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anonguest

Peak Oil Anyone?

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So, what with the recent plunge in global oil price, one starts to wonder IF (just like so many other previously fashionable topics of conversation that come and go with the ages) if Peak Oil has now been debunked and we can now move on to whatever this decades trendy topic of intellectual conversation will be......

Yes the stuff is finite and will run out eventually, but 'eventually' could well be a lot longer than the peak oilers originally claimed (rather like 1st generation global warming disciples hysterically claiming we'd all be underwater, from melting ice caps, by 2030 or such like).

Perhaps, after all, the 'eventually' is going to be sufficiently long so that alternate energy sources will develop sufficiently to allow for a much smoother transition and move away from oil than was originally thought? Rather like how, relatively unexpectedly, crude oil arrived on the scene just in time to prevent whales from being hunted to extinction.

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Technology will just move on, like it moved on from coal. In terms of extraction technologies, and alternatives.

I'm pretty optimistic about humanity's ability to adapt.

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Technology will just move on, like it moved on from coal. In terms of extraction technologies, and alternatives.

I'm pretty optimistic about humanity's ability to adapt.

Pretty much the point I was surmising, as a conversation starter...... that we manage to make the admittedly inevitable right side of the Hubbert curve a lot less of a steep decline than was originally and ominously claimed by the doom and gloomers

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In 1984 I bought a Volvo. I thought it was the last car I would have, what with £2 a gallon and all that! I was wrong.

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"Peak oil" was based on scientific illiteracy.

Nuclear power has moved on a lot since Chernobyl.

Apart from the waste handling and decommissioning. No one has improved that yet.

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Slightly embarrassed by this as I have spent more time than I care to remember reading various "doomer" peak oil forums and lapping it all up.

I hope I have a more balanced view now, but I still find the basic peak oil arguments compelling, even if their timing is way off - due to fracking and a tail off in demand (?)

I also think efficiencies have bought us a lot of time, and there is much potential for this to be extended further - imagine if North America replaced huge SUVs with Golf Bluemotions for example...

In short I think the peak oil theory is sound - there is clearly a finite amount of stuff in the ground that is viable to exploit - but having gone from thinking that day is just around the corner, I am now doubtful that I will see it in my lifetime...

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Oil will eventually be used for lubricants.

Not sure how we will feed the world without its as a fertilizer.

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Oil will eventually be used for lubricants.

Not sure how we will feed the world without its as a fertilizer.

My understanding is that fertiliser (ammonium nitrate and the like) is ultimately derived from natural gas and not oil. The hydrogen required for the Haber process (nitrogen + hydrogen = ammonia) is obtained relatively cheaply from natural gas. Oil supplies could disappear and we would still have loads of fertiliser? We might not, however, have the means to easily transport it though to its intended point of use!

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So, what with the recent plunge in global oil price, one starts to wonder IF (just like so many other previously fashionable topics of conversation that come and go with the ages) if Peak Oil has now been debunked and we can now move on to whatever this decades trendy topic of intellectual conversation will be......

Yes the stuff is finite and will run out eventually, but 'eventually' could well be a lot longer than the peak oilers originally claimed (rather like 1st generation global warming disciples hysterically claiming we'd all be underwater, from melting ice caps, by 2030 or such like).

Perhaps, after all, the 'eventually' is going to be sufficiently long so that alternate energy sources will develop sufficiently to allow for a much smoother transition and move away from oil than was originally thought? Rather like how, relatively unexpectedly, crude oil arrived on the scene just in time to prevent whales from being hunted to extinction.

"imminent peak oil" was what the environmentalists seized on back in the early 2000's as a strong motivation to move away from hydrocarbons. They seized on it for political purposes rather than any scientific basis. The issue is that we live in a highly technologically disruptive time. At any time multiple new technologies can appear that will totally change the future as we currently see it. In the early 2000's peak oilers were making their predictions based on current knowledge, reserves and technology to extract those reserves. However neither of these positions stands still.

Shale/tight oil extraction is a good example of how a new disruptive technology can change the whole global equilibrium. It was obvious to me back in 2005 that shale was going to be a major game changer in terms of the oil supply. I joined this site I think in 2008, and around that time there were many threads on the subject of peak oil. Anyone who mentioned shale was going to be a game changer then was shouted down by the environmentalists, who hated the idea of shale, both because of its alleged impact on the environment and its potential to postpone doom scenarios such as peak oil. This is one of the problems when you try to assess where the oil industry is going - everything you will read will have a highly politicised slant depending on the authors point of view. Unless you have some real handle on the technology involved it's virtually impossible to form a correct opinion based on the amount of tosh circulating around. The only thing you can really do if you don't have the technology approach is go for the median approach, read lots of articles and try to see where the balance is. The conclusion you will probably draw is that shale is neither the second coming that some people claim it is, nor is it the uneconomic environmental disaster that others claim. In fact it is somewhere inbetween those two points. The skill is determining where.

For me, shale/tight oil extraction is going to have further disruptive impact in the future on the way we live, but that is another issue to be discussed another time. Regarding oil supplies, there is a ton of the stuff down there, all waiting to be got out, should the economics favour it. I really don't see the world getting into significant issues regarding oil supply until at least after 2100. Oil supply is not going to be something that gives us any immediate problems IMO.

I think the world will move away from oil, primarily because as a civilisation we desire more energy and oil simply doesn't do a good enough job in providing it. We are never going to move forwards with energy production until we ditch oil and move onto something much more sophisticated. The only real candidate is fusion, which would be providing us with energy now if we choose to use it. The issue being a similar one to tight oil/shale and conventional oil, no point going for the tight oil when conventional is so cheap, and similarly no point going for fusion while oil is so cheap. I think the transition from oil to fusion will happen long before we hit oil supply problems, and is more of an engineering problem than a scientific one. The amount of money we spend on fusion in comparison to its potential importance to us as a civilisation is pitiful. I'm surprised someone (like the Japanese or the Germans) hasn't just said, we're going to crack this and throw some real money at it rather that messing around with the odd billion here and there.

In the meantime I think it makes sense to diversify the energy supply where possible. Wind power was going great guns in the UK but recently has taken a backward step. This is disappointing to me, as it seemed like we were starting to get very efficient at wind installation. I'd also like to see more solar in the UK as well.

As a final point I would say that hydrocarbons are very abundant in the universe. There are lakes of alkanes on Titan. The problem isn't running out of hydrocarbons, but running out of oxygen to combine them with. Oxygen is a much rarer resource - the vast majority of it we have on earth was generated by plants IIRC.

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The future doesn't bother me! I will see only a little of it!

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For me, shale/tight oil extraction is going to have further disruptive impact in the future on the way we live, but that is another issue to be discussed another time. Regarding oil supplies, there is a ton of the stuff down there, all waiting to be got out, should the economics favour it. I really don't see the world getting into significant issues regarding oil supply until at least after 2100. Oil supply is not going to be something that gives us any immediate problems IMO.

Oxygen is a much rarer resource - the vast majority of it we have on earth was generated by plants IIRC.

On the first point, do at least mention what those 'disruptions' you believe to be. Sounds tantalisingly fascinating.

On the second point at least, surely, unlike helium or hydrogen it's a case of Oxygen remaining 'captive' on Earth? It's just that it will be increasingly 'locked up' in chemical compounds and........we will need energy to release it again in to the atmosphere.

P.S great post though!

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Is it possible that by heeding warnings of a looming oil crisis, we have collectively prevented it from happening?

You mean, by increasing the price of oil until production exceeded demand?

As mentioned above, 'Peak Oil' was just another attempt by the usual suspects to funnel more money into the 'renewables' nonsense.

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Cheap oil is a better term than peak oil.

Saudi it seems has plenty of that until it doesn't. We have to assume it actually is a finite substance on the basis the North Sea fields (and others before it) are playing out.

Mankind depends on ever improving technology which allows the stuff to be recovered at reasonable cost. We have largely already harvested the low hanging fruit, but when the likes of BP were investing in stuff like Deepwater Horizon it shows the lengths they are already pursuing to get to the stuff.

There will always be some oil.. The question really should be, will you be able to afford it.

Clearly that envelope has already been pushed a bit already..

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You mean, by increasing the price of oil until production exceeded demand?

As mentioned above, 'Peak Oil' was just another attempt by the usual suspects to funnel more money into the 'renewables' nonsense.

An increase in price also spurs exploration and development of reserves that were previously seen as unappealing if not outright uneconomic. A bit of a motive and the extraction technology can change to make it economic even if the price hasn't changed enough for it to become so with existing methods.

However "something else will turn up so let's just continue as normal" is stupid. That it's happened a couple of times (water to coal to oil), before the relevant resources were all used up, is a poor excuse for complacency and is definitely not some sort of natural law of development.

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On the first point, do at least mention what those 'disruptions' you believe to be. Sounds tantalisingly fascinating.

On the second point at least, surely, unlike helium or hydrogen it's a case of Oxygen remaining 'captive' on Earth? It's just that it will be increasingly 'locked up' in chemical compounds and........we will need energy to release it again in to the atmosphere.

P.S great post though!

That's the beauty of photosynthesis, especially in the sea. For every carbon buried in the sediment the oxygen freed during its liberation was not re-utilised by respiration, and an atmospheric greenhouse gas also reduced in abundance.

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