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The Olduvai Theory: energy, population, and industrial civilization (PDF)
Richard C. Duncan, The Social Contact
“The Olduvai Theory states that the life expectancy of industrial civilization is approximately 100 years: circa 1930-2030. Energy production per capita (e) defines it. The exponential growth of world energy production ended in 1970. Average e will show no growth from 1979 through circa 2008. The rate of change of e will go steeply negative circa 2008. World population will decline to about two billion circa 2050. A growing number of independent studies concur….”
(Winter 2005/6 issue)
More of Dr. Duncan’s writings and depletion models can be found at www.oilcrisis.com/duncan/ -AF
The permanent energy crisis
Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch
…With looming energy shortages, the risk of conflict over energy access (and the wealth fossil fuels generate) is certain to grow. Throughout history, competition over the control of key supplies of vital raw materials has been a source of friction between major powers and there is every reason to assume that this will continue to be the case. “Just at it did when the Great Game was played out in the decades leading up to the First World War, ongoing industrialization is setting off a scramble for natural resources,” John Gray of the London School of Economics observed in a recent article in the New York Review of Books. “The coming century could be marked by recurrent resource wars, as the great powers struggle for control of the world’s hydrocarbons.”
As in the Great Game, such conflicts most likely would not arise from head-on clashes between the great powers, but rather through the escalation of local conflicts sustained by great power involvement, as was the case in the Balkans prior to World War I. In their competitive pursuit of assured energy supplies, today’s great powers — led by the United States and China — are developing or cementing close ties with favored suppliers in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa. In many cases, this entails the delivery of large quantities of advanced weaponry, advisors, and military technology — as the United States has long been doing with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, and China is now doing with Iran and Sudan.
Nor should the possibility of a direct clash over oil and gas between great powers be ruled out. In the East China Sea, for example, China and Japan have both laid claim to an undersea natural gas field that lies in an offshore area also claimed by both of them. In recent months, Chinese and Japanese combat ships and planes deployed in the area have made threatening moves toward one another; so far no shots have been fired, but neither Beijing nor Tokyo have displayed any willingness to compromise on the matter and the risk of escalation is growing with each new encounter.
The likelihood of internal conflict in oil-producing countries is also destined to grow in tandem with the steady rise of energy prices. The higher the price of petroleum, the greater the potential to reap mammoth profits from control of a nation’s oil exports — and so the greater the incentive to seize power in such states or, for those already in power, to prevent the loss of control to a rival clique by any means necessary. Hence the rise of authoritarian petro-regimes in many of the oil-producing countries and the persistence of ethnic conflict between various groups seeking control over state-oil revenues — a phenomenon notable today in Iraq (where Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds are battling over the allocation of future oil revenues) and in Nigeria (where competing tribes in the oil-rich Delta region are fighting over measly “development grants” handed out by the major foreign oil firms).
(10 February 2006)
Klare usually specializes in the foreign affairs aspect of energy. In this article, he addresses Peak Oil and energy more directly. The original article at TomDispatch has an introduction by editor Tom Engelhardt. Klare’s article is also posted at Znet.
Are Big Oil’s tanks running dry?
The Economist via Energy Re
The world’s big private oil companies are reporting record profits on the back of high oil prices. They should enjoy it while it lasts, for they are struggling to find new reserves to replace the stuff they are pumping. — The big oil companies are probably less worried about riding out public opinion than they are about operational challenges that threaten their future. Executives may be popping champagne corks now, but the oil wells that generate the big bucks are drying up. Behind the headline figures, less enticing numbers lurk. Shell’s profits came despite a decline in its oil production compared with the year before; Exxon also suffered a small decline (see chart). And Shell replaced only 70-80% of the oil it pumped with new reserves. In 2004 the replacement rate was even lowerunder 50%and the firm suffered a scandal over the misreporting of its reserves. BP replaced a healthier 95% in 2005 according to a formula set by America’s Securities and Exchange Commission. Exxon replaced 83% by the same measure (or 112%, according to its own less conservative calculations).
(7 Feb 2006)
Kinkos founder: ‘after peak oil: apocalypse or opportunity?’
Lance Helfert and Kinko’s Inc. founder Paul Orfalea, Ventura County Star via EV World
In 1942, 17-year-old Pvt. Harold Zatkowsky sat down for his first breakfast in the U.S. Army. “That was the first time in my life when I got enough to eat.”
America hasn’t always been rich, but most of our generation always had enough to eat. Too many of us younger than 60 see films like “Seabiscuit” and view the Depression as some sort of literary device. But not so long ago, Americans lived very differently than we do now. With our accelerated rate of change, how differently will we live 20 or 40 years from now? Will the end of cheap oil destroy our standard of living or create new opportunities to improve our lives? Or both? (6 Feb 2006)
Note that this article is advertising the authors’ investment fund, and the opportunities mentioned are largely investment ones. -AF
EU commission shrugs off looming oil shortage as ‘just a theory’
EU admits having no plan for ‘peak oil’ crisis
Green Party UK press release
The EU’s energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs has admitted he has no plan to deal with rapidly rising oil and gas prices in the face of shrinking supply and booming demand.
In a response to a parliamentary question put by Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas, he shrugs off the so-called ‘Peak Oil’ scenario as ‘no more than a theory’.
Dr Lucas, an MEP for South-East England and a member of the European Parliament’s Environment and International Trade Committees, said: “The Commission’s attitude represents a frightening dereliction of duty.
“An increasing number of scientists and energy experts are warning that declining oil production, public over-statements of oil reserves and booming demand for oil and gas in China and India mean that the point of ‘Peak Oil’ – when growing demand for oil outstrips falling supply – will occur sooner than is openly suggested.
(9 February 2006)