Several readers brought to my attention an article by a big-time writer who claims the whole idea of the Hubbert Oil Peak is bunk. Mr. Engdahl makes a very common and quite stupid mistake: he and a host of others think that Peak Oil is when oil runs out! This is so easy to refute, I wonder how anyone can fail to understand and then I remember how most economists operate: in clueless vapidity. For some reason, people look at words and like the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland, decide to append their own definitions, ipso facto. A warning: Peaks are BIG. They are when things are at their most, not their least.
The good news is that panic scenarios about the world running out of oil anytime soon are wrong. The bad news is that the price of oil is going to continue to rise. Peak Oil is not our problem. Politics is. Big Oil wants to sustain high oil prices. Dick Cheney and friends are all too willing to assist.
On a personal note, I’ve researched questions of petroleum, since the first oil shocks of the 1970’s. I was intrigued in 2003 with something called Peak Oil theory. It seemed to explain the otherwise inexplicable decision by Washington to risk all in a military move on Iraq.
Peak Oil advocates, led by former BP geologist Colin Campbell, and Texas banker Matt Simmons, argued that the world faced a new crisis, an end to cheap oil, or Absolute Peak Oil, perhaps by 2012, perhaps by 2007. Oil was supposedly on its last drops. They pointed to our soaring gasoline and oil prices, to the declines in output of North Sea and Alaska and other fields as proof they were right.
Way back when I was very young, I used to lecture about the Hubbert Oil Peak before many people could figure out what on earth this was. I hung out with some very fine geologists at the University of Arizona, for example, and we discussed the new fangled idea of tectonic plate movement and the dynamics of the Hubbert Oil Peak. Over the years, I have been hammered repeatedly by people claiming I am stupid because how can we have a peak when there is more oil than ever before?
DUH! Why on earth do humans think that a peak is a valley? This always puzzles me yet it happens over and over again. Also, making fine points is often pointless since people can't grasp two ideas at once without falling flat on their faces. So it is time to again, review geology and peaks.
The Hubbert Oil Peak hit in America in 1972-1974. We were able to easily pump a lot of oil. From then on, we pumped less and less oil. Very simple, no? This Engdahl person can't understand that the easy oil is gone and the oil is now harder and harder to get and more and more expensive to pump and there is overall, less and less each year. This is now painfully obvious. He talks about all the marginal wells that have been capped as if they are the key to infinite oil. They aren't.
No way would oil companies spend billions to build ocean platforms that are prey to the angry seas and hurricanes if there was tons of oil just waiting to be pumped...on land! The concept of the Peak Oil business is that the easy oil goes first, then it gets harder and harder and more importantly, the finds are smaller and smaller.
For example, the Arctic ocean probably sits on a lot of oil. It hasn't been explored yet for obvious reasons. When it is explored and oil is found, it will be a lot of oil. BUT by then, the Ghawar oil field will probably be pumping mostly sea water that is pumped in. Whatever is found in the Artic will be much more expensive and difficult to extract than the oil in Saudi Arabia. This is the logic of the Hubbert model: the easy oil runs out faster than new fields are found once we hit the peak.
Also, consumption rises while oil pumping begins to fall. This logic is impeccable. There is a simple rule of thumb here: creatures always consume as much as they can and their ability to consume is infinite while the supply of consumables is FINITE. Period. By definition, this earth is a finite entity. There is no nonstop-anything here, this is a closed system except for two things: the sun's energy pours in and of course, asteroids and other extraterrestrial things can come crashing in, too.
When the first OPEC oil crisis hit, it was led by King Faisal who wanted to punish the West for supporting colonial wars in the Holy Land. The US paid a heavy price for this because even though we only imported 5% of our oil, this was a critical 5% we couldn't replace so easily. Nixon decided to force down inflation by basically nationalizing the value of oil pumped in the US. In retaliation, the oil companies slowed down production and we had oil rationing which was very unpoplar.
And we got inflation when the price of oil was released in order to get pumping going again. This scared many Americans for it was a preview of what the world oil VALLEY would look like. I used to make many speeches back then: 'We have a window of opportunity. If we conserve oil and build a sane society that uses energy wisely, we can push the global Hubbert Oil Peak back to well within the 21st century. But our window of opportunity to do this will begin to close in 2000!'
Note that the window is beginning to slam shut on our fingers. Instead of understanding this obvious lesson, the US went oil-mad when Russia began to release its vast oil reserves to an eager West who abused this by using oil like it was water. Our latest building boom has been focused mostly on building houses that have almost no energy systems of any sort that aren't the wasteful, older systems using electricity, oil, coal, etc. Built where there was little to no public transportation, much of the housing developments were energy gluttons. Now we will be stuck with the window of opportunity closing on us while the windows on our houses let in freezing air or broiling hot summer heat.
There is energy in our earth! Aside from coal, oil or uranium. There is wood and other plant life, for example, I heat with wood from my forest. But aside from that, there is energy one can get by running pipes into the deeper earth, down 100' for example, and using a pump system and a compressor, the heat or cooling differential in the earth can run our climate control systems. Not that we need this so badly all the time, I lived in a tent on a mountain for ten years. The desire for a controlled environment is a fancy of the 20th century. One can live quite well without it, thank you.
And indeed, houses should be built to run with minimal energy! My basement is very cool in summer. I pump the air upstairs using fans! And in winter, if the sun shines, my solar heating rooms heat the whole building to well above 70 degrees when it is below zero outside! All one has to do is build correctly!
But back to the abiotic oil business: the earth does have energy within itself, proof of this is tectonic plate movements and volcanic activity. This is a dynamic planet! Thanks to the great oceans, the huge moon relative to our own size, the proximity of the sun, this planet is quite active and generates energetic systems, look at any compass or look at the Van Allen Belt or anything to do with our magnetic poles! The atmosphere is energetic----especially when the sun is energetic! Anyone living on the poles knows the amazing lights of the aurora borealis displays are quite electrical. Hell, lightning is the embodiment of energy! Zap!
Ditto, chemistry! And our delightful planet is filled with energy systems from the smallest living creature to the greatest oceans! From far into space all the way down to the core, the earth is dynamic, alive and full of energy!
And some of this we can tap. But the kicker here is....how well? How expensive? How safe? And how many other uses are there?
Way, way long ago, I said we are burning our great resource, oil! It can be used for many important processes and things and we are BURNING IT! Future generations will curse us for this. We can mine the moon, utilize Mars, Venus and the asteroids but NONE OF THEM will have oil! The biological goo is the remains of an incredible number of living things, mostly swamp creatures, that died for eons and were covered by salt or limestone which are trillions of dead water living creatures! There is no way around this.
The Engdahl guy takes the stories of deep oil put out by the Russians line, hook and sinker. This is because he wants to believe in Santa Claus. We all want Santa Claus. But we must remember, change the letters and 'Santa' becomes 'Satan.'
The story about the Caspian Sea area is intresting to me. I have written about it in the past. The Caspian is the remants of a much bigger sea like the Mediterranean. But Africa and India both have collided with the collection of land masses that are Europe and Asia. The Mediterranean Sea is being crushed between these two millstones, Africa and Europe. The Caspian has a dual process at work: it is shrinking and the sea is rising but whereever land rises, mountains form and like a cake that rises in an oven and then suddenly falls in the center, the land behind these rising mountains collapses. For example, the Central Valleys of both Chile and California are much lower than the mountains on the shorelines or 100 miles inland! These deep valleys between mountains are all over the place: Tibet, for example, the plateau is much lower than the surrounding mountains.
In the Caspian area, the earth's crust is disarranged and since oil is liquid, if there are fissures and such, oil can move from one place to another. Scientists in the West have not taken the claims of the Russians very seriously since they have virtually no geological information to back up their contention that the oil they find in the lower levels is abiotic rather than displaced oil.
We also know that the earth is warmer, the lower one goes. Oil can't exist where it is too hot for oil. Quite simply. Gas trapped in various rock formations also has an organic origin. The fact is, one can't drill all over kingdom come and get oil or something resembling oil. The energy in the earth can be tapped just like we get energy from hot springs, for example. But even these run out! The act of pumping them alters their ecological balance and they cease to operate efficiently or even shut down.
The dream and desire for infinite energy and for infinite anything always makes me rather ill. There should be some sort of limit! Infinity isn't our friend.
TEHRAN: Iran yesterday expressed impatience with India over the finalising of a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline deal via Pakistan, warning that it could go ahead with Pakistan alone if India procrastinated.
Caretaker Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said New Delhi and Islamabad were still in discussions over the payment of transit fees by India to Pakistan for Iranian gas from the so-called "peace pipeline".
He said Pakistani officials were certain to come to Iran next week for talks to finalise the project but the attendance of Indian representatives was still unconfirmed.
"Our preference is to have a tripartite negotiation. (But) the trend is moving faster with the Pakistanis," Nozari said.
Last week, the guy running France startled the rest of the earth when he openly declared war on Iran. Over nukes, no less. This outrageous verbal assault was reprimanded by the head of the UN nuclear commission. France has a long history of using nukes, blowing up islands in the Pacific just like England and the US as well as Russia and China set off quite a few nuclear bombs which are probably partially responsible for the cancer epidemic that still rages.
France has just a long history of invading Muslim and other lands as the other European empires. As we approach the global Hubbert Oil Peak, I don't see the US or France or anyone seeking abiotic oil. They are trying to find some way of stealing oil closer to real ooze, not fantasy stuff. Iran is trying to do business and this irritates the Sunnis as well as the Zionists, the US imperialists, European powers and just about anyone and everyone.
Iran's inability to do business will not end the way we want. They know that Saudi Arabia is pumping oil like crazy to keep the present status quo going in the West and this isn't working anymore because Saudi Arabia is at its own Hubbert Oil Peak! Indonesia passed its peak back in 1985. Mexico reached their peak about two years ago.
And the news that rebels blew up the pipelines from the Cantrell Fields barely made the news here! In Nigeria, this happens like clockwork. In Iraq, most of our energy is misspent trying to protect the oil and the pipelines.
For the last three years, Saudi Arabia announces they will increase oil pumping and it goes down. When they boasted they could make 12 million barrels appear, the amount dropped to 10 million. When they said they could pump 10 million, the amount fell to 9 million. The situation there is top secret but many observers believe they are just past peak. Remember: peak means there is the MOST oil, not the least.
We already know the North Sea fields are way past peak and their collapse has been faster than most every field so far, a very dangerous sign. Due to all systems needing oil, the downslope of the Hubbert Peak will be steeper than the upslope.
Lord Oxburgh, the former chairman of Shell, has issued a stark warning that the price of oil could hit $150 per barrel, with oil production peaking within the next 20 years.
He accused the industry of having its head "in the sand" about the depletion of supplies, and warned: "We may be sleepwalking into a problem which is actually going to be very serious and it may be too late to do anything about it by the time we are fully aware."
In an interview with The Independent on Sunday ahead of his address to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil in Ireland this week, Lord Oxburgh, one of the most respected names in the energy industry, said a rapid increase in the price of oil was inevitable as demand continued to outstrip supply. He said: "We can probably go on extracting oil from the ground for a very long time, but it is going to get very expensive indeed.
"And once you see oil prices in excess of $100 or $150 a barrel, the alternatives simply become more attractive on price grounds if on no others."
If we kill the dollar, even if oil is still flowing like crazy, we will be paying $150 a barrel. And the logic of cost effectiveness says, retrofitting our culture to use other energy systems becomes harder and harder and more and more expensive the longer we wait! The time to act was 7 years ago when the government could have chosen the Other Way: instead of wars for oil, if we used all that trillions of war dollars and house beautification dollars and spent them on energy systems like solar cells on every roof, we would be sittting pretty today instead of deep in debt to the world, our systems heading towards future collapse, our money totally misspent.
The war in Iraq has cost us our own energy independence. How are we going to do this if we are deep in debt? Where will the money come from for this? Who can afford this? All of this is part of the trap we are in today. We wasted everything on fun and games from Satanic Santa. And he said, all we had to do was march into Iraq and suck up all that oil. And now he is whispering for us to invade Iran. And I will note here that Greenspan even admitted we invaded Iraq illegally, seeking oil.