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In the Pipeline: Peak oil unable to avert energy crunch

Saadallah Al Fathi, Gulf News
Last week I discussed peak oil which happens when the maximum rate of world oil production is reached and the production rate enters terminal decline.

Conventional oil production seems to have reached a plateau or peak around 74 million barrels a day since a few years ago and therefore I concluded by saying: “There is more evidence pointing in the direction of peak oil than not, but what will happen if it is more severe or if our fears are unfounded?”

… The risk of over-reliance on unconventional liquid fuels is there to see as their contribution does not negate the possibility of peak oil, as long as conventional oil production is where it is today.

But the expensive-to-produce unconventional fuels are supporting the price of oil and giving credence to the notion that while the world may not be running out of oil, it is surely running short of cheap oil.

As far as Opec is concerned, the greater majority of its crude oil output is conventional, apart from some non-conventional production in Venezuela. Therefore Opec’s conventional oil output is expected to increase from 29.3 million bpd in 2010 to 39.3 million in 2035, thus compensating for the decline in output elsewhere.

Oil demand has been declining in OECD countries in recent years due to prices, taxes, efficiency improvements and the growth registered in other energy sources. But demand in the rest of the world is growing strongly and it will take many years before this growth can be arrested by peak oil.

The writer is former head of the Energy Studies Department at the Opec Secretariat in Vienna.
(13 February 2012)

Technology Is Turning U.S. Oil Around But Not the World’s

Richard A. Kerr, Science
For at least 20 years, oil “peakists” have been warning of an imminent maxing out of world oil production. Daniel Yergin, chair of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, thinks not. Instead, Yergin says, technological innovation driven by higher prices will make hard-to-extract North Dakota “tight oil,” Canadian oil sands, and far-offshore deposits accessible and profitable. That opening of new, abundant sources will help put off the much-feared peak until “perhaps sometime around midcentury,” Yergin writes in his recent book, The Quest. Less-optimistic analysts remain unconvinced. Many think it will barely offset the declining output of aging fields. Because harder means slower, Yergin’s midcentury timing of the peak remains dubious for many analysts.

Science 3 February 2012:
Vol. 335 no. 6068 pp. 522-523
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6068.522

(3 February 2012)
Richard A. Kerr has covered peak oil for Science in the past. Go Richard!

The full article is behind a paywall. Gail Tverber has written a summary.

‘Peak everything’: Fischer

Matthew Cawood, Stock & Land (Australian farming journal)
FEW public figures in secular Australia can wangle the Pope and agriculture into the same speech, but Tim Fischer is a notable exception.

The former Nationals leader, and until recently the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, Mr Fischer addressed the National Press Club last week on the question of global food security – an issue he said the Vatican was keenly aware of.

Mr Fischer quoted Pope Benedict XVI from a 2010 address: “It seems to me it is time to re-evaluate and revitalise agriculture, not in a nostalgic sense but as an indispensible resource for the future”.

All the signs of impending catastrophe are in front of us, Mr Fischer said, as runaway population growth heads for a smash into “peak everything” – water, land, nutrient, oil, fish and research.

Increased climate volatility, bringing more regular droughts, floods and accelerated glacier melt, must be factored into attempts to feed the growing population, Mr Fischer told the Press Club.
(12 February 2012)
Suggested by EB contributor Michael Lardelli who points out that Tim Fischer was a former deputy prime minister of Australia.

Peak oil moves to the mainstream

Michael Lardelli, Online Opinion
Something quite momentous happened on 26 January 2012. While most Australians were distracted with celebrating their national day, the world’s leading scientific journal, Nature, published its first serious commentary on peak oil. That’s right, peak oil took its final step from “extremist fringe conspiracy theory” to general acceptance by the world’s scientific community. The authors of the Nature article were David King, a former chief scientific advisor to the UK government and James Murray, founding director of the University of Washington’s Program on Climate Change.

… Despite its length, there were many topics that King and Murray’s article did not cover. For example, declining oil supplies threaten the world’s food supply. Until recently, the “green revolution” allowed us to expand food production in tack with the world’s expanding population but this was underpinned by the mechanization of agriculture and the increased use of fertilizers and pesticides. Therefore, peak oil and food security are absolutely and intimately linked.

… Australia is a net importer of oil so an important question is what our government has been doing to prepare for the decline phase of the oil era. Unfortunately the answer is worse than nothing, In fact, both of Australia’s major political parties have been actively suppressing investigation of the issue. On two occasions Labor and Liberal have joined forces in the Senate to vote against developing a plan to address the peak oil issue. Amazingly, it recently became known that a very detailed 470+ page report on peak oil was produced as long ago as 2009 by the Commonwealth’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) but was subsequently suppressed. The leaked report is now available on a number of national and international websites and is vastly superior in its data analysis to any other governmental report I have seen.
(13 February 2012)
Michael is an indefatigable contributor to EB.