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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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Peak Oil: The Next Steps Pt 4


We remain free as always to choose to fear the consequences of a permanent decline in the availability of affordable and accessible fossil fuel supplies. The enduring impact on our society and our ways of life as a result of a diminished supply of our primary energy supply is no small matter. So fear is certainly an option.

We can also rely on those disinclined to examine the majority of production realities, offering instead a steady diet of optimistic statements and light-on-fact assurances.

Very few of us who are concerned with the full range of oil production issues and challenges find anything about the widespread future impact of peak oil to be other than a somber realization on our best days.


But so too do we have the choice to view the challenges we’ll face [sooner than we’re likely to be fully prepared for, unfortunately], as opportunities to fashion new successes for ourselves; new definitions of prosperity; new ideals of community; and new ways of projecting humanity into a future of hope and progress. Completely idealistic in this moment, to be sure. But it strikes me as a better attitude to have as we approach the urgency of addressing our concerns before available options start getting crossed off the list.

The opportunities to plan and prepare will surely be different than those crafted as a result of the many benefits of readily available crude oil and its countless products. We may not have much choice in that regard, depending on what plans and adaptations take shape in the years to come. This process of transition/adaptation is not going to be measured in any shorter time frame.

But there is no reason to lament, out of fear, that those descriptions will be less worthy or satisfying. We own the choice of assessing what needs to be done and what will be done, too.

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

Peak Oil: Are We Not Better Than This? Pt 9


There are—almost always—at least two sides to any story of significance and potential impact upon others. The greater the impact and potential for a range of outcomes, the more certain one can be that there are more than a handful of factors, considerations, and perspectives to be accounted for if the issue at hand is to be both understood and resolved effectively.

Ignoring the “other side” of the issue may be effective if one prefers their narrative to remain unchallenged and to provide reassurance to fellow believers, but beyond that, it’s hard to understand what the benefit might be to those seeking information if what’s shared is inaccurate or purposely incomplete.

From the second article I’ve been referencing throughout this series:

In the USA, hydraulic fracturing has taken petroleum production to its highest level since 1972, and oil imports to their lowest level since 1995. America now exports crude oil, natural gas and refined products.
The fracking genie cannot be put back in the bottle. In fact, it is being adopted all over the world, opening new shale oil and gas fields, prolonging the life of conventional fields, leaving less energy in the ground, and giving the world another century or more of abundant, reliable, affordable petroleum. That’s plenty of time to develop new energy technologies that actually work without mandates and enormous subsidies.


But in the real world where facts are actually important, a different story is told. Two days before the above-referenced article was published, we had this:

[N]ow, over 1.5 years into the price collapse, production declines in shale oil are finally starting to appear as low oil prices have slashed company investments in new supply, and production begins to decline from existing wells….
The array of spending cuts and production declines announced by dozens of separate companies may be difficult to wrap one’s head around. 

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

Peak Oil: The Next Steps Pt 1


I ended last week’s post by explaining the significance of getting all of the facts about our energy supply future as a first step.

Before deciding whether or not to accept the realities of a depleting finite resource and the impact this will have on our society—or ignoring it for whatever comforting alternative explanations suit one’s needs—understanding the implications and those realities is a more beneficial approach.


The corollary to an appreciation for what a less adequate, less affordable, and less available supply of our primary energy resource is the transition itself. That effort will not happen via magic. Not only will the research, development, and planning require more effort, time, and contributions than we’re likely considering now, putting everything into place is no easy assignment, either.

Just to keep things interesting, the transition from an oil-based industrial economy to Whatever-Plan-B-Will-Be will have to be achieved using that same declining measure of supply to design and construct and transport and put into place the infrastructure we’ll need to support and maintain this as yet unidentified and not-planned-for-yet Plan B, thus making less available to us for all of our ‘normal’ demands and needs, creating its own set of problems. We’re talking about using a lot of declining energy supplies that’s a lot more expensive, over the course of a lot of years to put into operation a lot of new industrial and economic and civic foundations to (we hope) enable us to maintain some semblance of growth and prosperity—all while using new energy resources that simply will not be as efficient or inexpensive or dependable as oil has been.


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

Peak Oil: Where To Begin?


The unpleasant truth now and soon is that the ready supply of oil and gas which we almost always take for granted [the occasional price spike notwithstanding] is on its way to becoming not-so-ready. A host of factors now in place are steadily converting possibility into likelihood. Thinking that we’ll just implement a few crash programs to straighten out that potential mess is a nice thought, but we simply do not have the means to make that happen—not the technological capabilities, not the personnel, not the industries, not the leadership … yet. Clearly, we do not have enough time to do it all with effortless ease and minimal disruptions.

The farther we continue to travel down that path which relies on fossil fuels to sustain us rather than on a new one marked “new future with new and necessary alternatives”, the longer and more difficult will our backtracking be. What supplied us on the front part of the journey will no longer be there for us on the ride back. We’re going to have to create entirely new systems and infrastructures and modes of production and transportation—or at the very least re-build extensively—in order to adapt to new sources of energy. So relying on current conditions and practices and customs and tinkering only along the edges simply won’t work because we are going to be dependent on entirely different energy resources.

A recent article highlighted the fact that many oil producers are continuing production efforts even though they are operating at a loss. Many factors obviously contribute to such an incongruous decision, chief among them the costs associated with resumption. How long should we expect those trends to continue?

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

Peak Oil: Time To Get Serious Pt 4


A fossil fuel-driven-and-made-possible life is all any of us have ever known. There are virtually no aspects of commerce, leisure, transportation, or consumption which do not depend in some part on inexpensive, readily-available and easily-produced fossil fuels. That is most certainly not going to change dramatically overnight, but the situation we’ll soon be facing simply isn’t going to get any better if all we’re counting on for many more years is even more inexpensive, readily-available and easily-produced fossil fuels.

So what to do? Do we want a voice in the solutions or not?

Who among us wants even more problems and worries to contend with now? Plates are still full and then some. For issues like peak oil—where it’s not at all clear that problems with fossil fuel supplies exist today or tomorrow or next month—that challenge very quickly slides down our list of priorities.

Aided by determined efforts to shade the truths about current and future production challenges makes it that much easier to pay no attention at all to what a declining base of our primary energy source might mean for all of us.

All duly noted and a perfectly reasonable determination to make … today. The underlying concerns voiced by proponents of peak oil and its impact remains unchanged notwithstanding. A future with diminishing fossil fuel resources—our future, more specifically—is going to be so different and in so many ways, and so much more constrained by that fact, it’s unlikely anyone can legitimately wrap their mind around that eventuality at this moment.

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

Peak Oil: Time To Get Serious Pt 1


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


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: The Underlying Reality


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…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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