Re: The Party's Over

From: Kenneth Piers <>
Date: Mon Apr 12 2004 - 14:47:29 EDT

REPLY, Heinberg's book, like several others that signal the same story (Kenneth
Deffeyes- (Princeton)-Hubbert's Peak -; David Goodstein (Cal Tech)-Out of Gas)
- argues that world production of conventional oil is likely to peak in the
current decade and may be peaking already. This analysis is based on geology
and geophysics not on economics, It follows the theory regarding non-renewable
resource depletion put forward by M. King Hubbert in the mid-1950s.
Fundamentally this theory says that under a regime of unconstrained production,
the production curve for a non-renewable resource follows roughly a bell-shaped
curve and the peak in this curve is reached when approximately one-half of the
totally recoverable resource has been produced. After the peak is reached, oil
production will begin an inexorable decline that not even discoveries of
substantial new oil resources will be able to reverse. Several experienced
professional oil geophysicists - such as, for example Colin
Campbell-Association for the Study of Peak Oil - and ASA's own Glenn Morton
believe that we will reach that point some time in the current decade.
Currently worldwide about 1 trillion barrels of oil have been produced. Proven
reserves are listed at about 1.1 trillion so we are near the midpoint in total
production if these reserve numbers can be believed.
There are those who say (USGS for example) that the total recoverable oil
resource is considerably beyond 2.1 trillion barrels maybe as much as 3.5
trillion barrels. But Campbell thinks that the proven reserve numbers currently
listed at 1.1 trillion barrels may be quite optimistic since the constraints
under which OPEC nations report reserves are considerably less rigorous than
those used in North America. There are two factors that cause me to believe
that the peak oil argument has merit. The first of these has to do with current
oil discovery rates. Since the mid 1960s discovery rates for new oil have been
in decline and in the decade of the 1990s averaged about 10 billion barrels per
year whereas we are using more than 27 billion barrels per year. If there still
is all this oil waiting to be discovered as the USGS claims why are discovery
rates so low? Second more than one half of the world's oil producing nations
have already passed through their peak production more than five years ago.
Another 20% are currently passing through their peak phase right now and will
soon go into decline. About the only region that has yet to reach it's peak is
the Middle East, and it is estimated that most of these countries will reach
their peak in the next 10-20 years (if their reserve numbers can be believed).
So I think there is good reason for concern. Rising oil prices are not likely
to generate a whole lot of additional production. Most oil fields are old and
depleted - rising prices will not suddenly make it possible to generate more
oil from such fields, no matter how much we might wish it were so.
ken piers

This doesn't mean that we are out of oil, but it does mean (if such be the
case) that we will enter a period of ever-increasing competion for the
>>> John W Burgeson <> 4/12/2004 10:07:05 AM >>>
THE PARTY'S OVER is the title of a new book c 2003 by Richard Heinberg.

Subtitle "Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies."

I think it has been mentioned here a few weeks ago.

Has anyone read it? Are there weaknesses in the author's analyses?

The author (I think it is he) will be speaking here in Durango on April

His key message is this: (page 5): "We are about to enter a new era in
which each year, less net energy will be available to humankind,
regardless of our efforts or choices."

It will not be whether, but how we reduce energy use and transition to
renewable solutions.

"Industrial societies have been flourishing for roughly 150 years ... it
as if part of the human race has been given a sudden windfall of wealth
and decided to spend that wealth by throwing an extravagant party ....
but soon the party ... will be a fading memory ... because the wine and
food are gone and the harsh light of morning has come."

The author (apparently, I have not read much of the book yet) thinks we
can come to a moderated "landing," but unless we do a number of things
rather quickly, we will be in for a crash landing.

One reviewer equates this book to Carson's "Silent Spring."

Heinberg says there are four voices in the debate:

1. Free market economists. The optimists. I confess to being one of
these, but I think I may just be a Pollyanna.

2. Environmental activists. Conservation is the key.

3. Retired/independent petroleum geologists. Hi, Glenn.

4. Politicians.

Group 3 is a quiet one; no powerful institutions helping them. This book
takes their side.

Group 2 has (usually) good ideas, but incomplete ones.

Group 4 has the power, and whether from the left or the right, seems more
interested in assigning blame than in fixing the problem. Group 4 is the
one that ultimately matters

Group 1 has at least one Nobel laureate (Robert Solow) on its side, and
Group 4 likes to adopt its arguments.


Ubi Caritas

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Ken Piers

"[We are all creaures of faith. As such] we must either choose to be religious
or superstitious; to believe in things that cannot
be proved or to believe in things that can be disproved."
Wendell Berry

Received on Mon Apr 12 14:48:43 2004

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