Friday, September 4, 2009

NYTimes peak oil article

Well, since the New York Times had a well thought out article bashing peak oil I may as well respond.

What this guy totally seems to miss is that we have seen peak oil come again and again in many different countries. This isn't any longer a theoretical construct. Sure what he says about us finding out that the oil fields we have are larger than we thought is true. However none of that has made any difference at all in the countries who started oil production earliest, most notably the United States. If what he said was true than we would expect that the United States would be producing more oil now than ever. Instead the graph of oil production in the United States looks like:

For forty years now production has dropped and dropped. Now we produce only as much oil as in the late 40s. The mini peak after in the 80s was from oil in Alaska. Now even that isn't enough to stop the dramatic decline.

This is not for lack of trying. There are more oil wells in America than the entire middle east. This is not because the government tries to block oil companies, the only places closed to oil companies are national parts, off shore in CA, off shore in FL and a few other areas on the east coast, and a few other government held properties such as ANWR. Since all of this land was chosen for environmental reasons, not mineral reasons, there is no reason to expect that more than a tiny fraction of America's oil is locked in them.

If America was an odd outlier than maybe I wouldn't be concerned. This does not seem to be the case however. I have stared at enough country graphs to know they almost all either look like the graph of America in the 1960s, or like America now. Production is dramatically declining in places as diverse as Indonesia, Norway, Libya and Mexico. Sure some countries like Russia are increasing production but to increase world production these countries must increase output by more than it is declining in countries that are post-peak. Once half of the oil fields are post-peak expect production to drop for quite some time.

Even if this doesn't happen it doesn't help us one bit. Population has been growing faster than oil production for thirty years. We hit peak oil per capita in around 1980. There is less oil per person alive today than there was then and it continues to decline. This is a trend far enough behind us there is little reason to expect it will turn around.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent post glmory! Says it all in a nutshell really.