Peak Oil Anarchy

Peak Oil is indisputable, inevitable and -- probably -- imminent. As the Cheap Oil era ends & oil supplies grow ever more scarce, our consumerist, earth-eating economy will go into convulsions & industrial civilization will teeter on the brink of collapse. Best be prepared! Peak Oil could herald a Golden Age of Anarchy. In Leviathan's ashes, we could create new decentralized communities of mutual aid, solidarity against oppression, & egalitarian harmony. May this be a map to the terrain ahead!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Peak Oil 101

a sober introduction
by Matt Savinar (from LifeAfterTheOilCrash.net)

Civilization as we know it is coming to an end soon. This is not the wacky proclamation of a doomsday cult, apocalypse bible prophecy sect, or conspiracy theory society. Rather, it is the scientific conclusion of the most widely respected geologists, physicists, and investment bankers in the world. They are rational, professional, not-at-all-radical individuals who are absolutely terrified by a phenomenon known as global "Peak Oil."

"Are We 'Running Out'? I Thought
There Was 40 Years of the Stuff Left!"

Oil will not just "run out" because all oil production follows a bell curve. This is true whether we're talking about an individual field, a country, or on the planet as a whole.

Oil is ever more plentiful on the upslope of the bell curve, ever more scarce and expensive on the down slope. The peak of the curve coincides with the point at which the endowment of oil has been 50 percent depleted. Once the peak is passed, oil production begins to go down while cost begins to go up.

In practical and considerably oversimplified terms, this means that if 2000 was the year of global Peak Oil, worldwide oil production in the year 2020 will be the same as it was in 1980. However, the world’s population in 2020 will be both much larger (approximately twice) and much more industrialized (oil-dependent) than it was in 1980. Consequently, worldwide demand for oil will outpace worldwide production of oil by a significant margin. As a result, the price will skyrocket, oil-dependant economies will crumble, and resource wars will explode

The issue is not one of "running out" so much as it is not having enough to keep our economy running. In this regard, the ramifications of Peak Oil for our civilization are similar to the ramifications of dehydration for the human body. The human body is 70 percent water. The body of a 200 pound man thus holds 140 pounds of water. Because water is so crucial to everything the human body does, the man doesn't need to lose all 140 pounds of water weight before collapsing due to dehydration. A loss of as little as 10-15 pounds of water may be enough to kill him.

In a similar sense, an oil-based economy such as ours doesn't need to deplete its entire reserve of oil before it begins to collapse. A shortfall between demand and supply as little as 10-15 percent is enough to wholly shatter an oil-dependent economy and reduce its citizenry to poverty.

The effects of even a small drop in production can be devastating. For instance, during the 1970s oil shocks, shortfalls in production as small as 5% caused the price of oil to nearly quadruple. The same thing happened in California a few years ago with natural gas: a production drop of less than 5% caused prices to skyrocket by 400%.

While previous price shocks were only temporary, the coming oil shocks won't be so short-lived. They represent the onset of a new, permanent condition. Once the decline gets under way, production will drop by 3% per year, every year, or more. That estimate comes from numerous sources, not the least of which is Vice President Dick Cheney himself. In a 1999 speech he gave while still CEO of Halliburton, Cheney stated: "By some estimates, there will be an average of two-percent annual growth in global oil demand over the years ahead, along with, conservatively, a three-percent natural decline in production from existing reserves.That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional 50 million barrels a day."

Cheney's assesement is supported by the estimates of numerous non-political, retired, and now disinterested scientists, many of whom believe global oil production will peak and go into terminal decline within the next five years. Those stil inside the industry sounding the alarm the loudest are anything but your classic "chicken-littles." Andrew Gould, CEO of the giant oil services firm Schlumberger, recently explained the global decline rate may be far higher than previously thought: "An accurate average decline rate is hard to estimate, but an overall figure of 8% is not an unreasonable assumption."

An 8% yearly decline would cut global oil production by a whopping 50% in under nine years. If a 5% cut in production caused prices to triple in the 1970s, what do you think a 50% cut is going to do?

Other experts are predicting decline rates as high as 10%-to-13%. A near-consensus view 2005 was the last year of the cheap-oil bonanza, while many estimates coming out of the oil industry indicate "a seemingly unbridgeable supply-demand gap opening up after 2007," which will lead to major fuel shortages and increasingly severe blackouts beginning around 2008-2012.

The long-term ramifications of Peak Oil on your way of life are nothing short of mind blowing. As we slide down the downslope slope of the global oil production curve, we may find ourselves slipping into what some scientists are calling a "post-industrial stone age."

That may sound like "end-of-the-world" hyperbole until you compare energy production from all sources (fossil fuels, nuclear, renewables) to population growth, as legendary geologist Dr. Richard Duncan did in his article, "The Peak of World Oil Production and the Road to the Olduvai Gorge." Dr. Duncan's research produced the following graph, which shows the amount of energy available per person on the planet from 1920 to 2060:

Ultimately, the energy-intensive industrial age may be little more than a blip in the course of human history:

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home