Peak Oil News: Is the US oil resource running out?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Is the US oil resource running out?

By Edward Tapamor

If we think of peak oil as a subject in itself, rather than a subset of general discourse about oil and energy, then we can see it has been around for something approaching 100 years. After World War One there was sustained and popular debate about the prospect of the U.S.’s valuable resource running out. After all there was no more to be found and it was going to be too expensive anyway.

This debate has been repeated a few times since then, most notably in the 1970s, but it has never been stronger than it is now. Nor has it attracted such a wide range of people willing to discuss it.

The basics of peak oil are in fact quite simple. Under the present, failing, economic system scarcity breeds profits. Thus peak oil presents opportunities for those who control resources and powerful people, powerful nations and institutions rarely give away their golden goose. That the consequences may be painful for weaker people like you and me matters not.

Secondly there is the scale of the problem. That is if the world is consuming around 85 million barrels per day of oil - and demand is set at the very least to remain constant - one has to bring on stream around 3.4 million barrels per day of oil, each year and every year, just to stand still. That is a big task in the present day environment and is exacerbated by the first problem, the fact that scarcity breeds profits.

Unfortunately for the world, it appears to be – at least – stepping onto a plateau of global production that will only be altered by economics. In other words it is only recessions that can dampen demand, reduce costs and allow the oil industry to ‘catch up’ by bringing capacity on stream when demand is low. The oil industry is banking on a recession to do just that.

But sadly for the oil industry a few items have changed. Populations in producer countries, such as the poor people who live under the heel of the U.S. client state in Saudi Arabia, are growing in numbers. They will inevitably consume more energy. Then of course there is the wildcards of China and India. Even with a recession demand in those countries will continue to grow.

So following on from the meeting of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (ASPO) in Eire recently it is time for the peakers to get their act together. ASPO must cement itself as a credible, reasoned organisation. Not one that publishes fascist-eugenicist rants and calls anyone who diverts from the line a “cornucopian”.

It must have a global focus and structure, not one splintered and focussed upon individuals such as Colin Campbell. Nice man though he is – apart from that publication which was very worrying - he cannot hope to cement a global debate on peak oil. His treatment of Fatih Birol at the ASPO Berlin meeting was a disaster and dampened any reasoned debate. Kjell Aleklett, Jean Laherrere, Baquis and many others must also stand down, move aside.

ASPO must also take its place as part of a debate about the energy future. Not the bringer of all truth to the ignorant masses. It must be the OPEC of peak oil, with rotating nations’ organisations heading up debate. It must learn to debate with its enemies, with the industry. It must learn the art of persuasion, not ridicule, not conspiracy and be part of a world that accepts peak oil as part of energy supply issues. Not as a reason to write self promoting, self aggrandising books.

It is time for the new wave of peakers to take the stage. And they are there. Waiting.


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