The future is Amish ?  

Posted by Big Gav in

Energy Bulletin's Bart Anderson has an interview in, of all places, a French cyberpunk journal - The future is Amish, not Mad Max: interview with Bart Anderson of EB.

Laurent Courau: Your site puts forward the concept of "peak oil." Could you begin by reviewing this essential point for the readers of La Spirale?

Bart Anderson: There is a limited amount of petroleum in the earth. After the easy deposits have been exploited, we go after deposits that are more difficult and expensive to develop (e.g. tar sands, deepwater and arctic oil). At a certain point - peak oil - the amount of oil produced reaches a maximum. Afterwards, less and less oil is produced.

In this way oil production follows a more-or-less bell-shaped curve, Hubbert's Curve. The curve takes its name from the Shell Oil geoscientist, M. King Hubbert, who presented the idea in 1956 and predicted the peaking of U.S. oil production, which occurred in 1970.

There's no serious argument against the general idea. The debate is about when the peak will be reached and how steeply production will fall. Much discussion is devoted to the consequences of peak oil - economic, political and environmental.

There was a resurgence of interest in Hubbert's ideas during the oil crises of the 1970s, but that died down as oil dropped in price. Peak oil started to arouse interest again in the early 2000s, due to work by Colin Campbell, Kenneth Deffeyes and other scientists. Oil companies generally opposed the idea of peak oil in the past, but now seem to have overtly or tacitly accepted the idea.

Less well known than peak oil, is the fact that Hubbert's analysis applies to other resources. We will be facing not just peak oil, but peak coal, peak natural gas and peak phosphorus.

Q: The oil companies have discovered fewer and fewer petroleum deposits since the middle of the 60s, while the demand continues to grow. Does this mean that we've passed the peak of production and that we've been on a critical slope for several decades ?

Are you asking whether the falling rate of oil discoveries since the 60s means that we have already reached peak oil? That would be one of the signs that peak oil is to come, but it doesn't mean that peak oil is already here. Peak oil production occurs several decades after the peak of oil discoveries since it takes years to develop the deposits and bring them to full production. (I may have misunderstood the question.)

Current projections of peak oil range from 2005 to about 2025. People in the peak oil community generally believe the peak will come sooner rather than later. Oil industry estimates are typically farther in the future.

We are all now learning just how closely oil production is related to economic conditions. Due to the recession, demand for oil is down, price is down and production is down. Of course, this has the effect of pushing peak oil into the future.

Many of us are not so concerned about the exact date of peak oil, since we will only know for sure years after it has happened ("in the rear view mirror"). No matter what the date, we need to start preparing for the transition now. ...


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