ECOSPECTIVE: Peak oil – worry now


Daniel O’Neail
A certain columnist for a newspaper conglomerate recently commented that those of us concerned with climate change are “doomsayers.” He’s wrong.

Doomsayers are those who say there is no point in doing anything, “it’s to late,” or “we can’t help anyway.” The environmentalists are actually the most optimistic people on earth. We believe that we can change things. We believe that the world can be a better place if we actually make an effort, and we are happy to tell anyone who will listen that there is still hope for humanity’s future, we just need to adjust our thinking and actions.

Conservation of resources is preservation of the species.

For example, peak oil.

Most of us understand the results of peak oil. It isn’t when we run out of oil, it’s when demand is higher then production. It’s called Hubbert peak theory and has been around since Mr. Hubbert used it to accurately predict America’s oil production peak between 1965 and 70.

Peak oil is reached when we can no longer pull as much out of the ground as the world demands. At that point the national oil reserves are used make up the shortfall until they are quickly depleted. This is followed by a massive jump in oil prices, as nations that produce oil cut exports to keep their own needs filled. Then our economy, that we have allowed to become dependant on this single finite resource, suddenly and abruptly changes.

This single resource, that gets us to work, our product to market, our groceries to the store, and is the prime ingredient in every plastic item we own or use, becomes rationed, or replaced. But what efforts, real efforts are being made to replace our dependency on oil?

Almost none.


Because instead of listening to the optimistic environmentalists, who are telling us solutions, we and our government are listening to the true doomsayers who tell us there is nothing else, oil is the only way and there is no other option.

Of course there are also the overly optimistic oil experts such as Chevron engineer Jeff Hatlen, who says, “Yes, there are finite resources in the ground, but you never get to that point.”

You never reach a finite point?

I must have missed that lesson in math class.

Where do we stand today with oil prices double what they were at this time last year?

The most optimistic estimations of peak production forecast it will happen between 2020 and 2040, remember we need to implement any changes 20 years in advance to be non-disruptive.

According to the US-based Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) annual report. 2030 Oil requirements will be 37% higher the 2006 at our current growth.

In 2005 the Wall Street Journal published findings that between 2001 and 2025, cars and trucks will cause almost 75% of the increase in oil consumption by India and China.

So what about production and reserves?

Well, most nations will tell you there is plenty of oil left, and gallons of reserves, but how are the measuring the reserves?

Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Iran, and Iraq all more then doubled their national reserves between 1987 and 88 – but no related exploration data upholds this sudden discovery.

Were these barrels of oil misplaced? All 161 billion of them? Left in someone’s garage and forgotten? Or are they new estimates based on existing wells? Or are they just meaningless numbers based on the idea that “if there is oil in place A maybe there’s oil in place B.”

The world’s second largest oil field, the Burgan field in Kuwait, peaked in November, 2005.

In March of 2006 Mexico declared that its Cantarell Field was reaching depletion.

And according to experts the largest oil field in the world, responsible for approximately half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production over the last 50 years, has peaked.

And last week at the G8 summit in Japan there was a request from the foreign ministers for oil producers to pump faster, to stabilize the price of gas and by relation food.

Today we have to look at the alternatives, electric and hydrogen engines, the Zen Car, mass transit, biofuels, to ease our dependency on oil, because in my math class you do reach a finite point. It’s just a matter of when.

So if someone asks, “When should I worry about peak oil?” the answer is “Yesterday.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s