08 April 2012

Peak Oil: If Not for Carbon Hysteria, We Wouldn't Be Having This Conversation

This article was posted originally on Al Fin Energy blog:
In 1920, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the world contained only 60 billion barrels of recoverable oil. But to date we have produced more than 1,000 billion barrels and currently have more than 1,500 billion barrels in reserve. World petroleum reserves are at an all-time high. _newsok
For over 150 years, "knowledgeable insiders" have been predicting the end of oil. Over that time period, oil has endured multiple cycles of boom and bust, with high and very high oil prices alternating with low and very low oil prices. High oil prices -- if they are sustained over several years without a "price bust" -- lead to increased exploration and improved technologies for production.
...technological advances have opened up resources beyond the limits of our ancestors' imaginations. We can drill offshore in water up to 8,000 feet deep. We have enhanced recovery techniques, horizontal drilling and four-dimensional seismic imaging. Oklahoma oilman Harold Hamm is turning North Dakota into Saudi Arabia by using hydraulic fracturing technology. U.S. oil production has reversed its 40-year decline. By the year 2020, it is anticipated that the U.S. will be the world's top oil producer.

...Nine years ago, I predicted that the age of petroleum has only just begun. I was right. The Peak Oil theorists, the malthusians and the environmentalists were all wrong. They've been proven wrong, over and over again, for decades. A tabulation of every failed prediction of resource exhaustion would fill a library.

Sustainability is a chimera. No energy source has been, or ever will be, sustainable. In the 11th century, Europeans anticipated the industrial revolution by transforming their society from dependence on human and animal power to water power. In the 18th century, water power was superseded by steam engines fired by burning wood. Coal replaced wood, and oil and gas have now largely supplanted coal. In the far distant future we'll probably use some type of nuclear power. But for at least the next hundred years, oil will remain our primary energy source because it's abundant, inexpensive and reliable.

...What's stopping us isn't geology. What's stopping us is ignorance and bad public policy. _New Age of Oil
But why are we even having this conversation about "peak oil" in the first place? The graphics pictured below should show anyone with intelligence that energy collapse will not be in the cards anytime soon.
Look at the tiny amount of liquid hydrocarbon that has been consumed by humans so far. Then look at the nearly infinite amount of liquid hydrocarbons and liquid substitute fuels which remain in the wings, waiting for sufficient need and ingenuity on the part of humans.

Discussion about EROEI -- energy returned on energy invested -- is just so much trash talk. When you consider the potential of high quality, abundant industrial process heat from advanced nuclear reactors, EROEI fears begin to sound like a joke. Whether it takes 10 or 20 years to develop and build gen IV high temperature gas cooled modular reactors, the die is cast, and peak oil doom is itself doomed, along with EROEI fears.

So what is this conversation truly about? Beneath all the smokescreens, it is about lefty-Luddite carbon hysteria, and the fear of of an advanced technological future for humans. If not for a trumped-up and irrational fear of carbon, a true hydrocarbon abundance suddenly opens up before us -- along with an abundance of electricity from advanced, safe, clean, nuclear reactors.

But if we listen to the lefty-Luddite green dieoff.orgiast fears coming from the highest levels of human governments and inter-governments, we face a new dark age of energy starvation. An age where unreliable intermittent-renewables -- ever prone to breakdown and failure -- replace reliable forms of power and energy.

The green world view is based upon several delusional beliefs, including carbon hysteria, energy scarcity, overpopulation, an environment doomed by global pollution. But these green lefty-Luddite fears are several decades old. Many of these same greens predicted that the great human dieoff was certain to occur in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. They predicted doom from global cooling -- from CO2 and pollution, no less.

But when a temporary cooling trend was replaced by a temporary warming trend, these greens of doom quickly changed tack and jumped aboard a global warming train -- caused by the same things, supposedly, that were to have brought about global cooling! They are nothing if not versatile.

But the underlying cause of doom -- in the mind of a green -- is always human industry, human science, human technology, human commerce. That is what they fear and what they attack -- the fruits of human ingenuity itself.

The end result of human ingenuity is a cleaner and more sustainable -- but more abundant -- human future. That is what greens fear. They fear that we will move beyond the more primitive stages of human technology into cleaner, sustainable -- but very abundant -- forms of technology. This possibility is a distinct threat to the leftist green vision of the future, and must be opposed by greens in every way possible, using every green tool and green trick in the book.

That is what carbon hysteria is, of course. It is a tool to be used until it is of no more use, then it will be discarded for whatever else might serve. Just like "energy depletion and scarcity," carbon hysteria is a useful tool of ideology, without which the "peak oil myth" could never survive long.

The green fear is not that there is not enough oil, not enough hydrocarbon fuel. The fear is that there will always be more than enough. As a tool to stoke that fear, carbon hysteria cannot be improved upon. Peak oil: without carbon hysteria, we wouldn't be having that conversation.

More: Recycling Doomsday: How Failed Predictions of Doom Are Recycled Every 30 years or so. Stranger than fiction. And if not for the fact that these purveyors of contrived doom are influential at the highest levels of national and international government, we could all have a good laugh on the poor sods.


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Blogger Ian Brett Cooper said...

If you're right, irreversible global warming will doom the human race. Fortunately, Peak Oil is real and its results may save us from ourselves by forcing us to power down.

Sunday, 08 April, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

Thanks for your comment, IBC. No one could fault you for lack of political correctness.

Monday, 09 April, 2012  
Blogger Sorax said...

"The green fear is not that there is not enough oil, not enough hydrocarbon fuel. The fear is that there will always be more than enough."

You nailed it. Even under the most draconian carbon reduction schemes, humans will continue to use hydrocarbons and C02 will continue to be emitted. If peak-oilers actually believed we would run out, then the logical position would be to move out of the way and let it happen. But they know it would not. Peak Oil is a political position, not a geological reality.

Monday, 09 April, 2012  
Blogger Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...


We have been in a mild cooling trend since 2001.

Can you point to anywhere in human history where warming temperatures were bad overall? I can point to a number of incidents where cooling caused human populations to drop drastically.

Monday, 09 April, 2012  
Blogger Ian Brett Cooper said...

Personally, I don't care about global warming. As far as I'm concerned, the human race can go ahead and cook itself off the planet. People are hard-wired to put comfort ahead of long-term survival - always have been, always will be. But what gets my goat is when they make up lies to 'prove' to themselves that they can do anything they want and it will have no consequences. It's the same attitude that makes young morons think they can drink heavily and then drive home. It's the ultimate rejection of responsibility.

Monday, 09 April, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

IBC: You seem so certain about the reality of climate doom, when the predictive power of that ill-starred infant "science" (climatology computer modelling) is still very much in the air.

Not everyone on the internet is going to agree with your outlook on every issue you consider important. From your online bio, one would think that you are mature enough to deal with that without having your goat gotten every other minute. ;-)

I hope you are not another dieoff.orgiast, who actually wants to get rid of the human race. That would be disappointing.

Monday, 09 April, 2012  
Blogger Jose_K said...

Julien Simon said in 1979

Tuesday, 10 April, 2012  
Blogger Savvas said...

Al Fin,
I believe that it's too late mate for us to achieve the nuclear powered future that you reckon we could have had. I'm not saying that it's a bad thing - just that to afford it in both financial and energetic terms, we should have begun a couple of decades ago. How is the world to go from 400-odd N/Power plants to the thousands we'll need to generate enough widely distributed industrial energy where we need it to release the pent up oil-related resources left to us? With most countries in the world facing economic collapse and over population, I can't see it happening for a few generations.

Wednesday, 11 April, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

To bring down costs and to promote scalability, nuclear plants will have to be built in factories, to the highest quality standards, in transportable sizes. New reactor designs should be built to extract 99% of the energy in nuclear fuel, rather than the 1% currently used.

The US should have taken that approach over 2 decades ago, as you say. As it stands, France and South Korea may be the western nations with the best technology to provide the breakthrough in advanced modular reactors.

China, Russia, and India are pursuing the basic approach, and can afford to do so. But manufacturing standards in those emerging countries may not be considered high enough to build designs reliable enough for export to the first world, at least in the early stages.

Nuclear hysteria is a cherished character defect of most dieoff.orgy greens right up there with carbon hysteria. And unfortunately, dieoff.orgy greens have a lot of clout in governments and intergovernments of the advanced world.

Thursday, 12 April, 2012  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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