Monday, February 27, 2006

Peak Oil: Way Too Convincing An Argument

When the story of this century is written, Oregonian archivists might look back at today’s interview of a former Shell oil geologist named Ken Deffeyes, as the most informative piece ever in the paper. Ted Sickinger asks all the right questions and Ken Deffeyes spells out what we’re up against with this oil crunch in such persuasive and dire terms, that it should give you chills. I’ve been onto this topic my whole life – my father worked for an oil company in Saudi Arabia - and I’ve also read the peak oil stuff before in Michael Ruppert’s book, “Crossing the Rubicon." I found Ken to be much more vivid. Oil company men can be somewhat colorful, and even though Ken is now a professor at Princeton, he reminds me of the type of person I’d hear talking with my father out in his “majlis” - the Arabic word my father called his den.
This is a tremendous article if you’re trying to understand our situation both nationally and globally. One thing I was glad to read here, is the underappreciated role oil plays in the food supply. That alone makes this a primer for the uninformed.
The entire subject of peak oil rests on the uncertainty of the reserves. No one really knows, but I’m afraid Mr. Deffeyes is on the right path. The reserves are most likely overstated with some of that Middle Eastern exaggeration in which the truth and wishful thinking sometimes get blurred. We are probably already past the peak.
I just had a thought. Wouldn’t it be weird if Iran really was scrambling to diversify into nuclear energy because they know something we don’t about their reserves? The key thing is that falling production is only part of it; demand is soaring in China and elsewhere. And we’re really taking this “Go forth and multiply” thing way too seriously. I read in the Scientific American that we are adding people to this planet at the rate of 1 billion every 14 years. Estimates of when we hit 6 and a half billion were ridiculously precise. In fact they announced that it was last Saturday. Remember when it was just 6 billion?
The point that this geologist made that I hadn’t heard before involves the record profits, and what the oil companies are doing with them. They are paying them out to their executives and shareholders. If there were vast quantities of oil still out there, they’d be plowing the money back into what oil companies call exploration. But they aren’t.
The most powerful point is the finish in which Ken is asked what to do to prepare. He talks about getting his own farm, so he’ll be able to raise some food to eat. He's a Princeton professor and that’s his plan? This is a devastating read, folks.
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At 11:14 PM, Blogger Randal O'Toole said...

Before being convinced by peak oil, I suggest you read Does Peak Oil Spell Death for the Suburbs?.

At 1:04 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

I'm not convinced by it yet. The title just means it's becoming harder to remain unconvinced. But either way - whether it's here now or decades off, we've got to prepare for it. I've seen decades pass in what sometimes feels like a couple of months. I'm sure you'd agree we better begin working on this. We're using 25% of the world supply. We're vulnerable here.
I also don't embrace peak oil as an attack on the suburbs. Just think of the food supply part of this; it's not just transportation issues. If peak oil really hit hard it would probably cause a migration away from the cities.
Finally, my hope is that we stumble on to the next big energy source. Coal gasification is interesting; there was a good piece on 60 Minutes about it, but I'm looking for the big dream.
We need something better than oil; not just a lesser substitute. There have been great advances before when things looked bleak. Why not now?


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