RE: What happens when the oil runs out.

From: Vandergraaf, Chuck (
Date: Sun Sep 24 2000 - 18:00:26 EDT

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    You wrote, in response to my suggestions about car pooling:

    > You got me to thinking about why I have had these experiences. In the oil
    > business, drilling rigs drill 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. If one
    > has trouble, or if a decision needs to be made, we are required to work
    > until we solve the problem or make up our minds (empty as they are
    > sometimes). I have had occasions where I went into work at 6 in the
    > morning only to get home the next day. It is rare, but it has happened.
    > More likely is the case where I go in at 6 and leave at midnight. That
    > happened this year a coupole of times. Now, a drill rig in the deep water
    > costs up to $300,000 per day. Why does it cost that much? Part of it is
    > due to the energy required to 1) make the steel, 2) weld it together, 3)
    > run supplies to it 150-200 miles from shore etc. The portion of the day
    > rate that we pay for the rig alone (approx $200,000 a day) is repayment
    > for the energy already used in its manufacture. The rest is
    > supplies, food etc. (for details see
    > )
    > I tell you this to pose the question, is it more energy efficient for me
    > to go home at quitting time letting at least 16 hours go by while the rig
    > bobs around in the water, using fuel to remain on station but idle, or is
    > it more energy efficient for me to take my car to work alone. Here is the
    > math. The drill ship uses 12 tons of fuel a day to stand still. If I make
    > the ship wait 16 hours, then I have spent about 8 tons of fuel so I can
    > drive in a carpool and save a
    > gallon. I don't know how much a gallon of gas weighs but figure it like
    > this. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds so say that gas weighs 6. If I
    > make the rig wait only once a year for 16 hours, I have spent 12,000
    > pounds of fuel. At 25 mpg, I could go 50000 miles in my personal car
    > before I make up for that deficit. Since I only drive around 12,000 miles
    > per year, it is more efficient for me to drive than to make a rig wait,
    > ever. This calculation doesn't count
    > the energy payback for building the rig in the first place. Car pools are
    > not always the most energy efficient situations for some professions.
    Of course, car pooling is not for everybody all the time. The situation you
    describe is clearly one where car pooling would not be an answer. Neither
    would I expect to have a neurosurgeon stop his (or her) work prematurely to
    catch a ride home! ;-)

    However, we do have these periods called "rush hours" when traffic arteries
    are clogged. I drove through Chicago a month ago on a Friday afternoon at
    2:00 PM (actually, we hit the northern outskirts of Chicago and, by the time
    we got to the Skyway, it was closer to 4:00 PM) and there was more traffic
    than the Dan Ryan express way could handle. If even 25% of the people
    traveled to work in car pools, think of the oil we would conserve and how
    much more smoothly the traffic would flow! Think of how much transportation
    we would eliminate if we would live closer to our place of work.

    I stood at the window of my hotel room in Beijing back in 1991 and watched
    the rush hour traffic: bicycles, motorcycles, buses, and private cars. That
    made me think: once China becomes more prosperous, and the people on the
    buses start buying bicycles, the people on bikes buy motorcycles and the
    motorcyclists buy cars, what would that do to 1) the amount of traffic, 2)
    the demand for oil and 3) the air quality.

    Anyway, now that the demand for oil is starting to exceed the supply, we
    won't have the luxury much longer on choosing how we are going to get to
    work. Maybe these things will sort themselves out. For example, I'm
    contemplating replacing one of our cars and the trend in the cost of
    gasoline is going to play a factor. If my company were to transfer me to a
    city and I were to accept that transfer, the trend in the cost of gasoline
    would play a role in our decision where to live relative to my place of
    work. I would like to be able to choose between a safe place in the suburbs
    and an equally safe place in the inner city, and that choice is not always

    BTW, there is one other aspect of the hybrid cars I wanted to mention.
    These gasoline/electric motor vehicles may well be great for Houston and
    California, but how well with they work in colder climates? Note that the
    efficiency of batteries drops with the level of the mercury in the
    thermometer. This reminds me of the attempt by our provincial government in
    the 1970s during the previous oil crisis. The (left wing) government
    decided to buy a bunch of electric Renaults for use by government employees
    in and around Winnipeg. Because most of our electricity is generated by
    falling water (hydro), the environmental impact of generating electricity is
    created when the hydro dams are built. After that, it's a simple matter of
    deciding to let the water go through the turbines or over the dam. Anyway,
    the cars ran fine ... until it got cold outside and gasoline heaters had to
    be installed. (It's no fun driving around at -20 C without a heater and
    electric motors don't produce much in the way of waste heat.) With the
    gasoline heaters pumping heat into the passenger compartment, the cars used
    about a gallon every 30 miles. ;-)


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