THE OIL DREAM IS COMING TO AN END. FUEL IS OUTDATED.

THE OIL DREAM IS COMING TO AN END. FUEL IS OUTDATED.

We’ve heard the theory of peak oil, being the point when oil production – domestic or global – peaks and begins to decline. There came along lots of research reports, government studies and oil industry analyses, that tried to pin down the exact year when peak oil will occur.

As we know, modern society and life still runs on oil, all the way from heating, electricity production, transportation, cosmetics, medicines, plastic bags. And yes, most of human civilization was and is still linked to a supply of inexpensive oil and petroleum products – readily available.

 

THE DREAM OF PEAK OIL

In 1956, geologist M. King Hubbert from Shell Oil Company (later gone to the U.S. Geological Survey) said that oil production in the lower 48 U.S. states would reach its peak around the 1970s. Though he generated some controversy, his theory was later confirmed when The National Academy of Sciences and the Energy Information Agency (EIA) said his bell curve predicting the peak was correct. And this was despite much rosier predictions made by industry and government analysts.

“We are in a crisis in the evolution of human society. It’s unique to both human and geologic history. It has never happened before and it can’t possibly happen again. You can only use oil once,” Hubbert said in 1988.

“The basic assumption of peak oil analysis is that you have prior knowledge of what the available reserves are, and in fact we do not,” said Alan Carroll, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

SO, NO PEAK OIL?

Determining when peak oil will occur, if it already has or if it will at all, is dependent on a changing set of assumptions and variables. Oil reserves represent the amount of oil that can be extracted given present-day prices and present-day technology. But the peak oil also depends on those.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has opened up numerous oil fields – in areas that were once considered unsuitable, played out or too costly to even consider. Thanks to this technology, oil production is rising again, instead of dropping.

“We may have a second peak. Maybe Hubbert wasn’t right,” Carroll said, then continued: “We might hit a peak in terms of conventional oil, but coming in behind that are the oil sands, oil shales, the methane hydrates, and they will prevent consumption from simply dropping in a peak fashion,” Carroll said.

So, as we may develop other technologies, there is the question if peak oil will ever occur.

THE STAKES ARE HIGH. BUT CONSUMERS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

People haven’t been misled or forced into buying gasoline to fuel their cars. Right, fossil fuel companies and the automakers, have fought to block cleaner alternatives, so for a long time, the people didn’t have much choice.

But fortunately, there are now more low-carbon options that will eventually reduce emissions. According to the “Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living” book, people could shrink their carbon footprint up to 20 percent over a year by getting more efficient cars, upgrading home appliances, switching to more energy efficient light bulbs and eating less meat. And this would be the equivalent of shutting down 200 coal-fired power plants.

So no, we cannot really blame the companies like BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell for their effect on climate change.

“It’s just a cop-out to blame the producers of products that we have demanded, and benefited from, for more than a century,” economist Severin Borenstein from the University of California, Berkeley wrote on a blog, on December 16. “We haven’t been misled or forced into buying those carbon-rich goods.”

“The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stone, but because bronze and iron proved to be better substitutes. Firewood gave way to coal; and coal to oil and gas, not because they ran out or went into short supply but because the substitutes were cheaper and more efficient,” petroleum geologist Colin Campbell (co-founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil).

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