then be converted into ethanol. Historically, these enzymes have been very expensive, but costs are coming down.44,45 A 2005 Business Week report states:

"Last December the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy released a report, Ending the Energy Stalemate, that analyzed the potentials of various alternative fuels, including both types of ethanol (which is just an industrial grade of alcohol). Only cellulosic ethanol got a decisive thumbs-up. By 2020, the commission predicts, its production cost could be less than 80 cents a gallon. In stark contrast, after 20 years producing grain ethanol, it still costs $1.40 a gallon to produce — roughly twice as much as gasoline."46

Biodiesel

Biodiesel, another alternative fuel, has a couple of advantages over ethanol. The first is that it has over 1.6 times the energy content of ethanol.47 The second is that the energy balance for biodiesel is significantly better than that for ethanol, because water is not miscible in biodiesel and therefore does not have to be removed via an energy intensive distillation step.48 Finally, diesel engines are far more efficient than spark-ignition engines, leading to greater gas mileage.49 The primary disadvantages are that most people do not drive cars with diesel engines, meaning that currently, biodiesel can only make a small dent in our consumption of petroleum diesel.50 Michael Briggs from the University of New Hampshire has argued that biodiesel produced from high-yielding algae has the potential to replace our current usage of fossil fuels.51 Some caveats are that the capital costs are high, the technology has not been demonstrated on a large scale, and it would require that far more people drive cars with diesel engines.

Wind and Solar

Wind and solar power are very good alternative energy sources, but with the present transportation infrastructure they are not suitable as replacements for oil. They can produce electricity, which can lower the use of coal in power plants. However, to be able to make a direct impact on our petroleum usage, we would need to widely adopt some variation of electric vehicle. Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) are starting to gain attention, and have the potential for mitigating some effects of Peak Oil provided they are widely adopted.52

In summary, no renewable alternative can come close to replacing our current usage of petroleum at this time. A combination of renewable alternatives can replace a portion, but additional measures, such as conservation and select nonrenewable alternatives, will be required if we are to avoid extreme hardship.

Nonrenewable Alternatives

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is often mentioned as a replacement for petroleum. But, hydrogen is not an energy source, so much as it is an energy carrier, and certain very significant technical challenges must be solved before "The Hydrogen Economy" ever becomes realistic. A workshop conducted by the Department of Energy in 2002 concluded that the transition to a hydrogen economy "could take several decades" for a number of reasons. Hydrogen has a very low energy density, is difficult to transport and store, and hydrogen fuel cells are very expensive. In addition, at present 95% of all hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, which is why it is listed as "nonrenewable," even though the potential exists for creating it from renewable sources. Due to the substantial challenges, hydrogen can’t be counted on at this time to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil.53

Nuclear

Nuclear energy has a limited ability to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil. The reason for this is that only 3% of the electricity generated in the U.S. is produced from petroleum.54 The situation is analogous to that for wind and solar power, in that wide-scale adoption of PHEVs would be required in order for nuclear energy to make a significant contribution toward Peak Oil mitigation.

However, one possible advantage of technologies that produce abundant electrical power is that any power produced in excess of what is needed can be used to produce hydrogen by electrolysis of water. This would address one of the criticisms of using hydrogen as an energy source – that the hydrogen is produced primarily from fossil fuels. However, the inherent inefficiency of the electrolysis process55 makes it worthwhile only when there is an excess of electrical power available.

Diesel production via Fischer-Tropsch

The Fischer-Tropsch reaction enables a gaseous feed to be converted into a liquid product.56 This reaction can be used to convert practically any hydrocarbon source (natural gas, coal, biomass, etc.) into a liquid fuel, and thus is of significant interest in mitigating the effects of Peak Oil.

There are enormous reserves of natural gas throughout the world. Worldwide reserves of natural gas are estimated to be 6,200 trillion cubic feet, of which 3,000 trillion cubic feet are estimated to be stranded.57 This is enough stranded natural gas to produce 300 billion barrels of fuel.58 The gas-to-liquids (GTL) process can turn this gas into fuels, and "has the potential to be planet-changing."59

A number of GTL projects have been announced, specifically in Qatar.60 However, the capital costs for these plants are approximately twice those of conventional oil refineries.61 Projects of this magnitude also invariably take years to complete, so the fuel demand needs to be anticipated in advance. Finally, although GTL has the potential to meet some of our fuel needs, there is a significant potential downside. The conversion of natural gas to liquid fuels continues the trend of burning fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Given the stark warnings issued by many scientific organizations regarding this issue, the risks of environmental damage must be weighed against the benefits.62,63,64

Two other technologies, Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) and Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL) have similar potential for producing liquid fuels via the Fischer-Tropsch reaction. In fact, CTL was used by Germany during World War II to provide aviation fuel to the Luftwaffe.65 However, in both cases the capital costs are significantly higher than for GTL, and solid feeds are more difficult to handle than gaseous feeds.66 Therefore, it can be expected that these technologies will not make a significant impact toward meeting the world’s fuel demands until the potential for GTL starts to become exhausted. The potential increase in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from widespread adoption of CTL must also be considered.

Non-conventional Petroleum

The world possesses an enormous reserve of non-conventional petroleum, only a small fraction of which is commercially accessible. Non-conventional petroleum consists of tar sands, primarily in Canada, extra heavy oil, primarily in Venezuela, and shale oil. Tar sands and extra heavy oil reserves are estimated at 3.3 trillion barrels.67 Global shale oil resources are estimated to be 2.9 trillion barrels, with 750 billion barrels located in the U.S.68

Regarding tar sands, The Energy Information Administration wrote in their Annual Energy Outlook 2006:

"Canada’s resource of 2.5 trillion barrels of in-place bitumen is estimated to be 81 percent of the world total. Economically recoverable deposits in Canada amount to about 315 billion barrels of bitumen under current economic and technological conditions, and in 2004 Canada shipped more than 87 million barrels of light, sweet syncrude. If fully developed, the bitumen resources in Canada could supply more than 40 years of U.S. oil consumption at current demand levels."69

Venezuela is estimated to have 100 to 270 billion barrels of recoverable extra heavy oil in the Orinoco River basin.70 However, the political climate in Venezuela is increasingly hostile toward foreign interests. The Venezuelan government has threatened to cut off oil shipments to the U.S.,71 has recently seized the assets of foreign oil companies operating in Venezuela.72, and has raised tax rates for oil companies operating in the country.73 These factors may significantly reduce the ability of Venezuelan heavy oil to mitigate Peak Oil effects.

While the U.S. has significant reserves of shale oil, to date these have not been economically recoverable. Production of oil from shale requires a substantial input of energy into the process. David Goodstein, professor of physics and vice provost at the California Institute of Technology writes, "Some experts believe that shale oil will always be a net energy loser."74. The Energy Information Administration suggests that other factors may also prevent shale oil reserves from being developed using existing technology:

"There is some risk that, despite its apparent promise, the underground mining/surface retorting technology ultimately will not be viable, because of its potentially adverse environmental impacts associated with waste rock disposal and the large volumes of water required for remediation of waste disposal piles."75

In summary, non-conventional petroleum resources have a significant potential for mitigating Peak Oil, but geopolitical, technological, economic, and environmental factors may severely hamper the timing and ultimate production rates of these resources.

Preparing for Peak Oil

Given that cheap alternative energy sources do not appear to be able to replace declining petroleum supplies, the effects of Peak Oil will be far-reaching. Gas prices that have escalated since Hurricane Katrina have helped emphasize just how dependent we are on fossil fuels. Prices in the range of $7/gallon for gasoline, already a reality in many European countries, would have a significant impact on the American lifestyle. Studies have shown that an oil price increase of 10% can increase overall inflation by up to 0.8%,76 reducing the consumer’s purchasing power. Anticipating the potential effects of Peak Oil can offer some guidelines for avoiding or reducing the possible impacts.

Perhaps the best way to prepare for Peak Oil is to consider it in the context of preparing for a natural disaster. For example, if one lives on the Gulf Coast, they need to be prepared for an eventual hurricane. The consequences of failure to prepare played out on television following the devastating hurricanes of 2005. Failure to prepare took place on both individual and governmental levels. In the case of Peak Oil, there are actions that individuals can take to reduce their dependence on petroleum. Purchasing vehicles with higher fuel efficiency, ride-sharing, biking, and utilizing public transportation are just a few of the ways that individuals can reduce their petroleum usage. Governments can encourage conservation by individuals, and they can also adopt policies to reduce petroleum consumption nationwide (e.g. encouraging a move toward higher efficiency diesel engines).

Summary

The exact timing of Peak Oil is debatable, as is the extent of the consequences. Many countries around the world, including the United States, have already documented a peak in oil production and a worldwide peak is likely to happen in the not too distant future, affecting the lives of most people living today. Cost-competitive alternatives to petroleum can not be counted on to meet the projected demand shortfall, but alternatives do have the potential for meeting a portion of our fuel demands. Given the inevitability of a peak in oil production, the current climate of escalating oil and gasoline prices, and the warnings of the Hirsch report, a move by individuals to reduce personal dependence on fossil fuels should help prepare them for potential petroleum shortages. Governments can take actions to prepare society as a whole for the transition to a "post-petroleum" world. Those who fail to prepare will be hit the hardest from the onset of Peak Oil, as they are now being hit hard by escalating gasoline prices.


Web-Based Resources

1 World Oil Supply, 1970-2005. EIA.DOE.gov. Energy Information Administration. 2006. Accessed April 2006 at http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/ipsr/t44.xls.

2 Bartlett, Roscoe. The Challenge of Peak Oil. Accessed April 2006 at http://www.bartlett.house.gov/SupportingFiles/documents/PeakOil.pdf. Speech by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett on Peak Oil to the US Congress.

3 World Weekly Retail Gasoline Prices (Cents per Gallon) 1993-2006_. EIA.DOE.gov. Energy Information Administration. 2006. Accessed April 2006 at http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/hist/mg_tt_usw.htmusw.htm.

4 CNN Presents: We Were Warned – Tomorrow’s Oil Crisis. CNN.com. 2006. Accessed April 2006 at http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/presents/index.oil.html.

5 M. King Hubbert. The Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/HH/fhu85.html.

6 Hubbert, M. King. Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels. Paper presented at an American Petroleum Institute meeting in San Antonio, Texas. March 7-9, 1956 p. 24.

7 Fournier, Donald F. and Westervelt, Eileen T. Energy Trends and Their Implications for U.S. Army Installations. Defense Technical Information Center. September 2005. p. 12.

8 Long Term World Oil Supply_. EIA.DOE.gov. Energy Information Administration. 2000. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/presentations/ 2000/long_term_supply/sld007.htmsupply/sld007.htm.

9 Hubbert, p. 22.

10 Lynch, Michael C. CRYING WOLF: Warnings about oil supply. 1998. Published online at http://sepwww.stanford.edu/sep/jon/world-oil.dir/lynch/worldoil.html.

11 Deffeyes, Kenneth. Current Events: Join us as we watch the crisis unfolding. February 11, 2006. Published online at http://www.princeton.edu/hubbert/current-events-06-02.html

12 Wood, John, et al. Long-Term World Oil Supply Scenarios: The future is neither as bleak or rosy as some assert_. EIA.DOE.gov. Energy Information Administration. 2004. Accessed April 2006 at http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/feature_articles/ 2004/worldoilsupply/oilsupply04.htmlarticles/2004/worldoilsupply/oilsupply04.html.

13 Hirsch, Robert L. et al. Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management_. Report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy, February 2005. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.projectcensored.org/newsflash/The_Hirsch_Report_Proj_Cens.pdfCens.pdf.

14 Strategic Significance of America’s Oil Shale Resource_. Department of Energy. 2004. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.evworld.com/library/Oil_Shale_Stategic_Significant.pdfSignificant.pdf.

15 Hirsch et al. p. 5.

16 Steady as She Goes_. Economist.com. 2006. Accessed May 2006 at http://economist.com/finance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=6823506id=6823506.

17 Kunstler, J.H. The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. (Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 2005).

18 Simmons, M.R. Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005).

19 Deffeyes, K. Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage. (Princeton University Press, 2003).

20 Savinar, M. Oil Age Is over: What to Expect as the World Runs out of Cheap Oil: 2005-2050 (Matt Savinar, 2004).

21 Lynch, M. The New Pessimism about Petroleum Resources: Debunking the ‘Hubbert Model’ (and Hubbert modelers). Minerals and Energy. July 2004. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.gasresources.net/Lynch(Hubbert-Deffeyes).htm.

22 Rist, C. Why We’ll Never Run Out of Oil. Discover. June 1999. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.discover.com/issues/jun-99/features/featoil/

23 Yergin, D. It’s Not the End of the Oil Age. WashingtonPost.com. July 31, 2005. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/29/AR2005072901672.html.

24 Hirsch, et al. p. 4-5.

25 Tax Incentives for Hybrid Vehicles_. FuelEconomy.com. US Department of Energy & US Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed November 2005 at http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/tax_hybrid.shtmlhybrid.shtml. The US Federal Government introduced tax breaks for hybrid vehicles in 2005.

26 Tax Deductions on Hybrid Car Purchases. HybridCars.com. hybridcars.com. 2005. Accessed November 2005 at http://www.hybridcars.com/tax-deductions.html. The US tax breaks were reorganized in 2006 to be "tax credits."

27 Young, Jeffrey. The Search for Alternative Fuels. VoANews.com. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.voanews.com/english/NewsAnalysis/AltFuels2006-05-16-voa98.cfm. The increase in gas prices has spurred support for various kinds of alternative energies, as reported in this Voice of America News article.

28 Wilson, John D. Surest road to improved health and traffic safety. Houston Chronicle. February 24, 2002. Available online May 2006 at http://www.ghasp.org/publications/55chronicle.html. On example of the poor public reaction to decreased speed limits came in 2002 in Houston, TX.

29 Reynolds, Maura. A New Drive for Greater Fuel Efficiency. Los Angeles Times. May 10, 2006. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-gas oline10may10,1,5798536.story?coll=la-headlines-nation. According to the LA Times, increased fuel efficiency standards are opposed by many Republicans due to their clout with auto manufacturers and many Democrats due to their clout with auto workers.

30 Reddy, Sudeep. Economy standards fueling debate. May 8, 2006. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/050906dnbuscafe.1284d609.html. This article details the debate surrounding increased fuel efficiency standards.

31 The New York Times/CBS News Poll_. February 22-26, 2006. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/national/20060228_poll_results.pdfresults.pdf. Although the public is generally against increased gasoline taxes, this poll indicates that things such as lower dependence on foreign oil and decreased global warming are sufficient incentives.

32 A Primer on Gasoline Prices_. EIA.DOE.gov. Energy Information Administration. 2001. Accessed April 2006 at http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/analysis_publications/ primer_on_gasoline_prices/html/petbro.htmlprices/html/petbro.html.

33 World cannot meet oil demand. Times Online. 2006. Accessed April 2006 at http://business.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,13130-2124287,00.html.

34 Heading For Peak: Skrebowski’s Oilfield Megaprojects Update. Global Public Media. 2005. Accessed April 2006 at http://www.globalpublicmedia.com/transcripts/379.

35 Chevron Corporation. WillYouJoinUs.com. Accessed April 2006 at http://www.willyoujoinus.com/.

36 _ What’s up with oil, gasoline prices?_. MSNBC.com. 2006. Accessed April 2006 at http://msnbc.msn.com/id/12410064/.

37 New Gasoline Study Shows Profits, Not Crude Oil Prices Or Ethanol, Are Driving Pump Price Spike. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. 2006. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/energy/pr/?postId=6133.

38 Resource Wars: An Interview with Michael Klare. AlterNet. May 1, 2001. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.alternet.org/story/10797/.

39 Ibid.

40 Estimated Consumption of Alternative and Replacement Fuels for Highway Vehicles_. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. 2005. Accessed April 2006 at http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/2005/html/table_04_10.html10.html.

41 Ethanol FAQ. American Coalition for Ethanol. Accessed April 2006 at http://www.ethanol.org/FAQs.htm.

42 Patzek, T.W. Thermodynamics of the Corn-Ethanol Biofuel cycle UC Berkeley Report, June 2004.

43 Annual Energy Outlook 2006. EIA.DOE.gov. Energy Information Administration. 2006. p. 45. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/pdf/issues.pdf.

44 Genencor Heralds Pres. Bush’s Call to Move Beyond a Petroleum Based Economy_. Genencor International press release. 2006. Accessed March 2006 at http://www.genencor.com/wt/gcor/pr_11388149921138814992.

45 Creating Cellulosic Ethanol: Spinning Straw into Fuel_. Biocycle. 2005. Accessed February 2006 at http://www.harvestcleanenergy.org/enews/enews_0505/enews_0505_Cellulosic_Ethanol.htmEthanol.htm.

46 Not Your Father’s Ethanol. Business Week. February 21, 2005.

47 Figure 7. Western Governor’s Association Energy Policy Resolution_. June 14, 2005. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.angtl.com/pdfs/IGFCC_APPENDIX_V.pdfV.pdf. Ethanol contains 75,000 BTU/gal versus 121,000 BTU/gal for biodiesel.

48 Hagen, John P. and Yu, Dan. Ternary phase diagram biodiesel fuel – 2-propanol – water, Poster presented at The 40th Western Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society. January 22-25, 2006.

49 Monahan, Patricia and Friedman, David. DIESEL OR GASOLINE? Fuel for Thought. Union of Concerned Scientists. 2005. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.grinningplanet.com/2005/04-12/diesel-vs-gasoline-article.htm.

50 Ibid.

51 Briggs, Michael. Widescale Biodiesel Production from Algae_. August 2004. Paper Accessed May 2006 at http://www.unh.edu/p2/biodiesel/article_alge.htmlalge.html.

52 All About Plug-In Hybrids (PHEVs). Accessed May 2006 at http://www.calcars.org/vehicles.html.

53 National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap, from the results of the National Hydrogen Energy Roadmap Workshop. Washington D.C. April 2-3, 2002. United States Department of Energy. Paper available online at http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs/national_h2_roadmap.pdf.

54 Net Generation by Energy Source by Type of Producer. EIA.DOE.gov. Energy Information Administration. 2005. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat1p1.html.

55 Evenson, William E. The Potential for a Hydrogen Energy Economy. International Union of Pure and Applied Physics. 2005. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.iupap.org/wg/energy/annex-1d.pdf.

56 Vessia, Øyvind. Fischer- Tropsch reactor fed by syngas. Zero Emission Resource Organization. 2006. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.zero.no/transport/bio/fischer-tropsch-reactor-fed-by-syngas.

57 _Reserves are considered to be stranded if it is uneconomical or impractical to get them to market.

58 Syntroleum Corporation. http://www.syntroleum.com. Acquiring and Developing Stranded Reserves. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.syntroleum.com/pdf/brochure.pdf.

59 Fischer, P. A. Ending blackouts? An underground technology resurfaces ’’ WorldOil.com, September 2001. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.worldoil.com/magazine/MAGAZINE_DETAIL.asp? ART_ID=1550&MONTH_YEAR=Sep-2001YEAR=Sep-2001.

60 Qatar Petroleum. http:// www.qp.com.qa. _Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) Projects . Accessed May 2006 at http://www.qp.com.qa/qp.nsf/web/bc_new_projects_gtlgtl.

61 Annual Energy Outlook 2006. EIA.DOE.gov. Energy Information Administration. 2006. p. 57. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/pdf/issues.pdf.

62 Global Warming FAQ_. Union of Concerned Scientists. 2005. Accessed May 2006 at [http://www.ucsusa.org/globalwarming/science/global-warming-faq.html]].

63 Kerr, R. No Doubt About It, the World Is Warming. Science. May 2006.

64 Global Warming Impacts. EPA.gov. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2000. Accessed May 2006 at http://yosemite.epa.gov/oar/globalwarming.nsf/content/impacts.html.

65 Coal liquefaction_. Full Committee Hearing in the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. United States Senate. Accessed May 2006 at http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction= Hearings.Testimony&Hearing_ID=1546&Witness_ID=4371ID=4371.

66 Annual Energy Outlook 2006. EIA.DOE.gov. Energy Information Administration. 2006. p. 57. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/pdf/issues.pdf.

67 Ask an Energy Expert. EIA.DOE.gov. Energy Information Administration. 2005. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/experts/expertanswers.html.

68 Annual Energy Outlook 2006. EIA.DOE.gov. Energy Information Administration. 2006. p. 53. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/pdf/issues.pdf.

69 Ibid., p. 53.

70 Country Analysis Briefs: Venezuela. EIA.DOE.gov. Energy Information Administration. 2006. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Venezuela/Oil.html.

71 Chavez makes US oil export threat. BBC News. August 15, 2005. Accessed May 2006 at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4153318.stm.

72 _Venezuela takes back oil fields _. BBC News. April 3, 2006. Accessed May 2006 at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4873202.stm.

73 Venezuela’s Chavez Targets Oil Majors With New Tax_. CNN Money. May 8, 2006. Accessed May 2006 at http://money.cnn.com/services/tickerheadlines/for5/ 200605081652DOWJONESDJONLINE000582_FORTUNE5.htmFORTUNE5.htm.

74 Time to Panic_. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. July/August 2004. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.thebulletin.org/article.php?art_ofn=ja04huebnerofn=ja04huebner.

75 Annual Energy Outlook 2006. EIA.DOE.gov. Energy Information Administration. 2006. p. 53. Accessed May 2006 at http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/pdf/issues.pdf.

76 LeBlanc, Michael and Chinn, Menzie. Do High Oil Prices Presage Inflation? The Evidence from G-5 Countries. Santa Cruz Department of Economics. 2004.

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I was going to post this as news, but this seemed more fitting. In the April 2006 edition of SIAM News, there is the first of a two part series of articles about the techniques required to recover heavy oil, and some details on what it requires to mathematically model foamy oils in the resevoir (a result of extraction). Now, the weight of an oil is measured in "terms of API (American Petroleum Institute) gravity, which is related to specific gravity—the denser the oil, the lower the API gravity." The US Department of Energy defines "heavy oil as having API gravity between 10° and 22.3°." But, this isn’t a clear cut disctinction as in " some reservoirs, oil with gravity as low as 7° or 8° is still considered heavy rather than ultraheavy, because it can be extracted by heavy oil production methods." The rest of the article is divided into two parts: an extraction method and foamy oils.

The article discusses one means of oil production in which the oil resvoir is called a "solution gas drive reservoir" because the gases dissolved in the oil are released into the resevoir as the pressure drops. In some cases have been known to improve the extraction performance. Additionally, the article that some times a "a network of high-permeability channels, termed wormholes," is formed as the oil is extracted, and this may also enhance production.

The second part of the article discusses foamy oils. As the oil is extracted from the well, the gas that is coming out of solution will cause the oil to foam up inside the well, and its behavior becomes important in the production rate. So, it is important to understand how foamy oil behaves. As of yet, no model exists, and any numerical simulations are based upon a two-phase model, which is given in the article.

In History you say "that oil production in a particular region would follow a bell curve" but the actual curve he used was derived from a the logistic differential equation. It is not a bell curve.

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/LogisticEquation.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubbert_peak

Over on Rob’s blog, he says one thing he wishes he would’ve addressed in this article was the negative side effects of mining oil out of tar sands. While not exactly the same, there’s a good podcast on the effects of Coal Bed Methane where you extract methane from ground water in coal seams. The podcast is by Sci-Q, and I’m not sure how you can get it without using iTunes. Bottom line is that this technology and tar sand extraction aren’t entirely innoculous methods for getting the goods.

I was also listening to NPR: Science Friday podcast about the Avain Bird flu, and they talked about the pretty hard and fast cap we have on our ability to produce a vaccine (if a viable one is found with efficacy for the virus that eventually jumps to humans, that is). The point here with that is that private industry has been loath to invest in the facilities for this kind of thing because of the lack of profit potential vs. treatments. This is in a similar vein to how the oil industry has been backed into a corner by profit potential and public pressure and hasn’t built more refineries. The pharmacuetical industry seems to see vaccines as a lawsuit magnet as well. One of the more interesting arguments of groups like Die Off is that we have allowed an unprecedented number of vulnerable people to drift along with treatments for their diseases. After peak oil some of these people could become profoundly vulnerable as petro-chemicals make up part of their medicines, plus the transportation of medicine will become ever tougher. Are we setting ourselves up for a massive holocaust of people with health issues? Another argument of Die-Off seems to be the raising and transportation of food. It’s true that we use a lot of petro-derived fertilizer for food, but a lot of that can be made from coal, or done without. We could find better ways of transporting food too. I also think this is the one big thing I have a problem with globalization. By stopping governments from subsidizing their farmers and forcing food to go global, we are also setting people up world wide to be totally dependant on each other for food supplies. On one hand, this might be a good thing and it may help prevent wars, but on the other, it could be horrible if the transportation infrastructure fails due to something like loss of energy supplies. As farming in a country becomes a lost tradition, and the arable land is paved over for, say, industry, you can’t get that arable land back. What happens when, say, South Korea is completely paved over and can’t feed itself and then there is a disaster preventing trade from supplying their food?

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