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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 2/19/15

Now or Never.

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Methane Apocalypse
Methane Apocalypse
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Throughout nature self-organized complexity, including human civilization, arises whenever there is an energy gradient--high energy to low. The magnitude of the gradient strictly determines the magnitude of complexity which is possible. Human civilization increased in complexity (and concomitantly in population) by orders of magnitude once it learned to exploit the vast energy locked in hydrocarbons--oil, coal, natural gas. Initially it required no more than one unit of energy to obtain 100 units of energy. For example, one barrel of oil equivalent would yield 100 barrels of oil. . This was the "low hanging fruit" of the oil age. We have long since "picked" all of that fruit. Newer sources of hydrocarbon energy such as those obtained by fracking are less energetic in net energy terms. Whereas original oil had an energy ratio of 100:1, fracked oil and gas comes in at around 5:1! The net energy content of present day hydrocarbons is not only much lower than several decades ago, it is rapidly declining.

To cut to the chase, this means that the organized complexity of our civilization CANNOT be maintained--the net energy gradient has declined too much, too fast, for that. As we have not taken rational steps to deal with this wholly foreseeable issue, we can expect civillizational collapse in the near future. The race now is between whether we keep industrial civilization going long enough to initiate a climate apocalypse due to sublimation of arctic methane--which may kill all complex life on Earth in this century, or we collapse just before that occurs. That will kill about 90% of humanity over the coming century or so, but will allow life itself, including humanity to survive. It did not have to end this way, but the absolute selfishness of the sociopathic swine who rule humanity, in conjunction with the sheep-like behavior of the mass of humanity have made this bifurcated outcome virtually inevitable. Virtually, because radical revolutionary change occurring right NOW might still allow a better human future. But the moment when this remains possible is rapidly passing.

Banksters and multinationals who own Obama, Clinton, Bush etc., are worried that a Senate filibuster (liberal Democrats and Libertarian Republicans) will stop passage of the corporate engineered assault on what remains of our democracy via the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) cold. They require its passage to push labor arbitrage to its maximum extent in order to keep the failing hydrocarbon economy, from which they derive their power and wealth, wobbling along a bit longer. (1)

50 years ago the net value to the economy in constant dollars of a barrel of oil (42 gallons) was at least $600.00 now it is just over $80.00 and falling as net energy content of an averaged barrel declines. Inevitably once oil costs more to produce than it contributes to net economic growth, the economy will implode in an economic collapse as debts cannot be paid and the illusion of future economic growth to resolve this conundrum vanishes. Researchers at the Hills Group state the following:

At the present time it takes about half of the energy content of a unit of oil (barrel, gallon, etc) to extract, process, and distribute the product. It takes half of the energy from oil to produce it, therefore it takes half of the production. Producing petroleum, and its products creates a demand for petroleum!

Here is the 2012 energy breakdown for the "average" barrel:

Extraction"""618,870 BTU/barrel


The energy content (exergy) of 37.5 deg. crude is 5.88 million BTU/barrel:

That is 50% As production goes down demand will go down by half.

That percentage is changing with time; for example in 1980 it took 931,500 BTU/barrel to extract, process, and distribute the average barrel. 16% of the energy content of a 35.7 deg. crude. A 1 mb/d drop in production in 1980 reduced demand by 160,000 b/d. In 2012 a 1 mb/d drop would have reduced demand by 500,000 b/d.

This commonly ignored fact makes predictions for the supply/demand balance inaccurate. It will take a production cut of at least 3.0 mb/d to bring the markets' excess of 1.5 mb/d back in line.

Actually, we are estimating a 4 mb/d reduction will be necessary because of end user demand decline from a slowing global economy. The strong demand that has been seen in the last few years has been largely due to petroleum production itself. This is especially true of shale production which is at best a net zero energy product.

It seems likely that OPEC is aware of this phenomena, and that would explain their reluctance to cut production to raise prices. Production cuts could never be offset by sufficient enough price increases to compensate for their fall in revenue. For OPEC it would be like pushing on a string. For them cutting production would only mean a greater loss of revenue.

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Michael P Byron is the author of The Path Through Infinity's Rainbow: Your Guide to Personal Survival and Spiritual Transformation in a World Gone Mad. This book is a manual for taking effective action to deal with the crises of our age including (more...)
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