Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Peak Oil Myths

Peak Oil is incredibly poorly understood.

I constantly come across people who have never heard of it, don't care, or want to change the subject to something more mainstream like the ball game or even some light celebrity worship.

Those that have heard about it often are suffering from various "beliefs" about Peak Oil. So, it seemed worthwhile to discuss a few of the major myths about Peak Oil.

Peak Oil Myth #1: We're running out. Wrong! Nothing could be farther from the truth. Peak Oil, by definition, means we are at most, halfway through. We probably have at least 1.3 Trillion barrels left!

Peak Oil Myth #2: Peak Oil is a scam created by the Big Bad Oil Companies. Wrong. It is amazing to me that most people are so illiterate when it comes to Peak Oil that they don't understand that "investor-owned" oil companies, like ExxonMobil, control very little oil and instead the truth is that it is the world's "national" oil companies, like Saudi Aramco, that control about 52% of daily production and 88% of global reserves.

Peak Oil Myth #3: Hydrogen will make oil obsolete so there is no reason to worry. Wrong! The "hydrogen economy" is a fairy tale. Hydrogen is an energy CARRIER, not an energy SOURCE. Hydrogen can at best be used to transfer energy from place to place but you can't drill hydrogen wells, not even in Iraq. Sorry Mr. Cheney!

Peak Oil Myth #4: "They" are working on "new technology" that will increase alternative energy. Wrong! There is no "they." There is just us. This is a giant failure in conceptualization. People just don't seem to understand the "miracle" of oil. Oil is an amazingly dense energy source. Nothing else we know about comes even close. That is why it is "worth" probably at least $300.00 per barrel and may soon cost that much or more with some tricky "supply and demand" price spiking and a little help from the "electronic herd." This is known as the "new technology myth." Even algal biofuels won't be scaled up soon enough to provide substantial relief from the impact of Peak Oil. Solar, wind, and the rest are no way getting scaled up fast enough.

Peak Oil Myth #5: The problem is Global Warming. Wrong. Global Warming, or it's popular alternative title, "climate change," is NOT the problem. Peak Oil is the problem. Why? Because first of all, global warming is a question. Even though evidence is mounting to support the conclusion that man's activities are influencing the amount of "greenhouse gasses" in the atmosphere and causing significant changes in energy flows, global warming is still a question. There may not be any such existent as a "climate" anyway. Or, the thing we perceive as a climate might be a natural, non-linear dynamic variation in weather across scales and drivers we don't yet understand. 

Peak Oil is a certainty. Geology is simple in that respect. Oil is a finite resource and the last of it will be very hard to find, really hard to extract and really expensive. The big problem between Peak Oil and Global Warming is that if global warming IS true, we need energy to re-tool the giant global machine we built that is spewing out all the greenhouse gasses anyway! Let me say that another way. We need energy to fix global warming. We will need energy to re-build our big machine. That's another reason is why Peak Oil is so important.

 Peak Oil Myth #6: The "Peak" is way, way off in the future, so technology will provide a solution by then. Wrong. Global Oil production seems to have already peaked, maybe in 2005! Even if it hasn't, it may be peaking right now, maybe "plateauing" enough so we really can't tell with our coarse oil inventory technology we have. Even the craziest, most optimistic "forecasts" put the global Peak at 2040 or 2050, even one says 2100. No way we have that much time. Don't fool yourself. The Peak is upon us now, deal with it.

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