Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What is Peak Oil - first draft

What is peak oil?

Well, I find defining peak oil a little difficult for a few reasons.

Firstly I’m not a scientist, so I have to rely on what the scientific experts are saying. But I do understand that if something takes millions of years to form deep within the Earth, as oil does, and if use it faster than the Earth is making it, it will run out.

That’s what non-renewables are. They don’t renew – well not in our lifetime. Renewables on the other hand such as solar and wind give us energy, but do not deplete the original source (eg the sun doesn’t become depleted if we have solar hot water system on our roof).

This I can understand, it makes sense to me.

Peak oil is the plateau at the top of the curved bell shape diagram that’s becoming increasingly associated with the problem.

Now what exactly that plateau or peak shows needs further defining.

To convert crude oil, straight out of the ground into what we pump into our petrol tanks at the servo takes time, decades in fact.

There is discovery, exploration, drilling, extraction, processing, refining, and perhaps even more steps in the whole oil process. Currently we use 4 barrels of oil for everyone we find.

But let’s go back a step and clearly state that this is GLOBAL PEAK OIL. Some country’s oil peaked decades ago, some are still abundant. But if you put all the oil reserves together, we’ve peaked. Unfortunately those countries with oil are also incredibly politically unstable.

Okay, back to finding out what the top of the bell is really telling us.

I’ll defer this to the people at the Post Carbon Institute. The Post Carbon Institute was started by Richard Heinberg as a way to start action on peak oil preparation. Out of the PCI we now have the relocalisation network (about 170 groups around the world all linked up), Global Public Media (public broadcaster focussing on peak oil news and interviews), the Oil Depletion Protocol website and the list goes on…

Suffice to say, the Post Carbon Institute understand peak oil.

They tell us that peak oil means…

This is GLOBAL PEAK OIL EXTRACTION we are facing.

Global Peak Oil Discovery occurred in 1964.

[And in case you’re wondering Peak Gas is expected to hit in 2020 so don’t even think gas is the solution.]

But it doesn’t mean we are going to run out of oil overnight.

Global peak oil extraction – this is our peak oil – it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

Our future will be two very serious things converging;

1) a decline in the cheap energy we have become so reliant on (oil accounts for 95% of global energy used for transportation and we have built our societies and our economy on the stuff) and
2) an increase in demand (with huge populations of people including; China and India coming into their industrialised eras as ours declines)

Chevron, the parent company of Exxon and Texco said in its Will you Join Us? campaign.
"It took us 125 years to use the first trillion barrels of oil
It will take us 30 years to use the next trillion

Footnote; no other energy source will meet the same levels of abundance, demand and cheapness as we have enjoyed with oil over the past 150 years.

The only solution we have is to reduce consumption and relocalise our societies to build resilience and strength to take the hits coming our way – of food, materials, plastics, products, building materials, furniture, clothing, shoes, in fact anything and everything made from oil – which includes our very food supply – if we are survive peak oil.

I support the call for the equivalent of a war-like response to peak oil from our leaders (that is in terms of the amount of resources and finances currently being spent on defence)– nothing less.

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