Peak Oil News: Oil's not well, so let's find alternative

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Oil's not well, so let's find alternative

By Ike Awgu

Anyone who's young, particularly below the age of 30, should pay special attention to the content of this column.

You and your future children may well be living through an age of crisis and worse, our government and citizens seem blissfully unaware of anything more than its most simple ramifications.

The catastrophe I speak of stares us in the face each time we fill up our gas tanks, hop on the bus, or even turn on our air conditioners. If the status quo remains unaltered, an energy crisis is coming, and its effects will strike at my generation, as well as those following it, with an ever increasing urgency.

The sky is not falling, but bits of cloud are slowly beginning their descent. The crisis we face is not simply one of oil (despite the obvious increase in the price of gasoline we all see at the pumps) but quite literally a comprehensive shortage of energy. The shortage is merely most apparent and first evidenced, by our imminent depletion of cheap oil.

By 2035 some experts believe that demand for oil may rise to as high as 140 million barrels a day, meaning oil companies will need to discover, produce, refine and bring to the market, 140 million new barrels of oil every 24 hours, day after day, year after year, without fail. Yet, the oil industry is among the least stable of all business sectors, tremendously vulnerable to natural disasters, destructive swings in price due to speculation, and to this day remains utterly dependent on corrupt, despotic "petro-states" with uncertain futures, monstrous leaders and an oppressed populace.

Simply building production capacity to keep up with demand as high as 140 million barrels per day would cost up to a trillion dollars, and that's not including the cost of defending and protecting such an infrastructure.

Human cost involved

Nor does it include what's arguably the most important calculation of all, the human cost of such an infrastructure. A "petro-diplomacy" that forces the world's freest and most democratic nations to tolerate its most backward and corrupt governments. Some of which, like the government of Nigeria, are currently holding out their begging bowls at the G8 conference in Scotland.

The human cost of our oil dependency is our complicity with corruption and barbarism through support of backward governments like those in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nigeria, and other petro-states.

What many people fail to understand about our coming crisis is that scarce oil means scarce electricity. And by 2020, demand for electricity in North America could be 70% higher than what it is today. Yet, since most electric power is generated in gas and coal-fired power plants, producing all that new power would mean putting an even greater strain on current supplies of oil.

Coal fired plants (the likes of which Dalton McGuinty is planning to close) pollute horribly and North America doesn't have the hydropower resources to satisfy enormous demand growth. Nuclear power, which may be a potential solution, is habitually bogged down with so much political, environmental and hippie rhetoric that government policy on the matter habitually suffers.

In places such as Alaska, Chad and the South China Sea, oil firms are already combing the earth for major oil deposits -- they're not finding them. There is more oil to be discovered and extracted, but nothing on par with the titanic finds of the early '60s and '70s.

Resource wars

Around the world, the diplomatic, economic and military strategists of nearly every nation obsess over one objective -- maintaining access to a steady supply of energy. Oil or resource wars are an inevitable contingency of such strategizing.

To ward off this catastrophe, our governments and private industry must find a cheap and alternative source of transportation energy. Thankfully progress is being made, and almost monthly we hear new positive things about alternatives to fossil fuels. Our time to find these alternatives however, like our supply of oil, will eventually run out.


At 6:33 PM, July 07, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...


When the best economic processes are used by an oil cmpany to produce they still leave 40-60% of the OOIP (Original Oil In Place) at abandomnet of a field. Push the price high enough and some of that oil will be produced.

Oily From Illinois

At 8:35 PM, July 07, 2005, Blogger MK said...

Good point, Oily. That is what the whole peak oil issue is about. It is not the end of oil, but the end of cheap oil. We will still have plenty of oil in the ground, but the cost will escalate. It will eventually take more energy extract and refine it than it produces. At that point oil will forever cease to be an energy source. It will continue to be useful for other applications, but at considerably higher cost than today.

At 11:00 AM, July 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The US goverment must launch a crash program to build a commerical Integral Fast Nuclear Reactor. These Nuclear Reactors use Liquid Sodium instead of water and would prevent a meltdown of the core since the boiling point of sodium is greating then the nuclear fuels
melting tempurature.

Even better, these reactor are able to use Plutonium waste as fuel without the complex separation of nuclear material required by 1970's design breeder reactors. Therefore we would not need to
store our nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain nor face all the arms controls issues of previous breeder reactor reprocessing
fuel cycles.

In fact todays "nuclear waste" could provide many decades of nuclear fuel for Integral Fast Reactors.

Lots of Ex-Hippies like the New Urbanist Howard Kunstlers are saying Liberals need to reconsider Nuclear Power. However, lets be honest the first generation Light
Water Reactors have many problems. Even the French understand this and have enforced very strict government control of their uniformly designed Westinghouse Light Water Reactors. Conventional Nuclear Fuel reprocessing has been a complex issue even for the French. Lots of environmentalist and left-wing concerns
about nuclear power were justified. Three
Mile Island was nearly a nightmare scenario. Jimmy Carter did the right thing by canceling the Breeder Reactor in favor of additional funding for more advanced reactor designs.

The US tested prototype Integral Fast Reactors throughout the 1980s with significant success. Unfortunately President Clinton had to make tough budgetary decisions when he took office. He mothballed the IFR project because there was no Utility Industry support for a commercial license of IFRs.
Besides far left-wing opposition, the Republican did not want to fund the Department of Energy. Clinton had a mandate to balance the budget and at the same time come up with billions of dollars
to help the former Soviet Union dispose of
decades of nuclear waste and weapons grade
material less it fall into terrorist hands. Clinton decided to use the Department of Energy unused advanced reactor budget for this purpose. That was a difficult but I would say the correct decision at the time.

I would hope that well informed folks of all political strips could but the past behind us and reconsider nuclear power.

At 5:30 PM, July 09, 2005, Blogger John Murney said...

Nuclear energy is not a good alternative; there is no way to safely dispose of the waste - yet.
All of us should be looking seriously at more solar and wind power.


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