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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Plain Talk

Richard Heinberg's Oil Depletion Protocol on the surface sounds reasonable but the algorithm doesn't hold up as anything unique on closer inspection. He tries to describe it in layman's terms:
How Would It Work?

The idea of the Protocol is inherently straightforward: oil importing nations would agree to reduce their imports by an agreed-upon yearly percentage (the World Oil Depletion Rate), while exporting countries would agree to reduce their rate of exports by their national Depletion Rate.

The concept of the Depletion Rate is perhaps the most challenging technical aspect of the Protocol, yet even it is easy to grasp given a little thought. Clearly, each country has a finite endowment of oil from nature; thus, when the first barrel has been extracted, there is accordingly one less left for the future. What is left for the future consists of two elements: first, how much remains in known oilfields, termed Remaining Reserves; and second, how much remains to be found in the future (termed Yet-to-Find). How much is Yet-to-Find may be reasonably estimated by extrapolating the discovery trend of the past. The Depletion Rate equals the total yet-to-produce divided by the yearly amount currently being extracted.
Maybe the math and long division tempts people to think it means more than it does. In fact, the premise looks utterly meaningless to me. In actuality, apart from what goes into storage vaults like the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the world already imports almost exactly the amount of petroleum that it exports. Reducing exports means reducing imports, however one wants to parse it.

All this mumbo-jumbo that Heinberg tries to valiantly explain boils down to one thing -- of which I can explain clearly. CONSERVE, CONSERVE,
CONSERVE

5 Comments:

Professor Blogger SW said...

It's really just the Upsalla protocall isn't it? Although I agree that the main idea is to decrease the slope on the backside of the production curve and using less, conservation is the best way to do that, the primary focus of the protocal is to figure out an equitable way to distribute this shrinking resource while demand is growing to prevent conflict. It is an agreed upon distribution formula.

Of course it will never work because the biggest glutton in the world, is also the country that has the biggest military by far and has just set about demonstrating the will to use it (although will and ability are two different things).

8:51 PM  
Professor Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Here I disagree.

Obviously, if markets continue to function post peak as they do now, the protocol is redundant and silly.

However, human nature being what it is, international panic and hoarding is more likely.

The protocol addresses this by formally enforcing dispersion of oil to needy countries in proportion to what is today.

12:53 AM  
Professor Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

Formally enforcing dispersion of oil to needy countries?

The very next thing that would happen is that the oil (producers|shippers|refiners) shipped the stuff to the less-needy countries in return for more money than they would have gotten otherwise.  The needy countries won't be able to do a thing about it.

Think "oil-for-food corruption", only with the entire developed world in favor.

Even if you could enact such a thing, it would never work.  Wasting time on such nonsense is foolish.

7:53 AM  
Professor Blogger monkeygrinder said...

E-P:
"Wasting time on such nonsense is foolish."

Bitter hack that I am, I realize life is not a Coca-Cola commercial ("I'd like to teach the world to sing...")

But, I am not satisfied with just letting the international freak-out occur after the peak oil crunch hits.

So, is there a more sophisticated solution than the Rimini / Uppsala protocol? It seems within the realm of the possibility. I'll give it some thought. I hope others do as well. And I think if the protocol does nothing but spur such ideas, it still is valuable - not nonsense.

4:52 PM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

So the "protocol" acts as a euphemism for the two hated words: conservation and rationing.

Part of my point is that they should call a spade a spade.

6:54 PM  

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