Oil On The Curve
The peak oil theory explains the production of oil along a bell curve.
Oil is cheap and plentiful on the upslope, but scarce and expensive on the downslope. America is currently on the downslope, which normally isn’t a problem, except the demand for oil has grown rapidly.
American geophysicist Marion King Hubbert devised the theory when he predicted U.S. domestic oil would peak in the 1970s, which it did in 1971. Since then, oil production has decreased and Hubbert’s followers still wait for the peak of global production, which was predicted to occur in 2000.
The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas also predicts the future of oil extraction but uses up-to-date information that may affect oil production such as the recent hurricane strikes.
The ASPO predicts global production will peak anywhere from 2009 to 2015, but urges the date is not important as is the immediate change of consumer behavior toward a more conservative ideal.
The association held its annual world oil conference Thursday and Friday in Denver, where Matthew E. Coyle, a senior industrial technology major, was asked to attend because of his passion on the subject.
Coyle has done countless hours of research on the subject for more than a year, which can be seen on his Web site at www.caod.tk.
One of his main concerns is the lifestyle of American suburbia.
The Walmartization of the U.S.
"The Walmartization of America has been detrimental to the civic life that once existed in small towns," Coyle said.
America’s oil will not be able to sustain the amount of cars on the roadway let alone other suburban living expenses, Coyle said.
Every activity in the life of an American person involves the use of fossil fuels, from brushing your teeth to picking up some groceries.
Plastics, glass, rubber and household chemicals are among items constructed with fossil fuels. Almost every man-made item is produced with the direct or indirect use of fossil fuels, Coyle said.
According to www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net, "the construction of a single 32 megabyte DRAM chip requires 3.5 pounds of fossil fuels, the construction of the average desktop computer consumes 10 times its weight in fossil fuels and the construction of a car will consume an amount of fossil fuels equivalent to twice the car’s final weight."
The suburban United States uses two barrels of oil for every barrel discovered and has grown exceedingly dependent on foreign fuels. Whereas, foreign countries strive to live more like American suburbanites and are requiring large needs for fossil fuels themselves, Coyle said.
In China, there are 10 million cars in circulation, but in 15 years there are predicted to be 120 million, and India’s industry is growing at a rapid speed as well, he said.
"World demand for oil is expected to increase by 54 percent in the first 25 years of the 21st century, according to the Energy Information Agency of the U.S. government," Coyle said. "To meet that demand, the world’s oil-producing countries will have to pump out an additional 44 million barrels of oil each and every day by 2025."
With the "Global Appetite" for oil at 27 billion barrels per year and 912 million barrels more each year, the lifestyle of fossil fuel consumers has to change, he said.
However, ASPO and Coyle stated that there’s not an energy crisis at stake but rather a problem with modern-day energy consumption.
According to Coyle, America is faced with an opportunity to return to our energy efficient, civic relationship. The urban lifestyle supplied work, food, shelter and amenities within walking distance at a reasonable energy expense.
However, not all experts agree with Hubbert’s Peak Oil Theory and the civic shift of society.
Michael Lynch, president and director of Global Petroleum Service Strategic Energy and Economic Research Inc. (SEER), said, "The peak oil theory is curve-fitting, not science."
His 20 years of work can be read at www.energyseer.com/MikeLynch.html.
He said the Peak Oil theory is nothing more than a few retired geologists extrapolating production and repeating the arguments of others.
Despite some criticism, the peak oil theory still has a significant following.
ASPO, a follower of Hubbert’s bell curve, has more than a few retired geologists on their side, Coyle said.
Some of the keynote speakers at the ASPO conference were Roscoe Gardner Bartlett, U.S. House of Representatives member; Henry Groppe, founder of energy consulting firm Groppe; and Chris Skrebowski, editor of the U.K. Petroleum Review.
ASPO has grown so large in Europe that they have developed a U.S. chapter that can be seen at www.aspo-usa.com.
Another argument Lynch makes is the U.S. is still in the early stages of resource development.
"Most of the world has not been drilled, and outside the U.S., nearly all nations are still relying on a few big fields, when most of the resource base is tied up in the medium and smaller fields," Lynch said.
Coyle said the smaller fields will not make a difference in the global thirst for oil.
He made the example that EXXON is now researching the ability to drill into new fields 10,000 feet under the ocean. However, even if this new technology is obtained, the earth cannot survive on small oil fields and relies heavily on the large fields already in use, he said.
One aspect they can agree on is the research of alternate sources.
"If we need alternate resources, we will find a way for them to work," Coyle said.
However, both agree that hydrogen is a dead end.
Hydrogen is only an energy carrier and needs energy to be productive. The energy needed to make a hydrogen source efficient is not profitable. The amazing thing about crude oil is that it is pure energy sucked straight out of the ground, Coyle said.
Despite popular rumors, politicians have been warning the American people of their oil abuse from the beginning, Coyle said.
In 1999, Dick Cheney made the statement, "By some estimates, there will be an average of two-percent annual growth in global oil demand over the years ahead, along with, conservatively, a three-percent natural decline in production from existing reserves. That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional 50 million barrels a day."
Most government officials believe we should find an alternate source of energy or conserve what we have. Former presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford were huge advocates of these ideas, Coyle said.
To bring these ideas of conservation to the NIU community, Coyle is planning on starting an energy awareness group on campus by the end of November. He is also planning to make a public showing of the documentary "The End of Suburbia" that displays the abuse of oil in a suburban setting. Coyle noted the opportunity for a successful future generation lies in the hands of the consumer.