Archives for October 24, 2008


Keeping Your Eye on the “Peak Oil Ball”

While walking the dog early in the morning, I usually look at news headlines, primarily using the New York Times free iPhone app.

One article caught my eye early today, OPEC Orders Cut in Oil Production. It started out with, “The OPEC cartel said Friday that it would reduce its oil production by at least 1.5 million barrels a day to stem what it called “a dramatic collapse” in oil prices as the world economy slows down and oil demand shrinks” and then continues to point out how many countries have set social program and other country revenue-based spending on much higher per-barrel prices, and so there is a tremendous incentive to cut production in order to increase prices.

Though it’s clear OPEC members are trying to find a way to get prices back up, it’ll probably take quite awhile. Can’t we just revel in the good news that demand is shrinking and that gas prices are falling at the pump, airfares are already dropping, shipping costs will probably go down, and that we can breathe a sigh of relief?

Then a fleeting thought ran through my mind, one that I fear many might have and will fall back into old behaviors and go ahead and buy that new gas-guzzling SUV or low mileage car (or make other short-term decisions), “Oh great…maybe I didn’t have to buy that Prius after all!” and then remembered this MinnPost article I’d read in August along with this tremendous Potential Energy podcast in September (both on peak oil), coupled with one of THE most comprehensive, objective and sobering programs I’ve watched in a long, long time: PBS’ Frontline show called “HEAT” (you can watch the entire show online and it’s worth the investment of your time).

In that MinnPost article, the writer explains the predicament we’re in with the help of energy expert Matthew Simmons:

Along with others, Simmons has been warning about peak oil for two decades, but he’s not the first. M. King Hubbert, a geophysicist with Shell Oil, accurately predicted in 1956 that U.S. oil would peak by 1970. That’s when the United States went from being a producing nation to being one that today imports 70 percent of the oil it consumes.
Unlike climate change theorists, who rely on data and modeling, “peak oil” advocates rely on known production data that in every case shows a bell-curve history of discovery to increasing production to decreasing production to exhaustion. Taken together, the data from all oil production sites, along with such other information as the ratio of dry-hole to successful-hole drilling and economic growth rates, have helped geoscientists develop “peak” scenarios that are broadly accepted.

So should we be more focused on peak oil (and running out of it) or climate change?

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