peak oil - where does the information come from?

Discussion in 'The big picture' started by pebble, Jun 8, 2007.

  1. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    I was talking with someone this week who contests that we have or are about to reach peak oil. He thinks that the idea that oil is scarce is being promoted by the people who have the most to gain from price increases i.e. the oil industries.

    His argument was based on 2 things:

    1. that the oil industry are greedy and corrupt and therefore it's likely that they would do this.

    2. that all the scientific information on peak oil comes initally from industry scientists. They are the ones that have done the actual field work. All other analysis is based on that inital work, and there are no impartial scientists actually doing the basic research.


    I agree with his first premise, or at least that it's entirely plausible.

    I'm not sure about the second one though, and would like to hear people's ideas on that.


    btw I do believe that we are in (or about to be in) a powerdown or transition phase (for whatever reason), so I'm not being a peak oil sceptic here, just curious to hear that argument from an educated and intelligent person, and I want to know more about that second premise and how real it might be.
     
  2. Honeychrome

    Honeychrome Junior Member

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    Here is a good resource:

    https://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/Index.html

    The argument isn't that oil is scarce- it is true that there is plenty left, but that said, it is a finite amount, so there will always only be less and less of it, and what is left will become harder and more expensive to extract.
     
  3. Jez

    Jez Junior Member

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    G'day Pebble,

    The oil industry is on the whole, thoroughly greedy and corrupt (like 98% of the corporate world), but they have nothing to do with promoting Peak Oil. Some companies (Shell particularly) have taken the stance that it will happen 2+ decades from now (but there is little cause for alarm), and that almost all the 'easy oil' is gone (priming people for huge price rises because they know there is no remotely feasible alternative which can hurt them), but they certainly haven't argued (as most credible Peak Oil proponents have) that Peak Oil has already occurred or is imminent now.

    As Honeychrome says, we are not running out of oil - at the stage of Peak Oil, by definition, the world has more oil than ever before. What comes next is no less serious though. To grow and remain stable, economies need energy - around 86% of our global energy currently comes from oil, coal or gas - all of which are close to, if not already past peak.

    When the extractable amount of oil/gas/coal begins to gradually diminish on an annual basis, economic growth is no longer possible.

    There's sound evidence to suggest we've already reached Peak Oil (though we will only know that for sure with the benefit of hindsight). Peak global production levels were reached early in 2006 and have not been surpassed since.

    Why aren't we feeling the effects?

    Well, we partly are already in the ever rising price of fuel at the pump. But we've largely been protected from even higher prices and economic fallout by what is called 'demand destruction' - the so-called 'Third World' couldn't and can't afford anywhere near the same quantity of oil it did when the price was below $30 a barrel. So all the oil they once bought has been able to be purchased by wealthier countries to offset the fact less total oil has been available - therefore the wealthier countries have been still able to grow economically.

    But of course, quite soon wealthier countries (including those growing at appalling rates like China and India) will have to compete against each other for steadily dwindling supplies - that's when prices will really start to take off and $60/70/80 a barrel will seem like a pleasant memory.

    Many of the credible Peak Oil scientists are retired geologists or other industry related professionals who can speak out on the issue because a) they're the most informed on the more technological and scientific aspects of the industry and b) they're now outside the industry and no longer reliant on it for income.

    Much of the people currently in the industry (including data specialists) are outright Peak Oil deniers, or at the very least, sceptics who believe it's a case of maybe - some distant decade from now.

    The major producing countries - of which Saudi Arabia is the most crucial - are at the forefront of Peak Oil denial.

    I'm afraid your friend is a sceptic based largely on misinformation.
     
  4. heuristics

    heuristics Junior Member

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    Pebble your buddy says:
    "the oil industry (is) greedy and corrupt ...........and therefore .....

    Mate, you dont know the half of it.
    greedy and corrupt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Read "The Seven Sisters" (The Great Oil Companies and the World they Made) by Anthony Sampson, (Coronet Book/Hodder and Stoughton, 1975)
    Or..... a type of ""reader's digest"" version of this, called
    "Oil and World Politics", (From Rockefeller to the Gulf War) by Ted Wheelwright , Left Book Club, 1991)

    or see the DVD "History of Oil" By Robert Newman (sorry, no details, as only viewed a bootleg copy (mea culpa mea culpa, but! the ends justified the means!!))

    Oil companies = Greedy and Corrupt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Try, Terrifying, murderous amoral bastardry knowing no restraint in its insatiable desire for MORE profits, what ever the human, personal, social, environmental cost.

    Reading these books/ seeing the DVD was an eye-opener, because I am of an age where I have only ever known the US as a energy-hungry oil importer.

    It was a shock to discover that at one time in history the US produced far more oil than it needed domestically, and was an extremely aggressive EXPORTER of its oil - this is what brought it into conflict with the USSR, also an exporter of oil to western Europe post WW2.
    The cold war (US v USSR) was not REALLY about ideologies, but really about economics - ie, who was going to """win"" the prize of selling oil to western Europe.
    This view is substantiated when it is considered how """"""tolerant""" the US is of oil-rich regimes and ideologies that differ from theirs. Unless of course you are Iraq, and in 2002 decide to denominate your fabulous oil reserves in Euros, not US $$$$$$$. That cant be tolerated, so the US is obliged to invade your country, kill the citizenry and take control of the oil reserves.
    Venezula has lots of oil, but wants to transfer the wealth to its populace, not the US oil companies, so it too is at the receiving end of US wrath.
     
  5. Jim Bob

    Jim Bob Junior Member

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    Your friend is missing out on a lot of facts.

    Fact: oil companies can make the most profit by producing MORE oil. If they could, they would. Oil companies are not different in this respect to any other company producing a physical product - the more they can produce, the better the profits overall.

    Fact: In the early 1980s, OPEC agreed that they'd limit their oil production to a certain fraction of each country's stated oil reserves. So if you said you had 200 units of oil in the ground, you could produce more oil and sell it than if you said you had 100 units in the ground.

    Fact: After that OPEC decision, every OPEC country's stated oil reserves went up by a large amount, Saudi Arabia the most of all.

    Fact: If we knew for certain that the oil was going to run short (say) in 2009, then we'd all rush to develop and put in place non-oil-using technologies, and demand for oil would drop - certain scarcity would drop demand, and thus drop profits.

    Your friend needs to open his eyes and read before he opens his mouth and speaks.
     
  6. galewhitaker

    galewhitaker Guest

    Facts about the oil companies

    This msg is primarily for Jim Bob

    The reason that this nation won't ever get busy and develop a viable alternative to oil is that the oil lobby won't allow it. They will prevent any legislation or conservation improvements that they view as a threat to their profits. Following is a list of donations by oil companies to our lawmakers (in 2006).

    ChevronTexaco $8,550,000
    ExxonMobil $7,140,000
    ConocoPhillips $5,098,084
    Marathon $4,290,000
    BP $2,880,000
    Occidental $2,042,177
    Shell $1,478,831
    Ashland $904,000
    Sunoco $540,000
    Anadarko $250,000

    The facts are Jim that humans are by nature greedy and self centered (and stupid). When there is no longer enough cheap carbon energy to go around the world is going to be engulfed in war and starvation. The population will "die back" to one billion people where it was when cheap carbon energy was first discovered (around 1850). Read "Collapse" and "The Long Emergency" - "We are sleep walking into the future".
     
  7. Jim Bob

    Jim Bob Junior Member

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    I'm not sure which "this nation" you mean; that you don't mention which one you mean, assuming we all know, is very much a sign of being American - correct me if I'm wrong. Here in Australia the coal lobby is more powerful than the oil lobby.

    I don't think humans are greedy or self-centered - or they are, but it's not this huge dominating thing which determines our entire existence, as certain capitalists and doomsayers both would like us to believe.

    Nor yet do I believe there'll be a "die-off", with hundreds of millions of people dying. It's a rather Mad Max sort of fantasy. I've read those books, and I'm still convinced that we'll see a slower crash, and it won't be catastrophic. Of course, we can make it a catastrophe if we really try hard - say, the USA nukes Iran, or Sheriff Johnny gets re-elected here Down Under and proceeds to ban windmills and vote for union with the USA, or something like that. But we'd have to try hard to make that much of a mess, and even then hundreds of millions wouldn't die.

    Any studied look at history shows that people survive times of trouble and change surprisingly well. There's lots of suffering and chaos, but we survive.

    Doom is kind of comforting for some of us, because if we're all doomed, why then we don't have to do anything, do we? Awesome! But hope is scary - hope means we have to get our shit together.

    Or between doom and hope we can take refuge in ignorant conspiracy theories, "really there is infinite oil, just the oil companies are restricting it for profit, and also anyway they suppressed that car that could run on water, and that perpetual motion machine that guy made with an old pipe and a piece of string." Yeah, whatever.
     
  8. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    I probably should have said that I'm reasonably up with what peak oil is.

    Also want to clarify that the person I was talking to is well read, well educated, politically and personally green (in a middle class, afluent way). He's not a conspiracy theorist in general, and he doesn't believe that there is infinite oil (which would be an idiocy).

    All of which is part of why I am curious about his argument (which I don't agree with).


    I'm used to the idea that we don't really know what is going to happen, so we live with a range of opinions and possibilities, and it makes sense to take the precautionary approach.

    However the idea that not only do we not know what is going to happen (in terms of the details), but that we don't in fact even know what is happening now, interests me.

    The original query is not about if peak oil is true, it's about if the people who did/do all the original research on oil reserves are owned by the oil industry.


    Yes, I didn't put it very well in the first post. I understand that it's not an immediate shortage of oil, but from the public's perspective that is how it will be experienced, as oil becomes more expensive it will feel like there is less because we can't use it so extravagantly.

    My friend's position is that there is a huge amount left, and that it's not going to be as hard to extract as is being made out. Hence my question - is there independant data to refute that?

    Can you point me to some resources that back that up that are relatively easy to understand? I'd like to have something to argue the point with (not just, someone on the internet told me ;)).
     
  9. Jez

    Jez Junior Member

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    Oil company data on reserves and cost for extraction are solely the product of company employees - so no, you're not going to get "independant" information of this type from outsiders...it's the sole domain of individual companies. However, typically, 'company men' have been proven time and time again to overestimate reserves and underestimate extraction costs - proof which is usually provided by independant analysts contrasting the originally released data with the ultimate reality.

    The oil companies typically put unrealistic positive 'spin' on their reserves, production capacity and extraction costs, so they're not overestimating the difficulties and cost - they generally do the opposite...it's good publicity, reassures investors and ensures (almost) nobody panics about reality.

    If there was huge amounts of affordably extractable oil left, why would a major company like Shell be piddling around with the 'shale oil' of Alberta producing oil at many times the cost of past conventional operations?

    Why would companies be building incredibly expensive off-shore deep water operations in vulnerable places like the Gulf Of Mexico?

    It really comes down to common sense. New oil wells (we've discovered all the large and easy ones long ago) flow freely with good pressure, old oil wells require massive injections of water or gas to maintain a decent flow rate. It's pretty obvious which is cheaper and easier. It's also obvious that a land based reserve is easier and cheaper to exploit than one in very deep water in a hurricane zone. And again, it's obvious that if you're extracting oil from kerogen (shale oil) which needs to be melted and uses massive amounts of water and natural gas in the process, plus dealing with the enormous amounts of (highly carcinogenic and toxic) waste product, that's going to cost much more and be infinitely more difficult.

    You don't need "independant data" to corroborate basic physics and economics right?

    The ASPO (click) is as good a place as any to start. M. King Hubbert (click) was a geophysicist and the first to advance the theory of peak oil (accurately predicting US peak).

    Colin Campbell (click) (the founder of ASPO) is a former exploration geologist.

    This page (click) from ASPO has a range of independant industry professionals.

    Aside from these, check the sources on the existing Peak Oil thread - almost none of them are practising industry professionals. Oil companies and their allies do their best to ignore or actively discredit Peak Oil - not promote it as a means to greater profits.
     
  10. galewhitaker

    galewhitaker Guest

    Peak Oil

    Jim Bob

    I believe you when you say that our civilation has the ability to overcome peak oil. The problem is that there are so many people like you that can't imagine a catastrophy. Catastrophys do occur. The flu pandemic of 1918 killed 50,000,000 people. The reason that happend was that people were ignorant about disease. The same kind of scenario transpired in the 14th century when filth and vermin caused the bubonic plague wiping out one third of the world's populationl. Are you old enough to remember the oil shortage (in the U.S.)? People were so panicked about not having enough gas to make it to work they were stealing gas from their neighbors cars. Others were arming themselves and guarding their cars at night. There were four hour waits at the gas stations and there was a terrible feeling of dispair. It takes 10 calories of carbon energy to make one calorie of food. Billions of people in Afica and Asia live on less than $3000 a year. Most of the $3000 is spent on food. If the price of food doubles these folks are going to start starving to death. Starvation is one of the critical seeds of war. The world economy cannot survive on $80 oil. Boone Pickens says he expects the price of oil to rise to $100 later this year.
    Gale
     
  11. galewhitaker

    galewhitaker Guest

    Peak Oil

    Jez

    I think solar energy is a terrific way mitigate our energy problems. If the government had required solar panels on all structures 30 years ago our energy needs would only be fraction of what they are today. Big oil will never allow the goverment to require solar panels. Currently the world consumes 85 million barrels of oil per day. It would require an Apollo scale effort to even make a slight dent in the world's energy needs using solar panels. Here is the bad news, once the price of oil begins to accelerate it will cost so much to manufacture the panels that they will not be able to generate enough electricity to pay for themselves during their lifetime.

    Gale
     
  12. Jez

    Jez Junior Member

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    Re: Peak Oil

    Welcome to the forum Gale.

    Well, it would be interesting to see where we're at if Carter had been re-elected rather than Reagan with his 'there's plenty of oil forever' mantra, but in the long term, I don't think we'd be in an appreciably different situation. Maybe we'd be a fair bit further advanced with the efficiency of solar panels (or geo-thermal, or wind or whatever), but it's entirely possible we'd be just running out of some other resource that's finite (like we are now with solar panels and silicon). We might be discussing the storage problems of the waste from panels and batteries that we'd been through since three decades ago.

    There's a post I made over on our Peak Oil thread - to get the same energy we do from a year worth of oil would require the construction of over 4.5 billion 2.1KW solar panel systems worldwide. The approximate cost of that in dollars - $91,250,000,000,000.

    Financial investment aside, if we assume the life of a solar panel is about 30 years, we don't have anywhere near enough silicon on the earth now to do that even once...let alone every 30 years forever.

    IMO we need to be very careful that any 'solution' we employ to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil is truly a solution - not just a case of trading one resource shortage for another. I really don't think there is a solution, though I do believe that a measured approach like the Oil Depletion Protocol is the best way to effectively and equitably manage Powerdown.

    There's too many of us, using too much energy, and our economies are structured so constant growth (provided almost exclusively by perpetually growing energy reserves) is needed forever or else they'll falter and crash. Any solution which doesn't address the last two with a keen eye on the first, is IMO, doomed to failure.
     
  13. galewhitaker

    galewhitaker Guest

    Peak Oil

    Jez

    Great post. Every thing about using cheap carbon energy is bad for us. Drilling and pumping pollutes the land, burning pollutes the air, some of the profits go to enrich our enemies, its very expensive and getting more so but the worst thing is that it has lulled us into complacency which is a deadly trap. I try to convince the young people I meet that they should channel their talents into working toward solutions for peak oil and global warming. Everyone has the mind set that civilization will continue to roll along as usual and that if there are problems obtaining oil that science and engineering will come to the rescue. Science and engineering may have been able to solve the problem but its too late. Making the transition to a sustainable life style is going to be very painful. No politician will ever get elected on a platform of energy conservation. Here are some ideas that should have been considered:
    1. New developments should be live, work, shop - no cars.
    2. Long haul trucks should be prohibited.
    3. Freeway construction should be stopped.
    4. All new developments should be accessible by free light rail.
    5. All new homes should have room for a vegetable garden.
    6. All cars and trucks should be electric or hybrid.
    7. Short haul flights should be prohibited.
    8. All new structures should have solar panels, solar water heaters and geo thermal systems.
    9. All cities should provide safe biking and walking trails.
    10. We need an Apollo style effort to build nuclear power plants.
    11. All new structures should be designed to be as energy independent as possible.
    12. We need an Apollo style effort to plant as many trees as possible.
    13. All SUVs should be scrapped (SUVs are the most dangerous cars in the world).
    14. We should stop spending money on things like space exploration and concentrate all our resources on
    the impending peak oil/ global warming disasters.
    I have no hope any of these things will be accomplished until after the poop hits the fan. The next time you are stopped on the freeway because there are too many cars just think about the 600 million cars that are currently on the road world wide. We are indeed “sleep walking into the future”.

    Gale
     
  14. Jim Bob

    Jim Bob Junior Member

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    DOOM!!!

    or maybe only if you panic, and build shitloads of nuke plants. "We expect countries to be more politically unstable in the future, because of shortages of resources... hey, I've got a great idea, let's build more nuclear power plants, they always go SO WELL in unstable areas!"

    "BILLIONS WILL DIE!!! BUT LUCKILY THEY'LL JUST BE BROWN PEOPLE SO IT DOESN'T MATTER! Of course a few white people will suffer, too, but I'm okay sitting on my pile of spam tins with my assault rifles, boo-yah!"

    DOOM!!!

    Can we have some rational discussion, please? Oy, vey.
     
  15. Jez

    Jez Junior Member

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    Re: Peak Oil

    You might like to take a read of these two recent articles Pebble:

    Click

    Click

    Sums up a fair portion of what I was trying to put across.





    There's well over half a billion cars in the world, so that's a massive energy and resource cost to replace them, and then, long term, what are we going to run them all on?


    Nuclear is very expensive, has major drawbacks with safety at a variety of levels, take a long time to develop to operational point, but most crucially, it takes a lot of fossil fuels to mine and refine (something the industry NEVER mentions), and uranium production will peak not long after oil (there's a thread in this forum on the latter point which goes into this in great detail).

    I think a lot of what you said above is constructive Gale, but I really disagree with the two above points. :)


    Do you think your above post helped foster any rational discussion JB? :wink:

    I don't think anyone was making points which were along the 'doomer' mode of thinking, or survivalist, or racist in nature. Not quite sure why you reacted the way you did mate.
     
  16. richard in manoa

    richard in manoa Junior Member

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    I like the cut of Gale's jib, except for the part about the nuclear power stations... Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire.
    Also, would it be all that painful? Getting to know the neighbours and having a bit of peace and quiet? Of course, I live where you can get a banana and a few modified, underground stems full of starch so I'm not as scared of starvation as I might be if I lived in brass monkey territory...
     
  17. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Jez, thanks for the links etc 8)
     
  18. christopher

    christopher Junior Member

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    That is not any money. That is so little.

    I agree with a lot of what Gale is saying, except the nuke plants ("Lets build lots of nuke plants, so wankers can leave the aircon on while they go to the office. Who cares if we saddle th next 50,000 generations of humans with toxic waste!n I need my aircon/39 inch tellie/electric range/insert wasteful required appliance here").

    Point by point, I liked what you put out, except for the nukes and the SUVs. I need one, trust me!

    And Collapse is great!

    Doom! JB!) DOOOM!
     
  19. ho-hum

    ho-hum New Member

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  20. Uncle Yarra

    Uncle Yarra Junior Member

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    Hi Pebble,

    A very old priest where I live has a saying that might be appropriate for your friend (and you must say this with a thick Irish accent)
    "DOUBT all you like, but follow your compass".

    No point coming across as a smart-arse or expert (since he doesn't believe experts anyway) - just pose simple, generalised questions that aren't biased, and make him think for himself. Actually, screw the unbias, rub his nose in the stink we can all smell.

    (so the compass isn't NSEW here, but up/down/steady)

    Question #1 (thanks JB for this one)
    Do you think Oil companies can make bigger/smaller/steady profits from selling MORE oil and refined products?
    (logic says they want more oil. More product =More profit)

    Question #2
    Since Colonel Drake discovered that large quantities of oil could be extracted from the ground more than a century ago, do you think we have gotten better/worse/same at extracting oil?
    (logic would say that we are getting better due to technology, yeah?)

    Question #3
    Do you think we are getting better/worse/same at finding oil?
    (logic would say that we are getting better due to technology, yeah?)

    Question #4
    Do you think that as countries (particularly China) develop they will use more/less/same amount of oil?
    (Another no-brainer, take a look at any picture of any polluted Chinese city)

    Question #5
    If we are getting better at finding oil and extracting oil, and we all use more oil will NEW oil fields deplete more quickly/slower/same than previous oil fields?

    Question #6
    If we are getting better at finding oil and extracting oil, why haven't we found two or three more oil fields bigger than the largest in the world?
    (not a compass question, but he should be thinking by now)

    That's about as far as you can reliably steer someone to the basics. Your friend's next question/retort will probably be something like "BUT coal-to-liquids, but ethanol, but natural gas, but nuclear...."

    Think like a lawyer - "So, you agree that there is a problem with oil supply?"
     

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