There are those that still say peak oil is a myth. If so, why is the United States oil production down? Why is Mexico's oil production declining? Why is England (North Sea) running out of oil? Why is it getting harder and harder to find new oil? Why are oil companies suddenly drilling further and deeper? Why are other companies squeezing low grade oil from shale? Why are prices going to go up again? The reason is peak oil.
Many people seem to take peak oil personally. They
label people tracking the oil resource as "peak
oilers" and alarmists, and term slow production predictions a Peak Oil Myth. Trust us, the Earth does not know or care if people are alarmed or blissfully unaware. Peak oil is a process, not a proclamation. Peak oil myth doesn't mean the world is running out of oil. It isn't. It is running out of cheap oil. As other countries use more and more oil, it will get more and more expensive. GM has gone on the
record regarding peak oil and future auto sales.
It is no peak oil myth that oil production peaked in the USA in 1971. Extrapolating
to the rest of the world, the oil peak is slated at somewhere around 2010, with well documented disagreement on the exact date. The 2010 peak is associated with a peak oil myth.
Basically, the world has used up about 1 trillion barrels of oil from 1860 to today.
There are about 1 trillion barrels left in the ground that are technically recoverable
with today's technology. Then there are a half a trillion or so of possibly recoverable reserves.
This doesn't count the oil shale and tar sand reserves, which are in the trillion barrel range. The technology for claiming these reserves is not fully developed. The process for extracting oil from shale is generally expensive and very hard on water resources. The processes involve things like giant underground electric fields and fires to herd this oil (kerogen) to collection points. Then it is processed.
So, oil has not run out. It is just getting harder to produce. People in places like China and India want to burn a lot more of it. When you consider that 50% of all petroleum use took place after 1984 and about 90% of all oil was produced only after 1958, it's pretty clear that oil will cost more and get used faster.
Maybe people have a hard time visualizing just how much oil
is actually produced every day in the world. Letís assume it is
about 85 million barrels . That is a lake of oil close to 1100 acres,
1.7 square miles in area and 10 feet deepÖevery day. Itís not
like it rains oil, so how do you fill that lake day after day? By
drilling and pumping oil from rocks.
To fill this lake every day would take literally a river of oil. That river
needs to flow at a constant average rate of 5,500 cubic feet per
second (155 cubic meters per second) to keep on filling that lake
every day. Have you seen any rivers of oil lately? Me neither. Where
does the river come from? It is no peak oil myth where it comes from.
The river comes from lots of pipes stuck deep in rocks. Think for a minute
that most oil wells are actually steel pipes in the ground. Can you imagine
trying to fill a lake from a bunch of small steel pipes? That is what is happening;
only the flow in the pipes is really slowing down. Its getting harder and more expensive to get oil from deeper in the ground and further offshore into and out of all those pipes every day.
Wells in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico are now drilled from platforms in 4,000 feet of water. The oil reservoirs can then be about 40,000 feet below the sea floor. That's 8.3 miles, or 13.4 km, of pipe. Ironically, a round trip on that pipe would take a gallon of gas for a lot of SUVs and trucks.
What to do? Whether there is a peak oil myth or not, a lot of oil is used to power cars and trucks. You can get an electric car or truck. Also, you could walk, ride a bike or take the train. It will save on needing that river of oil.
Peak oil was predicted by M. King Hubbert in the 1950s near the peak of production in the United States. It may have seemed like a peak oil myth at that time, but it has turned out to be very true. The exact date of the peak may be harder to pin down, but no matter, it is happening.
Hubbert's prediction is generally shown in the top
figure. Actual oil production/use would seem to be tracking the prediction fairly closely. According to
production numbers, the world is currently at or near the peak possible production of around 85 million barrels per day or so.
However, there are detractors who maintain a peak oil myth. These people insist that producers only
need to "open up the tap" and produce more oil. This way of thinking has been termed "peak demand". In any case, the lower curves by different theorists show that production could ramp up as much as 1.7 times what it is today. Notice the "peak" on all of these curves. It is just delayed. Time will tell which curve is close to correct.