Peak Oil News: 01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Future Of Our Cars - Part 2

Falls Church News-Press

By Tom Whipple

Within the next ten years the size, shape, efficiency, fuel and numbers of private automobiles is going to undergo a radical change. The nine million barrells of gasoline we currently use in the U.S. each day simply will not be available in the quantities desired at any price. If a transition to a more abundant fuel source than gasoline and diesel does not take place on a widespread basis before the shortages begin, there will be troubles. It is virtually certain that at some point the government will have to impose rationing that will keep functions vital to our society such as food, water, utilities and public safety functioning. The rest of us are going to have to find alternative means of transportation.

The solution to this problem is likely to be a much more diverse set of vehicles and modes of transportation than we have become accustomed to in the last 100 years of the automobile age. Despite their terribly low efficiency, the automobiles we now enjoy are incredibly flexible machines that can take us comfortably and inexpensively down the block or across the country in nearly all kinds of weather. In some forms the personal car could not only carry us, and a goodly number of friends or relatives, but also an incredible amount of stuff. As gasoline has nearly always been cheap and plentiful few gave a second thought to using a 4000 pound vehicle to transport a 150 pound person many miles to buy a pack of cigarettes at who-cares-how-few miles per gallon.

Our options for personal transport in the nearer-than-we-think future are going to be highly dependent on the timing of a number of situations currently developing. For example, if some man-made or natural catastrophe takes away a large portion of our gasoline supply overnight, there would, by definition, be no choice than to cut way back on driving, form car pools and use whatever public transit is available. While it may be a shock to our sensibilities and accustomed lifestyles, loading four to 15 people in a car, SUV or van can provide a lot of passenger-miles for a fraction of the fuel we use today.

It would take a lot of organization and an undreamed amount of inconvenience, but I suspect that gasoline consumption in the U.S. could be cut in half rather quickly if necessary. There are, of course, many uses for gasoline and diesel that would be much more difficult to reduce such as that used to deliver food, support utility maintenance and provide for public safety. When the troubles come, the burden of doing without will fall on our cars and light trucks.

Other scenarios would have our gasoline supply gradually slipping away over a period of years or simply becoming too expensive to allow virtually unlimited use of cars as we do today. If this is the way things turn out, then there will be a race for new power sources and probably shapes for personal cars. For the foreseeable future, the only alternative sources of power for private cars are electricity and compressed natural gas.

There are other candidates to power vehicles, such as hydrogen, compressed air and solar panels and there is no reason why one or more of these might not become viable someday. However, given the current technology, it is likely to be decades before they could come into widespread use. Our remaining candidates require little in the way of technological improvements.

Except for buses, natural gas vehicles are virtually unknown in the U.S. although there are about 7 million of them in operation worldwide. In some South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Iran and Pakistan, the natural gas powered vehicles make up about 25 percent of the cars on the road. Tehran which must import nearly half of its gasoline recently declared that from here on out cars are to be powered by natural gas in order to reduce reliance on imported gasoline. Sounds sort of familiar, doesn’t it?

The main reason natural gas hasn’t caught on in the U.S. is that it needs to be stored under pressure in big bottles that take up a lot more space than gasoline for a given range. As long as gasoline was cheap, few were willing to give up a 300+ mile range for 150 miles and trouble finding a place to refuel. Unless you were a really dedicated tree-hugger who felt better driving a car with near zero emissions, then you weren’t about to go to the expense or hassle of owning one.

So what are the prospects for a massive switch to natural gas vehicles? Given the option of natural gas with a few minor drawbacks, or walking, the answer to that is a no-brainer. Where do I buy one? Actually, you can, for Honda recently started selling the natural gas version of its Civic to the general public rather than just to fleets. Don’t run out and order one, however, until you fully understand the limits on the availability of natural gas and how you plan to use it.

As the price of imported gasoline goes off the scale, there is no reason why American Industry can’t start cranking out large quantities of natural gas powered cars, kits to convert existing cars, and natural gas compressing pumps to create fuel either at home or filling stations.

The big show stopper is whether we will have enough natural gas supply to heat our homes and water, make our fertilizer and generate enough electricity for our air conditioners, much less power some fraction of our 230 million cars. The answer is a resounding NO! U.S. natural gas production has been flat for years and the only way we can keep it that way is by drilling more and more gas wells each year. Our friends in Canada just announced that their natural gas production, read exports to the U.S., is about to start declining. While it sounds like a great idea, we are not going to have enough natural gas and can clearly find better uses for that which remains.

Debate: Is the ethanol boom about to bust?


By Will Kester

I worked in the oil industry during the seventies. As fuel prices soared too quickly for American budgets to adjust quickly to absorb, and cars waited in line at service stations due to the OPEC oil embargo, I began to explore ethanol alcohol as an alternative.

I lived in a grain producing area, where we built one of the first ethanol fuel refineries in the U.S. and tried to get the Gasoline Manufacturers to mix ethanol into the gasoline. We met much resistance. Jimmy Carter created a fast track' effort to help those with our problems but it reacted too slowly to save the operation, which was forced into bankruptcy.

I learned, then, that ethanol alcohol was not energy efficient, however. It requires almost as much fuel to create as it produces, and it drives up the cost of food in more ways than just turning food into fuel. Recently, it has made raising raw product more profitable for farmers, which was part of what we were trying to accomplish in the seventies. That was when we were losing most of the small farms to large corporations. Now, most of them are gone.

I moved on to bio-diesel, which doesn't require as much fuel to produce as ethanol, but still has the problem of turning food into fuel. As America became SUV obsessed, I wrote editorial pieces and tried to get people to realize that the low fuel prices were temporary. We needed to find other ways to fuel our lifestyles than imported oil, for our security, self-sufficiency, our economy, and for the environment.

Now, with the support of the current administration, we are subsidizing ethanol as an alternative to imported oil. Our net gain in energy is almost negligible. It raises the price of grain, corn, and anything that requires grain: cattle, breakfast cereal, chicken, even other foods that would be grown but are converted to grain production to fuel the ethanol industry.

Were ethanol production not subsidized, it would fail for economic reasons. I support the concept of subsidizing an emerging industry if there is a viable future, but ethanol will eventually become the "Great Boondoggle" of this period in America's history of fuel consumption.

As electric cars, not hybrids but all electric, become viable, which we are close to achieving, the ethanol industry will become extinct. How long will that be? I'm guessing it will be less than ten years from now. By the time enough plants are built and the government realizes that we are subsidizing a doomed industry and withdraws its support, most will not be paid for and there will be a bankruptcy crisis in the ethanol industry, which we'll have to bail out or continue to support with subsidies. Farmers, who are investing in ethanol co-ops will lose their farms to corporations ready to consume the farm land, as more farms are turned into cash cows for corporations who will use imported laborers at low wages, deplete the land's nutrients and then build residential sprawl across former farm land.

What is a better alternative? There are abundant sources of clean, renewable energy. If we subsidize battery powered autos, and encourage development of electric cars and bio-diesel trucks and trains, improved mass transit, and create a new Green industry, rather than wasting our resources on a boondoggle industry, we could have cleaner fuel self-sufficiency in under twenty years. We will waste the next ten years and eventually arrive where we should be by now, based on our experience of the seventies but wasted the last thirty years, driving behemoths run on Middle Eastern and Venezuelan oil. Hopefull it won't be too late.

(suggested reading: "Castle in the Wind," and "Shifting Sands; A Clash of Cultures," available through, Barnes and Noble, etc.)



By Ganesh Sharma

Need is mother of invention. Ethanol or bio-fuel, which is produced by fermentation of sugar, can be one of the best possible replacements of the gasoline-based fuels. Ethanol (E100), which has around 4% of water, is used widely in Brazil and USA to run vehicles and it had established its base now.

Due to the following advantages I would say that Ethanol fuel is promising and its usage would certainly increase in near future.

1. Various footstock like sugar cane, sugar beet, sorghum, grain sorghum, barley, hemp, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, sunflower, fruit, molasses, corn, grain, wheat, straw, cotton, other biomass, as well as many types of cellulose can be used to produce Ethanol so there is no raw material scarcity
2. Most of the existing vehicles can consume Ethanol without any modifications
3. The by-products produced by combustion of Ethanol are environment friendly. Carbon Dioxide is the major bi-product which can be used by the plants which are used to produce the Bio-fuel
4. It is recyclable! Yes it is, as the bi products are used for the generation of raw material
5. Ethanol combustion produces more power and torque in comparison to gasoline fuel

Due to the above advantages the Ethanol is being already used in Brazil, USA, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, China and Iceland.

The only and the major problem, which can hinder the growth of Ethanol usage, is the production of raw material. It requires enormous water and land to produce the quantity of raw material required.

In the end I would say that Ethanol seems very promising and Ethanol boom cannot be called as a bust.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Saying Goodbye To The Oil Age

By Peter Goodchild

The first practical oil drill was developed in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859, by Edwin L. Drake. Now, only a short while later, the planet Earth is running out of oil, without which almost nothing in modern civilization can function. A number of scientists and engineers have pointed out that the world’s oil production will peak early in the twenty-first century; it has probably already done so. At the beginning of the century, the human race was using about 30 billion barrels of oil per year. By 2030, production will be down to about half of that level.

In the entire world, there are perhaps a trillion barrels of oil left to extract — which may sound like a lot, but isn’t. When newspapers announce the discovery of a deposit of a billion barrels, readers are no doubt amazed, but they are not told that such a find is only 12 days’ supply. Nor are they told that all the big discoveries are far in the past. American production peaked in 1970, and even Saudi oil won’t last much longer. The production of oil is beginning a perpetual decline, while demand will continue to increase. The only event that could reduce demand for oil would be a global depression; reduced oil consumption would then be part of the overall collapse of the world’s economy.

As the years go by, new oil wells have to be drilled deeper than the old, because newly discovered deposits are deeper. Those new deposits are therefore less accessible. But oil is used as a fuel for the oil drills themselves. When it takes an entire barrel of oil to get one barrel of oil out of the ground, as is increasingly the case, it is a waste of time to continue drilling such a well.

Coal and natural gas are also disappearing, although coal will be available for a while after oil is gone. Coal, however, is highly polluting and cannot be used as a fuel for most forms of transportation; the last industrial society will be a bizarre, crowded, dirty, impoverished world. Natural gas is not easily transported, and it is not suitable for most equipment.

Alternative sources of energy will never be very useful, for several reasons, but mainly because of a problem of "net energy": the amount of energy output is not sufficiently greater than the amount of energy input. All alternative forms of energy are so dependent on the very petroleum that they are intended to replace that the use of them is largely self-defeating and irrational. Alternative sources ultimately don’t have enough "bang" to replace 30 billion annual barrels of oil — or even to replace more than the tiniest fraction of that amount.

Petroleum is required to extract, process, and transport almost any other form of energy; a coal mine is not operated by coal-powered equipment. It takes "oil energy" to make "alternative energy."

The use of unconventional oil (shale deposits, tar sands, heavy oil) poses several problems besides that of net energy. In the first place, even if we optimistically assume that about 700 billion barrels of unconventional oil could be produced, that amount would equal only about 15 years of global oil demand. Secondly, the pollution problems are considerable, and it is not certain how much environmental damage the human race is willing to endure. Thirdly, since conventional oil is still cheap and profitable, government and industry will not be motivated to begin serious work on the development of unconventional oil until conventional oil is no longer available — at which point any effort will be too little, too late. In fact, at the moment, unconventional oil is only a tiny fraction of the world’s petroleum production, and there are no major technological breakthroughs in sight. With unconventional oil we are, quite literally, scraping the bottom of the barrel.

More-exotic forms of alternative energy are plagued with even greater problems. Fuel cells cannot be made practical, because such devices require hydrogen derived from fossil fuels. Biomass energy (perhaps from corn, wood, or switchgrass) requires impossibly large amounts of land and still results in insufficient quantities of net energy, sometimes even negative quantities. Hydroelectric dams are reaching their practical limits. Wind and geothermal power are only effective in certain areas and for certain purposes. Nuclear power will soon be suffering from a lack of fuel and is already creating serious environmental dangers.

The present favorite for alternative energy is solar power, but proponents must close their eyes to all questions of scale. Solar photovoltaics provide only 1/2500 of the world’s energy usage, and there are no signs of an adequate escalation. To meet the world’s present energy needs, we would need a photovoltaic array (or an equivalent number of smaller ones) with a size of almost 200,000 km2 — twice the size of Iceland. The production and maintenance of this array would require vast quantities of hydrocarbons, metals, and other materials — a self-defeating process.

Time itself is unkind to any alternative-energy scheme. That fact can be illustrated by a down-to-earth example of energy conservation. Trains are far more efficient than cars in terms of fuel per passenger. If more trains were built, and if cars were forbidden, there could be amazing results in energy conservation. The problems, however, are obvious: lack of legislation, lack of public interest, and lack of funding. (These problems are intensified by the Orwellian nature of modern news-media.) But more importantly, there would be a race against time: with every year that goes by, the world’s systemic collapse becomes more serious: this is not only the age of peak oil, but also of peak food, peak fresh water, peak metals, and peak electricity — and therefore also peak money. The possibility of building such railways thereby becomes ever more remote. When the need for trains becomes most desperate, the ability to make them will have vanished.

Another unrealistically optimistic thought is that we are shifting from an oil-based culture to an information-based one: computers, we are told, will soon replace trucks. To say that high technology reduces mankind’s need for petroleum, however, is an act of faith that is not born out by the figures on world consumption of oil.

Modern agriculture is highly dependent on fossil fuels for fertilizers, pesticides, and the operation of machines for harvesting, processing, and transporting. The Green Revolution was the invention of a way to turn petroleum into food. Without fossil fuels, modern methods of food production will disappear. As food supplies dwindle, famine and death will follow.

Petroleum is the lifeblood of our civilization. Even a bicycle, that ultimate symbol of an "alternate lifestyle," requires petroleum for lubrication, for paint, and for plastic components. The vehicle that delivers the bicycle runs on petroleum, over asphalt that is made of petroleum. "Rubber" tires are often made of petroleum.

The problem of the world’s diminishing supply of oil is a problem of energy, not a problem of money. The old bromide that "higher prices will eventually make [e.g.] shale oil economically feasible" is meaningless. This planet has only a finite amount of fossil fuel. When that fuel starts to vanish, "higher prices" will be quite unable to stop the event from taking place. At most, the later twenty-first century will be an age of coal, and a portrait of that future era can be found in any story by Charles Dickens.

Oil is not the only mineral that will be in short supply in the twenty-first century. Industrial civilization has always been dependent on metals, but hematite, for example, is no longer sufficiently common, and mining companies now look for other sources of iron, which can be processed only with modern machinery.

The technology of one century builds the technology of the next. The technology of the past — the hammer, anvil, forge, and bellows of the ancient blacksmith — made it possible for later generations to extract the low-grade ores of the present. Very low-grade iron ores can now be worked, but only because there were once better, more accessible ores. This "mechanical evolution" is, of course, liable to collapse: when Rome fell, so did literacy, education, technology. But after many centuries, the Classical world returned. The western world experienced its Renaissance, its rebirth, after the Dark Ages because the natural world was fundamentally unchanged.

In the future, however, after the collapse of the present civilization, the necessary fuels and ores will not be available for that gradual rebuilding of technology. The loss of both petroleum and accessible ores means that history will no longer be a cycle of empires.

Most of modern warfare is about oil, in spite of all the pious and hypocritical rhetoric about the forces of good and the forces of evil. The real forces are those trying to control the oil wells and the fragile pipelines that carry that oil. A map of recent American military ventures is a map of petroleum deposits. When the "oil wars" began is largely a matter of definition, though perhaps 1973 would be a good date, when the Yom Kippur War led to the OPEC oil embargo.

Roughly 6 thousand years ago, the New Stone Age gave way to an era of large, settled communities, which evolved into about a dozen empires, rising and falling, bubbling and collapsing. America is the final empire. After that, there can be no other. Human beings will find a way to live — quite happily, perhaps — but it won’t resemble what we now know. The next hundred years can perhaps be envisioned, but the distant future is unimaginable.

The loss of petroleum will be received in the same manner as other large-scale disasters: widespread denial, followed by a rather catatonic apathy. The western world has long believed that bigger is better, and that material wealth is an unquestionable blessing. We have had great faith in an ever-expanding, ever-devouring "progress." And now that religion is failing us. For many people, the shock will be hard to bear.

The litany of "bigger, faster, and more complex," mega-this and mega-that, as a cure for the initial problem of "bigger, faster, and more complex" is self-evidently ludicrous, so ludicrous that we cannot see it. It is sheer bigness — overpopulation, resource-consumption, and environmental destruction — that has led us to the first days of systemic collapse. Dragging images out of science-fiction movies to create "bigger, faster, and more complex" machines will not do the trick. The paradigm is elusive but real: the worship of technology creates a chain reaction, a spiral, a thermostat set to zero tolerance. The technophile is a junkie with a need for an ever-larger fix, a millionaire with an ever-greater fear of poverty, a Uriah Heep who creates his own enemies.

"Yes, but what can we do?" is the usual response, although the speaker rarely waits for an answer, since the question is merely rhetorical. The non-rhetorical reply to that would be, "Well, what have you done so far?" (Answer: nothing.) A slightly lengthier — if still incomplete — reply would be: return to pre-modern technology. The resultant skipped heartbeat is unjustified: the technology of the past certainly got us into far less trouble. For that matter, modern technology is in many ways overrated; the twentieth century was essentially a blank. Several scholars have pointed out that the nineteenth century was far more inventive than the next. The twentieth century was an age of bigger and faster, but not an age of true innovation. It might be worth adding that the great thinkers who gave us our present knowledge of the universe and of human life were all born in the nineteenth century: Darwin, Marx, Freud, Einstein. The average person even now has barely assimilated their thought; we may "know" what they said, but we rarely bother to check.

What matters is not to wait unthinkingly for the onslaught of hunger and cold, but to form communities that can build houses and plant crops. Like the phoenix, we must rise from the ashes — the ashes of the Age of Excess. We must learn to step outside our plastic-and-metal cocoons and see what is happening with our neighbors, and with all the rest of dirty, sweaty humanity. North Americans in particular have an individualistic mentality that includes taking far more pride in having an opinion than in having an education. But that irascibility, that self-destructive clinging to one’s "rights," must be put aside. Loners will have slim chances of survival. The mentality of the future will be closer to a sort of Asian collectivism: modesty rather than braggadocio, altruism rather than egotism, seeking harmony rather than confrontation.

Peter Goodchild is the author of Survival Skills of the North American Indians, published by Chicago Review Press. He can be reached at

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Your children's real future: what future?

The Daily Planet

By Reilly Capps

Chuck Burr has written “Culturequake,” a (mostly) secular and environmental version of the Book of Revelation, in which he puts on his oracle’s robe and prophesies his visions of times to come.

The subtitle of the book is “Your Children’s Real Future,” and if I had to summarize, in a single word, what Burr believes to be your children’s real future, that word would be “screwed.”

Burr, a local retired software developer, is riding a recent wave of end-of-times literature, a wonky believer in enviro-apocalypse.

And his basic point is clearly right: eventually, everything’s gonna run out. We can’t keep sledgehammering the Earth.

But the book reads like a horror movie: “Water shortages! … Tropical diseases! Mosquitoes! Global species loss!”

Burr’s pessimism is limitless. “The world is approaching the point of death,” he writes. “Our culture has literally gone mad. … The world has no plan B.”

The book is called “Culturequake,” but Burr doesn’t much believe in culture, and doesn’t pay much attention to it, except for the ways in which it’s destroying things.
He views humans as an infection, and the only way to cure the Earth is to rid it of the human infection, to shake us off.

We are locusts, and hope is scarce: “I would sooner expect a goat to succeed as a gardener than expect humans to become stewards of the earth,” he writes.

Burr offers as his solution abandoning our culture and returning to a tribal or indigenous lifestyle.

He holds up as examples the Olmecs and Maya, who for reasons that remain inexplicable abandoned their cultures and left ruins. “They just walked away from their cities when they lost belief in their culture’s story,” he writes. We should retreat into the forrests, where life is so much more sustainable, if also so much less likely to produce Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 or James Brown’s “Sex Machine.”

Burr brushes past what few positive signs there are: for example, the fact that many developed nations, including the United States, now have more forested land than they did 100 years ago. Or that we fixed the ozone hole. Or that we’re the only species that has ever been able to measure our environment.

He meditates on the tragedy of Peak Oil. But isn’t Peak Oil a good thing for the environment? If half the oil is already gone, doesn’t that mean we’ve only done half as much damage as we can possibly do? Won’t we be forced to use better sources of energy?

And he worries about the Bubble Economy that “threatens to burst.” Well, great, right? The sooner the economy collapses, the sooner semi-trucks stop crisscrossing the country mid-winter carrying genetically modified pesticide ridden cherries from Chile, right?

But Burr can’t see how anything could possibly be good.

“There is no upside,” he says.

You want to ask: Chuck, buddy, everything all right at home? You sleeping okay? Burr admits he doesn’t know what the future holds, (although he knows the future is bleak).
After outlining all the ways we’re going to wither on the vine, he also trots out the old “abrupt ice age” theory, in which climate change comes in the form of cold, and we die the old fashioned way, in an ice age, the way our ancestors did.

Either way, solutions are futile, since climate change and monoculture and erosion are already on an unstoppable path, and we have finally arrived at the scientific version of the doomsday predictions of St. John and Nostradamus. Burr reminds us that change is coming, either when we see the errors of our ways, or when change is forced upon us by catastrophe, scarcity, war, and the seven-headed beasts of Revelation are coming.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A $10,000 bet on peak oil

Canadian Business Online

By Jeff Sanford

The debate over future global oil production capacity took a couple of interesting turns over the past two weeks as opinion makers on oil policy argued over the true state of the industry, a $10,000 bet was laid, and George W. Bush weighed in on the subject with some remarkable comments of his own.

Kicking off the action was President Bush with a tour of the Middle East. His Annapolis plan for peace between the Palestinians and Israel went nowhere, but Bush did manage some face time with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The two were photographed spending a relaxing moment viewing some of the King’s prized stallions.

It was a fascinating moment considering the historic ties between the House of Saud and various U.S. administrations (particularly Bush ones). Here was the leader of the world’s reigning empire — the oil-fueled empire that succeeded the coal-fired British empire of the 19th century — reclining with the leader of the world’s key crude producer. What might they have talked about? Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

There must surely have been talk of oil. It’s an election year after all and Bush must be more than a little anxious to get the price of oil down before it begins to hurt the U.S. economy (which, according to U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, is now beginning to happen). A decrease in oil would be welcome to many of the world’s poorer nations (especially African ones) who have reportedly dropped out of the bidding for crude because of its high price, which has led to both a downturn in some business activity, and blackouts in Africa.

But when Bush went through with what has become a banally predictable pantomime over the past year — asking the Saudis to increase their production of crude oil in a bid to temper high energy prices — the answer from the Saudis was the same they’ve given many times over the past few months: The world market is well supplied with crude and doesn’t need the extra oil.

Those struggling to keep the lights on will likely argue with that. After all, just a couple more million barrels a day or so making it to market would greatly relieve suffering in some of the world’s poorest countries (such as Sierra Leone, where the country’s electrical generation system is powered by expensive diesel fuel). It’s as if the Saudis don’t care.

But that’s not really like them. Over the past 50 years the desert kingdom has consistently played the role of global provider of crude of last resort, stepping in at key moments to provide extra crude whenever the world has needed it. When the Iranian revolution resulted in oil from Iran going offline, it was the Saudis who stepped in and made up the balance, a role they played again in the first Gulf War. As provider of the single largest chunk of oil to markets, Saudi Arabia has been to this point the world’s swing producer, a role only the Saudis can play and one they have responsibly taken on over the years. So why now, with oil at record levels, are they not playing that role? What’s going on?

The current reticence to step in and up production is even odder when you consider it was just a couple of years ago, when prices of crude first began to rise earlier this decade from the roughly US$20 a barrel crude had traded at through the late ’80s and ’90s, that the Saudis pledged to defend a price band of between US$22 and US$28 a barrel. Since then, of course, crude has since touched US$100. Sure, crude prices can be expected to come off in the wake of the recent market meltdown (and will likely fall further as global demand drops through whatever type of economic downturn is looming), but it is still the case that prices are now roughly 400% above the range they traded at for a generation. What happened to the defense of the trading band? Is there something else going on?

An alternative narrative to the current mainstream crude story — which is, basically, that it’s fine, the world has enough — has slowly emerged over the past couple of years. This alternative narrative challenges the mainstream assumption that Saudi Arabia contains an infinite amount of reserves and an innate ability to increase production as fast and as far as they would like, far above the current 10 million barrels a day. The primary source of this alternative narrative is Matthew Simmons, a Houston-based energy investment banker, who, earlier in this decade, began sifting through the one source of data other than official pronouncements from Saudi Aramco (the national Saudi oil company) that could give a clue as to the real state of Saudi oil resources — some 200 published papers submitted by Saudi engineers to the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

It is, of course, well known that Saudi Arabia stopped publishing detailed data about its operations back in 1982, choosing instead to “go dark” and hide its state secrets behind a veil of secrecy. As a result the world energy industry has motored along on assumptions formed back in the early days of the Saudi miracle (back when Western companies used to run Aramco), and those assumptions have changed little since then.

The problem, though, says Simmons, is that our current picture of global production capacity is seriously flawed. He came to that conclusion after his detailed study of the engineering papers and collected those observations in his authoritative, exhaustive, detailed work, Twilight in the Desert. The theme of the book is simple: Contrary to what we assume about Saudi Arabia, the technical writing on that country’s oil fields suggests the reality is far from what many think.

Simmons himself was surprised with what he found. It’s long been assumed that Saudi Arabia, a vast and exotic desert kingdom (to Westerners anyway) sits atop oceans of oil that are constantly being tapped for new production. Not quite, says Simmons. The truth of Saudi production is that the vast majority of its oil — 80-90% — comes from just half-a-dozen big old fields that were discovered in the post-war period and have been in heavy production over the 50 years since. In fact, Saudi Arabia’s single largest field, Ghawar, the world’s largest, has been responsible for more than half of Saudi production over the past half century, some 6-8% of the world’s total, and Saudi output is still heavily reliant on Ghawar and the other large fields. The idea that there is a lot more to be found in Saudi Arabia is flawed, and in fact, little new production beyond the big old fields is there to be had. The problem as Simmons sees it is this: The Saudi production miracle isn’t a result of new discoveries coming online to replace depleting fields — just a few new fields have been discovered since the ’70s. The real truth of Saudi production is that the country has been relying on these same few massive fields for half a century.

More worryingly, says Simmons, is that as far back as the ’70s Saudi engineers were worried about the ability of these big giants to keep producing at the amazing rates they have. The reason Aramco continues to pull as many barrels as it does from these aging giants is by pumping millions of barrels of water a day into the fields to keep reservoir pressure up. How much longer can we rely on these giants to keep producing like that? That’s not exactly clear. But Simmons’ work seems to clarify one thing: the idea that Saudi Arabia has infinitely more capacity to bring online — capacity that could see its production increase from the current 10 million barrels per day up to say, 12, 15, or even 20 million barrels a day, as many have assumed — is deeply flawed. In fact, says Simmons, most of the kingdom has been closely searched and there is little oil to be found other than the stuff already being produced.

Should we worry? Perhaps. It was also mainstream thinking that there was a glut of oil making it onto world markets in the late ’90s. But that’s not true either, says Simmons. He discounts that idea as myth and suggests it only began to circulate as a result of a single suspect energy consultant who had been relied on by a wide range of analysts. (The analyst, who counted tankers to come up with his numbers, claims to have 20 to 30 spies in the oil ports of the world. The alternative story is that this analyst just tweaked other numbers to rake in huge fees). What is really going on in the world is a massive increase in demand for crude over the last 40 years, a period in which the number of discoveries of massive fields has been in decline since the golden age of oil discovery back in the ’60s.

Back in the ’70s Alaska’s North Slope and North Sea crude was the cavalry that rode to the rescue and delivered us from potentially high energy price inflation through the ’80s and ’90s. Since then, however, both Alaska and the North Sea (which went into decline in 1999, a decade before many thought it would) have petered out. The massive Cantarell field in Mexico has now joined that list as well. In the mid-’90s it was thought Caspian crude would be the one to ride to the rescue this time and offset declines elsewhere. But that hasn’t come to pass. The reserves there never turned up in the amounts the industry expected and it wasn’t long before the U.S. went into Iraq and the price of crude began its current, almost decade-long, appreciation.

So where are we today? At a crossroads, apparently. This alternative view of oil — that there is not as much as everyone has been assuming and may be less than hoped — has come to find a home in organizations like the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, or ASPO-USA, which has readily taken up the alternative view and the “Simmons thesis.”

Counter to that outfit is a mainstream institution called Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), a consultancy considered an optimist on global oil production capacity, and which is often the source fund managers go to for oil production data. The organization recently tried to quell peak oil talk last week by hosting a conference call for media that threw cold water on the idea that there was anything to worry about in terms of 'peaking oil' (a term used by CERA).

In the call, CERA analysts suggested that a six-month study of 811 oil fields has found that the global depletion rate of existing fields is only 4.5%, not 8% as has been quoted by some (including the CEO of global oil services firm Schlumberger). That lower decline rate suggests that we don’t need to worry about peak oil anytime soon, as enough new projects will come online to overcome the ongoing decline. As well, there were “no reasons” to think Saudi supply was in any danger and that in fact by 2017 there will be total productive capacity of 112 million barrels per day of oil. That is, it’s all good and absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to supply. “There is no evidence of a peak in the next 10 years,” was CERA’s conclusion.

So, that’s it then? There’s nothing to worry about, right? Not quite, suggest some. When asked by Canadian Business for his take on the CERA numbers Jeff Rubin, chief economist with CIBC World Markets, was dismissive. “I think those estimates are laughable. We won’t even see north of 90 million barrels a day by that time [2017]. In the next five or six years the die is pretty well cast for what production can come online, and it won’t go much above 87 million.” Putting some money where their mouths are, Stephen Andrews and Randy Udall, two of the founders of ASPO-USA, offered to bet CERA $10,000 that the world will not be able to get to 112 million barrels a day by 2017.

It’s clear the peak oil debate has created two camps and one of them is going to be wrong. Who will it be? Who knows? So far CERA has declined to take part in a debate put on by ASPO-USA, and without more transparency on the part of the Saudis there is no way to know for sure.

There are some nagging, worrying details however. When Simmons put out the softcover edition of his book (a year or so after the hardcover version) he mentioned that although he expected an angry backlash from readers, the reality was much different. What he received instead were comments from all kinds of current and former Aramco managers, many of whom thanked Simmons for putting out the real story. There was a sense of relief among some of these “silent” executives that the world would now understand the challenges Saudi Arabia faces and that perhaps George W. Bush would stop pressuring the Saudis to up production.

More ominously, it is President Bush himself who has nailed up the next clue in this story so key to the future of the world’s economic outlook. Although he faithfully played the business-as-usual card through his recent trip, he softened that view somewhat when he got home and let slip a remarkable bit of dialogue in an interview on Nightline when pressed about the Saudis rebuffing his requests to pump more oil. “If they don’t have a lot of additional oil to put on the market, it is hard to ask somebody to do something they may not be able to do,” said Bush. Ah, so that’s what he and Abdullah were talking about.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Future of Cars - Part 1

Falls Church News-Press

By Tom Whipple

Since the end of World War II, the private gasoline-powered automobile has become the center of life in America. Our suburbs, commerce, recreation, religion, indeed nearly every imaginable aspect of our lifestyles has been centered around the mobility the ubiquitous, affordable private car has brought us. The lure of the private automobile is not unique to America. There are few other cultures in the world today that are not trying to emulate America as soon as their economic circumstances permit – think China and Russia. There now are about 240 million cars, light trucks, and motorcycles in the U.S. (not to mention another 700 million or so elsewhere in the world). The number is increasing by nearly 4 million each year. Something has got to give.

That something is going to be the affordability and availability of gasoline and diesel for fuel. The problem will be on us within the next five to ten years. When shortages develop and rationing starts, fuel for the private car will be close to the bottom of the priority list along with fuel for lawn mowers, leaf blowers, recreational boats, and my personal favorite as the worst possible use for a precious resource -- sky-diving.

So what is going to happen? When? Will we be able to keep our 240 million light vehicles running? If so, how much can we use them? Can we power our cars with something else? Hydrogen? Natural Gas? Electricity? Cow manure? Will we be able to afford the trillions it will take to replace our current fleet of private vehicles or will many of us be riding in carpools, buses and trains? The answer to these and similar questions will do much to determine what our lifestyles will be like 20, 30 and 50 years from now. For the next few weeks I would like to explore possible futures for personal transportation.

Many of the answers are, of course, unknowable for they depend on a complex series of interacting developments around the world. For the last few days we have seen our economic problems take a serious turn for the worse. While some talk of a minor economic correction, those who understand that the world’s energy supplies are starting to shrink know that our current economic troubles could easily develop into decades of very bad times.

The good news, however, is that technology related to energy production, storage and transportation seems to be evolving rapidly. Hardly a week goes by without some firm, university, or laboratory announcing a “breakthrough,” many of which sound like they could be an important part of an eventual replacement for liquid fuels. Naturally, many of these announcements will not pan out and many will be overtaken by something even better. The point is that in the last 20 years there has been a great flowering of technology as more and more minds, connected by the internet, are coming to bear on technical problems. There is hope for life after the oil age.

The end of cheap oil and growing food shortages will come as a real shock, but they also contain within them incentives to find solutions. It is sometimes easy to forget that nearly all our appliances, from the spear tip on, involve some kind of technology. Knowledge of this technology is not going away with our inability to produce increasing quantities of oil. All energy ultimately comes from the sun or the molten earth’s core. The technologies to convert this energy into other more useful forms are already well understood and require only sufficient economic incentive to come into common use. This transformation will be expensive, take decades, but is already well under way.

Timing will be critical to the coming transformation. As a society we in America failed to heed the warning signs of 30 years ago. The penalty for this failure is almost certain to be some very bad times that may be starting already. The great unknown is how fast all the key forces – economic recession, oil depletion, technological developments, and a myriad of geopolitical problems – will come into play and how they will interact over the next 5 to 10 years. But we are going to find out --- soon!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oil in plentiful supply

The Australian

By Carl Mortished

Doom-laden forecasts that world oil supplies are poised to fall off the edge of a cliff are wide of the mark, say leading oil industry experts who warn that human factors, not geology, will drive the oil market.

A landmark study of more than 800 oilfields by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) has concluded that rates of decline are only 4.5 per cent a year, almost half the rate previously believed.

CERA therefore concludes that oil output will continue to rise over the next decade.

The author of the report, Peter Jackson, , said: “We will be able to grow supply to well over 100 million barrels per day by 2017.” Current world oil output is about 85 million bpd.

The optimistic view of the world’s oil resource was also given support by BP’s chief economist, Peter Davies, who dismissed theories of “Peak Oil” as fallacious.

Instead, Mr Davies warned that world oil production would peak as demand weakened, because of political constraints, including taxation and government efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaking to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil, Mr Davies said that peaks in world production had been wrongly predicted throughout history, but he agreed that oil might peak within a generation “as a result of a peaking of demand, rather than supply”.

He said it was inconceivable that oil consumption would be unaffected by government policies to reduce carbon emissions. “There is a distinct possibility that global oil consumption could peak as a result of such climate policies,” Mr Davies said.

The BP economist’s remarks were echoed yesterday by Mr Jackson, who said: “It is the above-ground risks that will influence the rate (of oil output).”

CERA analysed the output of 811 oilfields, which produce 19 billion barrels a year, out of total world output of 32 billion. These included many of the giants, including Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar, the largest known oilfield, which has been at the centre of the debate between peak oil analysts and their detractors.

In his book, Twilight in the Desert, Matthew Simmons of Simmons & Co, the consultancy, said the big Saudi fields reached their peak output in 1981, but CERA yesterday said that Ghawar was not failing. “There is no technical evidence that Ghawar is about to decline,” said Mr Jackson.

CERA reckons that oil output, including unconventional oil, such as tar sands, could allow oil to peak at much higher levels - up to 112 million bpd, with average rates of more than 100 million bpd.

The CERA analysis targeted oilfields producing more than 10,000 bpd of conventional oil and concluded that overall output was declining at a rate of 4.5 per cent a year, and that field decline rates were not increasing.

This is much lower than the 7-8 per cent average rate that is generally assumed in the industry. Typically, peak oil theorists believe that the output of oil reserves can be plotted on a graph as a bell curve, rising to a peak and then falling rapidly.

It was proposed in 1950 by M. King Hubbert, a US geologist, who had successfully predicted the peak of onshore oil production in the US.

His analysis is disputed by many geologists today, who argue that technology has changed the equation, allowing oil companies to produce more oil from reservoirs than was previously possible.

At the same time, increases in the price of oil have made the extraction of difficult reserves economically viable.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Time is right to turn lawns into farmland

By Wylie Harris

I look at the empty countryside around our farm in Cooke County, Texas, and can't help but wish it were as thick with people as when my grandparents made a living here. Until recently, though, the kindest name the rest of the world had for this wish was "nostalgia."

Back then, leaving the farm made sense. The economy was growing on an energy-dense broth of cheap fossil fuels. The energy in those fuels replaced that from the muscles of farm people and their animals. Today, one person can grow food for more than 100.

A century ago, almost 40 percent of the U.S. population worked on farms. But with industrialization, millions of farm folk, their labor cheapened, headed to the city for better wages. That tide continued until fewer than 2 million farmers - less than 1 percent of the country's population - remain today.

Now, though, the seemingly limitless reserves of petroleum that fueled the past century's exodus from the farm are about half gone. From here on, fossil fuels - and all the everyday essentials that depend on them, such as transportation and food - will grow increasingly costly.

Without some miraculous new energy source, muscle power could soon again be a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels for growing food. Blunt economic pragmatism seems set to out-shout nostalgia in the call to put more farmers on the land.

Just how many more farmers would it take to cure farming's fossil-fuel habit? Lots, according to farmer and writer Sharon Astyk and Oil Depletion Protocol author Richard Heinberg, both leading activists for facing up to life after world oil production peaks. They estimate that without cheap fossil fuels, we would need 50 million new farmers. That's one farmer for every two households in the United States.

This isn't a move-to-the-boonies-or-starve ultimatum. In fact, many people are ideally positioned to become farmers right where they are. It's the silver lining to suburban sprawl.

Suburbia occupies vast swaths of former prime U.S. farmland. NASA's ecological forecasting research group reports that the people living there water about 30 million acres of lawn, three times the land planted in irrigated corn.

Those lawns average somewhere between one-fifth and one-third of an acre. Authorities such as gardening guru John Jeavons and The Contrary Farmer author Gene Logsdon say that's ample land for growing a substantial portion of a family's food.

This isn't to say that the 50 million farmers-to-be should grow all their own food, or that the entire country's food supply can come from former lawns, parks and golf courses. Rather, it's to point out that growing as much of one's food as possible can be a cornerstone of sound household finance, and that the necessary land and water are in the same places as many of the people who now participate only in the demand side of agriculture.

The most effective tactics for making farmers out of more of us are local: convincing homeowner associations that vegetable gardens look as nice as lawns, zoning boards that chickens belong in back yards, and state health agencies that bread baked in home kitchens for sale to neighbors isn't any likelier to hurt anybody than Wonder Bread.

Rethinking what we mean by "farmer" is also important. "Farmers" who plow thousands of acres with gigantic diesel-guzzling tractors and sell corn by the bushel for their entire income aren't much use in an age of expensive energy.

On the other hand, "farmers" who grow substantial amounts of food for their families and perhaps also for sale to neighbors, as primary income or not, are far better equipped to weather a forced fossil-fuel fast. This is the kind of farmer many of us are within a hoe handle's reach of becoming, and perhaps with less effort than we realize.

An agrarian nation isn't just a nostalgic wish after all. It's insurance we can't afford to live without.

Wylie Harris ranches with his family north of Fort Worth. A former W. K. Kellogg Foundation food and society policy fellow, he wrote this comment for the Land Institute's Prairie Writers Circle in Salina, Kan.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

EU to propose ban on damaging biofuel imports


The European Commission is to propose a draft law next week banning certain biofuels from being imported into the EU.

According to reports in the New York Times, the proposed legislation would ban importing of biofuels from crops grown on certain kinds of environmentally sensitive land, including forests, wetlands or grasslands.

The law would also demand that biofuels used within Europe demonstrate that they deliver "a minimum level of greenhouse gas savings", although the exact level is still under discussion.

The move would primarily impact biofuels from palm oil plantations in South East Asia, which have been widely condemned by environmentalists for contributing to clearance of tropical rainforests.

The EU last year set a target to ensure 10 per cent of transport fuels come from biofuels by 2020, but the policy has been criticised by a raft of studies that have argued that the boom in demand for biofuels has largely failed to deliver promised carbon savings and contributed to increased food prices.

The proposed legislation comes just days after The Royal Society released a study arguing that biofuels did not represent "a silver bullet" for tackling transport's carbon emissions.

The report urged the UK government to impose a target for cutting carbon emissions alongside its target for biofuel use in order to ensure only biofuels that deliver significant carbon savings are used.

"Biofuels could play an important role in cutting greenhouse gas emissions from transport here and globally," said Professor John Pickett, who chaired the Royal Society study. "[But] in designing policies and incentives to encourage investment in and the use of biofuels, it is important to remember that one is not the same as another."

Speaking earlier this week in an interview with the BBC, European Commission environment minister Stavros Dimas admitted that Europe may have to reconsider its biofuel policy. "We have seen that the environmental problems caused by biofuels are bigger than we thought they were," he said.

Overpopulation and peak oil: The perfect storm

Napa Valley Register

By Jim Lydecker

Americans have recently become aware of converging crises that can end life as we know it, though experts have been warning us for many years.

For example, many economists have been warning for decades of the severe consequences resulting from runaway national debt and an imbalance of trade. And the current mortgage/liquidity crisis was first discussed in the early ‘90s by a number of financial experts.

Global warming, a phenomenon universally accepted as fact within the past five years, was first discussed by the Swedes in the 19th century. Several papers published at Stockholm University warned of global warning with the advent of the industrial age.

For a variety of reasons, humans usually don’t react to problems until they become crises. All these crises are semi-connected, where one will trigger one or more of the others. However, there are two crises marching toward us now, shoulder-to-shoulder, that will trigger every other, both large and small. At best, they will end our industrial civilization. At worst, they may depopulate most of our species. These two comrades-in-arms, overpopulation and peak oil, are of such complex magnitude, no amount of financial or scientific commitment may stop them. They are creating the perfect storm of which there may be no survival.

The ever-quickening rise in oil prices partly attributed to the ever-weakening dollar. However, oil prices would still be increasing as demand outstrips supply. The slide down peak oil is unstoppable.

Most want to believe oil is limitless. The fact of the matter is it’s a finite resource, a geological gift of nature, half of which we’ve run through in less than 150 years. You only have to look as far as the mature, collapsing fields as the North Sea, Mexico’s Cantarell, Alaska’s North Slope, Russia’s Caspian and various Middle Eastern countries to know we are in deep trouble. In December’s OPEC meetings, it was made public that they were supplying 15 percent less than two years ago despite pumping as fast as they can. The massive Saudi field, Ghawar — by far the world’s largest — has only been able to maintain its five-million-barrel-a-day output by injecting nine million barrels of sea water daily. It’s said as goes Ghawar, so goes Saudi Arabia.

No substance is more interwoven into life as oil. Most of us see it as gasoline and believe more fuel-efficient autos will save the day. This is a fallacy as cars take much oil to manufacture, so if we replace all gas guzzlers with fuel-efficient vehicles, it will make matters worse. And using grain-produced ethanol is proving to be a mistake. Agriculture is one of the most oil-intensive industries and the more we grow, the quicker we use oil up.

Oil is necessary for drugs and pharmaceuticals, energy, fertilizers and pesticides, chemical production and everything plastic. With the advent of oil came a revolution in medicine, agriculture (where 2 percent of the population now feeds the rest of us, while it was the opposite in 1850), transportation, information, machinery and industrial production. Never before has life changed so much and oil was directly responsible for this modernization.

If peak oil is the sharpshooter with modern industrial civilization in its crosshairs, overpopulation is the hangman with the noose around our necks.

In 1850, the world population lingered at 1 billion; in America it was 23 million. The world population is now closing in on 7 billion while here it nears 310 million. It was oil, and its cousin natural gas, that allowed the population to grow to unprecedented proportions as quickly as it did. As oil is depleted, it’s correct to assume the population will decrease proportionately.

In 1974, the government released a study (NSSM 200) that concluded the world population needed to be decreased drastically for humans to survive after peak oil without dire consequences. This was followed by the Carter administration’s Global 2000 document that said an immediate goal of less than 2 billion worldwide is necessary. Others suggest a world of no more than 500 million is more realistic.

Knowing so much about a near future of mass migration, epidemics, famines, society collapse and die-offs of biblical proportions, one should ask: Why are we not making population and oil conservation the primary issues? I always wonder why towns are proud welcoming in the first born of the year when, in the overall scope of things, having a baby is the most selfish thing a person can do. Why encourage our species to breed ourselves toward extinction?

Energy and population are the two subjects you never hear politicians discuss. Columnists, on the left and right, have recently written how it is only OK to talk about conserving oil and decreasing population until it’s too late.

World not running out of oil, say experts

Times Online

By Carl Mortished

Doom-laden forecasts that world oil supplies are poised to fall off the edge of a cliff are wide of the mark, according to leading oil industry experts who gave warning that human factors, not geology, will drive the oil market.

A landmark study of more than 800 oilfields by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (Cera) has concluded that rates of decline are only 4.5 per cent a year, almost half the rate previously believed, leading the consultancy to conclude that oil output will continue to rise over the next decade.

Peter Jackson, the report's author, said: “We will be able to grow supply to well over 100million barrels per day by 2017.” Current world oil output is in the region of 85million barrels a day.

The optimistic view of the world's oil resource was also given support by BP's chief economist, Peter Davies, who dismissed theories of “Peak Oil” as fallacious. Instead, he gave warning that world oil production would peak as demand weakened, because of political constraints, including taxation and government efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaking to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil, Mr Davies said that peaks in world production had been wrongly predicted throughout history but he agreed that oil might peak within a generation “as a result of a peaking of demand rather than supply”.

He said it was inconceivable that oil consumption would be unaffected by government policies to reduce carbon emissions. “There is a distinct possibilty that global oil consumption could peak as a result of such climate policies,” Mr Davies said.

The BP economist's remarks were echoed yesterday by Mr Jackson. “It is the above-ground risks that will influence the rate [of oil output],” he said.

Cera analysed the output of 811 oilfields, which produce 19 billion barrels a year, out of total world output of 32 billion. These included many of the giants, including Saudi Arabia's Ghawar, the largest known oilfield, which has been at the centre of the debate between peak oil analysts and their detractors.

In his book Twilight in the Desert, Matthew Simmons of Simmons & Co, the consultancy, said the big Saudi fields reached their peak output in 1981 but Cera yesterday said that Ghawar was not failing. “There is no technical evidence that Ghawar is about to decline,” said Mr Jackson.

Cera reckons that oil output, including unconventional oil, such as tar sands, could allow oil to peak at much higher levels of as much as 112 million barrels per day, with average rates of more than 100million bpd.

The Cera analysis targeted oilfields producing more than 10,000 barrels a day of conventional oil and concluded that overall output was declining at a rate of 4.5 per cent a year and that field decline rates were not increasing.

This is much lower than the 7 to 8percent average rate that is generally assumed in the industry. Typically, Peak Oil theorists believe that the output of oil reserves can be plotted on a graph as a bell curve, rising to a peak and then falling rapidly.

It was proposed in 1950 by M King Hubbert, a US geologist, who successfully predicted the peak of onshore oil production in the United States.

His analysis is disputed by many geologists today, who argue that technology has changed the equation, allowing oil companies to produce more oil from reservoirs than was previously possible.

Meanwhile, increases in the price of oil has made the extraction of difficult reserves economically viable.

Friday, January 18, 2008

No Evidence of Precipitous Fall on Horizon for World Oil Production

Global 4.5% Decline Rate Means No Near-Term Peak: CERA/IHS Study

The missing link for understanding the future of world oil supply – a solidly based view of oil field decline rates – has now been filled by a new field-by-field analysis of production data by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) and IHS Inc.

The aggregate global decline rate is 4.5 percent, rather than the 8 percent cited in many studies, based upon CERA’s analysis of the production characteristics of 811 separate oil fields.

“Some of the more gloomy, pessimistic ‘peak oil’ views about the future of oil supplies that are current today result from an assumption of high decline rates,” said CERA Oil Industry Activity Director Peter M. Jackson, author of the Finding the Critical Numbers report. “This new analysis provides the basis for more confidence about the future availability of oil.

“The absence of definitive, comprehensive analysis of production timelines and decline rates has led to widely differing estimates of the potential future availability of oil: an information vacuum that has contributed to the ‘peak oil’ theory of future liquids production capacity,” he added. “We hope that this study will contribute to a more informed understanding of the issues, both below ground and above ground.”

Jackson explained that this was a major research project: “To address this key question, we undertook a substantive analysis of the most extensive field production database in the world, developed and maintained by IHS, covering 811 separate fields that account for about two-thirds of current global production and half of the total proved and probable conventional oil reserve base,” according to Jackson. “The resulting analysis demonstrates that the aggregate global decline rate for fields currently in production is approximately 4.5 percent per year, and that annual field decline rates are not increasing with time.

“Getting this right, and understanding the underlying dynamics, are key because the amount of new oil supply that will come on stream to satisfy present and future oil demand depends to a large extent on a comprehensive understanding of annual decline rates of existing fields,” he said.

“The analysis also concludes that decline rates are a function of reservoir physics and investment strategies, and that there is a general historical trend toward lower decline rates in recent years which may be due to better reservoir management practices and the impact of new technology. In addition, because reservoir physics is only one of the key drivers, we would not expect to see a very rapid change in average decline rates in the future without a step change in technology or field development strategies,” Jackson added.

“This analysis increases the quality and reliability of our projections of future oil supply. However, while our understanding and extrapolation of many below ground factors is improving, careful judgment is still required to accommodate the impact of above ground factors, such as geopolitics, investment patterns, rising costs, government decision-making, and environmental issues, that will continue to have a major impact on the global forward production capacity profile.”

Primary Findings

The primary conclusions drawn from CERA’s analysis of 811 fields during the production build-up, plateau and decline stages in the oilfield life cycle include:

    * Aggregate decline rate - The 4.5 percent per year aggregate global decline rate among fields in production (FIP) is much lower than the 8 percent rate cited in many studies and projections. This pessimistic estimate may be a function of the generally more rapid decline rates observed in small fields – increasingly being developed in mature non-OPEC countries – and the rise of deepwater projects, which tend to flow at high rates as a requirement of commerciality, but which also decline rapidly.
    * Fields in decline stage - Only 41 percent of production is from fields in the database that are beyond the plateau stage and into the decline phase of their production lives.
    * Low decline rate, longer lives - Annual field decline rates are not increasing but, as a result of increased investment, improved planning and technology, can be maintained at low decline rates in many fields for prolonged periods, and field life is very often longer than originally projected.
    * Offshore vs. onshore fields – Individual offshore fields are declining at a 10 percent annual rate compared with 6 percent for onshore fields, and deepwater fields decline at 18 percent annually compared with 10 percent for shallow-water fields. Non-OPEC offshore fields decline 5 percent per year compared with 12 percent for those in OPEC.

Large vs. Small Fields

The CERA analysis found significantly different production patterns in large fields vs. small fields. Typically, large fields build up over an average of six years, produce on plateau for seven years at 93 percent of their maximum annual production rate, and decline on average for more than 20 years. In contrast, small fields build up over an average of three years, produce on plateau for five years, and decline on average over more than 14 years.

Because large fields with more than 300 million barrels of originally present reserves represent over 95 percent of the reserves and 86 percent of the production in the study dataset, their lower decline rate and higher production level through extended decline periods is likely to make a major contribution to overall future liquids production capacity. It is likely, according to CERA’s analysis, that improved understanding of giant fields’ complexities and reservoir models over the course of long life cycles has allowed late field expansion that has arrested decline and, in many cases, allowed production to increase significantly.

Decline Rates by Category

The CERA study also highlighted other factors, in addition to field size, that influence post-plateau (as distinct from the aggregate for all stages of all fields in production) decline rates, including reservoir characteristics, development location, regional setting and operational tactics.

OPEC fields generally decline at a slower rate than non-OPEC fields, possibly in relation to basic geological differences, the relative size of OPEC fields, their locations, and perhaps production constraints set by the organization. Limestone reservoirs (more prevalent in OPEC) tend to deplete more slowly than sandstone reservoirs. Offshore projects, prevalent in non-OPEC, decline more rapidly than onshore projects.

Future Profile

The major contribution of large fields to the total supply stream is clear from the CERA analysis. The 400 large fields studied (> 300mbo reserves) contributed an average production of 35 million barrels per day over the 2000-2005 period. This data set excludes onshore North American large fields, but still represents 45 percent of world production over those six years. With expected overall moderate decline rates these large producing fields will continue to be a major source of global supply for many years to come.

As to the future production profile, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of remaining reserves are associated with fields that are still either in the buildup period or on plateau, and are producing 59 percent of current production. In addition, CERA’s database of new field developments expected to come on stream in the next four or five years includes some 350 projects (120 OPEC and 230 non-OPEC) with gross contributions of approximately three million barrels per day (MPD) annually from OPEC and 3.5 mbd from non-OPEC countries over the next few years.

World Capacity Conclusion

“The results of this new study reinforce CERA’s existing bottom-up global liquids capacity model showing that liquids capacity of around 91 mbd in 2007 could climb to 112 mbd by 2017,” according to Jackson. “This outlook is supported by a key conclusion of this study: there is no evidence that oilfield decline rates will increase suddenly. It is important, though, to continue to research and understand evolving decline trends and further develop insight into the declines.”

BP Economist: No Imminent Peak To Oil Production

By Lananh Nguyen

A BP PLC (BP) economist Wednesday said the world isn't facing an impending oil shortage, rejecting the so-called 'peak oil' theory.

"An imminent peak in production has been repeatedly and wrongly predicted," said Peter Davies, special economic advisor to BP and formerly the company's chief economist.

The peak oil argument states world oil production is approaching, or has already reached, its maximum. But Davies said limited access in oil-rich nations to outside investors, unfavorable tax regimes and lack of investment were to blame for the limits on oil supply growth.

"It's not a resource issue, it's an investment issue," Davies said, speaking at a meeting held by the U.K.'s All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas.

Davies said world oil production would peak eventually - but not any time soon, and not for lack of oil in the ground. He argued climate change policies encouraging a shift away from oil consumption would lead to "peak demand," and discourage further oil production growth.

"There's a distinct possibility that global oil production could peak because of climate change policies," rather than a shortage of oil, he said.

Data for 2006 show world oil reserves stood at 1.2 trillion barrels, according to BP's 2007 Statistical Review of World Energy.

"Proved oil reserves continue to climb in the long run," BP said in the report. "Reserves have grown 72.9 billion barrels since 2001 and 159.2 billion barrels or 15% over the last decade."

Meanwhile, the world still has 14 trillion barrels of conventional and unconventional oil "in place," with conventional oil accounting for half the total, according to Davies. Oil in place refers to the total amount contained in a reservoir, and isn't a measure of the amount of crude that can be recovered or produced.

New technologies could also add to world's oil resource base - including enhanced oil recovery techniques, biofuels and unconventional oils such as tar sands, Davies said.

Davies' comments echo BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward's rejection of the peak oil argument, but executives from other major oil companies have recently expressed concern over oil supply growth.

ConocoPhillips (COP) CEO James Mulva said in November he doubted world oil producers would be able to meet forecast long-term energy demand growth.

The International Energy Agency, the energy watchdog for western economies, has projected 2030 world oil demand of 116 million barrels a day, but Mulva said he doesn't believe oil supply will ever exceed 100 million barrels a day. He didn't offer a price forecast.

"Demand will be going up, but it will be constrained by supply," Mulva said. " I don't think we are going to see the supply going over 100 million barrels a day and the reason is: Where is all that going to come from?"

Also, Total SA (TOT) CEO Christophe de Margerie said in October it was " optimistic" to expect oil production to surpass 100 million barrels a day. The world contains adequate oil reserves, but the oil industry and producer countries would struggle to develop those reserves, De Margerie said.

But BP's Davies believes 100 million barrels a day "is achievable," if adequate investments are made.

A recent study by Boston-based Cambridge Energy Research Associates asserts while output from the world's existing oil fields is declining at a rate of about 4.5% annually, new projects in the works will make up for the decline.

"This study supports a view that there is no impending short-term peak in global oil production," the paper concludes. CERA, led by oil historian Daniel Yergin, is a prominent adviser to oil companies.

But according to the U.K.-based Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, global oil production will peak and go into sustained decline in roughly a decade.

"Many forecasters - including those employed by the French and German governments - now expect global oil production to peak between now and 2020," ODAC said in a report. It said peak production had already been observed in over 60 of the world's 98 oil-producing countries.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

World oil demand to peak before supply - BP


World oil production may peak in the coming years, but it will be because of a decline in demand for petroleum, not a lack of supply, a BP economist said on Wednesday.

"I believe there is a realistic possibility that world oil production will peak within the next generation as a result of peaking demand," BP Special Economic Advisor Peter Davies told a meeting at parliament of a group of lawmakers formed to study peak oil.

He said environmental regulations, including efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, could cause energy consumers to move away from petroleum.

"I think we will run out of demand before we run out of supply," he said.

A rally in oil prices, which hit a record high above $100 a barrel earlier this month, is leading to growing interest in peak oil -- the view that supply has reached, or will soon reach, a high point and then fall.

Some leading industry figures -- the CEOs of Total and ConocoPhillips among them -- have questioned mainstream long-term forecasts for oil supply, suggesting a growing challenge to sustain production.

But London-based BP, the world's third-largest fully publicly traded oil company by market value, has said there is no need for concern.

"I am no subscriber to the theory that oil supplies have already peaked," Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, said at a conference in November. (Reporting by Alex Lawler; editing by Jim Marshall)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gas Prices Could Skyrocket to $4.50 Per Gallon

Associated Content

By David Anderson

A new report by CIBC World Markets is predicting that gas prices could skyrocket to as high as $4.50 a gallon in the near future. A press release issued by the group described the reported content. The report claims that increased demand will create new pressures on the world's oil supply, leading to further increases in gas prices.

Increased demand for oil in the world's developing countries is expected to combine with diminishing supply to lead to increased gas prices. The report also noted that projects to develop the world's remaining unexploited oil fields are facing unexpected delays. By 2012 the oil supply could drop by as much as 8 million barrels a day below U.S. Department of Energy and International Energy Agency projections, the press release indicated.

CIBC conducted a study of close to 200 new oil projects that were supposed to begin production within the next half decade. It projected that most of these projects will experience delays, and that start times for production had been grossly underestimated in many cases.

Jeff Rubin, Chief Strategist and Chief Economist for CIBC World Markets, claimed that such delays will cause Canada and Venezuela to reduce oil production projections for 2012 by more than 700,000 barrels a day.

Depletion of existing oil fields is expected to increase to a rate of four percent, which could cut global oil production by a rate of up to 4 million barrels per day annually. "Even holding the current depletion rate constant over the next five years, we must produce nearly 20 million barrels per day of new oil just to offset what will be lost through depletion during this period," Rubin said.

The report also countered International Energy Agency projections that a supply increase of 10 million barrels per day could be realized by 2012. Instead, the report estimated that the increase would more likely lie at around 3 million barrels per day, due to project delays and the depletion of existing oil fields.

Increased demand for oil in countries like China, India, and Russia could push gas prices as high as $150 a barrel by 2012, according to Rubin. He also projected that oil consumption in OPEC nations would increase along with gas prices. Higher incomes produced by rising gas prices would lead consumers in OPEC nations to increase their own oil use, he explained.

By 2012, Rubin expects to see demand for oil to fall 10 percent, or about 2 million barrels per day, because of skyrocketing prices.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ten Ways to Prepare for a Post-Oil Society

The Canadian National Newspaper

By James Howard Kunstler

Out in the public arena, people frequently twang on me for being “Mister Gloom’n’doom,” or for “not offering any solutions” to our looming energy crisis. So, for those of you who are tired of wringing your hands, who would like to do something useful, or focus your attention in a purposeful way, here are my suggestions:

1. Expand your view beyond the question of how we will run all the cars by means other than gasoline. This obsession with keeping the cars running at all costs could really prove fatal. It is especially unhelpful that so many self-proclaimed “greens” and political “progressives” are hung up on this monomaniacal theme. Get this: the cars are not part of the solution (whether they run on fossil fuels, vodka, used frymax™ oil, or cow shit). They are at the heart of the problem. And trying to salvage the entire Happy Motoring system by shifting it from gasoline to other fuels will only make things much worse. The bottom line of this is: start thinking beyond the car. We have to make other arrangements for virtually all the common activities of daily life.

… trying to salvage the entire Happy Motoring system by shifting it from gasoline to other fuels will only make things much worse.

2. We have to produce food differently. The Monsanto/Cargill model of industrial agribusiness is heading toward its Waterloo. As oil and gas deplete, we will be left with sterile soils and farming organized at an unworkable scale. Many lives will depend on our ability to fix this. Farming will soon return much closer to the center of American economic life. It will necessarily have to be done more locally, at a smaller and finer scale, and will require more human labour.

The value-added activities associated with farming — e.g. making products like cheese, wine, oils — will also have to be done much more locally. This situation presents excellent business and vocational opportunities for America’s young people (if they can unplug their iPods long enough to pay attention.) It also presents huge problems in land-use reform, not to mention the fact that the knowledge and skill for doing these things has to be painstakingly retrieved from the dumpster of history. Get busy.

3. We have to inhabit the terrain differently. Virtually every place in our nation organized for car dependency is going to fail to some degree. Quite a few places (Phoenix, Las Vegas, Miami) will support only a fraction of their current populations. We’ll have to return to traditional human ecologies at a smaller scale: villages, towns, and cities (along with a productive rural landscape). Our small towns are waiting to be re-inhabited. Our cities will have to contract. The cities that are composed proportionately more of suburban fabric (e.g. Atlanta, Houston) will pose especially tough problems. Most of that stuff will not be fixed. The loss of monetary value in suburban property will have far-reaching ramifications.

The stuff we build in the decades ahead will have to be made of regional materials found in nature — as opposed to modular, snap-together, manufactured components — at a more modest scale. This whole process will entail enormous demographic shifts and is liable to be turbulent. Like farming, it will require the retrieval of skill-sets and methodologies that have been forsaken.

The graduate schools of architecture are still tragically preoccupied with teaching Narcissism. The faculties will have to be overthrown. Our attitudes about land use will have to change dramatically. The building codes and zoning laws will eventually be abandoned and will have to be replaced with vernacular wisdom. Get busy.

The graduate schools of architecture are still tragically preoccupied with teaching Narcissism.

4. We have to move things and people differently. This is the sunset of Happy Motoring (including the entire U.S. trucking system). Get used to it. Don’t waste your society’s remaining resources trying to prop up car and truck dependency. Moving things and people by water and rail is vastly more energy-efficient. Need something to do? Get involved in restoring public transit.

Let’s start with railroads, and let’s make sure we electrify them so they will run on things other than fossil fuel or, if we have to run them partly on coal-fired power plants, at least scrub the emissions and sequester the CO2 at as few source-points as possible. We also have to prepare our society for moving people and things much more by water. This implies the rebuilding of infrastructure for our harbours, and also for our inland river and canal systems — including the towns associated with them.

The great harbour towns, like Baltimore, Boston, and New York, can no longer devote their waterfronts to condo sites and bikeways. We actually have to put the piers and warehouses back in place (not to mention the sleazy accommodations for sailors). Right now, programs are underway to restore maritime shipping based on wind — yes, sailing ships. It’s for real. Lots to do here. Put down your iPod and get busy.

5. We have to transform retail trade. The national chains that have used the high tide of fossil fuels to contrive predatory economies of scale (and kill local economies) — they are going down. WalMart and the other outfits will not survive the coming era of expensive, scarcer oil. They will not be able to run the “warehouses on wheels” of 18-wheel tractor-trailers incessantly circulating along the interstate highways. Their 12,000-mile supply lines to the Asian slave-factories are also endangered as the US and China contest for Middle East and African oil.

The local networks of commercial interdependency which these chain stores systematically destroyed (with the public’s acquiescence) will have to be rebuilt brick by brick and inventory by inventory. This will require rich, fine-grained, multi-layered networks of people who make, distribute, and sell stuff (including the much-maligned “middlemen”).

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the Internet will replace local retail economies. Internet shopping is totally dependent now on cheap delivery, and delivery will no longer be cheap. It also is predicated on electric power systems that are completely reliable. That is something we are unlikely to enjoy in the years ahead.

Do you have a penchant for retail trade and don’t want to work for a big predatory corporation? There’s lots to do here in the realm of small, local business. Quit carping and get busy.

Internet shopping is totally dependent now on cheap delivery, and delivery will no longer be cheap.

6. We will have to make things again in America. However, we are going to make less stuff. We will have fewer things to buy, fewer choices of things. The curtain is coming down on the endless blue-light-special shopping frenzy that has occupied the forefront of daily life in America for decades. But we will still need household goods and things to wear.

As a practical matter, we are not going to re-live the 20th century. The factories from America’s heyday of manufacturing (1900–1970) were all designed for massive inputs of fossil fuel, and many of them have already been demolished. We’re going to have to make things on a smaller scale by other means. Perhaps we will have to use more water power. The truth is, we don’t know yet how we’re going to make anything. This is something that the younger generations can put their minds and muscles into.

We will have fewer things to buy, fewer choices of things.

7. The age of canned entertainment is coming to an end. It was fun for a while. We liked “Citizen Kane” and the Beatles. But we’re going to have to make our own music and our own drama down the road. We’re going to need playhouses and live performance halls. We’re going to need violin and banjo players and playwrights and scenery makers, and singers. We’ll need theatre managers and stage-hands.

The Internet is not going to save canned entertainment. The Internet will not work so well if the electricity is on the fritz half the time (or more).

8. We’ll have to reorganize the education system. The centralized secondary school systems based on the yellow school bus fleets will not survive the coming decades. The huge investments we have made in these facilities will impede the transition out of them, but they will fail anyway. Since we will be a less affluent society, we probably won’t be able to replace these centralized facilities with smaller and more equitably distributed schools, at least not right away.

Personally, I believe that the next incarnation of education will grow out of the home schooling movement, as home schooling efforts aggregate locally into units of more than one family. God knows what happens beyond secondary ed. The big universities, both public and private, may not be salvageable. And the activity of higher ed itself may engender huge resentment by those foreclosed from it.

But anyone who learns to do long division and write a coherent paragraph will be at a great advantage — and, in any case, will probably out-perform today’s average college graduate. One thing for sure: teaching children is not liable to become an obsolete line of work, as compared to public relations and sports marketing. Lots to do here, and lots to think about. Get busy, future teachers of America.

9. We have to reorganize the medical system. The current skein of intertwined rackets based on endless Ponzi buck passing scams will not survive the discontinuities to come. We will probably have to return to a model of service much closer to what used to be called “doctoring.” Medical training may also have to change as the big universities run into trouble functioning. Doctors of the 21st century will certainly drive fewer German cars, and there will be fewer opportunities in the cosmetic surgery field. Let’s hope that we don’t slide so far back that we forget the germ theory of disease, or the need to wash our hands, or the fundamentals of pharmaceutical science. Lots to do here for the unsqueamish.

10. Life in the USA will have to become much more local, and virtually all the activities of everyday life will have to be re-scaled. You can state categorically that any enterprise now supersized is likely to fail — everything from the federal government to big corporations to huge institutions. If you can find a way to do something practical and useful on a smaller scale than it is currently being done, you are likely to have food in your cupboard and people who esteem you.

An entire social infrastructure of voluntary associations, co-opted by the narcotic of television, needs to be reconstructed. Local institutions for care of the helpless will have to be organized. Local politics will be much more meaningful as state governments and federal agencies slide into complete impotence. Lots of jobs here for local heroes.

So, that’s the task list for now. Forgive me if I left things out. Quit wishing and start doing. The best way to feel hopeful about the future is to get off your ass and demonstrate to yourself that you are a capable, competent individual resolutely able to face new circumstances.

James Howard Kunstler is the author of The Long Emergency, The Geography of Nowhere, and 12 other books, including nine novels. His essays have been published in the Atlantic Monthly, Sunday NY Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and many other places. He was an editor at Rolling Stone back in the 1970's.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

How Peak Oil Changed My Life

By Aaron Wissner

Peak oil changed my life by altering my expectations and hopes for the future.

I was once a techno-science lover. I looked to the future, and saw technology changing the world, and solving all of its problems: outposts on the moon and Mars, a cure for all diseases and maybe even a cure for death, certainly much longer life spans, and the end to war and poverty. Yes, it was a fantastic vision, supported by the incredible progress of recent years, of men on the moon, the development of the internet, and all those technological marvels and scientific discoveries that seemed to be increasing at an unstoppable rate. I dreamed of journeying into space, traveling to every country, living well past my hundredth birthday, driving a 100 mile per gallon car, and having a better and happier life thanks to incredible new advancements of science and technology.

Then, I found out about peak oil, and my life was divided into the time before, and the time after. This epiphany was more lasting and dramatic than the ones that I thought I'd experienced only a few years earlier. One shock was my discovery of the cruelty and harms of industrialized agriculture and factory farms, and my complicity in these industries. The other, as I survived what I fully expected to be a fatal car crash. After each shocking realization, I thought to myself, "Now I truly understand. My eyes are open. My life is changed forever."

And indeed, these first two events did change me. To respond to the cruelties our civilization inflicts upon animals, I became vegan swore off eating any animal products, and embarked on a voracious campaign to educate myself to the scope of the problem. After my near-fatal car accident, I began looking at my future differently, decided that I would start getting involved, and making my life count: lest I find myself dying without really having done anything of lasting value or note.

Peak oil set me straight. Those prior epiphanies were simply preparing me for the big one: that civilization as I knew it might very well end, not only in my lifetime, but within the decade. What I saw looming ahead was the very real possibility of the collapse of the global economy. This vision included the loss of all value of money, the loss of all jobs, the loss of all fuels and the transportation system they support, the loss of electricity, and the loss of the entire food distribution system. To me, societal collapse was a previously unthinkable scenario; that we may have painted ourselves in the corner, and that the paint was about to catch on fire.

Everywhere around me, I began to see our petroleum dependence: my morning shower, my imported clothes, my breakfast cereal, the fuel in my car, the maintenance of the roads, the lights at home and at work, etc... It all depends on oil.

Soon after my peak oil awakening, while driving to visit family, we drove through the nearest mega-city. The consumption of energy blinded me; the lights of cars, and buildings, and billboards... the airplanes coming and going... the trains carrying people… the trucks carrying food and goods... Everything depends on fuel, and that fuel is oil.
As with the earlier discovery of animal cruelty, I knew I had to find the solution. With factory farms, I could simply become vegan and my soul was absolved of my past evil deeds. No, I couldn't stop animal cruelty, but at least I could wash my hands of my direct complicity. For peak oil, a solution I sought, and what I found was not pleasant: civilization may not have a chance.

This concept was hard to swallow: no matter how desperately we wanted to switch to renewable fuels, there simply was not enough time, money, energy, or raw materials to do it. Yes, we could transition a portion of our electricity supply to renewables, with some new generation from the sun and the wind. Yes, we could build some electric vehicles, but not enough… not nearly enough… to prevent the collapse of the entire economic system.

Upon that realization, I recognized that I was going to have to change myself. I needed to prepare, not only for the possibility of a rapid collapse of the system, but also for the possibility that this descent would take place gradually, over many years, or even decades. To prepare for a rapid collapse, I started doing things and buying things that would help me live apart from the global system, at least for a time: a new pantry stocked with food, containers for water, extra gasoline, extra heating fuel, insulating the windows and door, preparing a large garden, etc. To get ready for a slow decline, I started planning a zero-energy home, to be built on an ample piece of fertile land, near a stream or lake, away from the huge populations of the cities.

Peak oil now informs everything I do. It tells the story of a future of great challenge and difficulty, for which I must be prepared.

Peak oil shortens my time horizon. No longer do I worry about my son's college or my own retirement. Now I worry about being able to provide him with the bare necessities. And I wonder, will money be worth anything at all by the time I reach retirement age?

Peak oil informs all of my purchases. I always ask myself, would this be useful during a rapid collapse? How about during a slow decline? If neither, why buy it?

Peak oil alters the way I think about the future. It makes me scoff at the rosy prognostications of our many societal sages; well-paid, kind of heart, but tragically uninformed.

Peak oil drives me to share what I know, and to go further, to illuminate the fundamental failure of our global culture to plan and prepare for its own future. The bleak reality is this: peak oil is not really about the decline of our most precious energy resource. Peak oil is one symptom of our civilization’s inability to find and follow a cultural vision of sustainability.

Aaron Wissner has taught public school students for sixteen years. He is the founder of the international Local Future Network, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to saving Earth through cultural change. In his spare time, he writes articles organizes education events, and gives presentations. Aaron lives in Michigan with his wife Kimberly and his newborn son Michael.