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Peak oil primers

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Peak Oil Overview - March 2008

Gail Tverberg, The Oil Drum
• The US oil story
• The world oil story
• Five myths
(March 2008)
Also available in PDF and Powerpoint formats. "Gail the Actuary" is one of the clearest explainers in the peak oil community. -BA


Peak Oil - Whom to Believe? Part 1 - There's Plenty of Oil, CERAiously

Nate Hagens, The Oil Drum
(*Note: this post/series originally ran in March, 2007 but is a good introduction/refresher to Peak Oil issues--if you're new to this, read this piece and/or Gail's Peak Oil Overview in the top menu bar)

If you're like me, you might have spent a moment or two in recent months pondering how billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens, oil banker Matthew Simmons, and many others are suggesting that the world is reaching Peak Oil now, and at the same time, Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) headed by Pulitzer Prize writer Daniel Yergin, and others such as Exxon Mobil, are not predicting a Peak in global oil production until circa 2040 followed by a slow gradual decline. How can such smart and successful people disagree by decades on a topic so vital?

Is it possible they use different data sources? Do they mean different things when they say "Peak Oil"? Do they get different secret handshakes from Saudi princes? Do they have different agendas? Are they using different boundaries of analysis? Is one of them kidding? This 3 part post will address how people can differ so much on something so important as a peak and subsequent decline in world oil availability, addressing both factual and psychological reasons. Does the world have plenty of oil? Maybe, but as I will discuss below the fold, this is not among the questions we should be asking.

Part One is a general background and history on why people can disagree so much on peak oil.

Part Two will explore the many factual areas that are confusing and lead to different conclusions.

Part Three will look at social and psychological reasons for disparate opinions on this critical topic.
(March 2007)


Peak Energy and an Overview of Its Implications for Food

Sharon Astyk, Casaubon's Book
Well, there’s a headline, folks. I turn on my computer this morning and see the words “Oil rises to $130 on supply concerns“!!!! Wow, we’re concerned. Speaking as someone who has been concerned about PO since, oh, 1997, and has been writing about it since 2003, I find it both heartening and, well, odd. I can’t count the number of people who in the last few months have said something along the lines of ”Wow, you were really right, weren’t you.” The tones of amazement are my favorite part ;-).

With Kunstler on CNN and T. Boone Pickens driving the markets, and Jeffrey Brown all over the place, I think we’re there folks. Peak oil is now taking center stage. And since I suspect there are probably a lot of people out there this week googling around looking for information, I’m posting a peak oil primer that Aaron Newton and I collaborated on. It covers what will be entirely familiar ground to many of my readers, but hopefully will be useful to others.
(21 May 2008)


Peak oil primer

Staff, Energy Bulletin

What is peak oil?

Peak oil is the simplest label for the problem of energy resource depletion, or more specifically, the peak in global oil production. Oil is a finite, non-renewable resource, one that has powered phenomenal economic and population growth over the last century and a half. The rate of oil 'production', meaning extraction and refining (currently about 84 million barrels/day), has grown almost every year of the last century. Once we have used up about half of the original reserves, oil production becomes ever more likely to stop growing and begin a terminal decline, hence 'peak'. The peak in oil production does not signify 'running out of oil', but it does mean the end of cheap oil, as we switch from a buyers' to a sellers' market. For economies leveraged on ever increasing quantities of cheap oil, the consequences may be dire. Without significant successful cultural reform, severe economic and social consequences seem inevitable.

Why does oil peak? Why doesn't it suddenly run out?

Oil companies have, naturally enough, extracted the easier-to-reach, cheap oil first. The oil pumped first was on land, near the surface, under pressure, light and 'sweet' (meaning low sulfur content) and therefore easy to refine. The remaining oil is more likely to be off-shore, far from markets, in smaller fields and of lesser quality. It therefore takes ever more money and energy to extract, refine and transport. Under these conditions, the rate of production inevitably drops. Furthermore, all oil fields eventually reach a point where they become economically, and energetically, no longer viable. If it takes the energy of a barrel of oil to extract a barrel of oil, then further extraction is pointless, no matter what the price of oil.
(May 2008)
One of the earliest peak oil primers, and still frequently accessed. (Written by my predecessors at Energy Bulletin.) -BA

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