August 12, 2008

Past Peak Oil

Michael Klare, author of the recent book, Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency, makes the argument that:
Unlike the oil ‘shocks’ of the 1970s, the current energy crisis is almost certain to be long-lasting. None of the quick fixes proposed by pundits and politicians – drilling in protected wilderness and maritime areas, curbs on commodity speculators, pressure on members of OPEC to increase output – is likely to have much impact. In 1973-74 and again in 1979-80, events in the Middle East led to a sharp reduction in the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, causing a contraction in global supplies and a rise in energy prices, and thus sparking a global recession. But when equilibrium of a sort was restored to the region, the oil began to flow again and the crisis passed. Now, however, the imbalance between supply and demand is largely due to factors inherent in oil commerce itself – and so is less easily solved.

The oil crisis is the product of three developments: an unexpected surge in demand, much of it from Asian countries; a slowing in the growth of world supply; and a shift in the centre of gravity of production from the global North to the global South.


According to the Statistical Review of World Energy, published every June by BP, oil consumption jumped from 69.5 million barrels a day at the end of 1995 to 85.2 million barrels at the end of 2007. Some of this huge rise was generated by increased fuel consumption in the United States (where giant SUVs had become all the rage), but most was the result of increased demand from the rapidly industrialising nations of the developing world. Of those 15.7 million extra barrels, 4.6 million were added by China, and 2.7 million by other Asian states, including India.
While expecting China or India to not go through their long overdue development/growth spurt is hardly pragmatic, expecting people to conserve energy, opt for less oil-guzzling cars, and focus on renewable energy choices is! To quote Klare again:
Throughout their administration Bush and Cheney have worked to impede the adoption of conservation measures (such as tough fuel-efficiency standards for domestic vehicles), to hold back the development of alternative sources of energy and transport, and to sustain high levels of oil consumption. As a result, according to BP, US consumption rose by one million barrels a day over the course of Bush’s presidency while the output of domestic fields declined by roughly the same amount, pushing net imports up by two million barrels. Although not as large a rise as that recorded by China, it still contributed to the pressure on oil exporters and helped to push prices up. Until American and Chinese consumers of oil are put on a diet, and alternatives to petroleum are developed, the world’s energy crisis will only get worse.
But instead our politicians can only indulge in short-sighted rhetoric and think we can drill our way out of this crisis!

P.S. Other books on the topic of peak oil include
Beyond Oil - The View from Hubbert's peak by Kenneth Deffeyes
The Battle for Barrels: Peak Oil Myths & World Oil Futures by Duncan Clarke
The party's over by Richard Heinberg
Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude by Robert Baer

Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy by Matthew R. Simmons
and coming later this year..
Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change by Peter Newman, Timothy Beatley, and Heather Boyer

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