Peak Oil News: Face decline in oil production before it's too late

Friday, June 11, 2004

Face decline in oil production before it's too late

Journal Gazette | 06/11/2004

If you're wondering about the direction of gasoline prices over the long term, forget for a moment about OPEC quotas and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and consider instead the matter of Hubbert's Peak.

That's not a place, it's a concept developed a half-century ago by geologist M. King Hubbert, and it explains much about what's going on today at the gas pump. Hubbert argued that at a certain point oil production peaks, and thereafter steadily declines regardless of demand. In 1956 he predicted that U.S. oil production would peak about 1970 and decline thereafter. Skeptics scoffed, but he was right.

It now appears that world oil production, about 80 million barrels a day, will soon peak. In fact, conventional oil production has already peaked and is declining. For every 10 barrels of conventional oil consumed, only four new barrels are discovered. Without the unconventional oil from tar sands, liquefied natural gas and other deposits, world production would have peaked several years ago.

Oil experts agree that hitting Hubbert's Peak is inevitable. The oil laid down by nature is finite, and almost half of it has already been extracted. The only uncertainty is when we hit the peak. Pessimists predict by 2010. Optimists say not for 30 to 40 years. Most experts expect it in 10 to 20 years. Lost in the debate are three much bigger issues: the impact of declining oil production on society, the ways to minimize its effects and when we should act. Unfortunately, politicians and policy-makers have ignored Hubbert's Peak and have no plans to deal with it: If it's beyond the next election, forget it.


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