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Review of Deffeyes book “When Oil Peaked”

John R. Coyne Jr., Washington Times
n 2001, building on the geologist M. King Hubbert’s prediction that U.S. oil production would peak between 1965 and 1970, Kenneth S. Deffeyes, emeritus professor of geology at Princeton University, predicted in his book “Hubbert’s Peak” that world oil production would peak in 2005.

“I’ve been a Hubbertian since the late 1950s,” Mr. Deffeyes writes. “I’m a geologist, with no professional expertise in economics or politics.” As a Hubbertian, or “peak oil” person, he numbers himself among “those who think that we have already found most of the world’s oil.”

… What it all seems to boil down to, essentially, is that no one really knows how much oil there is still to be produced. Thus, theories like “peak oil” with its bell curves and models, may be scientifically elegant and intellectually satisfying, but no more reliable as guides to our petroleum future than the various “running out” theories of the past. In the end, the “peak oil” theory, apparently involving an assumption that the decline in global discoveries proves the resource itself is also declining, simply doesn’t take such externals as economics and politics sufficiently into consideration.

Nevertheless, despite his self-designation as a “peak oiler,” Mr. Deffeyes shouldn’t be confused with an ideologue. A theoretician, yes, and an earth scientist with a practical and wide-ranging interest in all aspects of his field, including the various alternative forms of energy currently being discussed.
(10 December 2010)

The search for oil

The Week
Demand for oil is driving exploration in ever more unlikely frontiers. Are the benefits worth the risks

How much oil is left?

No one knows for sure. Global reserves are estimated at 1.2 trillion barrels—enough to last for many decades at current levels of consumption. But some geologists believe there might be twice that much, if we’re aggressive in prying the remaining oil out of the Earth. At the same time, consumption is rising: The world used 84 million barrels daily in 2009, up from 60 million in 1985. China alone consumes four times what it did in 1985. As industrialization accelerates, oil consumption is expected to grow another 36 percent by 2035. Consequently, the search for oil is expanding.

What are the new frontiers?

Most of them are places so remote they’ve never before been tapped
(10 December 2010)
Comment from long-time contributor JG:

The Week magazine notices peak oil. Of course it dismisses it — the last sentence basically parses to “There’s no good substitute ready so we can’t be at the peak” — much like the joke about “I can’t be overdrawn, I still have checks!”

But interesting that the magazine felt it had to address the question nonetheless:

Has ‘peak oil’ already passed?
The moment at which global oil production reaches its zenith before entering perpetual decline—“peak oil”—has long been the subject of contentious debate. But in November the International Energy Agency, which advises governments on energy policy, announced that peak oil had already occurred, in 2006. The agency, previously skeptical that peak oil was near, said fuel supplies would nevertheless remain abundant because of “unconventional” sources like tar sands. But it forecast rising oil and gas prices ahead. “The age of cheap oil is over,” said IEA economist Fatih Birol. More bullish analysts say the world still has decades of affordable oil and gas supplies, which will dampen the incentive to develop alternative energy sources. “The competitiveness of oil and gas and the scale at which they are produced,” said energy consultant James Burkhard, “mean that there are no readily available substitutes in either one year or 20 years.”

-BA (Dec 20, 2010)

Energy incentives to sweeten tax bill?

Darren Goode, Politico
A pot of sweeteners in the form of tax extenders for pet energy industries could help ease the bitter pill that Democrats may have to swallow if they agree to the tax deal President Barack Obama and Republicans carved out.

The expiring tax incentives designed to boost ethanol and other energy industries might be enough to attract Democratic votes to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for two years.
(8 December 2010)

Is Coal Here to Stay?

The World: Science, Public Radio International
Listen to a story by The World’s Mary Kay Magistad about China’s growing dependence on coal. That’s followed by our interview with journalist and author Jeff Goodell. He is our guest in this Science Forum discussion.

Goodell is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and is the author of the 2006 book Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future.

Despite being the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, coal continues to be used globally at a growing pace.

Here in the U.S., roughly half of our electricity comes from coal, and utility companies are continuing to build new coal power plants. But not for long, says Goodell. “The era of fossil fuels is coming to a close.”

That’s because coal reserves are finite, and we will eventually exhaust them. Add to that the growing concerns over the human and environmental costs of coal which have led to tighter regulation of the industry here in the U.S.

Goodell says energy companies and local economies can benefit from exploring renewable sources of energy.

But how to wean ourselves away from this relatively abundant resource? And can we do it soon enough? Ask Goodell. He’s taking your questions through December 17th. Join the conversation. It’s just to the right.
(3 December 2010)