Plenty Of Oil?

When I read the media, I often notice articles entering mainstream thought that are the opposite opinion of what I know to be true.  I look at things differently, so to speak, and think that I am a realist.

So take Peak Oil for instance.  Of late, there have been many articles in the international press, mainly opinion pieces, that claim that peak oil is and was a myth, and that we have drilled our way out of the problem.  Apparently we have plenty of oil!

This is simply not so.  If it is true, why are crude oil prices still above $100 a barrel and not fallen to 1990 prices of $20 a barrel.  If you have we have an global oil glut then why the high prices?  Articles here, here and here.

It seams that the real problem is that vested interests in Big Oil are the ones creating all of this hyperbole, which is obviously in their best interest to keep finding capital to continue drilling.  It seems that the more stories that claim that peak oil is a myth, the more it screams at me that we are in serious trouble and now going through the same denial and inaction as we have seen with climate change.  Remember the stages of change?  We are at the shock and/or disbelief stage of the cycle.

As any realist would know, fossil fuels are a finite resource, that take many tens of millions of years to replenish.  We have guzzled through the easy-to-get oil in just 200 years, and are now bending over backwards to find new ways of keeping up with demand.

I acknowledge that I am not oil expert, however, I do consider the facts in a realistic light, weighing the arguments for and against peak oil.  I believe that we did reach Peak Conventional Oil back around 2005, as documented by the International Energy Agency, and we are only keeping ahead of oil field depletion by deep-water drilling, digging up Tar sands, drilling like crazy for Shale Oil, and Fracking for Gas.  All of these methods are environmentally devastating.

Additionally these supplementary supplies are only viable when the price of crude oil hovers over $100 a barrel.

The age of cheap oil is well and truly over.  The peak happened, and we are now like drug addicts screaming for our next fix.  It can only get very messy from here on in.  Check out this video with some facts from the Post Carbon Institute.


There are some glimmers of fact out there like this article in UK The Telegraph, and a few rebuttals (this one by Jeremy Leggett – author of Half Gone) to a recent George Monbiot article, but other than those it is constant promotion of drill, baby, drill or better known in around the tar sands of Alberta, Canada as dig, baby, dig.

Our own rapid increase in Australia of coal seam gas fracking, and brown coal exploration is another example close to home, not forgetting to mention the recently approved Alpha mega coal mine in Queensland.  Are we just plain dumb or just too bloody greedy?  Probably the latter.

When will people begin to wake up that we need to move away from fossil fuels quickly?  Not just because of the impact of burning them upon our climactic systems, but because our entire civilization relies way to much on these energy forms for just about everything.

Time to start using less?  This is very difficult when China, India and Brazil are ramping up their consumption, and the developed countries have hit a plateau.  Demand keeps rising and it looks like we are heading for a crunch (again)!

Solutions?  Well re-localisation, renewable energy, Permaculture, and community building come to mind and I have written about all of them many times.

What plans have you made for the inevitable oil crunch?
 

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Gavin, I am so cynical about this that I believe that the media is under the thumb of big oil and the government is the same. I take all that I read these days with a grain of salt, as I do believe things are worse than we know.
    We have sold our car, and mostly ride our bikes or walk. We have kept our old diesel truck for occaisional trips to move things about, and to hold our solar powered camper when we go into the bush for fishing and foraging. We are teaching ourselves to be better stewards of our little city plot and how to do useful things for the future.
    Love the blog, and your yard looks great.
    Barb

  2. says

    Gavin:

    You are so right that all of the “extra” oil they talk about is indeed only viable if prices are at or near $100/barrel. On top of that, the damage to the environment that occurs when oil is produced from these so-called “unconventional sources” like the oil sands is just catastrophic. I am thinking of the Canadian tar sands, where from what I have read there has been a huge rush by oil companies big and small to get in there. However, the amount of energy needed to separate tons of sand to produce a barrel of oil is just huge. Check out this post: http://ran.org/tar-sands – tar sands oil produced THREE (Repeat THREE) times as much greenhouse gas emissions as regular “good” oil. So, Unfortunately, by the time the oil finally does run out, it will be so bloody hot on earth that whatever plans are made will not be worth all that much.

  3. says

    Yes , Gavin it is definitely happening.It seems humans can only see things in terms of their own life time instead of the future after they have gone…therefore it doesn’t matter what they do. We have looked at solar and wind at times but the thing we came up with in the end, was just use less.I figure when the time comes , we can use our fuel stove and can pretty much manage. It was only 2 generations ago that my grandma was bringing up a family of 5 without a scrap of electricity and that was right up until 1960.
    In the meantime I vote for any government that is interested in moving away from the archaic energy system we have in place right now and is interested in looking ahead.

  4. Steve Holmquist says

    Living here in the USA its hard not to get angry. I see your picture of solar being installed along bridges, at airports, etc. and it makes me wonder why we can’t do that here. Time and time again I get the same response from power companies, city officials, and politicians. “Who’s going to pay for it?” I just don’t understand the difficulties of changing funding from one place to another. If it’s going to reduce your costs long term, why not do a little each year? But instead they complain that it “costs too much” or the “costs don’t out weigh the benefits”. It just gets you angry. At times I think the only thing that will change peoples minds, (and politicians minds), will be when we run out or when oil costs four times what it does now.

    Keep up the good work!

  5. says

    Some of the articles seem to miss-understand that peak oil is not about having completely run out of oil, but that we have used half the oil and reached the PEAK of production. I agree with you, the peak is undeniable.

  6. Anonymous says

    Hi Gavin. We are minimising our car use and relying more on our bikes and legs. We are also attempting to eliminate our use of plastic and adopting all kinds of creative alternatives. Building community so that carpooling may be an option in the future is another initiative. We have talked about going car-less…There is only so much individuals can do though. Ultimately we need a masive public education campaign and policy changes to encourage a speedy transition. This seems unlikely in the current political climate, so we just do the best we can and hope more and more people will wake up! Veronique.

  7. says

    Hi Gavin,

    Have you read The Coming Famine by Julian Cribb?? That’s given me some great ideas for the future. Currently we are increasing our water storage, putting in more solar (off grid), community building, skill building, and investigating composting toilets – completing our systems loop on a suburban house block.

    I also love Cribb’s take on peak phosphorus.

    • says

      Hi B, No I haven’t read The Coming Famine, but have put it on my reading list. I can’t find the eBook of it, so will check out our local library.

      I have read The End Of Food by Paul Roberts which was a fantastic read as well. Probably along the same lines.

      Gav

    • says

      Gavin -
      You’ll find a e-version on Amazon.com. But that’s not why I reply to this thread.
      The issue with peak oil is that 62 million new cars will hiot the world’s roads this year. the fleet is now 750 million and growing to around 1.2 billion vehicles by 2020.
      Any way you look at it, cars are growing faster than new oil and gas discoveries, even with tar sands.
      Australia imports 75-80% of its oil, meaning we are utterly dependent on eg peace in the Middle East (and would have to rate as serious morons to bet on that).
      However, the good news is we can meet 100% of our transport fuel needs, sustainably, from algal biodiesel. We could grow the algae in an area no larger than a single big sheep station. Several of our unis are investigating this.
      Time we got real about peak oil and started planning for the scarcities to come, instead of acting like lambs in an abattoir.
      Julian

  8. Anonymous says

    Hi Gavin, This also makes me fret. I live quite rurally and there are no bus services and no train (now). Moving elsewhere is not an option right now and I cannot get to work, I work shifts, unless I drive. It seriously does my head in. I could not bike to work, the roads are too dangerous and the distance too great. I do try to do most local things in an environmentally sound way but I fret that I cannot do more. However, I have changed many things in our household, make cheese (thanks to you! – take a bow!!) make everything from scratch (always have) recycle, reuse and remember the days before I had this knowledge. I share ideas, try to encourage, recommend your website to friends, make many of my cleaning products and have begun even knitting my dishcloths out of cotton string. These small things make me feel as though I can make a difference. Thanks for pointing the way. Have commented on the cheesy blogs before but I feel very strongly about this issue so couldn’t help myself this time.

    Regards
    Jo in NZ

  9. says

    We are planning on setting up our new house to be as self sustaining as possible. We are putting in a wood heater which also has an oven and stove top so we can make use of the heat for more than just warming, and it will also heat our hot water in winter. The house is small, only 12 squares or so, so hopefully maximum efficiency of the wood burned. We will probably then hook up solar hot water for summer and sunny days and probably a gas booster for warmish overcast days. I’ve planned several large veggie beds, fruit trees, a chicken coop built using superadobe techniques (practice for building in future maybe?) and around 40,000L of watertanks to run the entire property off. I am also hoping to hook up solar power (I’m hoping for a battery storage system too) and maybe even a wind turbine in future. I want to ‘damn the man’ as much as possible. We already buy second hand or make our own clothes and I am itching to get stuck into pressure canning when we harvest from our garden as well as dehydrating, Fowlers Vacola bottling, blanching and freezing and maybe even storage in a root cellar. Big dreams and many of them won’t happen immediately but that’s the plan. We have 3 young children so at this stage the car is necessary but I am also hoping to buy a christiana trike to ride around town with the kids (it’s a box bike with seating for 4 kids in the front box). My husband already uses public transport to commute and will continue to do so once we move.
    The peak is here, and although the whole economy won’t collapse overnight like it did in Cuba, it is going to collapse unless something big changes. And given how in the pocket of mining and drilling our politicians are, that change is not likely to happen. It’s coming. Sooner rather than later.

    • says

      Hi Jessie. You are spot on. We won’t go to bed all Mary Poppins and wake up in a Mad Max world. It will be slow and steady descent, with the occasional false recovery, then down the slope again.

      Learn, live, and love and we will all get through this together!

      Gav x

  10. Paul says

    Hi all,
    I couldn’t agree more…it’s happened, arguing against it is self delusion at best. I also don’t think our political system is up to the change….I think it’s on us. We have been thinking and planning what we’re calling a ‘year of treading lightly’ and following a lot of what is said above ie. buying local,buying second hand, reducing meat, reducing energy consumption, using little or no oil (so no plastic packaging, no driving etc), growing our own, sharing etc etc etc.

    We are planning on using our car for a local car share through a group called ‘carnextdoor’ which enables you to share your car to the neighbours (and make some money). We figure this is a good option since it’s not worth selling and we (two adults and two kids under 4) do all of our travel on a Christiania Cargo bike anyway (note to ‘rabidlittlehippy’ get on to PSbikes and arrange to borrow one for a weekend…..you will never look back. Also worth noting that they fit on metro trains so trips to the zoo, the city, the botanic gardens bring it on).

    We are aware that our little effort will not change things but our aim above all is to show that living local, and having care in your community and your consumption IS MORE FUN!. I think this is part of the message that we need to get out….buying poorly made imported rubbish, eating tasteless food and living in a bubble is not living at all.

    Paul

  11. says

    Hi Gavin. I love your website. Self sufficiency is awesome. But I think you might be wrong about peak oil. Here’s why I think that.

    First, the question of cost. Why is the price of oil so high, when it was, as you have observed, so cheap in the nineties? The problem is that the price of oil (and any speculated commodity, really) is determined politically, and not based on supply. Furthermore, it’s historically proved very difficult to determine absolute quantities of fossil fuels. Take, for example, the Kern River oil field in California:

    The known reserves in 1942: 54 million barrels
    Production from 1942-1986: 736 million barrels
    The 1986 estimated reserves: 970 million barrels

    or, consider the Persian Gulf:

    Known reserves in 1944: 21 billion barrels
    Production from 1944-1993: 188 billion barrels
    Reserve estimation in 1993: 633 billion barrels

    As a rule, ‘big oil’ producers limit production in order to maintain prices. But the fact is, the price of oil overall (the nineties being a moderate exception) has not risen substantially, when you account for inflation.

    However, the problem with oil by my estimation is the fact that there is a lot of it, not that there is a dwindling supply. The kind of destruction that hyper-capitalism is capable of inflicting is only made possible by cheap energy, which (for now, at least) is cheap oil. For example, the international food crisis has nothing to do with the amount of food that is produced, but everything to do with the fact that helping people to feed themselves isn’t really an interest of powerful corporations. So, for those who actually want to make the world better and relieve the suffering of those under the colonial pact (and other systems of economic oppression), promoting self sufficiency and permaculture is essential.

    Cheers,
    Brent

Comments build lively communities. Let me know your thoughts, but keep it clean and green! Spam is removed instantly.