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A “peak” into the future

By C. Paul Davis

The sooner the key world oil players (oil company executives, consultants, advisors, economists, and my barber) come to an agreement on the world’s oil energy supply the better.  This includes Pro-Peak Oil advocates and Con-Peak Oil advocates.  Today, we have confusion where we need clarity. Today, we have disagreement where we need agreement.  Today, we lack an honest energy plan where we need a “real” plan. A plan we can agree on and one that will work. 

Oil energy has only been with us for a short period of time (150 years), but it creates over 40% of the world’s total energy supply.  In fact 70% of this oil energy is used to produce gasoline or various distillates to meet today’s transportation needs.  Without enough oil (meaning enough oil supply to meet today’s world oil demand) everything could come to a screeching halt–figuratively and literally.  

The world won’t run out of oil any time soon, but it is slowly running out of plentiful cheap oil.  For all intents “cheap oil” is gone forever.

Also, if we don’t have enough oil to make gasoline for our cars or fuel for our planes, trains, buses and trucks, where are we going to find the oil that we need to produce over 300,000 consumer products we use and need every day of our lives?

I want to believe so much that “unconventional oil and bio-fuels” will make up the short fall in oil supply, but based on what I know it can’t happen today because of costs, a lack of land, destruction of the environment (land, air and water), and excessive need for our valuable water resources.  Also, the Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) challenge must be addressed and solved.   Right now unconventional oil requires more energy than the energy it produces. This is a far cry from the high EROEIs (20:1 or greater) we historically experience with conventional oil.  

Even though I have personally come to accept Peak Oil as a reality based on my extensive study and due diligence over the past four years, at the same time, I want to be wrong – dead wrong – because the consequences are too dire, if Peak Oil is for real.

It is time for all of the major oil producing countries (particularly OPEC countries) to provide accurate and documented evidence regarding the magnitude of their oil reserves and the physical status of their oil fields. If we really wanted to know how bad the oil situation really is or, alternately, how really good the situation is, the information could be made available if there was a global sense of cooperation.  The nice thing about telling the truth is that you don’t have to remember what you said—the facts are the facts.  The time for truth has arrived or we as a country, and the world more generally, are going to go blindly down the energy road not knowing what lies ahead.

Comprehensive studies undertaken by Messrs. Hirsch, Bezdec, Wending, and others found that it will take at least two decades to build the infrastructure and implement the requisite major changes in moving from oil energy to alternative forms of energy and we are just barely getting started. 

If the Obama Administration would make finding a solution to oil energy a high priority, I know the scientists and engineers of our country could invent or find some viable answers to the current world energy crisis.  As I write these words, I fully realize that there are some well-known and respected people in the energy world who will state emphatically (and often) that we don’t have an oil energy problem and we have enough oil for at least the rest of the 21st Century.

Whether the debate is global warming or peak oil, I always ask one question of the people who say the world doesn’t have a problem in either area – “What happens if you are wrong?”  

C. Paul Davis is Senior Vice President Chairman – Advisory Board of Titan Oil Recovery 


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