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Monday, August 29, 2005

The Era of Contingencies

Every once in a while I ponder why, when Hubbert correctly predicted the date of peak oil in the U.S. around 1970, we still seem to extract a substantial fraction from domestic sources over 30 years later. In fact, several contingencies extended our run for years.
  1. Alaskan oil
  2. low throughput stripper wells
  3. Gulf oil
  4. other offshore oil
  5. easing of consumption rates
I think of stripper wells like sucking a thick milk-shake through a straw; the rate limiting effect has nothing to do with your lung strength. The combination of throttling and working near the boundaries of the possible effectively extended the back slope of the U.S. peak a bit beyond what we would have expected. Along the same lines, see Bubba's post as we approach the end of the line for the deep offshore rigs.

I declare that the era of contingencies has officially ended (1970-2005, RIP). Tar sands, oil shale, and methane hydrates qualify as second order contingencies; a miracle has to occur before we even consider them as remotely possible. War and hegemony, both imagined and real, has become the new contingency. And realizing that fact has become an admission of defeat. The oil economy has virtually no other options left. And global warming will stomp on us if we exercise our dirty wild card.

The Event that Introduces Peak Oil to a Nation


Professor Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:27 PM  
Professor Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:55 PM  
Professor Anonymous Anonymous said...

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8:04 PM  
Professor Blogger Peter said...

First, you need to turn on the word verification option in the comments section located inside of your settings. That way, you'll be able to stop all the SMOG (SpaM blOG) entering your comments section.

Second, it's nice to see a BLOGGER that's put two plus two together.
Yes, the world is still addicted to OIL and our foreign policies in the Middle-East reflect that fact.

Lastly, I believe mandated community recycling programs, increased funding for solar energy & wind power development, further research into converting coal into oil, conservation (to include extended existing subway systems), and hybrid cars may give our OIL FEED world a few more years of economic breathing room.

Hopefully, people will wake up before the coming global crisis arrives on everyone doorsteps...


8:04 PM  
Professor Blogger Big Gav said...

Gee - so many complimentary comments - your site traffic must be soaring :-)

Should the end of the era of contingencies be named "Hubble's Peak" ?

2:56 AM  
Professor Blogger Bubba said...

Tar sands are a reality. They won't stave off peak oil, but by 2020 more oil will be produced from Canadian Tar Sands than in the entire US.

As for Hydrates and Shale oil I totally agree.

Prudhoe Bay was kind of unexpected. I mean it was the biggest conventional oil field in North America (except Cantarell) and it was discovered (I think) in 1971.

11:35 AM  
Professor Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

The main use of petroleum (and by definition, any replacement for it) is energy for transportation.

But will the long-term demand be there at $50+ per barrel?  It looks like electric cars are coming (at a speed which surprised me), and they'll take energy from everything between a micro-hydro generator on the creek out back to a nuclear plant.  The one thing they don't need is petroleum in more than trivial amounts.

By 2030, it may be that the US's main hydrocarbon supplies are solar-powered stripper wells and thermal depolymerization of refuse, and the main use of them is chemicals and aviation (if aviation doesn't go with LNG or LH2).  Lithium-ion batteries are good enough to run most road transport (rail can be electrified directly and can do just fine on zinc-air), and the price will come down.

The end of tar sands may already be in sight, along with the end of petroleum.  They'll start to be abandoned as soon as the price outweighs the convenience, and fast-charging batteries allowing 200+ mile cruising ranges will certainly come up in convenience.  In other words, be ready to sell (or even short) your tar-sands investments.

1:43 PM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

Right as far as Canada is concerned. Unfortunately the US is not Canada or Venezuela. Unless we want to try to reach 60 states in the union.

5:40 PM  

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