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Peak Oil: Time To Get Serious Pt 1

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The truths, unpleasant though they may be, are the truths: inexpensive, readily available oil is slowly but surely becoming less readily available, more expensive, and harder to come by. Current conditions [ultra-low prices; curtailed/canceled oil production and exploration projects; over-supply; declining investments; high debt] only highlight that the problems of maintaining an adequate, affordable, accessible supply of fossil fuel needed to power modern society aren’t going away.

We can pay homage to and wish for all the magic technology in the world; ignore every single environmental consequence; disregard the fundamental differences and considerations regarding conventional crude oil production and tight oil production; ignore all the geopolitical and geological realities; pretend that oil will still be ours for the asking as often and for as much as we want; or hope that Someone Else is going to rescue us, but delusion and denial will only take us so far.

Those who know but have worked much too hard to mislead and misrepresent must now devote some of their prodigious efforts and considerable knowledge to not just truth-telling, but taking a vital leadership role in exploring how we plan for a future where fossil fuel resources will no longer serve as the primary energy supply for our society.

Recognizing the awesome complexity and widespread impact of that fact merits serious effort and honorable leadership. Are we going to find it? Soon?

The sooner we accept the evidence before us, the sooner we begin to plan intelligently for new methods of powering modern society. Anyone deluding themselves into thinking it won’t be all that difficult or will develop in anyone’s definition of a reasonably short period of time needs to step away from the conversation until the facts and realities settle in. We’ve had plenty of senseless denial as it is.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: We All Do This, But…. Pt 2

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I ended last week’s post on the topic of Confirmation Bias* with these questions:

After all, who among us wants to be wrong about important matters on which we’ve staked no small amount of credibility?

But what if being wrong about those important matters winds up being the least of our problems?

It’s human nature to seek out information, evidence, opinions, etc which support positions we’ve taken on a wide variety of topics. Contentious political and social issues provide glaring examples of this from both the left and right sides of the various debates. Climate change is certainly one of the more noteworthy subjects.

So is peak oil. I’m of the clear opinion that our future energy needs are not going to be based on an endless, forever abundant, affordable, easily accessible fossil fuel supply. I’m not alone, of course. There is an equally vocal, and more prominent contingent on the other side of this debate, claiming we peak oil proponents are nothing more than doom-and-gloom messengers who’ve been consistently wrong in predictions.

That’s the starting point.

The conflicts arise in part because of what one relies upon to support his or her position. In some instances, there are actual facts in dispute [some shaded to suit one’s inclinations, of course]. But in too many other instances—peak oil and climate change among them—one side has a clear tendency to not just restrict the facts relied upon to a select and duly-massaged few, they also completely ignore a more substantial and substantive body of evidence.

Offering statements with an assortment of qualifiers [“if”; “possible”; “could”; “potential”, etc] may offer those proponents some assurances that they are essentially correct. But to ignore an entire body of evidence contradicting—or least casting some reasonable doubt—on their staked positions calls into question motivations for disseminating partial truths.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Are We Not Better Than This? Pt 1

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I’ll confess that I hesitated before starting this series. It was too easy to again just dive into mockery and sarcasm over pieces written several weeks ago by those who refuse to give credence to the concept of peak oil and/or its implications. [It’s also the gateway to yet another round of verbal grenade lobbing which generates a lot of high-five’s with fellow ideologues, but little else.]

I’ve contributed my share of mocking on numerous occasions, to be sure. It’s just part of the ongoing Left-Right hostilities….Tiresome. Pointless. Embarrassing. Damaging … always.

That exercise would have been gratifying to me, but only me. I need to have a more enlightened response to the question posed above. Doing more of the same will produce more of the same, and few of us seem to be benefitting from that strategy these days.

At first glance the subject matter of this series [Friday-only, and for a number of weeks to follow] may seem to be yet another opportunity to take down yet another [two, actually] light-on-facts, right-wing Happy Talk offerings generated for public consumption. Like so many others of similar content and intent, they played well to the far reaches of the Right, judging by most of the comments, and they were consistent with the messages offered in opposition to all things Obama and/or progressives.

Neither those comments nor the material offered by the two writers for their respective conservative publications [American Thinker and Townhall, to be discussed later in this series] were much different than countless others supporting the same essential message: but for President Obama, America would be great, yaddayaddayadda; and we have more than enough energy resources available to us for almost forever, yaddayaddayadda.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: We All Do This, But…. Pt 1

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Confirmation bias is the tendency of individuals to pay attention to or believe information that confirms the personal values and beliefs they already hold, rather than allowing their beliefs to be changed by new information.
It’s a powerful force that many researchers have suggested plays a key role in the persistence of phenomena such as climate doubt. With an overwhelming abundance of evidence pointing to the existence of anthropogenic climate change, for instance, many scientists have questioned why skepticism continues to be pervasive in society. Sociologists have suggested that the reason has to do with the fact that it’s difficult to change an individual’s worldview simply by presenting new information. Confirmation bias, rather, leads people to seek out evidence — however small or poorly supported — that supports their existing personal beliefs. [1]

Seems to be a simple enough explanation….We can all [present company included] insist that we’re always objective and always looking at all sides of important issues, but … not really. Human nature is what it is. This is true for conservatives and progressives—denials and finger-pointing duly noted.

For the great majority of issues, questions, and concerns that pop up on our daily radar screens, this psychological short-cut is certainly handy, and rarely a cause of any great trouble in our lives. It’s a different story for matters whose scope and impact extends beyond today in our own little worlds.

Climate change is certainly one such issue, as was explored in Chelsea Harvey’s above-referenced Washington Post article about a study which examined the spread of misinformation online. Any number of contentious political/economic/cultural topics likewise fall under that widening umbrella. The report’s lead author offered one of the main conclusions validating the impact of confirmation bias as it relates to the spread of climate change denial:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Are We Not Better Than This? Intro

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One-sided stories or news features serve many purposes. Unfortunately for the public, serving their interests is rarely if ever one of the objectives … or outcomes.

Who among us doesn’t want an endless parade of good news about issues great, inconsequential, and all in between? For almost all of us, we have enough issues and concerns and challenges to deal with as it is. Devoting time and effort to learn about or involve ourselves in social and political issues outside of matters directly and personally impacting us right now isn’t usually at the top of our “To-Do” lists. If we could assure ourselves that such issues wouldn’t affect us now or later, then we could indeed completely ignore them and let the chosen others deal with them.
Life tends not to work that way, however. Economic, cultural, and political issues influence and impact most aspects of our lives, even if we rarely acknowledge that fact or notice any direct bearing on our daily lives. Energy considerations—and certainly climate change—can be added to that list.So while few of us have the opportunity, means, or capabilities to immerse ourselves in those broader public conversations and policies, we should at a minimum expect that whatever our level of understanding or awareness, it is the product of an honest and complete dissemination of facts and concerns which will affect us—if not today, then soon enough. Idealistic perhaps, but it would be nice if we didn’t have to plead for truth-telling and full disclosures.
There are few if any business, social, or political endeavors which are not designed to influence others in some way.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Choosing Chaos … or Not

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If/when a petroleum shortage impacts it will concentrate minds wonderfully. But when it comes the window of opportunity could be brief and risky. If things deteriorate too far too fast there could easily be too much chaos for sense to prevail and for us to organize cooperative local alternative systems. [1] 

“Too much chaos” is certainly one problem-solving approach! Perhaps it should not be the first one, however.

Unfortunately, the more often the more prominent voices—those unwilling to share with followers the full scope of our future fossil fuel/energy supply challenges—are given forums for public consumption, the greater the odds that “too much chaos” will be the strategy available to all of us.

Of course, none of this is going to happen next month or next year, or perhaps not for several more years. But that’s not a reason to set it aside for now. The scope of adaptation to a diminished and ever-diminishing thereafter fossil fuel supply does not lend itself to anything close to a quick-fix.

The challenge now is all the greater because we’re presently in the midst of an over-supply of oil, and prices have dropped to or near historic lows. That’s obviously not a problem for consumers … today.

So why is oil so cheap? There are various contributing factors relating both to supply (production rate) and demand. The main supply factor is that production of U.S. shale oil has increased rapidly to 3.5 million barrels a day, along with the renewed oil production from Iraq and Libya. Saudi produce one third of OPEC’s output, and this time they have refused to cut production because they want to keep (grow?) their share of the market.
At the same time, demand has fallen because the global economy (especially China) has slowed down. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Simplicity Has Its Disadvantages

Few of us appreciate just how much we rely upon inexpensive, readily-available supplies of energy to live our lives.

[W]hat future awaits us if we cannot be courageous and honest enough to plan for that future with the full range and understanding of all the facts now at our disposal? [1]

While there’s surely some benefit derived in keeping things simple for readers and followers, I’m still unclear as to what the long-term benefits are for them [and the rest of us] when the full range of facts and considerations about our future energy supply are kept off of the discussion table. It’s a defining characteristic of the conservative personality that they tend to prefer closure quickly; and this is so for matters both simple and complex.

But latching onto to one or two pieces of information or opinions in matters of greater complexity and accepting them as the final say can lead to bigger problems down the road when the majority of facts and considerations are ignored—or worse, not disclosed at all to those without the means to collect details on their own.

The issues surrounding the concept of peak oil are not a contest between progressive views and conservative ones. Peak Oil is about the facts on and in the ground. No one denies the great advantages and production increases for which tight oil production in the past few years is responsible. But that’s just a factual statement. It’s not the sum total of energy considerations and concerns today and/or tomorrow, despite the fact it tends to be couched that way by some.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: The Underlying Reality

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Sir, Martin Wolf, in ‘Cheap oil puts humanity on a slippery slope’ (December 2) states: ‘The emergence of shale oil underlines what was already fairly clear, namely, that the global supply capacity is not only enormous but expanding. Forget peak oil.’ He is mistaken. Even the International Energy Agency acknowledges that conventional oil production peaked in 2005. Add other sources of liquid production, in particular tight oil (often misleadingly called shale oil) production from the US, and there has been a modest increase since then, giving a kind of ‘undulating plateau’ as Shell would have it. What the burst of unconventional production from the US has done is to mask the underlying reality of peak oil. This will become apparent as the tight oil potential itself proves limited in time. [1]

There are certain realities about the recent spike in U.S. fossil fuel production which can be masked or misrepresented in only so many ways. Tight oil production generated from hydraulic fracturing [fracking] has shown itself to be more expensive and not as energy “dense” or efficient, for starters. [No one can dispute what an impressive effort it proved itself to be in the past few years, of course.]

But current production and cost issues call into question the level of short-term production spikes we might expect from fracking efforts in the next few years. Fracking is a more expensive, time-consuming process. The production rate of fracked wells declines very quickly, so more and more wells must be drilled to keep pace. Prime locations are not infinite, so that limitation must refactored in. It requires high prices in order to supply the needed investment and effort Low prices are good news for consumers, but there’s a price to be paid there, too.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Just A Distraction Pt 2

In the end, does the choice of words really matter?
The “Yes, we’ve reached Peak Oil” versus the “No, we have not” is a distraction—and I’ve done my part to contribute.

But without recognizing and accepting the simple truth that we’re drawing down a finite and depleting resource which necessitates almost unimaginable adaptations and transitions to Plan B, the limits of human ingenuity and technological prowess will inevitably be reached if we keep tweaking the one finite resource mankind has relied upon more than any other.

And thus the heart of the matter.

The wells won’t run dry next week or next month. The sky is not falling. But the peak rate of conventional crude oil production was reached a decade ago. That’s an important fact glossed over by those disputing the message about our future oil supply. For all the Happy Talk courtesy of fossil fuel industry cheerleaders picking nits, that fact alone is an enormous problem.

The higher production totals of recent years are a genuinely impressive achievement, and should not be discounted. But shale production has shown itself to be what peak oil advocates said it would be: a costly, time-consuming, technology-intensive effort with a relatively limited shelf life.

Today’s low, low prices and declining demand owing to current economic conditions, when combined with a less than enthusiastic investment climate and the high debt levels carried by most oil producing companies, is squeezing that pipeline. The “glut” spoken of is a reflection of these factors much more so than a testament to how much oil industry can produce with just a snap of the fingers.

The diminished funding has resulted in severe reduction in exploration projects. They won’t start back up overnight if or when economic conditions improve. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Just A Distraction Pt 1

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Remember, peaking in production, by definition, means that you have plenty of oil left. It has nothing to do with running out.…[T]he only people who ever use the phrase ‘running out of oil’ are people who either don’t understand Peak Oil, or people trying to mislead an audience about Peak Oil. Because again, if you can successfully mislead an audience and frame the argument as ‘No more oil’ vs ‘We still have oil’ – you again set yourself up for an easy debate victory. [1]

The reality—difficult as acceptance of it appears to be for some—is that by whatever phraseology one prefers, readily available and affordable conventional crude oil is no longer readily available and affordable—from the production standpoint. The energy source of choice for decades is no longer as abundant and accessible as it once was [temporary “glut” duly acknowledged], and the fossil fuel industry has had no choice in recent years but to look elsewhere and at other and inferior supply sources. To the credit of industry efforts and technological prowess, recent years [at least until recent months] have seen an uptick in production from the shale formations here in the United States.

Yet that short-lived benefit highlights another failing of right-wing philosophy in the face of Peak Oil: Yes, we’ll need all of the marvels of “human ingenuity” and great technological inventions. But those factors alone are not the solution.

Conventional crude oil’s rate of production peaked a decade ago. Finite resources drawn down daily beyond that point possess no magic qualities. Continuing to draw them down means there will be less the next day and then even less the day after.

We’re not running out. There is a lot of fossil fuel left underground. But now it’s more difficult to extract. It costs more to do so. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Stark Realities

 

 

 

 

We face a choice going forward. There’s a kind of false dichotomy, a false choice that we’re being presented between policies on the left or policies on the right. It’s not left or right, it’s forward or backward. It’s a choice between investing in the future, leaving a better future for the next generation just like parents and grandparents did for us, or ignoring these hard choices and sentencing the next generation to a lower standard of living, to fewer opportunities, and a future that we could do better by. [1]

~ ~ ~

Like so much of our public discourses these days—notably surrounding the [sadly] too-comical Presidential races—truth, context, relevance, facts, integrity, and their related concepts have given way to the damaging urgency of adhering to ideology. Consequences are rendered irrelevant.

The discussions about climate change and the future of fossil fuel production have been among the noteworthy casualties of our polarized approach to governance and problem-solving. Like the other disputes light on facts in favor of extra doses of partisanship, in time the consequences will be anything but irrelevant. Recriminations, justifiable though they may be, will help none of us as we deal with the harsh realities we’ve ignored in favor of scoring points for our side.

Covering as many bases as possible, a predominantly fact-free article [except for the obligatory cherry-picking] in the irony-rich online American Thinker ventured first into the obligatory right-wing climate change doubting nonsense [citing one whole “Climate Statistics Prof” before veering off into a reference about “a well-loved and respected doctor” who was “expelled from an important medical center” because of “legitimate evidence-based concerns” regarding the center’s “decision to endorse the homosexual lifestyle,” then on to a “highly qualified scientist in California” fired because he “found scientific evidence that questioned a dogma of evolutionary thought,” and “so many other cases,” before readers were finally ushered into an equally fact-free but statement-rich denunciation of “settled science.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Imagine

Peak Oil: Imagine

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Imagine what would happen if citizens took a moment or two to ponder the implications of the nonsense peddled to them daily by those public voices having decidedly different priorities than the public’s continued well-being….

Thanks to investment into supercomputers, robotics and the use of chemicals to extract the maximum from available reservoirs, the accessible oil and gas reserves will almost double by 2050.
Together with the development of renewable resources and nuclear power, the world will thus have more than 20 times the amount of energy it needs to cover its consumption despite growing demand.
‘Energy resources are plentiful. Concerns over running out of oil and gas have disappeared,’ said David Eyton, BP Group Head of Technology at the launch of BP’s inaugural Technology Outlook.
‘We are probably nearing the point where potential from additional recovery from discovered reservoirs exceeds the potential for exploration.’
Together with the development of renewable resources and nuclear power, the world will thus have more than 20 times the amount of energy it needs to cover its consumption despite growing demand. [1]

Isn’t that fantastic? We’re using chemicals [mostly undisclosed, of course] to “extract the maximum from available reservoirs” and we don’t even have to explain what that does and does not mean! Double fantastic! As if that’s not enough, no mention of costs, quality, or anything else! Wow!

Better still: by developing “renewable resources and nuclear power, the world will thus have more than 20 times the amount of energy it needs to cover its consumption despite growing demand” and we don’t even have to say a word about those pesky concerns as to having all the necessary infrastructure in place; research requirements and obstacles; funding challenges; worries about nuclear accidents … hell, we don’t have to explain a single issue about how this will all magically fall into place!

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Right Again [Pt 2]

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We continue with an examination of the statements offered in a recent example of cherry-picked nonsense, an article entitled: “Earth Is An Oil-Producing Machine — We’re Not Running Out.” The fine art of misleading the uninformed….

Delighted with the discovery that “Earth is actually an oil-producing machine” [a secret all these eons!], our cheerleading scribe then confidently bases that bold proclamation on “[r]esearch from the last decade.”

As noted in my most recent post, “the ‘research’ relied upon by the author were two related and generously interpreted articles from 2008—neither of which appear to have been elaborated upon since then.” Those articles were based on research conducted in 2002 and again in 2005, as explained below.

On a roll now, the writer then adds: “In other words, as Science magazine has reported, the ‘data imply that hydrocarbons are produced chemically’ from carbon found in Earth’s mantle.’” Excellent foundation and a rock-solid piece of substantiation—but for the fact it’s more than a bit misinterpreted [if that matters].

An at best marginally relevant, minuscule sampling of “data” which arguably implies something to dispute established evidence—albeit in a vague sort of way—is so much more weighty than decades of substantive yet contradictory research on point, isn’t it? We have all the utterances we need … especially if we ignore the principal scientist’s disclaimer [as quoted in Mother Jones]:

Giora Proskurowski, a researcher at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, recently discovered small amounts of hydrocarbons forming through an abiotic process deep in the Atlantic. The abiotic oil believers have seized on his findings, but Proskurowski says sorry—talk of bottomless, Saudi-free oil is ‘a pipe dream’ 

This begs at least one question: Is a “pipe dream” for new sources of oil reasonably close to could possibly being sort of “plentiful” nonetheless, if facts weren’t a consideration … perhaps?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Right Again, Pt. 1

Right Again, Pt. 1

Human nature being what it is, predictably there are those who still harbor doubts about certain issues pertaining to current and future fossil fuel supplies. There is, however, no doubt that there’s an over-abundance of juvenile, fact-free nonsense passing as gospel truth from industry cheerleaders and media counterparts.

To whose benefit these tactics accrue is not at all in doubt, either: it’s certainly notcitizens depending on others to provide them with the facts about and implications of matters outside the scope of their daily responsibilities and concerns.

If consequences to all of us weren’t an important consideration, it would be amusing if slightly annoying to deal with barely-knowledgeable and and even less-honest commentary about vast resources for centuries, yadda yadda yadda.

But a public with little appetite for, interest in, or opportunity to investigate crucial matters on their own continues to be subjected to a steady stream of misinformation, barely-there facts, and and outright lies by a group whose self-serving professional and financial interests leave no room for the public’s well-being—now, or in the years to come.

Tax policy, climate change, energy supply, tobacco, health care … the subject matter may be different, but the tactics are culled from the same Gospel of Deceit and Distraction. The strategy is employed by a large-enough group whose membership is either genuinely daft and thus has no business peddling pseudo-information to an unsuspecting public, or they are woefully short on supplies of integrity and consideration for the welfare of … well, anyone else.

Must be nice….

As Exhibit B this time around, we have this remarkably cherry-picked piece of fluff entitled “Earth Is An Oil-Producing Machine — We’re Not Running Out.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Absolutely Right

Absolutely Right

Good to see that even after months on hiatus, not much changes on the Right, right? First up:

The shale revolution has opened additional centuries of low-cost hydrocarbon resources to modern society….
The anti-fossil fuel environmental movement is in despair. For decades, proponents of the ideology of sustainable development preached that humanity was running out of oil and gas, that consumption of hydrocarbons was destroying the climate, and that renewable energy was rapidly becoming a cost-effective alternative. But the Shale Shock has slain peak oil and promises low-cost oil and gas for centuries to come. [1]

Yup! Except for those still-pesky facts, juvenile name-calling, and not actually addressing those issues, we indeed have additional centuries of hydrocarbon “resources” at our beck and call. Click our heels together; close our eyes; wish real hard; ignore reality; ignore our future; skip past the facts; omit explanations or critical distinctions, and presto!

If the “The anti-fossil fuel environmental movement is in despair” it’s because a legion of misinformers with public platforms continue to disseminate falsehoods [while ignoring a substantial body of facts supplying the full story and not just the partial one they massage for the benefit of the few], with a heaping shovelful of disingenuous, cherry-picked pseudo-truths for good measure. The public sure as hell isn’t being served by the ongoing stream of nonsense.

An important aspect of the pesky-facts portion of the discussion: oil producers can’t earn profits when the cost of oil is low. The “Shale Shock” works when prices are high.

Consumers as a rule don’t like high prices all that much. That puts a dent in the mandate for high prices to continue the “Shale Shock.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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