The Coming Global Oil Crisis

The Coming Global Oil Crisis

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  1. What does the future hold for oil?
  2. Can new supplies be brought on-line on time and at a reasonable price?
  3. What strategies can the USA pursue to [create conditions for] stability?

Watch these graphs

Wake Up!!! <!– [2008 August]

–> New Energy for America (and more) Barack Obama [2008 August]

“Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.”As president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I’ll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I’ll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I’ll invest $150 billion over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy — wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and 5 million new jobs that pay well and can’t ever be outsourced.”

Obama’s acceptance speech. Better than McCain’s plan, but Obama needs a lot of help too.

The Challenge to Repower America [2008 July 17]

“On July 17, Al Gore challenged America to produce 100 percent of our electricity from energy sources with zero carbon emissions – and to do so within 10 years. His speech, and the resulting dialogue, is resetting the way Americans think about our energy future and the climate crisis. It may also be resetting our understanding of what is possible. The goal is ambitious, but achievable.”

Pickens Plan [2008 July 17]

“IT’S TIME TO STOP AMERICA’S ADDICTION TO FOREIGN OIL”America is in a hole and it’s getting deeper every day. We import 70% of our oil at a cost of $700 billion a year – four times the annual cost of the Iraq war.”
Curiously the earliest entry on Pickens’ website is the same day as Al Gore’s speech. Ed.

Hard times for airlines [2008 July 1]

“…[T]here are no serious alternatives to jet fuel for airliners. And even if there were, they could never be cheap in a world of expensive energy. The problem is not that oil is scarce: the production has never been this high — that’s why we call it Peak Oil. The problem is that energy supply is not meeting global demand: until demand abates, any type of energy will end up costing the same, be it classical kerosene, gas-to-liquid synthetic jet fuel, or biodiesel. Regardless of the environmental footprint. Just know that if it was technologically feasible, filling an A380 tank with biofuel would use up 150 hectares of yearly yield, considering an optimistic figure of 2000 litres per hectare for Jatropha biodiesel. You’d need 150x2x365x150 = 16 million hectares — the arable land in France — to power the currently ordered A380 fleet.”Meanwhile the fuel efficiency improvements do not come anywhere close to compensating the price surge. Boeing claim that their new 787 will burn 20% less fuel than current jets of the same category (namely the 767 or A330). 20% is how much oil prices rose between the beginning of April and mid-May 2008: 30 years of technological improvement in aircraft and engine design will offset six weeks of price increase, and no technological Deus ex Machina will change that deal.”

New GAO Peak Oil Report Provides Urgent Call to Action: U.S. Vulnerable and the Government Unprepared for Unacceptably High Risks of Oil Supply Shock, by Congressmen Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Tom Udall (D-NM), co-chairmen of the Congressional Peak Oil Caucus [2007 March 29]

“This GAO peak oil report is a clarion call for leadership at the highest level of our country to avert an energy crisis unlike any the world has ever before experienced and one that we know could happen at any time. Only the President can rally the country to take the urgent steps necessary. Potential alternatives to oil are extremely limited. Technology won’t save us without time and money to develop and scale them up.”

GAO Peak Oil Report (Complete), Highlights

“… [B]y 2015 these technologies could displace only the equivalent of 4 percent of projected U.S. annual consumption. Under these circumstances, an imminent peak and sharp decline in oil production could have severe consequences, including a worldwide recession. If the peak comes later, however, these technologies have a greater potential to mitigate the consequences.”

Within the energy profession there are groups (e.g., ASPO, ASPO-USA) grappling with the challenge of “Peak Oil.” While the efforts of Al Gore and others have raised awareness of the threat of global warming, society is not in any way prepared for the imminent decline in global oil production.

In the near term, declining production will impact certain countries more than others. Cantarell, the largest field in the western hemisphere, is declining rapidly. Over the next couple of years, Mexico‘s economy will be hard-hit.

Without imports, the USA‘s domestic oil reserves would be exhausted in three years at the current rate of consumption. The Oil War option is losing favor. Technological breakthroughs will be too slow and voluntary conservation will be too shallow to avert widespread disruption of economic activity, especially transportation and consequently food. Lacking the political will to make conscious, rapid, drastic changes, Americans will be subjected to Mother Nature’s adjustments; She did not negotiate with the Mayor of New Orleans; nor will She negotiate the American Way of Life when Saudi Arabia‘s Ghawar field collapses of its own accord.

Liquid fuel substitutes (tar sands, coal-to-liquids, oil shale, surprisingly even ethanol and biodiesel) are carbon intensive and will only exacerbate global warming. Plus they cannot be scaled up on a timely basis.

It would take one new nuclear power plant every week until 2050 to fill the oil gap. Minor detail, uranium shortages would emerge long before 2050, unless as yet unproven breeder reactors come on line soon.

While it will take time, direct conversion of solar radiation to electricity (photovoltaics and concentrating solar power) can be scaled up. One viable sustainable alternative also exists for repetitive travel (e.g., commuting — more than half of all urban transport). It is the rapid build-out of solar powered electric vehicles on fixed guideways (the “podcar“). A continuous solar array, well within the width of the guideway, is sufficient to provide 100% of the power required for this efficient form of high capacity transit.

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