In this age of climate crisis, the world is consuming more crude than ever. Peak oil demand? Not yet. Maybe one day, perhaps even soon, around 2030. For now, however, the global economy still runs on oil.
It will take a while before governments certify it, but every piece of data points in the very same direction: In the past few weeks, global oil demand has surpassed the monthly peak set in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic.Expressed in barrels a day, the fresh record high in global oil consumption totals about 102.5 million, likely hit in the last few weeks in July and above the 102.3 million of August 2019. Picture this: We use enough crude to fill about 6,500 Olympic-size swimming pools every day. More than a third of those swimming pools would be needed to quench the thirst of two countries: the US and China.
It’s not unexpected. The International Energy Agency, which compiles benchmark supply and demand statistics, has anticipated it for months. It was just a question of timing, since oil demand surges during the northern hemisphere summer, when millions of European and American families guzzle gasoline and jet fuel during their holidays. The wholesale cost of refined products, such as gasoline, is surging too.
Granted, the new demand milestone is just one flimsy data point. Global oil consumption statistics are routinely revised, and a final figure probably won’t be set in stone until next year, or even 2025. The margin of error is relatively wide, too, probably at least 1 million barrels a day. But experience indicates that demand is typically revised higher, rather than lower.
Today’s contemplation was prompted by an email my mum sent me. As she closes in on 80, I find that she’s becoming a bit more open-minded about things but remains somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to global warming/anthropogenic climate change. We periodically share thoughts on the state of the world, especially politics, and I think I’ve almost got her convinced to abandon her faith/trust in government…
Anyways, here is the comment about global warming she forwarded to me and my relatively quick response (typed up while I was engaged in replacing a floor/foundation for one of our greenhouses — I never considered a decade ago when I installed the first greenhouse, of three, that the mini-garden ties I was using to terrace our backyard would decay/rot so quickly so I am replacing them with concrete blocks and putting in a patio stone floor so that my eldest daughter who has taken over the greenhouse can have many years of use with it, hopefully). I have added some minor supplemental thoughts (in italics) and supporting links to a few sources (see endnotes).
With global warming having become as much a political issue as a scientific inquiry, I went from wondering whether mankind might really be influencing the climate to someone questioning a science I do not understand. I am now worried we are being duped by people with an agenda, like keep the money gravy train running. No one has yet explained to my satisfaction the big ice age followed by warming then a mini-ice age, followed by warming, all before mankind was a significant presence on earth and did nothing but have a few campfires.
That human activity has an impact on our environment and ecological systems, I have little doubt. How could almost eight billion of us and our resource demands not? Especially the so-called ‘advanced’ economies[i]. There is growing evidence that shows that our industrial civilisation has surpassed several planetary biophysical limits and likely overloaded a number of the planet’s compensatory sinks due to the vast amounts of waste material produced in its quest to procure the minerals and energy that our tools require for their manufacture and pollutants produced through their use.[ii]
The issue with the focus on global warming/climate change/carbon emissions is multi-faceted —such stories are never as simple as we’re led to believe. Geologic history shows pretty clearly that the planet’s climate changes and probably most significantly as a result of the sun’s cycles.[iii]
Is human activity exacerbating natural cycles? Quite possibly[iv]. Is it as catastrophic as painted by some?[v] Only time can truly tell since modelling of complex systems is fraught with difficulties.[vi] One minor variation of one of many variables that are used to create future predictions can shift the eventual outcome significantly.[vii]Of course, humans don’t like uncertainty (which is really all that can be provided about the future — probabilistic scenarios that may or may not occur — no matter how complex one’s predictive model is) so we cling to and tend to believe forecasts that are at their root uncertain; their potential accuracy matters not.[viii]
One of the other complications of the narrative is that our ruling class always leverages crises to their advantage. Always. I have little doubt that the hyper focus on climate and carbon emissions is being used to pursue the ruling class’s primary motivation: control/expansion of the wealth-generating systems that provide their revenue streams.[ix]
The ‘problem’ of climate change is always presented with ‘solutions’ but those ‘solutions’ do not address carbon emissions in the least; in fact, there’s a good argument to be made that they actually increase them.[x]Much as the ruling class manufactures consent for any policy that the masses might question/reject (almost always via significant propaganda campaigns), they have created a narrative that is designed to persuade people to believe something that is increasingly being shown to be completely false and little more than marketing/sloganeering.[xi]
These ‘solutions’ also, conveniently, increase the revenue streams of the ruling class via taxes and complete replacement/overhaul of virtually all important technology (e.g., ‘renewable’ energy, electric vehicles, etc.). Scratch even gently below the surface of the ‘clean/green’ energy story and you discover it’s all basically bullshit.[xii] These technologies not only are not sustainable because of their dependence upon finite resources (including very much on the fossil fuel platform itself), but their production is hugely ecologically destructive. We are being sold a load of crap on various fronts so that the sociopaths that ‘control’ our world can profit. This being said, we do face some significant environmental and resource depletion challenges.
Probably the most dire predicament we face is ecological overshoot — too damn many people (especially living in ‘advanced’ economies) for a planet with finite resources.[xiii] The constant push for growth (which really is just to prolong/support the gargantuan Ponzi that our financial/economic/monetary systems have become) is the exact opposite of what we likely need to be doing; as is the push to ‘electrify’ everything.[xiv] The unfortunate thing for the future is that any species that overshoots its natural carrying capacity has only one way to be rebalanced: a massive die-off.[xv] When that occurs (and how it unfolds) is anybody’s guess…
As much as we tend to believe we understand our world and its complexities, I would contend we do not; at least, not very well. To compensate for this uncertainty we have developed all sorts of psychological mechanisms that lead us to believe particular narratives with some ‘certainty’. The beginning of a recent paper that challenges the mainstream story surrounding ‘renewable’ energy (that has been presented as a panacea for reducing carbon emissions; although I would argue Peak Oil is a more troubling issue in the energy needs of industrial civilisation[xvi]) is pertinent to this idea: “We begin with a reminder that humans are storytellers by nature. We socially construct complex sets of facts, beliefs, and values that guide how we operate in the world. Indeed, humans act out of their socially constructed narratives as if they were real. All political ideologies, religious doctrines, economic paradigms, cultural narratives — even scientific theories — are socially constructed “stories” that may or may not accurately reflect any aspect of reality they purport to represent. Once a particular construct has taken hold, its adherents are likely to treat it more seriously than opposing evidence from an alternate conceptual framework.”[xvii]
Even if there were no climate change, civilization would still collapse in the next few decades. Here’s why.
I want to start by emphasizing that I have nothing but love and respect for the millions of climate activists in the world, many of whom work tirelessly to end fossil fuels, even to the point of getting arrested. Organizations like Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion, Fridays for Future, and countless others have done incredibly important work and deserve our thanks.
However, I’ve noticed that average, everyday climate activists often don’t see the big picture. They are laser-focused on climate change and believe that if we just stop burning fossil fuels and start using green energy, we can save the planet and our civilization.
The truth is that even if there were no climate change, our civilization would still be doomed. And the more time we waste trying to save it, the more damage we’ll do to the biosphere. It’s time to give up on the idea of saving modern, high-tech civilization and instead focus on saving as much of the natural world as possible.
For those who still believe we can continue with business-as-usual using green energy instead of fossil fuel energy, this article will be a wakeup call, and it could be very upsetting. I don’t want to upset people, but it’s important that we face reality so we can make better choices as we move forward.
Okay, take a deep breath, and let’s dive in…
Before I explain the specific reasons why civilization is doomed no matter what we do, I think it would be worthwhile to review the concept of exponential growth. Most people think they understand it, and they might even give an accurate definition, but they’re not truly grasping the implications of exponential growth in a finite world.
Peak Oil, Complexity, Psychology, Magical Thinking, and War
Again, some sharing of my comments and others’ on a couple of recent FB Group posts.
First, a post from the Peak Oil Group I am a member of where some great conversations happen. In this particular situation, the comments were in response to my last Contemplation.
SH: I was with a group of technical people recently, engaged in conversation about a very wide range of issues, and when I pointed out that almost no one among engineers and entrepreneurs are striving to address future energy and resource needs, rather, the vast majority exhibit a myopic fixation toward devising increasingly complex ways to use up fossil hydrocarbons. Well… Some folks interrupted and pretty much drowned me out with a kind of “hear no evil” mantra, extolling the virtues of technology and human ingenuity. I don’t even think it was a conscious response, but a kind of unconscious impulse, an eruption of vocal energy resulting from cognitive dissonance. It seems apparent that humans are not psychologically equipped to handle large scale existential threats or crises. I guess what I’m suggesting is that it isn’t just elites who will kick the can down the road to maintain their status quo, but that pretty much everyone will respond to things like Peak Oil in a way that’s unquestionably irrational or egocentric in relation to the magnitude of the challenge. That’s my take on it anyway…
Me: SH, I completely agree. I suppose that’s one of the reasons I find the impact of our innate psychological mechanisms/processes so fascinating to explore and try to understand. I think a big part of our blindness to limits and the consequences of chasing the perpetual growth chalice is our ‘trust/faith’ in our various complex systems (and those who ‘control’ them). This has us engaging in significant magical thinking and believing that we can ‘adapt’ (via our technology and ingenuity) to the various predicaments we face. We cannot fathom that recent adaptations have run their course and we are on a dead-end trajectory. Psychology suggests our minds protect us from such anxiety-provoking thoughts regardless of the evidence to the contrary. It doesn’t matter what reality/facts/evidence demonstrates; it’s what we believe that rules.
PW: Steve Bull, Yes, extreme compartmentalism.
JR: Steve Bull, I started listening to a Derrick Jensen interview last night (suggested by a post here by Alice Friedman.) What I took from it is that it’s not human psychology in a vacuum. Different technologies have their own built-in ideologies that influence human ideologies. It was a bit esoteric, but it sort of made sense. Very interesting.
PW: JR, Yep, they have their religion, their science, their family, their whatever.
SH2: SH, what I’m wondering now is why is it possible (for governments, or anyone) to convince people en masse that it’s necessary to go off to war and likely be maimed and/or killed, and endure all the other hardships of war………… but it seems completely impossible (for governments, or anyone) to convince people en masse to put up with seemingly much milder forms of deprivation (like less luxurious lifestyles) in order to stave off collapse (and famine/death and eventually war leading to more famine, death, etc). ?
Me: SH2, The State profits from the war racket (and all the other growth rackets) but not economic contraction. They have no interest in convincing the masses to live more ‘sustainably’ since that would kill their golden geese.
SH2: Steve Bull, Agreed, but I think it must go deeper than that. Do soldiers signing up (not counting conscripts) not have any idea of what war is like? Assuming they do, why does the motive of sacrifice for the good of their society/country not apply in anywhere near the same level of commitment to non-war actions?
Me: SH2, It’s obviously very complex but perhaps part of it is the State’s ability to leverage our innate tribal instincts (i.e., sense of patriotism) and ramping up of the ‘othering’ that goes hand-in-hand with that, which influences a sense of ‘sacrifice for God and country’ that gets most to support war and the atrocities of it. When times are ‘tough’ there’s always some ‘other’ that can be dragged out to blame for things and our in-group versus out-group instincts drown out the critical aspects of such manipulations.
As for ‘sacrificing’ for the planet’s health and our long-term survival, these are minimised via the mainstream narratives about human ingenuity and technology being capable of countering such degradation, you know — we can ‘science’ our way out of any ‘problems’.
The forces of propaganda/marketing by the ruling elite are significant and impactful. They profit from war and from continued economic growth. They have zero interest in curtailing either of these insane and destructive pursuits and perhaps even less concern for our ecological systems — greenwashing everything to give the appearance of concern.
The ‘average’ person’s tendency to defer to authority/expertise leaves most following whatever trajectory a society’s ‘rulers’ set, and for the 10,000+ years of complex societies, these ‘influencers’ have prioritised that which sustains their revenue streams…war and expansion.
And to minimise the cognitive dissonance of the significant machinations and manipulations we are constantly exposed to, most go along to get along and parrot back the stories and help to cheerlead us over the impending cliff…
PW: Steve Bull, Very well stated Steve. I copied two sentences because of the clarity and preciseness of the logic. ……you know — we can ‘science’ our way out of any ‘problems.
PW: SH2, Part of it is the play on their testosterone, their need to be a hero outweighs many other considerations. I think that, yeah, they don’t know what they are doing.
PW: One play of the recruiters ‘they can sign up and join with their friends, they can all serve in the same unit. Well, no, as soon as they join they are split up with some never seeing their friends again. I watched one video of recruiters trying to sign some guys up and implying they could be like their favorite musical artist who had served in the military. They could join the musical military band like he did. The recruiters will lie about anything to get the signature on the line.
LM: SH, I’ve come across the same as this. Maybe it’s their fight mechanism in their brain. I suppose if you don’t know how to mitigate it with nature and low fuel consumption, you use the tools you think you have, even if you don’t really understand those tools. It’s laziness, ignorance and fear. Problem is, those responses adversely impact my daughters and their futures, along with all other children’s futures. So what are we to do? The only two ways to mitigate all this, infiltrate the political system or revolt against the existing system.
We don’t seem to be able to get past the leaders and elite. The ones that openly advertise that going back to a low fuel economy would take us back to the dark ages. Well yeah, maybe we’d have to go to bed the same time as birds mostly because of low fuel, there’s nothing dark about that, other than the dark night!
So so distant from nature. Crazy
Second, is this question/statement posed in the Degrowth Group I am a member of. I include it as it relates to issues raised above:
PJ: Do you think the worlds ‘elite’ might view climate change as being caused by having far too many slaves consuming ‘their’ planet’s resources? ( It seems strange how they really seem to be promoting world war three rather than attempting to promote peace) I bet most of them have their own nuclear bunkers. Do any of the worlds ‘leaders’ and elites actually see themselves as being ‘enemies’ or is it something they like to pretend to the people? To maintain their ‘system’ and their positions? They certainly like to keep telling us how other countries and people are our ‘enemies’.
Me: I don’t pretend to know what our ‘elite’ think or believe. I can only guess based upon some statements, their behaviours, and pre/historical evidence as to what others in their place seem to have done.
They don’t seem to agree on much and oftentimes disagree vehemently on things. This often makes them more concerned with their in-group and how to manipulate events amongst that restricted population as opposed to the masses. This is perhaps especially so across borders, and particularly with respect to regions rich in resources (mineral, labour, and capital).
They don’t appear to be overly concerned with the symptoms of ecological overshoot (anthropogenic climate impacts being one) except to leverage them in expanding their revenue streams and societal control mechanisms.
They appear to believe in the magical thinking weaved by ‘free’ market economists and infinite substitutability for declining resources, and that technology and human ingenuity can solve any pressing issue.
They do not appear to give two shits for the unwashed masses except as tax donkeys and labourers, but do attempt to appease them somewhat with bread, circuses, and soothing narratives (despite having the various protective services of private and public police/security/military, they do still fear reprisals from possible revolution by the masses — thus increasing mass surveillance and narrative management).
Perhaps they do fear a nuclear exchange, but many certainly (at least amongst the higher ups of the political and military classes, and possibly some other very influential individuals) have access to safe spaces where they believe they could avoid the worst of such an outcome.
But we need to also consider that war is a VERY profitable racket as Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler reminded us. And THE primary motivation of these people probably since the beginning of complex societies 10,000+ years ago has been control and expansion of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus positions of power and prestige.
Again and again throughout human pre/history our ruling elite have sacrificed their citizens and the environment to meet this important motivation. I see little evidence that our current iteration of elite is any different than the many that have preceded them and expedited their society’s collapse, especially through overreach in many areas.
And when haven’t the weapons of the day ever sat idle once things have gone sideways?
Homo sapiens are very intelligent story-telling apes, just not very wise.
Once again, a comment I posted in response to an article on The Tyee.
Where to begin? I realise this article is primarily about a federal political party and its future but there are two underlying issues that are discussed that need far more exploration and understanding if we are going to be projecting where a particular party or even government will be down the road (let alone the entire world).
If we are going to be discussing energy and Peak Oil then there is SO much more to bring into the conversation. Yes, politics plays a role (as it always does) but the topic is vastly wider than sociopolitics. It encompasses virtually everything in our complex, globalised industrial world. Everything. From the way we create potable water, to how we feed ourselves, to how we build and heat our homes (I’ve purposely focused on the three items we NEED to live…everything else is icing but just as dependent on energy, especially fossil fuels).
First things first. There is NO substitute for fossil fuels. At least not one that can sustain our current world the way it is configured. No, alternatives to fossil fuels cannot do it. They are not ‘clean’ as the mining, refinement, and manufacturing processes for them are environmentally damaging. They have a low energy-return-on-energy-invested (EROEI) and provide little ‘bang for the buck’. They cannot fuel many important industrial processes such as steel and concrete production. They depend very much on continued exploitation of fossil fuel, both upstream and downstream. They are NOT a panacea.
We are stuck with fossil fuels, until and unless we are ready and willing to give up probably 90% or more of what we consider ‘modernity’.
Then there’s the fiscal aspect discussed here. While it may be ‘progressive’ to be discussing and believing that money grows on trees (or at least within the 1 and 0s of computers), this infinite money growth that is being bandied about as another wonderful panacea for our world that’s gone sideways carries with it enormous consequences.
Let’s agree for the sake of argument that we can indeed just print as much money as we want to ‘pay’ for all that we want and desire — and we can, we just create it from thin air. Presto. More money.
I think most would see that if everyone was suddenly in receipt of, say a million dollars, there would be knock-on effects in the price inflation we would experience; after all, more money chasing the same amount of goods and services would, as most economists would agree and experience has shown, result in higher prices experienced by the population (unless of course it just gets left in the computer data banks and accumulates interest; oh wait, interest rates are zero or lower).
Okay, so let’s say price inflation hits. Solution: we deposit another million, or maybe two million in everyone’s new digital bank account…same problem.
In fact, we’re probably beginning to experience hyperinflation; and experiments in this realm have never ended well. The surest way to bring about a loss of faith in fiat currency and eventual economic collapse is through currency debasement, which is exactly what endless money printing does. But, again, for the sake of argument, let’s say that doesn’t happen (miracles do sometimes occur; although I’m not sure the Leafs winning the Stanley Cup is one of them).
So are the creation of goods and services ramped up to meet demand since everyone has money to buy things? Likely. Here is where we get back to the first issue.
Every dollar spent requires energy to produce the goods or services provided. Think this doesn’t happen? Take a look at GDP and energy use. They are correlated almost perfectly. They increase together. Think alternative energy will meet this demand? Hardly. Increased alternative energy production has not even been able to keep up with increasing demand. The world has had to continue to ramp up fossil fuel use to meet demands. The more money that is created and spent, the more demand there is for energy and resources.
But we have a slight problem. We live on a finite world with finite resources but especially fossil fuels which underpin our current world and all of its interconnected complexities. Our world as designed and functioning currently is fubar without fossil fuels.
It doesn’t matter what party is in charge of things. It never has. The Liberals, NDP, or Greens for that matter can wrap themselves in cloaks of green (to give the illusion of being environmentally friendly; or, of having lots of money; or, both perhaps) and promise a green/clean economy where everyone has everything they want and need, and it won’t mean a damn thing in the end. We could all sit around the campfire holding hands and singing kumbayah but that won’t keep the impending cliff at bay.
These inconvenient truths, as it were, are already biting us and we can only ‘paper’ over them for so long. At some point we have to realise that like Wile E. Coyote we left solid ground some time ago and have been running on air with nothing holding us up. Until a tipping point of people come to this realisation it will be business as usual and the telling of comforting narratives to reduce our mass cognitive dissonance and avoid the pain of reality.
I could overwhelm you with world-wide trillions of tons of mining waste and how China has rendered 20% of its farmland too toxic to grow crops (BBC 2014), but let’s just zoom in on one mine in Arizona. In 2022, 13 years after the Rosemont Copper Mine near Tuscon, AZ was proposed in 2009, was finally shut down after strong opposition.
Yet clearly mines need to be built to make the transition to renewables ASAP. If world peak oil was in 2018 (EIA 2022) time’s a wastin’. Energy will get more expensive and scarcer as it declines. Mining will need increasing amounts of energy as ore quality continues to decline and remaining deposits further away and deeper, as well as the energy to crush ore, smelt metals out and fabricate them into parts. All of these steps require the high heat of fossil fuel energy, especially coal, for which there aren’t alternative electric or hydrogen processes and transportation. The first generation will have to be made with fossil fuels, not the electricity from yet to be built solar, wind, and nuclear power plants.
Michaux (2022a, 2022b) has made some rough calculations of the electricity, hydrogen, and metals to make them in an energy transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050 with wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, geothermal, and biowaste generation. It’s a work in progress, but the best estimate I’ve seen since he included not just the electric grid like most researchers (i.e. Jacobson 2011), but the electricity to replace the fossil energy used by transportation, manufacturing, and heating of buildings and homes.
Then he calculated the metals required to build these 586,000 average sized power stations in addition to the world’s 46,400 to generate the additional electricity and electrolysis of 200.1 million tonnes of hydrogen to power heavy duty transportation and manufacturing.
Ramifications: the long term consequences of peak oil
Peak oil is not the end of the world. It is a subtle, almost barely noticeable phenomenon. It does not mean that we will run out of oil from one day to another, causing all transportation to stop, bringing about famine, chaos, riots and nuclear meltdowns everywhere. We will get there in due time — make no mistake — but not at the time of peak oil supply. Why all the fuss then?
Aswe have seen in Part 1 of this series, there are several limits to global oil supply. First, Earth has a finite volume. Out of this finite volume there are only so many places where oil can be formed and later found. The largest of these oil reserves have been already identified and tapped, and as they near the end of their useful life we are forced to move towards ever smaller, ever more energy and resource intensive to get deposits, or tapping the source rock itself (think: shale). Beyond that there is very little we can do. We are now actively living up our civilization’s lifetime savings at an exponential rate.
As rich, easy to tap fields — providing prodigious returns on investment — slowly give up the ghost, the age of flexible yet reliable supply comes to an end. The persistent increase in energy and resource demand on drilling the next well and getting the next barrel — as we move on to tap ever trickier deposits — will require an ever higher selling price to balance.
The only problem is, that oil prices above a certain point simply end up killing the host, the economy itself. Despite being such a vital — and irreplaceable — input to the economy, petroleum’s affordability will eventually put a chokehold on its own future…
“I have reported on the dire impacts of global peak oil at guymcpherson.com for many years. My reports from August 2007 onward indicate the potential for peak oil to terminate industrial civilization. Information I discovered a few years later indicates that stopping or even slowing industrial activity will cause our extinction. Our extinction could result from a reduction in aerosol masking or the meltdown of some of the world’s nuclear facilities. The latter phenomenon would cause stratospheric ozone to be stripped away, thereby causing extremely rapid planetary heating. Again, I have reported these findings previously in this space. Responses to my freely available work, rooted in evidence, have included denial, non-evidentiary argumentation, and a coordinated defamation campaign that effectively removed me from public service. But enough about me.”
“A reduction in aerosol masking has caused regional increases in temperature that have led to regional increases in precipitation, as indicated by peer-reviewed research I have shared in this space. Fortunately, these impacts have not yet gone global. Rather, they have remained regional in scope, beginning in the area around Wuhan, China, where the pandemic broke out. Regional increases in temperature and subsequent increases in precipitation followed the pandemic to India, Europe, and the northeastern United States.” All of the analysis above is via Professor Guy McPherson’s Substack post Titled: Science Snippets: Global Peak Oil Remains an Existential Threat
Readers of this blog know that I concentrate on the climate and extinction crises and the contemporaneous issue of the re-rise of fascism and unfolding collapse. Collapse isn’t an event, it’s a process, a process that is clearly underway.
Aotearoa New Zealand has just closed it’s one and only oil refinery, yes, you read that right! I filled out an Official Information Act submission to find out what are NZ’s strategic reserves. The government department responsible refused to divulge what we have in reserve! We are led by Donkeys.
Not having a refinery means we’d suffer societal collapse in a matter of weeks of a blockade of our territorial waters being enforced, by whoever, “Friend or Foe”. Remember France was supposedly our ally when they blew up the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior murdering Fernando Pereira in downtown Tamaki Makaurau. The Insanity of Aotearoa New Zealand Closing it’s One and Only Oil Refinery
Ever since the first commercial reactors have started to produce electricity for the grid in the 1950’s (um, about 70 years ago now…) we keep hearing how nuclear is the clean, green power of the future. No emissions, no limits, just the infinite power of the atom. Even M. King Hubbert, the renowned petroleum geologist who pointed out the reality of peak oil production, has seen it as an infinite and stable energy source. (Don’t ask me how he could hold these two contradictory thoughts in his head at the same time.)
Today we know — although many still try to deny — that he was spot on with his first observation. Oil is a finite resource and it’s extraction follows a rise, peak, plateau and fall curve. Conventional oil (the scope of Hubbert’s studies) has peaked around 2005, and is on a bumpy plateau ever since, with growth only provided by unconventional and increasingly difficult and energy expensive to get resources. I have wrote many articles on the not so fantastic prospects this has in store for us, so now let’s examine the proposed alternative to fossil fuels: nuclear energy.
I’ve mentioned in the introduction to this article how Hubbert has presented a glaring contradiction between the reality of peak oil and his expectations towards nuclear power supposedly providing us all the energy we need for countless millennia to come. I say glaring, because as a geologist it should have been obvious to him that nuclear power is coming from Uranium, a mineral found in finite quantities, in finite reserves on this finite planet…
(Bloomberg) — The specter of peak oil that haunted global energy markets during the first decade of the 21st century is once again rearing its head.
Major US oil producers are warning that production from one of the fastest growing sources of supply appears likely to top out by the end of the decade. ConocoPhillips and Pioneer Natural Resources Co. are among those saying the American shale-oil juggernaut soon will be a spent force as the best drilling targets are exhausted and financing new wells gets more difficult.
“You see the plateau on the horizon,” ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance said during a panel discussion at the CERAWeek by S&P Global conference in Houston on Tuesday. Once US crude production peaks around 2030, it’ll plateau for a time before commencing a decline, he added.
Government and private-sector researchers have been cutting forecasts for 2023 US oil-supply growth in the face of surging cost inflation, labor shortages and investor demands that more cash be diverted from drilling to dividends and buybacks. Although output in the world’s biggest economy is set to continue rising for a least a few more years, the zenith is fast approaching, executives and analysts said.
“I wish we could get world leaders to realize that we need hydrocarbons for another 50 years,” said Pioneer CEO Scott Sheffield, who expects US production to peak in five or six years.
Before the dawn of the shale-oil revolution, theorists like the late investment banker Matthew Simmons were issuing dire warnings that the Middle Eastern oil bonanza that fed more than half a century of unprecedented economic expansion across the Western world was unsustainable.
Denial is like a glacier. At first sight, and to everyone standing on it, it looks rock solid. Then cracks start to develop, and before you know it, a huge chunk breaks off and drifts away — never to be seen again. This is what’s happening to peak oil right in front of our eyes: the denial that it cannot possibly come about has started to develop cracks of its own. Yes, peak oil — supposedly “debunked” by the shale revolution — is slowly getting normalized. OK, not in the mainstream media — still chuck full of lunacy and World War III propaganda — but at least in some of the news sites aimed at energy professionals. Some industry journalists have started to slowly realize that it is a very real thing — not a mere theory — and that it won’t be fun to say the least… But let’s just not get ahead ourselves yet.
Inmy start of the year essay I predicted how peak oil will be announced in 2023 — only to be buried under a pile of BS. Well, here you go, and it’s only March. Paraphrasing Captain Benjamin L. Willard from the movie Apocalypse Now we could say:
“Oh man… the bullshit piled up so fast [in the energy business], you needed wings to stay above it.”
Before we start flapping our wings, first let’s hear the admission that peak oil is not a crackpot theory. As Mr Kern, the Educated Realist from Oilprice.com — “the no.1 source for oil and energy news” — explained with his own words (my emphasis added in bold):
Peak oil is the point in time when worldwide petroleum production reaches its maximum point and begins to decline.It occurs when reserves of easily accessible oil are depleted, and it becomes increasingly difficult and expensive to extract remaining reserves.
It looks like we have to wait a little more to see the end of the oil age. Our desire to burn more and more stuff knows no limits — at least not when talking about the foreseeable future. Statements like “oil will be needed for at least another 10 years” or “independent experts agree that global oil and natural gas demand will increase over the next 30 years”suggest that transitioning to ‘renewables’ will have to wait a little. Will we burn as much carbon as we see fit then? Well, as usual, reality will have a thing or two to say in the matter.
Up until the war in Eastern Europe broke out and a wast array of sanctions were unleashed on one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel supplier, the ruling meme on how the oil age would end was called ‘peak oil demand’. According to this myth, pushed by mainstream media, ‘progressive’ oil companies and high tech automakers, we would eventually reach a peak in fossil fuel consumption as we seamlessly transition into an electrified road transport powered by ‘renewables’. Demand increase for oil would thus stop at some point in time, then start to fall gently like a feather on mom’s belly. The climate would be saved, meanwhile everybody could keep on shopping and consuming happily as if nothing happened.
British Petrol (or BP for short) has famously put this ‘peak demand’ date into 2019 — a forecast they would quickly backtrack two years after. A couple of more years into this brave new world, and after years of unprecedented shortages, the world has started to realize that fossil fuels might indeed be needed for a while down the road.
The decline in the world’s oil supply offers no sudden dramatic event that would appeal to the writer of “apocalyptic” science fiction: no mushroom clouds, no flying saucers, no giant meteorites. The future will be just like today, only tougher. Oil depletion is basically just a matter of overpopulation — too many people and not enough resources. The most serious consequence will be a lack of food. The problem of oil therefore leads, in an apparently mundane fashion, to the problem of farming.
To what extent could food be produced in a world without fossil fuels? In the year 2000, humanity consumed about 30 billion barrels of oil, but the supply is starting to run out; without oil and natural gas, there will be no fuel, no asphalt, no plastics, no chemical fertilizer. Most people in modern industrial civilization live on food that was bought from a local supermarket, but such food will not always be available. Agriculture in the future will be largely a “family affair”: without motorized vehicles, food will have to be produced not far from where it was consumed. But what crops should be grown? How much land would be needed? Where could people be supported by such methods of agriculture?
WHAT TO GROW
The most practical diet would be largely vegetarian, for several reasons. In the first place, vegetable production requires far less land than animal production. Even the pasture land for a cow is about one hectare, and more land is needed to produce hay, grain, and other foods for that animal. One could supply the same amount of useable protein from vegetable sources on a fraction of a hectare, as Frances Moore Lappé pointed out in 1971 in Diet for a Small Planet . Secondly, vegetable production is less complicated…
Preface. One the greatest tragedies of energy decline will be the nuclear waste left to harm thousands of future generation for hundreds of thousands of years. We owe it to them to clean up our mess while we still have the fossil fuels to do it. If we do nothing, 263,000 tons of nuclear waste will poison the world. Both of my books explain why transportation and manufacturing can’t run on electricity, so let’s hope new nuclear plants are not built to cope with the energy crisis. The waste from existing plants is bad enough.
Though there probably isn’t time to build more of them if world peak oil production was in 2018. Though there is a tremendous push to build them (just listen to podcast Power Hungry for example).
Finland will be the first nation in the world to store nuclear waste if all goes well starting in 2024 at 430 meters (1410 feet) deep. There are 2300 tons of waste to be stored. Other countries will have a hard time copying Finland, since their success was due to their high trust in institutions, community engagement, a lack of state-level power centers blocking the waste site from their area, and a balance of power between industry and stakeholders (El-Showk 2022).
Preface. I first learned of sulfur’s existence when my grandmother told me how she loved going to tent revivals on the edge of town where it was common for preachers to get converts by burning sulfur to make the fire and brimstone damnation of Hell seem real (during the 3rd Great Awakening).
Sulfuric acid is called the “king of chemicals” because it is the most widely used chemical on earth. Over 260 million metric tons were produced in 2021 for lead acid batteries, detergent, rayon, paper, iron and steel pickling, glass, cement, adhesives, sugar refining, fireworks, rubber vulcanization, explosives, pesticides, drugs, plastics, pigments, water treatment, and 30,000 other products.
Sulfuric acid is also essential for electric vehicles, batteries, solar, wind turbines, semiconductors and other green technology, because sulfuric acid is how you get lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, and some rare earth metals by dissolving the rock around them.
But over half is used for the most important product of all, dissolving phosphate out of rocks to make phosphate fertilizer, which can increase crop production by 50%, to grow our fuel: food. And not only that, but to make the universal energy currency of all life on earth, Adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) which powers all cells. Plus, all living creatures are part phosphate, it’s in our DNA, RNA, cell membranes, bones, and teeth.
Yet sulfuric acid shortages loom in the future, even though sulfur is the fifth most common element in the world! So how on earth could there ever be a sulfur shortage?
It may be common, but deposits large enough to exploit are extremely rare, mostly near volcanoes. Most sulfur or sulfates are combined with copper, iron, lead, zinc, barium, calcium (aka gypsum), magnesium, and sodium.