February 22 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: General Rating: 7 Hot
[Note: Sadly, this is a Production chart focused on alternative 'decline rates', and does not include Global Demand forecasts. Only know that there is a gap in any scenario!]
The upside of 'Peak Oil Production' is that it might be a more effective message than Climate Change in spurring dramatic changes to our transportation sector. The worst case 'peak production' scenario is that it might remain marginalized among mainstream audiences and political leaders just long enough to really matter. What if confusion reigns?
People might confuse the idea of 'running out of oil' (not true) with the reality that global production is not keeping up with increasing demand. People might place misguided hope into potential 'solutions' like solar or nuclear that have nothing to do with liquid fuel markets. You cannot put electricity into a gas tank!
Why Data Has Replaced 'Assumptions' & Why 'Peak and Plateau' Matters
The most shocking chapter in the 'Peak Oil' saga is the recent IEA admission that it was basing previous global oil field 'decline rate forecasts' on assumptions, not actual data. Now that the world's leading oil agency has done the first comprehensive global survey it has doubled the decline rate from 3% to 6%. The IEA estimates that global peak production of conventional resources could occur as soon as 2020.
A new report by Upsalla University on 'Giant Oil Field' Depletion Rates [PDF] confirms the new reality set by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its WEO 2008 Report that our world's most prolific oil fields are in a faster rate of decline than previously assumed.
Peak Production is not being pushed by radical activist groups, but by the Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency and many of the world's foremost hydrocarbon energy veterans.
Even if you include new 'deepwater' discoveries and advanced oil recovery technologies, global production is inching towards a 'plateau' and we must start to consider scenarios of a very different energy future.
Because we do not know what will happen 'post peak', there is no consensus scenario of the future. The spectrum of framing the implications of 'peak' include the 'collapse of civilization' to a 'humbling of civilization'.
But there is growing consensus of a coming 'oil supply crunch' and the most likely future is now one of high energy prices and rapid growth in use of non-conventional resources (e.g. tar sands) until we can move beyond the combustion engine and the monopoly of liquid fuels in the transportation sector.
I lean towards Peak Production being a humbling catalyst of change, but am committed to building a sense of urgency to take action that moves us away from oil's crutch: the combustion engine.
I am also committed to clearing up misguided 'oil alternatives' based on renewables and nuclear. The only strategic choice is to kill the combustion engine and to move the transportation sector from a 'fuels' to 'energy carriers' (electricity/hydrogen) that can be produced from any primary resource.
Since we cannot put electricity into a gas tank, a 'peak' future might also incentivize the world to accelerate the electrification of our auto fleet and move beyond today's era of liquid fuels.
Related IEA / Peak Oil Production Posts on The Energy Roadmap.com
Via Energy Bulletin