Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Clueless about the real oil situation?

Route 50 Conversations: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio is part of a goofy series of stories on NPR this week. Their idea is that as the New Congress is heading towards Washington DC, they're calling regular folks from across the U.S. For this story they're following U.S. Highway 50 calling people in small towns along the highway. The series of stories is largely fluff, but this particular one has several people saying stupid things about the Oil situation.

The idea they present is that the U.S. is not utilizing its own oil supplies very well, and that's why the oil prices are high. They seem to think that all we have to do is drill for oil, and we'll have plenty of oil again, and the gasoline prices will fall again.

This shows the people who said that are clueless about the real situation.

The U.S. had its oil peak in 1970-71.

The "oil peak" model describes the capacity to deliver oil. There's a lot of mathematics and whatnot involved, and the book Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak is a really good introduction to the phenomena. I also have links to Peak Oil web sites which will help educate you.

Essentially the oil peak model describes the delivery capacity for a set of oil fields. Such as the oil fields in the U.S. The capacity to deliver oil will grow over time until it reaches a maximum capacity, and once the fields reach that maximum capacity they go into an inexorable decline.

The U.S. had its oil peak in 1970-71. That means the capacity to deliver oil from U.S. oil fields has been in decline since 1970. That does not mean the U.S. has run out of oil, it means our capacity to deliver oil has been declining and cannot increase.

In 1973 during the first oil crisis the U.S. imported only 35% of the oil we used. Today the percentage of oil imports is close to, if not beyond, 70%. This is due in part to the decline in delivery capacity from U.S. oil fields, and due in part to the increase in oil demand.

Because the U.S. is past its oil peak we cannot increase the capacity to deliver oil from U.S. fields. That does not mean we cannot do more drilling for oil. It means that new fields that are found will not replace the exhausted fields.


The game has to change and cause the U.S. people to leave behind their addiction to fossil fuel oil.

Not only has the U.S. gone past our oil peak, it's possible that the world went past its oil peak a year ago. If true it means the world capacity to deliver oil cannot increase beyond the amount that was delivered over the last year. Given that demand for oil has consistently grown over the years, the growing demand will conflict with the inability of the market to deliver more oil. And, what will result from that conflict?

Economists suggest that Market Forces will take care of it. The rising oil price will cause people to decrease their oil usage. Simple enough. In fact one of the speakers in the NPR peace linked above suggested the same, that the rising price for oil would cause people to do less recreational stuff.

But will it be that simple? Consider The Road Warrior as an alternate scenario. It depicted a crumbling society falling apart from the heights of high-tech wonders, all due to their inability to have oil to drive the machines they've come to depend on.

One thing that's for sure is that if The People continue being as clueless about the real situation as those interviewed by NPR, the U.S. will continue to be unprepared for the real problem that's looming in front of us.


No comments:

Post a Comment