Peak Oil Transitions

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My wife Robyn and I have been asked to speak at a professional development day in February for Selkirk College staff and faculty. The general theme for talks was sustainability, and we’ve proposed a talk entitled, “Sustainability or Survival” aiming to present the facts about climate change, peak oil, and the economy; and outline the likely impacts of the collision of these three issues on life in the Kootenays.

To get Robyn up to speed on many of the issues, and different perspectives, I recently bought her the book, “Depletion and Abundance” by Sharon Astyk.  Sharon is one of the only women writing about the coming energy descent.

Our lives in North America are based around the reality of cheap abundant oil – we all need to accept the reality that this is not the normal situation for humanity, and unlikely to continue for much longer. The other day I was reading something about “conventional oil”, that oil that is/was easy and inexpensive to extract and refine, and I realized how wrong the descriptor “conventional” actually is. There is nothing conventional about oil. The historically recent abundance of oil is an anomaly, a quirk of history and the only reason why we have computers, iPods, cell phones, suburbs, health insurance, airplanes and a multitude of other things we take for granted.

[ad#200-left]Without cheap abundant oil our world will change, the products and services we take for granted will become less available and our world will contract to those locations and distances that are available for travel without relying on oil.  Most of our existing transportation networks are not viable at the current extent without oil. Roads cannot be paved, tankers cannot sail without deisel, the heavy equipment that maintains our roads, railways and runways cannot operate without oil. What changes do we need to make to make a smooth transition to a lower energy society?

Over the coming weeks I’ll be posting some of the thoughts from our preparation for the presentation

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Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

2 replies on “Peak Oil Transitions”

  1. The top story of the year is that global crude oil production peaked in 2008.

    The media, governments, world leaders, and public should focus on this issue.

    Global crude oil production had been rising briskly until 2004, then plateaued for four years. Because oil producers were extracting at maximum effort to profit from high oil prices, this plateau is a clear indication of Peak Oil.

    Then in August and September of 2008 while oil prices were still very high, global crude oil production fell nearly one million barrels per day, clear evidence of Peak Oil (See Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly,” December 2008, page 1)

    Peak Oil is now.

    Credit for accurate Peak Oil predictions (within a few years) goes to the following (projected year for peak given in parentheses):

    * Association for the Study of Peak Oil (2007)

    * Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly” (2008)

    * Tony Eriksen, Oil stock analyst; Samuel Foucher, oil analyst; and Stuart Staniford, Physicist [Wikipedia Oil Megaprojects] (2008)

    * Matthew Simmons, Energy investment banker, (2007)

    * T. Boone Pickens, Oil and gas investor (2007)

    * U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2005)

    * Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Princeton professor and retired shell geologist (2005)

    * Sam Sam Bakhtiari, Retired Iranian National Oil Company geologist (2005)

    * Chris Skrebowski, Editor of “Petroleum Review” (2010)

    * Sadad Al Husseini, former head of production and exploration, Saudi Aramco (2008)

    * Energy Watch Group in Germany (2006)

    * Fredrik Robelius, Oil analyst and author of “Giant Oil Fields” (2008 to 2018)

    Oil production will now begin to decline terminally.

    Within a year or two, it is likely that oil prices will skyrocket as supply falls below demand. OPEC cuts could exacerbate the gap between supply and demand and drive prices even higher.

    Independent studies indicate that global crude oil production will now decline from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time, demand will increase. Oil supplies will be even tighter for the U.S. As oil producing nations consume more and more oil domestically they will export less and less. Because demand is high in China, India, the Middle East, and other oil producing nations, once global oil production begins to decline, demand will always be higher than supply. And since the U.S. represents one fourth of global oil demand, whatever oil we conserve will be consumed elsewhere. Thus, conservation in the U.S. will not slow oil depletion rates significantly.

    Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. There is no plan nor capital for a so-called electric economy. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment. The independent scientists of the Energy Watch Group conclude in a 2007 report titled: “Peak Oil Could Trigger Meltdown of Society:”

    “By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame.”

    With increasing costs for gasoline and diesel, along with declining taxes and declining gasoline tax revenues, states and local governments will eventually have to cut staff and curtail highway maintenance. Eventually, gasoline stations will close, and state and local highway workers won’t be able to get to work. We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel and gasoline powered trucks for bridge maintenance, culvert cleaning to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, and roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, large transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables from great distances. With the highways out, there will be no food coming from far away, and without the power grid virtually nothing modern works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated building systems.

    Documented here:

    Clifford J. Wirth, Ph.D.s last blog post..Top Story of the Year: Global Oil Production Peaked in 2008

  2. Clifford, your comment is really scary. What can we do then? Is there any viable alternative to oil in this timeframe (say 20 years)???

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