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Peak oil - Aug 12

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Perception Management - CERA and IHS Energy

David Cohen, The Oil Drum
Yet another recent CERA press release World Oil & Liquids Production Capacity to Grow Significantly through At Least 2015 denies that peak oil is a concern.

Based on the report's extensive field-by-field analysis, [Peter] Jackson and [Robert] Esser conclude that the data reinforce CERA's view that the specter of "peak oil" is not imminent, nor is the start of an "undulating plateau" pattern of supply capacity.

This latest cornucopian summary has been commented upon here at TOD and criticized directly by Kjell Aleklett, President of ASPO in CERA's report is over-optimistic courtesy of the Energy Bulletin.

This story's aim is to investigate the CERA method, provide background for these latest statements and round out Aleklett's critique. The view here is that CERA, which is wholly owned by IHS Energy, is misleading the public and our elected representatives. These two organizations are managing perceptions as they cast aspersions on the peak oil view of reality and present misleading or incomplete analysis to the media.

These half-truths have gone on long enough. A bit more in-depth analysis is required to reveal this charade for what it is. Our future energy need is put in ever greater jeopardy the longer the world waits to mitigate the crisis. One step toward changing perceptions to create a call to action is to refute deceptions, whether they are intentional or not.
(12 Aug 2006)


Peak-oil theory warns tank's almost empty

Robin Bromby, The Australian
FORGET pipeline problems in Alaska. The real elephant in the corner is "peak oil". This issue is in the same category as global warming - although there is a division of opinion as to whether or not it's real, it is probably prudent to assume the worse-case option.

Peak oil is the point at which it is accepted that half of the world's total oil supplies have been used, and lifting production worldwide becomes problematic. It doesn't mean we're about to run out, but it surely indicates that it won't get any cheaper. It is likely peak oil in US fields occurred about 1971, and there are suspicions about the number of years the Saudis can keep pumping greater quantities of black oil.

Figures for May indicate that US, British and Norwegian production fell, but there is no real consensus emerging about global oil reserves peaking - it might have already happened, or be five, 10 or 20 years off. If you suspect the peak oil crowd is right, then it might pay to take a closer interest in announcements coming out of oil and gas explorers.

Especially with natural gas prices moving upwards in some markets, including North America.
(12 Aug 2006)
Submitter Big Gav writes:

Peak oil gets a mention in The Oz's "PURE SPECULATION" column. Related article is "Imports surge as local oil dries up"


Scarcity, mother of invention

Stephen L. Sass, NY Times via International Herald Tribune
In the wake of the closure of a BP oil field in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, oil prices shot up to $77 a barrel on Wednesday, and the chorus of doomsayers concerned about the dire consequences of our fossil fuel dependency has reached a crescendo. If oil hits $100 a barrel, the impact on the economy could be catastrophic, the handwringers warn. But while such a specter seems novel and terrifying, it is in fact familiar and useful.

Throughout history, shortages of vital resources have driven innovation, and energy has often starred in these technological dramas. The search for new sources of energy and new materials has frequently produced remarkable advances that no one could have imagined when the shortage first became evident.

Consider the transition from the use of bronze to iron in making tools and weapons, which occurred around the 12th century B.C. Early in the second millennium B.C., iron was known as the stuff of meteorites. It was rare and highly prized: if you wanted to give a gift to a pharaoh or a king you didn't give a gold dagger but an iron one. But when the eastern Mediterranean fell short of tin from which to make bronze, a technological revolution occurred. Artisans learned to extract metallic iron from iron-rich materials by heating with charcoal (a process called smelting), which caused the price of iron to fall by a factor of 80,000 over 1,200 years. The Iron Age had begun.

Later, in Britain in the 1600s, another shortfall would drive still more invention. As the British Empire expanded, demands increased on the island nation's natural resources, particularly its forests. The British used so much wood for heating homes, building the ships of its mighty fleet and making charcoal to smelt iron and to fuel other industrial processes that there was eventually a shortage that has been called a "timber famine" in England.

Wood shortages drove the use of coal. But coal had never been the choice fuel for smelting iron because it contains sulfur, which renders iron brittle. Indeed, King James II of Scotland was killed in 1460 by an exploding cannon fashioned from brittle iron. Abraham Darby, the owner of an iron foundry at Coalbrookdale along the Severn River in the west of England, solved this problem when he developed a process to drive the unwanted impurities from coal, producing coke in 1709. Coke was so cheap that Darby could sell cast-iron pots and kettles at prices accessible to common folk.

The story goes on. In order to dig for coal, deep mine shafts were sunk, and these tended to flood. The steam engine was first developed to pump out the mines. The steam engine in turn became the primary new source of power for the Industrial Revolution. All of which came about because of a shortage of wood. Eventually, this cycle of shortage and invention would lead to the canal system in England, railroads and thermodynamics.

The bottom line is that the very process of developing alternative sources of energy to replace fossil fuels may yield benefits beyond our imagining. But if instead we fail to innovate, the consequences could be devastating.

On a recent drive across the United States, my wife and I visited a 1,000-year-old Indian village that is being unearthed slowly in Mitchell, South Dakota. The village existed for less than 100 years, because its inhabitants ran out of the wood they used for fuel and to construct their homes. Forced to migrate to the Missouri River, these Indians became the Mandan.

If there is anything to be learned from history, it's that we need to face the harsh reality of fossil fuel scarcity and begin something like a Manhattan project to develop clean, economical and preferably sustainable new sources of energy. Just as important, we need to innovate on the side of conservation and efficiency. The Indians of Mitchell were able to move to the Missouri, but if we use up, or more realistically, greatly deplete, the resources of this earth, we have no place to go.

Stephen L. Sass, a professor of materials science and engineering at Cornell University, is the author of "The Substance of Civilization: Materials and Human History From the Stone Age to the Age of Silicon."
(10 Aug 2006)


Scientific American - Energy's Future Beyond Carbon

joe1347, peakoil-dot-com
Scientific American Sept. 06 is a "special issue" on Energy with an emphasis on sustainable energy that doesn't increase carbon.

Nothing on-line yet to link to. Some of the relevant sections are:

A Plan to Keep Carbon in Check
Fueling our Transportation Future
What to Do about Coal
The Nuclear Option
The Rise of Renewable Energy
High Hopes for Hydrogen
Plan B for Energy

I've read about half of the articles and found them very informative and full of facts - unlike most of the popular energy-related literature. Surprisingly, no major article (unless I missed it) on what I would call "after the fact" carbon sequesterization (e.g., seeding the oceans with iron ore or reflecting crystals in the upper atmosphere). Well worth the $4.99 newstand price.
(12 Aug 2006)
Scientific American website does not have anything up yet about the September issue.

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