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Oil. The fast-vanishing drug the world can’t yet live without

Geoffrey Lean, The Independent
Production may peak within a decade, causing massive withdrawal symptoms to the world and its economy
Say what you like about Dick Cheney, but you can’t accuse him of not giving us fair warning. A year, almost to the day, before he was dubiously elected Vice-President of the United States – while still chairman of the energy giant Halliburton – he gave a riveting insight into the thinking that has since guided the administration’s oil policy.

In a speech to the Institute of Petroleum in November 1999 he shed light on our front-page revelation – that in the wake of the occupation of Iraq, Western companies are to be let loose on its vast, and previously state-owned, oil reserves. Perhaps even more importantly he flagged up an impending crisis that the world urgently needs to grasp – that supplies of oil may be about to shrink alarmingly.

The “basic, fundamental building block of the world economy” was, he warned, in danger of becoming extremely scarce.

Estimates suggested that production from existing reserves would soon decline sharply, by 3 per cent a year, even as world demand for oil grew by 2 per cent. That meant that the world would soon need to be producing “an additional 50 million barrels a day”, more than half as much again as the 82 million now being wrested from the ground.

“So where is this oil going to come from?” he asked. His answer: the Middle East was “where the prize ultimately lies”. The problem was that “governments and national oil companies” controlled almost all of the “assets”, and “even though companies are anxious for greater access there, progress continues to be slow”.

Lest there be any doubt about what was at stake, the man who was to become one of the most powerful proponents of the invasion of Iraq went on: “Oil is unique because it is so strategic in nature. We are not talking about soapflakes or leisurewear … The Gulf War was a reflection of that reality.”

Well, seven years on, Mr Cheney’s solution to the impending oil crisis is well on its way to being implemented.
(7 Jan 2007)
Long piece which covers peak oil in a sympathetic and complete manner.
Also posted at Common Dreams. -BA

An Almost Friendly Update on World Oil

Ferdinand E. Banks, 321energy
Perhaps the best way to begin is to say that I find it difficult to accept that there are still serious students of the oil markets who believe that the crust of the earth is flush with oil, and a global output peak will not take place for many decades, if ever.

Other observers aggressively maintain that technology can take the place of natural resources, by which they mean in the short as well as the long run. I mentioned several of these pundits in my energy economics textbooks (2000, 2007), but one escaped my attention [Leonardo Maugeri of ENI – Italy]. His ‘approach’ will be given some attention below, because recently the prominent U.S. publication ‘Newsweek’ devoted an entire issue to energy matters, and this conspicuous ‘optimist’ provided the first major article in that very ‘special’ issue.

I want to make it clear, however, that I am not as concerned with what will happen with oil as I am with what could happen. I know what would happen if I were pressing the buttons and pulling the strings, but for reasons that cannot be gone into here, I would be very surprised if the ‘con’ were placed in my friendly hands. (The ‘con’, as readers or viewers of ‘The Caine Mutiny’ know, generally refers to the command of a navy vessel.)
(8 Jan 2007)
Meaty, discursive article by prominent expert on energy economics – not an easy read, but with many interesting insights. Resume and links to more articles by Professor Banks on Energy Pulse -BA.

Scientific American and the Silent Lie

Albert Bartlett, The Physics Teacher via Culture Change
…Some fraction of the observed global warming most certainly is caused by the release of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels. As the size of the world population increases, the rate of burning of fossil fuels increases and this can be expected to increase the rate of rise of global average temperatures. The authors of these nine articles have to know that the size of the global population is a major factor in determining the rate of release of greenhouse gases. Yet in a special issue devoted to reducing global warming, SA almost completely ignores population size and growth and instead “rounds up the usual suspects” — things we can do to reduce the human contributions to global warming such as the increased use of nuclear power and improving efficiency.

The special issue contains no serious evaluation of the problems of peak production of global oil, which could happen any year now.(1, 2) There is even a hint of denial: “Even if oil production peaks soon — a debatable contention given Canada’s oil sands” (emphasis added).

When one looks at the facts, one can see that production of gasoline from the oil sands won’t have much effect on the peaking of world oil production. There is no serious discussion of the net energy in the production from oil sands, or in the production of ethanol from corn. It is just noted that we will have to be more efficient in these endeavors.

Growth remains sacred.

This review was first published in The Physics Teacher, December 2006.
(Dec 2006)

Bartlett will introduce 15 bills to Congress

Staff, Frederick (MD) News-Post
U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett will introduce the following bills in the new congressional term:

Peak Oil Resolution — Reintroduction of H. Res 507 that expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States, in collaboration with other international allies, should establish an energy project with the magnitude, creativity, and sense of urgency that was incorporated in the “Man on the Moon” project address the inevitable challenges of “Peak Oil.”

Energy Farm Bill — Reintroduction of H. R. 5925 to support federal research, development, demonstration, and commercial application activities to enable the development of farms that are net producers of both food and energy.

Expanded Tax Credit for Hybrid Vehicles — Introduced a new bill to increase from 60,000 to 250,000 the annual limit on vehicles, such as hybrids, eligible for the alternative motor vehicle tax credit.
(6 Jan 2007)
Contributor Greg writes:
HR 507 might have a better chance of getting thru since the democrats have the majority now…

Of leeches & midwives?

Richard Embleton, Oil, be Seeing You
What will be the implications for medicine and health care following peak oil as we slide down the oil and energy downslope into a low-tech/no-tech world?

The leap forward in health care and medicine in Europe and North America as we moved into the then high-tech world of the industrial revolution and the Victorian era was earth-shaking. Medicine came of age, became a science and a profession and an industry driven by methodical research and development aided by amazing new advances in chemistry, diagnostic procedures and instrument technology. It was still, by our modern standards, crude and seemingly barbaric in many ways. But those new developments opened the door to the modern high-tech medicine that has become such a vital driver to the improvements in general health we enjoy today.

…What has all of this to do with peak oil? Simply this. As we pass peak oil and peak energy all of that medical technology will at first get increasingly more expensive and then start to go away, become increasingly unavailable. The health care disparity between rich and poor nations and rich and poor people will begin to narrow until, eventually, there will be no gap at all. Our modern medicine is critically dependent on high technology and that technology is critically and still increasingly dependent on the high consumption of energy from research to application. The energy on which it depends is becoming increasingly expensive and soon will become increasingly unreliable and increasingly unavailable.
(29 Dec 2007)
The blog Oil, be Seeing You first appeared in July 2006, and features meditations on peak oil and related topics. The approach is on the technical side.

Blogger Richard Embleton is “Author of ‘Oilephant Down’. Owner Yahoo Group “RunningOnEmptyCA”. Thirty years experience in computer systems, much of it in the oil and petrochemical industry. Lifetime member of Mensa Canada. Ten years experience in health food industry, including my own store.”