January 08, 2004 | Graham

How much oil?

On Line Opinion has just published an article by Mark Lawson querying estimates that said the world was about to imminently run out of oil. He didn’t dispute that it would run out some day, but he particularly instanced David Suzuki who claimed in an interview in the ’80s that we would run out of oil by the year 2000.
The price of oil interests me, not least because I have put some of the family interests into oil and gas companies, including renewable energy companies. In an earlier blog post I linked to an article on the site of Platinum Capital, which put a fairly cogent case for the likelihood that we have passed peak oil flow.
We have had two responses to Mark’s article, and I thought I would post them here to see what comments, if any, they inspired.
From Glenn Conroy:
This article by an Australian journalists reminds me of comments made by Lomberg (Skeptical environmentalist) to National Press Club (which this journalist may well have picked up on) that predictions of oil running out have been made every decade since oil was first used in motor vehicles. He said one day they will be right.
However, predictions of oil’s running out misses point. That is, oil is an energy source we cannot simply keep on using, not because it is becoming scarce, but because its by-products are literally killing us.
Misquoting Lomberg again, he said ancient man did not end the Stone Age because he ran out of stone; similarly modern man does not have to wait until oil runs out to end the Oil Age, it can and should be ended sooner rather than later and alternative cleaner energy sources used instead.
Glenn Conroy
From Dr Louis Arnoux:
Laherrere are indeed professionals who go to extremes of rigorous
analyses to provide as robust as possible an evaluation and
understanding of oil depletion as is possible and to keep it up to
Oil never runs out abruptly. I guess Suzuki talked colloquially and
meant that decline would begin around 2000; which was basically
correct. King Hubbert had anticipated that much as early as the 70s
using much less advanced data than available now.
The key parameter is hydrocarbons (gas and crude) per head and that
peaked in 1979.
It is actually not that difficult to think straight in this matter.
It requires only a modicum of knowledge concerning oil and gas fields
and wells, the physics of depletion, and oil and gas world markets;
nothing that cannot be quickly mastered by an average well educated
The data is clear, and Campbell and Laherrere keep stressing it: it is
not just about conventional crude, and it’s not a matter of
‘economics’. It concerns *all* hydrocarbons. Even assuming they get
mined regardless of cost, the absolute peak is reached before 2020 and
it’s all gone for practical purposes before the end of the 21st
century. There is no magic in this. There is nothing ‘technology’ and
holy economics can do about it. The only way to make new ‘oil’
(equivalent) economically and in large amounts is with biomass, not out
of wells; and the world is not geared up to it (and won’t be for quite
some time). It is about time people learned to abandon their cargo
cult mentality with respect to oil.
Dr. Louis Arnoux
Managing Director
IndraNet Technologies Ltd.

Posted by Graham at 10:31 pm | Comments Off on How much oil? |
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