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Oil Peak or Peak Oil?

Juan Cole, Informed Comment
The tensions between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan contributed to jitteriness in the oil markets that drove the prices to as high as $88.20 at one point on Tuesday before falling back to over $87. The oil price spike in turn frightened investors and hit stock markets around the world.

The United States consumes about 21 million barrels of petroleum every day. About 85 million barrels a day is produced in the entire world. The US thus consumes about a fourth of the supply, even though it has only 5 percent of the world’s population. The US only produces about 7.5 million barrels a day, so it has to import some 13 million. the geniuses in the White House have so alienated some US suppliers, like Venezuela, that Caracas is planning to sell nearly half of its over 2 mn. b/d to China rather than selling it all to the US. Since petroleum is now increasingly scarce and is a seller’s market, Chavez’s plan would cut down on the amount of petroleum available to the US.

On the other hand, nearly a fourth of US dwellings completely lack insulation, and most others have old windows that radiate away energy, just plain holes and gaps through which energy escapes, etc. If Bush had given tax breaks for putting in insulation and for conservation instead of giving away billions to rich people who don’t need it, the US would have saved millions of barrels a day, replacing everything Iraq or Venezuela produces (and wiping out the reason for the Iraq War).

Insulation is better than war.

(Ethanol, by the way, is an expensive fraud from the same people that brought you sugar tariffs and corn syrup that promotes obesity.)

Anyway, as Reuters points out, the geography of the oil analysts is bad if they think a Turkish-Kurdish clash would have much effect on oil.

…So the price spike just seems to me driven by unfounded speculation if it is as advertised. If there is increased demand or instability elsewhere in the market, that is something different. But that is not what the news reports are saying.

What is clear is that Dick Cheney’s desperate bid to grab Iraq for US petroleum corporations and for proprietary contracts to supply the US is backfiring big time. Instead of reducing the importance of Saudi Arabia, Cheney and the Neocons have magnified it. Instead of bringing online a big new supplier (Iraq) they have actually reduced the average production from Iraq as compared to the days of the UN sanctions on Saddam! Instead of assuring the US position as a superpower by assuring it special access to Gulf petroleum through military means, Cheney and his friends have destabilized the key energy-producing regions of the world and are driving some producers to deliberately seek proprietary contracts with China s so as to avoid over-dependence on an overbearing US that openly announces it would like to overthrow their governments. (I’m thinking of Venezuela here; with tweaking the same thing could be said of Iran).

Cheney’s militarism is too blunt an instrument for the delicate job of assuring US energy security. Nearly $90 a barrel is not security for us– it is a threat to our economy. Prices may not stay this high all that long in the short term, since primary commodity markets to fluctuate. But as the peak oil people point out, no new big fields have been found or exploited for a very long time, and demand from China, India and elsewhere is growing rapidly. It is going to be an expensive or cold winter for a lot of Americans. It likely won’t be the last.
(17 October 2007)
Many links at original. Also posted at Agoravox.

‘A Crude Awakening’: The film and the science

Catherine Brahic, New Scientist
Looking around, it is easy to get the feeling that nobody really knows how much oil is left – or at least, no-one who is willing to speak in earnest.

According to A Crude Awakening, a documentary about the impending energy crisis, to be released in the UK on 9 November, we have already reached peak oil production and face an imminent and dramatic change to the lifestyles that we in the West have become so accustomed to.

The film takes a little while getting to the point. It’s not immediately obvious what story the directors are trying to tell. But the early clips of 1950s petroleum ads demonstrating in cartoons and stylish black and white that petrochemicals underlie every consumer good we know and love – from the telephone to the synthetic silk négligée – are very amusing.

Gradually a narrative emerges, eloquently put by one professor who was asked by a student if his grandchildren would ever fly in a plane. The answer could very well be “no”. The point is our current lifestyle is unsustainable and the world is badly in need of politicians who will be brave enough to put research into alternative sources of energy at the top of their agenda.

The film misses a few tricks. How much longer oil reserves could last if appliances were made more energy efficient is not addressed. There’s little attempt to actually put a date on when peak oil will be or was reached. Every alternative energy solution is quickly brushed aside except possibly hydrogen, which we are told is “easily 40 years away”. We are left wondering what the answer to the problem is.

…Since watching A Crude Awakening last night, I’ve had a quick scan around to see what various groups say about the peak oil hypothesis. This is the theory, first put forward by Shell geologist M. King Hubbert in the 1950s, that at some point global oil production will peak and start an interminable descent as the last remaining reserves are sucked dry.
(16 October 2007)
The article with several paragraphs of links, including links to ASPO and Energy Bulletin. Thanks to author Catherine Brahic for drawing the attention of New Scientist readers to peak oil. -BA

Oilwatch Monthly – October 2007

Rembrandt, The Oil Drum: Europe
Latest Developments:

1) Crude oil – Latest available figures from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that crude oil production including lease condensates increased by 455,000 b/d from June to July. Total production in July was estimated at 73.28 million b/d, which is 1.01 million b/d lower than the all time high crude oil production of 74.30 million b/d reached in May 2005.

2) Total liquids – In September world production of total liquids increased by 450,000 barrels per day from August according to the latest figures of the International Energy Agency (IEA). Resulting in total world liquids production of 85.10 million b/d, which is 1.03 million b/d lower than the all time maximum liquids production of 86.13 million b/d reached in July 2006.

3) Status of the production plateau – Both the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Energy Information Administration (EIA) figures show that global liquids production has been on a plateau since 2005. The IEA figures result in an average global production in 2007 up to September of 85.03 million b/d, almost to the same as the average 2006 production of 85.00 million b/d and higher than the average 2005 production of 84.10 million b/d. The EIA puts the average global 2007 production up to July at 84.40 million b/d, slightly lower than the average 2006 production of 84.60 million b/d and the average 2005 production of 84.63 million b/d.
(17 October 2007)

World Energy and Population: Trends to 2100

Paul Chefurka (“GliderGuider”), The Oil Drum: Canada
Throughout history, the expansion of human population has been supported by a steady growth in our use of high-quality exosomatic energy. The operation of our present industrial civilization is wholly dependent on access to a very large amount of energy of various types. If the availability of this energy were to decline significantly it could have serious repercussions for civilization and the human population it supports.

This paper constructs production models for the various energy sources we use and projects their likely supply evolution out to the year 2100. The full energy picture that emerges is then translated into a population model based on an estimate of changing average per-capita energy consumption over the century. Finally, the impact of ecological damage is added to the model to arrive at a final population estimate.

This model, known as the “World Energy and Population” model, or WEAP, suggests that the world’s population will decline significantly over the course of the century.

…Figure 13 has all the energy curves added together to show the overall shape of total world energy consumption. This graph aggregates all the rises, peaks and declines to give a sense of the complete energy picture out to 2100. The graph shows a strong peak in about 2020, with a steepening decline out to 2100. The main reason for the decline is the loss of oil, gas, and (to a lesser extent) coal. The decline is cushioned by an increase in hydro and renewables over the middle of the century, and averages out to a little less than 3% per year.

Unfortunately, the loss of the enormous contribution of fossil fuels means that the total amount of energy available to humanity by the end of the century may be less than one fifth of the amount we use now, and less than one sixth the amount we will use at our energy peak a decade or so from now. This shortfall contains an ominous message for our future. That message is the subject of the remainder of this paper.
(17 October 2007)
Also available on the author’s own website.

A similar study was posted in September at Energy Bulletin and The Oil Drum:

Global peak energy: Implications for future human populations by Chris Clugston

The conclusions appear to be similar:

Based on publicly available data, global peak energy will probably occur between the years 2025 and 2030; total available energy will decline continuously thereafter.

…The maximum supportable worldwide human population level will peak between the years 2025 and 2030 as well, and decline continuously thereafter-assuming the continuation following global peak energy of the historic relationship between the total amount of energy consumed by human populations and corresponding population levels and material living standards.

The discussion that followed at The Oil Drum is probably relevant to this paper as well.


Earth’s natural wealth: an audit

David Cohen, New Scientist via Nova
“I get excited every time I see a street cleaner,” says Hazel Prichard. It’s what they collect in their sacks that gets her juices flowing, because the grime and litter they sweep up off the streets is laced with traces of platinum, one of the world’s rarest and most expensive metals. The catalytic converters that keep exhaust pollutants from cars, trucks and buses down to an acceptable level all use platinum, and over the years it is slowly but steadily lost through these vehicles’ exhaust pipes. Prichard, a geologist at the University of Cardiff in the UK, reckons that tonnes of the stuff is being sprayed out onto the world’s streets and highways every year, and she is hunting for places where it is concentrated enough to be worth recovering. One of her prime targets is the waste containers in road-sweeping machines.

This could prove lucrative, but Prichard is motivated by something far more significant than the chance of a quick buck. Platinum is a vital component not only of catalytic converters but also of fuel cells – and supplies are running out. It has been estimated that if all the 500 million vehicles in use today were re-equipped with fuel cells, operating losses would mean that all the world’s sources of platinum would be exhausted within 15 years. Unlike with oil or diamonds, there is no synthetic alternative: platinum is a chemical element, and once we have used it all there is no way on earth of getting any more. What price then pollution-free cities?

It’s not just the world’s platinum that is being used up at an alarming rate. The same goes for many other rare metals such as indium, which is being consumed in unprecedented quantities for making LCDs for flat-screen TVs, and the tantalum needed to make compact electronic devices like cellphones. How long will global reserves of uranium last in a new nuclear age? Even reserves of such commonplace elements as zinc, copper, nickel and the phosphorus used in fertiliser will run out in the not-too-distant future. So just what proportion of these materials have we used up so far, and how much is there left to go round?
(23 May 2007)
Recommended by Janaia Donaldson who notes that Richard Heinberg mentioned this article in a recent talk. Also posted at StockHouse.

Also see the recent post at The Oil Drum: Peak Minerals.

ODAC News – Wed 17 Oct

Douglas Low, Oil Depletion Analysis Centre
Oilwatch Monthly
1/ Oilwatch Monthly – October 2007 (The Oil Drum: Europe, Tue 16 Oct)

ASPO-6 DVDs / Presentations
2a/ ASPO-6 DVD Set Now Available to Order (ASPO Ireland, Sun 14 Oct)
2b/ ASPO-6 Presentations Now Available Online (ASPO Ireland, Sun 14 Oct)

Oil Supplies / Prices
3a/ Platts Economist Sees Tighter Oil Supplies Ahead (CNN News [DOW JONES NEWSWIRES], Mon 15 Oct)
3b/ Crude oil jumps to all-time high above $86 amid fears on supplies (Financial Times, Tue 16 Oct)
3c/ Oil to soar above $90 next year says expert (Gulf Daily News, Tue 09 Oct)
3d/ OPEC Basket Crude Price Surpasses $80 a Barrel for First Time (Bloomberg, Wed 17 Oct)
3e/ OECD Oil Inventories Stay Flat As Winter Approaches (Energy Intelligence [Energy Intelligence Briefing], Wed 17 Oct)
3f/ LEADER: A world of dear oil (Financial Times, Wed 17 Oct)

Food Prices
4/ Food prices to treble in five years: CBH (Stock Journal [Australia], Fri 12 Oct)

Natural Gas / LNG – Qatar
5a/ Concern rises over health of Qatari gas reserves (Financial Times, Tue 16 Oct)
5b/ Dolphin Project Exporting Over 1Bn CFD, Seen At 2Bn CFD By End-March (Middle East Economic Survey, Mon 08 Oct)

Geopolitics and Peak Oil
6/ Geopolitical Feedback Loops in Peak Oil (The Oil Drum, Wed 03 Oct)

Economics – UK
7a/ Third of mortgage applications denied (Telegraph, Tue 16 Oct)
7b/ This bear is not capitulating (The Telegraph, Tue 16 Oct)
7c/ ‘UK banks have little buffer for a downturn’ (The Independent, Wed 17 Oct)

Coal Prices
8/ Coal for Europe Delivery Next-Year Reaches Record Before Talks (Bloomberg, Tue 16 Oct)

Natural Gas – Russia and Ukraine
9/ Gazprom as a Predictable Partner. Another Reading of the Russian-Ukrainian and Russian-Belarusian Energy Crises (Institut français des relations internationales, March 2007)

DVD Review – A Crude Awakening
10/ Waking up to the truths of oil’s past, present and future (Lloyd’s List, Fri 12 Oct)

New Thesis on Russian Oil Production
11/ Russian Oil – a Depletion Rate Model estimate of the future Russian oil production and export (Aram Mäkivierikko, Oct 2007)

Peak Oil, South Africa
12a/ Facing the looming energy crisis (, Mon 15 Oct)
12b/ Conference: Preparing Southern Africa for Global Oil Depletion, Johannesburg, South Africa, 8-9 November 2007
(17 October 2007)