Monday, April 14, 2008

Bad Week for Peak Oil

So last week, they found 10 billion barrels of oil in North Dakotan shale, up from the previously estimated 0.5 billion barrels. And today, they found 33 billion barrels off the coast of Brazil. Considering we (the US) isn't really looking to drill off Florida, or in the wastelands of Alaska, I imagine there are a lot more such finds waiting to be found if we ever really start getting serious about it.

I remember when the oil crisis of 1980 or so, and being very sad at the thought that though I was about to turn 16 and get my drivers license, I wasn't going to be able to drive much if at all, because we were running out of oil. And so it goes, as the Peak oilers and their allies tend to think we are running out of oil, and we are all going to have Hell to pay really soon. Luckily, it does not look like this will be in my lifetime, or that of my kids. I have enough to worry about. After all, in 1950, geologists estimated that the world had 600 billion barrels of oil, revised to 2,000 in the 1960's, 1,500 in 1970, 2,400 in 1994, and 3,000 billion barrels in 2000. Running out of oil no longer keeps me up at night.

Peak oilers remind me of my son's fears. One night, before my son was going to bed, he looked anxious, and I asked why. He said, "I'm afraid of sharks." Of course, in Minnesota, I'm personally more afraid of angry Moose or stray bobcats, but then again we do go to the neighborhood pool a lot in the summer, and God knows when those hungry beasts will get in there, being aquatic man eaters. I told him that if you poke them in the gills, they will release you, allowing you to get away with merely a flesh wound. Dolphins are known to go for shark gills, and so do sharks themselves when they fight. I am proud to state that, armed with this knowledge, sharks have not attempted to bite my son yet, knowing they would be in for a heap of hurt.

The key to peak oil, whether we are halfway through our global tank of gas, is the the biogenetic theory of oil, which is that cumulative decayed vegetation is the basis for our oil reserves. Now most Russians, unlike us in the West, believe oil was not formed from decaying vegetation, but rather through natural processes in the earth's crust and meteors that have nothing to do with bacteria and plants (abiogetic petroleum). Interesting debate. But did you know that there isn't a really good theory for why Earth has so much water? I doubt we'll resolve these issues anytime soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The debate about the origin of oil is not very interesting because everyone agrees we are removing it much faster than it's being created.

I feel like even if oil comes close to running out it won't be that big a deal, 97% of oil goes to making energy (which we can do other ways, clearly) and only 3% to making stuff (plastic). We can always make some quantity of hydrocarbons from e.g. plants.