Sunday, April 20, 2008

do not speak to us of the Crunch

Debs had an alarming email today from an old friend in which he rolled out the tired old myths about Peak Oil - that there's loads of oil left (yes, we know that!), that there has just been a new oil find off Brazil (yes, we know that too), that there's more oil under the poles than in Saudi Arabia (certainly true now LOL!) and that we will seamlessly become a 'hydrogen economy' within a few decades.

Oh dear. Hippies are still out there, blithely burying their heads and hair in the sand. They still think that it will be business as usual, no matter what we throw at the world or what we take out of it. They still feel that Peak Oil is a threat to their 4x4s. Idiots. That will be the very least of their worries!

Okay, let's indulge Steve and rip his hippy argument apart bit by bit.

Peak Oil is NOT about oil running out - it's about oil becoming so scarce that it will no longer be available to us, that the price mechanism will gradually price us ALL out of the market. A year ago a barrel of oil was around $50, now it is $115, and it's unlikely to ever go down to double figures again, no matter how deep we bury our heads. Demand is still increasing, even though supply has been static for a while - almost definitely because we are now at the Peak Oil plateau. Oil will NEVER be as easy to find again as it has been over the last 100 years.

There is still as much oil left in the ground as we've extracted, possibly even a little more. But what we have extracted was the easy half. It is now a major task to get anything out of new fields (when we can find any), they are buried deep under the sea or in the world's most inhospitable places. That doesn't suggest that future oil will be cheap!

The new oil find off Brazil is great news for Brazil, although that should be tempered by the fact that it is going to be HUGELY expensive to extract, which again will keep the oil price high. In reality it's a marginal find. Yes, it could be as much as 30 billion barrels which sounds a lot, but assuming an extraction rate of about 30% (which is fairly high, the rest will be lost forever) that will last - at current consumption rates - just 125 days. Big deal! Even if every barrel at the top of the estimation range was extracted it would only last a year. One year. Think about it.

The oil under the poles is similarly expensive to extract, but I think only an idiot would seriously try to get it out. Pouring out yet more carbon in the future will almost certainly trigger climate change on a MASSIVE - and probably unsurvivable - scale. It can't be touched, even when oil reaches $1000 a barrel (probably around 2020).

Hydrogen is a bigger joke than biofuels. It is an energy CARRIER, not energy. It can only be produced from current resources and would require HUGE infrastructure changes even to bring it to the richest countries in the world. The generating capacity will never be there to make it anything other than a rich person's toy.

That's the reality. There's no head-burying, or indignation that the government will allow this to happen, no sadness as the imminent end of what's been a great lifestyle in many ways, no regret that millions, probably billions, will die prematurely as the oil age comes to an end.

We have to get on with the job, rebuilding our communities from the ground up, preparing for the end of oil and much that's become familiar to us.

I don't care if the hippies don't want to believe it. That's their problem. They will of course come round, just as they did with Climate Change, but it will probably be too late for them. I don't care. It's clear from their lack or vision or realism that they will hardly be useful in a post-oil world anyway. They aren't just burying their heads in the sand, but slowly digging their own graves.

Meanwhile the decent folk will continue to organise and plan for the post-oil world, making clever moves now to secure their futures as carefully as they can. A future that will be built on the graves of millions of dead hippies, if that's the way they want it.
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mike3 said...

Then tell people like me who want to take and keep their heads OUT of the sand HOW to make those changes and what that vision is and how to get it and that realism!

mike3 said...


Because I don't believe in limitless, crass consumerism and crass materialism, crass atheism (= natual outgrowth of materialism), crass capitalism, all that stuff.

Sunshiner said...

The simplest way to start is to join your nearest Transition group.