Stealth Bananas!!!

Apparently saying the words ‘peak oil’ or hammering on the point that petroleum is a finite resource (& coal & most of the natural gas & even uranium, too) is forbidden. Taboo. & there’s some kind of soft-sell thing going on about discussion of petroleum & energy issues where ‘peak oil’ & ‘conservation’ & ‘energy efficiency’ & ‘finite energy sources’ get left alone. Heh, they’re mainstream media ‘radioactive’. The facts are inescapable in the face of this obfuscation. The business press, weirdly enough, tends to have okay coverage of some of the relevant facts, outside of the warpage of the glaring omissions:

…China produced just 1.56 million automobiles in 1998, and by 2012, deliveries of passenger automobiles has reached 2.37 million per month. Experts are now revising 2015 forecasts of China’s crude-oil consumption to 13.6 million barrels per day, a level that is triple where the country was in 1998.

China isn’t the only growing source of demand, either. India’s oil consumption grew 40% from 2001 to 2009, and other emerging markets around the world are more than making up for any reduction in demand from the United States….

…the U.S. doesn’t have enough oil to make a significant difference in the global oil market, especially short-term, and if prices went down dramatically, our sources of oil would prove less profitable, and we’d see reduced production anyway….

…Supply and demand will balance each other out; it’s just going to happen between $3 and $5 per gallon instead of between $1 and $2 per gallon as we might prefer….

& higher price points, it’s implicit to a rapidly depleting finite, non-renewable resource. & the more drilling we’re doing the faster the depletion is occurring. & the greater demand against a static supply, the higher the price. As I like to say, there were only so many dinosaurs (& etc) that got turned into petroleum, there’s a limited amount of dino-distillate available, period.

Oh. & the article is deficient in sufficient facts, & it ends on a very not-helpful, blamey note that’s at odds with the lived reality that we Americans have created a radically individual-automobile dependent society where it’s near impossible for the vast majority to live without access to private cars. We ceded all that public territory decades ago & now when it matters it’s gonna hurt, we’ve chosen a more painful transition to the planet’s expensive energy future.

…Having plentiful cheap resources can make us wasteful; scarcity and high prices can make us smart….

Not that we’re that sensible:

"…Petrol prices in America are substantially below levels elsewhere in the rich world, and this is almost entirely due to the rock bottom level of petrol tax rates. The low cost of petrol encourages greater dependence; the average American uses much more oil per day than other rich world citizens. This dependence also impacts infrastructure investment choices, leading to substantially more spending on highways than transit alternatives. And this, in turn, reduces the ability of American households to substitute away from driving when oil prices rise.

"There are any number of good reasons to raise the petrol tax rate. The current rate no longer brings in enough money to cover current highway spending. Petrol taxes are an efficient way to raise revenue, and the government needs revenue; President Obama’s deficit commission recommended an increase in the federal petrol tax rate. Burning oil produces carbon emissions, and dearer fuel would reduce America’s sky-high per capita carbon footprint. But a higher tax rate would also diminish the possibility that a sudden rise in oil prices would throw the economy into recession. That would be a nice risk to minimise! And yes, higher tax rates would hit consumers just like rising oil prices. But those prices are rising anyway; better to capture the revenue and use it, all while improving behaviour…."

& not to mention that proactive weaning off of petroleum before post-peak declines force the issue is probably the less painful choice . … .

…The low price of natural gas also makes the cost of refining heavy oil less expensive in the United States than elsewhere, because natural gas is used by complex refineries that refine heavy oil, both as a feedstock, and to fire the furnace that heats the crude oil. This makes the United States a sought out destination for refining heavy crude oil, and helps add jobs to the US economy. For example, nearly half of crude oil imported from Mexico to the US is exported back to Mexico as oil products, according to EIA data. EIA data also shows that we import crude and export a smaller amount of products back to Canada, Brazil, Ecuador, and Venezuela. The low price of natural gas is thus a reason US product exports, such as diesel and gasoline, have been increasing recently, even though the United States continues to be a big importer of crude oil….
…the U.S. does not produce nearly enough oil to meet our fuel demands, but we import about a million barrels a day more than we need and export some of the excess as finished products, creating jobs and helping the balance of trade in the process. The reason we are doing this is that domestic demand for gasoline has fallen in recent years, and refiners can therefore either close more refineries or they can find other markets for their products….

& not a word about peak oil . .… :/

There were only so many dinosaurs, & only so many of those will end up decanted into our gaping tanks. Finite mineral fuels to be found in our planet’s crust are just that, finite. We’re not riding a magical cornucopia planet here.

Circa 2006 saw the last barrel of the first trillionth barrels pulled out of the planet, & at best there’s maybe only four trillion barrels to ultimately be pulled out (probably closer to two, it depends on what all prices we’re willing to pay to get at that last trillion or two barrels) .. …. .

…The production of oil has already been on a plateau since 2005 at around 82 mb/d. [NB: with biofuels and coal-to-liquid, we approximate 88 mb/d for all liquid fuels.] It appears to me impossible to go much higher. Since demand is still on an increasing trajectory (unless, possibly, the economic crisis engulfs the emerging economies), I expect to see the first tensions arising between 2013 and 2015.

And after that?

Afterwards, in my view, we will have to face a decline of the production of all forms of liquid fuels somewhere between 2015 to 2020. This decline will not necessarily be rapid, however, but it will be a decline, that much seems clear….

The big problem with reporting about petroleum oil is that numbers get tossed around with no context to understand all those big digits. Let’s look, for example, at this article’s numbers & fit them into a bigger picture. http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2011/05/12/Gulf-states-seek-high-tech-oil-boost/UPI-49841305229224/

First, let’s have framework to understand petroleum from, say, how many barrels of petroleum oil get consumed daily & yearly. From the Energy Information Administration link — http://www.eia.doe.gov/international/reserves.html — we know that global oil consumption in 2010 averaged a bit under 88 million barrels per day, or a hair over 32 billion barrels for all of 2010. (Daily US oil consumption in 2010 was in the neighborhood of 19 million barrels. Which works out to being a smidge under 7 billion barrels of oil consumed last year just in the US.)

"…Iraq is one of the few places on the planet where there are vast untapped reservoirs of oil — possibly in excess of 100 million barrels — while its super fields, those with more than 5 billion barrels of recoverable oil, are only now moving toward full development…."

That translates as — Iraq’s giant fields each contain less than a year’s worth of US oil consumption & contain only a coupla months’ global supply.

"…the Ghawar field in the Eastern province.
"It’s the world’s largest oil field that produces 5 million barrels per day, more than most oil states’ entire daily output and more than 6 percent of the global production total.
"Although Aramco releases few details about its major fields, Ghawar is estimated to still contain about 70 billion barrels of recoverable crude…."

Translation: Ghawar, the largest oil field ever discovered, currently contains only two & one-third’s years supply, globally speaking.

Petroleum is an easy one to do the math on, but there’s a lot of crappy journalism about it because apparently all too many journalists simply don’t do the simple arithmetic necessary to display these contexts. Either that or they’re paid not to convey context. Which, I know, that latter one is a big part of stuff, but still …. .  ;)

Somewhat techno-babblish intro to the arguments for why we’re midway thru the ultimately recovered petroleum oil extraction (aka, peak oil) … .