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Peak Oil Distractions 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.
Oil Drilling Platform
Oil Drilling Platform
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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. Investments supporting those more challenging efforts are no longer as plentiful, and that process likewise contains no magic qualities. Reduced production efforts means, over time, reduced supply. It's just not that complicated.

While industry cheerleaders may be rejoicing that we have not reached the cataclysmic moment they continue to vividly imagine peak oil "supporters" have promised mankind [thus winning the Doom-and-Gloom vs No-Doom-and-Gloom prize], finite resources being drawn down under those more challenging conditions is a problem in the making. It won't get better absent some monumental costs and efforts.

Now, the oil industry is suffering crushing financial losses as a result of the afore-mentioned glut and low prices. The resources relied upon now [primarily the tight oil found in shale formations here in the United States] are expensive to produce. Fracking is not an inexpensive process, and given the high decline rates from fracked wells, production efforts must continue at a frenetic pace just to maintain the existing production levels.

But with low prices and severe cutbacks in investments, with hundreds of projects having already been canceled, the consequences aren't that difficult to understand. Prices are too low to continue the high levels of production; investments are being curtailed; projects are being canceled. Since oil--especially the tight oil extracted from shale--does not magically produce itself, reductions in production efforts means less oil will be produced as the cutbacks take hold. Thats not a winning formula for energy abundance.

And assuming those efforts continue despite the realities of declining supply and more challenging production efforts, we'll all in time be dealing with the consequences of that choice. Denial and its assorted, related strategies squeeze out planning and intelligent dialogue about how to transition away from fossil fuels--itself a monumental challenge.

Short-term focus rarely results in long-term benefit. Given what's at stake not so much right now but in the years and decades ahead, creating harsher problems for all with fewer options to address them seems a monumentally ass-backwards approach to preserving the well-being of all.

We have choices. They may not be ideal, but giving them their due while we still have at least some means to develop "better" alternatives than an ever-depleting finite resource--responsible for just about every industrial and technological marvel we can name, by the way--might be worth contemplating".

Adapted from a recent blog post of mine.
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Looking Left and Right: Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows I remain a firm believer in late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone's observation that "We all do better when we all do better." That objective might be worth pursuing (more...)

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