Oil - From Blessing to Curse
A century ago our growing use of oil seemed like a blessing as it supplied an abundance of cheap versatile energy to rapidly build up our civilization. Today our growing dependence on oil now seems like a curse which threatens to collapse our civilization. Unfortunately, this subject is both complex and controversial making it much more difficult for people to fully grasp the potential danger it poses. In an attempt to draw needed attention, this article will: briefly highlight some of the main issues; explain our serious predicament; show how we arrived there; and indicate what needs to be done.
Our growing dependence on oil. At present the world consumes 82 million barrels of oil every day! America alone represents about a quarter of this total with half of our oil requirements coming from foreign sources. Growing populations multiplied by economic expansion, especially in India and China, are driving demand ever higher and experts predict global demand reaching 100 million barrels per day in the not to distant future. Natural gas is generally found along with oil and demand for natural gas is also rising. Coal is abundant in the world but is less versatile and more polluting than oil and hence it cannot fully substitute for oil. Our focus is thus mainly on oil. As long as oil is abundant, and reasonably priced, our civilization's prime energy needs remain satisfied.
The 'Peak Oil' dilemma. This term has become a label for a prediction that the supply of oil would rise until the early 2000's and then go into permanent decline at the same time as oil demand is surging. This concept argues that abundant, cheap, oil is steadily coming to an end and warns of dire consequences. Search engines retrieving information on 'peak oil' return many reports including conflicting views. The majority view, however, argues that the world's supply of oil is finite and that we are now running out of cheap oil because all the easily accessed oil has already been tapped and new wells will be progressively more expensive because they are located in less accessible places. One representative of the majority view is found at www.hubbertpeak.com, and named after the late Dr. M. King Hubbert, the geophysicist who predicted oil production would peak about this time and then decline. This website provides data, analysis and recommendations regarding the upcoming peak in the rate of global oil extraction.