Sunday, September 26, 2010

More Voices Say Oil Production Not Sustainable

Over time, facts slowly but surely go mainstream. We're not quite there yet but a growing number of voices recognize that worldwide oil production is not sustainable in the short term, meaning any time between now and the next 15 years, depending on who's doing the talking.

Now it may happen that oil production could surpass the 2005 high mark or even the 2008 high mark in the next two to eight years. But no one knows if that will happen. But one thing is certain: the age of cheap oil is gone. It's history.

Oil prices will continue to vary. They may even collapse temporarily as they did in 2008, thanks to the worldwide economic meltdown. We're on a roller coaster ride that will last for decades and it's not certain how things will look on the other side of a new age, an age of shortages and shifting dynamics. Of course, the more the United States and other parts of the world have their head in the sand, the more difficult it will be.

A few years ago, the conventional wisdom was that there was still plenty of oil. In a trivial way, that's true, but what there is no longer a lot of is accessible oil. Nor is there enough easy to reach oil to produce in sufficient abundance to offset the declines of older oil fields. Here's an interview from Forbes Magazine using a word many people would like to ignore: peak oil:
Charles Maxwell: The use of petroleum in the world is now up to about 30 billion barrels per year. The rate at which we have found new supplies of petroleum over the last 10 years has fallen to an average, of only about 10 billion barrels per year.

Charles Maxwell is a mainstream energy analyst. He says what others have noticed simply by looking at the facts: for some years now, the world has been using far more oil each year than it is discovering. The current shortfall is about 20 billion barrels a year. If you think of oil as a bank account, it's clear that the account is being drained.

As Maxwell points out
, greed and blunders by producers are creating even more problems:
What's happening is that the increase in the world's population and greater use of oil in transportation, particularly in the emerging countries, is working to lift oil demand, and that spurs us to drain a field more quickly, but not necessarily to get a higher proportion of oil out of it. So we have technology improving production capability, but actually taking the oil out faster rather than getting much more out.

What Maxwell is saying here is that we're making poor use of our technology in an effort to sustain business as usual. But we already know that such thinking is not sustainable.

In the past year, a majority of Democrats tried to pass an energy bill that would deal with climate change while also addressing America's growing need for alternative energy. But a minority of Democrats and almost all the Republicans opposed the legislation. In the meantime, according to CNNMoney, the alternative energy sector in China is creating jobs:
China has already surpassed the United States in the amount of wind turbines and solar panels that it makes. China is also gaining on the United States when it comes to how much of their energy comes from renewable energy sources.

The country that leads in the renewable energy industry, is opening the door to more home-grown jobs.

Whatever one may think of the Chinese, American conservatives are handing them the future. Keep in mind that oil will continue to be produced in the United States for many years to come. But we are continuing to buy more and more foreign oil. This is precisely where the lie of conservatives is so obvious: foreign oil does not create American jobs. But jobs in alternative energy in the U.S. would create tens of thousands of jobs. That is a simple fact. And we ignore that fact at our own peril.

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