Last week’s contentious Viewpoints piece in the Arizona Republic stirred some long-overdue interest in peak oil. On the first of six pages of online comments is this one: “We’ll check back with ya in 10 years Guy. You might have some ‘splanin’ to do.”
I suspect there will be no need for explanation in a decade, by which time we’ll be well on our way to the post-industrial Stone Age. So I’ll provide the explanation now, before the power goes out and the Empire collapses under the weight of its own hubris. Actually, I gave a partial explanation in a follow-up piece in the Republic, but more details follow .
Hubbert’s model indicates we peaked in December 2005, according to Princeton professor emeritus Ken Deffeyes. Data from the ultra-conservative U.S. government Energy Information Administration (EIA), on the other hand, indicate we passed the world oil peak in May 2005: see column “F” in this Excel table. If Hubbert’s bell-shaped curve is accurate at the global level, as it has been for every other level studied so far, global oil production in 2008 should match that of 2002 (which was about 67 million bbl/day, according to column “F” in the aforementioned table). My prediction of “global supply plummeting below 70 million barrels/day” is conservative compared to Hubbert’s model. The data are more dire than the model, since they indicate we passed the world oil peak in May 2005 instead of December 2005.
Note that we have not passed the global peak for all liquids, which includes many non-crude products (e.g., liquid natural gas, gasified coal, “oil” from tar sands). Richard Heinberg expects this peak to occur in 2010 or 2011. But apparently we have reached peak production of the master resource, crude oil.
Conservative, too, is my prediction of oil priced at $400/barrel in 2018. By that time, Hubbert’s model predicts we’ll be producing about 60 million barrels per day, whereas the EIA forecasts global demand at about 110 million barrels per day. The French investment bank Ixis-CIB forecasts $380 oil in 2015, so my estimate of $400 oil in 2018 is quite conservative.
Matt Savinar’s website gives a broad and compelling overview of the fix we’re in, and it debunks ridiculous ideas such as “deep” and “abiotic” oil, and also hydrogen as a fuel. It’s worth reading the site’s breaking news every day.
A quick read of Savinar’s site, especially in combination with the many others dedicated to serious discussion of peak oil, supports my central thesis: We will not innovate or organize out way out of this crisis. Oil priced at $100/barrel is no great shakes, but the supply disruptions and hyperinflation associated with $400 oil are another matter. Economic growth slowed to nearly zero in the fourth quarter of last year, during which time oil never hit $100/barrel. Since then, it’s rarely been below the $100 threshold.
Below, I list a few of many resources dedicated to this important issue:
Four by Richard Heinberg:
The Party’s Over
The Oil Depletion Protocol
Two by Kenneth Deffeyes:
James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency
David Goodstein’s Out of Gas
Aric McBay’s Peak Oil Survival
Additional websites, in no particular order:
The oil drum
Oil Depletion Analysis Center
From the Wilderness
There are many more resources, of course, but these will get you started. Finally, this nicely written three-part article by Dmitry Orlov, author of Reinventing Collapse, provides practical advice for various hypothetical people: Part I, Part II, Part III.