How serious is peak oil?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by floyde, Jul 30, 2012.

  1. floyde macrumors 6502a

    floyde

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2005
    Location:
    Monterrey, México
    #1
    Well, by now I should know better than to worry about random videos on the internet, but this one in particular was very persuasive:

    There's No Tomorrow
    http://vimeo.com/36624246

    The video is somewhat long (a little over half an hour), but it's worth a watch, at least for its entertainment value.

    The main theme of the film is: we're going to run out of oil (duh), and no, we're not ready for it. Not exactly big news, but what's a bit different (and much scarier) about this film, is that it then goes on to show how our current alternative sources of energy will just not cut it. Some of them actually rely on an initial investment of fossil fuels to actually work (apparently). There's not enough arable land for biofuels (plus our current cultivation techniques rely heavily on cheap fossil fuels), population is rising, solar panels require several barrels of oil to be made, our economies are tied to oil, etc. The bottom-line is that you should probably start building a barbwire fence around your home-grown vegetable garden.

    The problem with this video is that I don't know enough about the subject matter in order to judge its contents, and the fact that it's just there on the internet with comments disabled, makes it suspicious by default. What do you guys make of this, is the logic sound? Do the numbers add up? It could well be that this documentary was made as a marketing ploy to promote the company that made it, but it was so persuasive that a few months after I watched it I am still thinking about it.
     
  2. turtle777 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2004
    #2
    Peak Oil should really be called "Peak Cheap Oil".

    The issue is not that we'd run out of oil. What we are running out of is easily and cheap recoverable oil. And that's pretty much a fact and not disputed. The enormous price increase of crude oil over the last 10 years reflects exactly that.

    The opponents of Peak Oil say that there is so much alternative oil sources to be tapped (tar sands, deep sea drilling, etc...). This is true in theory.

    The main issue is not even cost, the main issue (and limit) is EROEI (Energy returned on energy invested).

    At some point, when the NET energy yield gets smaller and smaller, certain forms of oil might be theoretically recoverable, but it just won't make any economic and energy sense.

    I really like Chris Martenson's Crash Course, which puts Peal Oil into perspective of a general Peak Resources and Peak Debt context. Google "Crash Course", it's a free presentation of about 20 segments.

    -t
     
  3. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    Dec 22, 2004
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    Chicago, Illinois
    #3
    Bottom line is this- we have options. We don't have to rely on oil forever, and in fact, we can't.
     
  4. floyde thread starter macrumors 6502a

    floyde

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    Apr 7, 2005
    Location:
    Monterrey, México
    #4
    Yes, the video basically argues that the EROEI of the current alternatives is crap. What I'm wondering though, is how serious will this turn out to be. We barely manage to feed 7 billion people with our cheap fuels, how will we be able to to feed 10 or 12 billion with energy that costs 3 or 4 times as much?

    It seems that our modern civilization depends a lot on the fact that we can move resources from one place to another relatively cheaply, but it is very unlikely that we can maintain that level of efficiency with the current alternative fuels (if the video is right).

    Again, this could very well be that I'm just ignorant about the subject, but to me it sounds like this could have very serious, perhaps catastrophic economic consequences.

    Well we definitely shouldn't, but the big oil companies have been very successful in thwarting innovation in that field, and it doesn't seem like we'll be ready when suddenly it takes two barrels of oil in order to pump out one.

    The video argues that the options that we have are not very good, at the very least they won't be that cheap and that is definitely bound to have an impact on world economy.
     
  5. P-Worm macrumors 68020

    P-Worm

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    Jul 16, 2002
    Location:
    Salt Lake City, UT
    #5
    I have taken a few thermodynamics classes as part of my undergraduate Mechanical Engineering degree. Though I am not an expert by any means in the subject (my graduate work is in robotics), this video rings very true to me. There is a movie called Collapse (I believe it can be found on Netflix WatchInstant) that talks about the problem with Peak Oil and it scared me to death when I watched it.

    I have become consistently convinced that we will not be able to overcome the incoming energy crisis that this planet will have won't be solved by innovation. There is a reason why oil is so popular, it's energy density is huge and easily transported.

    I believe that what we really need to do is re-evaluate how we use energy and cut back. Agriculture alone takes casts amount of energy to cultivate and harvest and there may come a day when "work on the farm" becomes a popular profession again.

    P-Worm
     
  6. turtle777 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2004
    #6
    I disagree, we don't have VIABLE options.

    All the green and renewable energy stuff will not save the day.

    One of the main issues with the media (and ignorant "experts") is that they assume that liquid fossil fuels can be easily replaced by electricity generated from all kinds of renewable resources. It doesn't work that way.

    Robert Hirsch makes this very clear in plain English for anyone who wants to listen:
    http://www.amazon.com/Impending-World-Energy-Mess-Environment/dp/1926837118

    -t
     
  7. lighthouse_man macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2005
    #7
    The apocalyptic view on how things will go is but one of the proposed theories and it's not the best argued. This contradicts with the other theory (government and corporate favourite) that humans will overcome this by innovating new forms of energy and that growth will continue.

    One alternative theory, the most plausible in my opinion is the slow decline theory. Nothing will happen overnight and there will be a transition period and that will take decades.

    To further read upon this, I can recommend two books; "The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age" by John Michael Gree and "The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience" by
    Rob Hopkins.
     
  8. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    Dec 22, 2004
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    Chicago, Illinois
    #8
    Nothing worth doing is easy. That's what makes the US great. Let's figure it out. Nothing is impossible. We can make it happen if we really want to.
     
  9. floyde thread starter macrumors 6502a

    floyde

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    Apr 7, 2005
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    Monterrey, México
    #9
    Interesting. I think I'll have to read about both sides of the argument then.
     
  10. localoid, Jul 30, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2012

    localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    Feb 20, 2007
    Location:
    America's Third World
    #10
    A funny thing happened on the way to Utopia...

    Yes, farming certainly proved to be a popular pastime back in pre-industrial times gone by... Its timeless appeal undoubtedly due to the sense of glamour and luxury that the occupation conveys. Who'd have imagined that the Amish would inherit the future?

    [​IMG]
    Stevan Dohanos, "Man of the Soil", ca. 1935
     
  11. SactoGuy18 macrumors 68020

    SactoGuy18

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    Sep 11, 2006
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA USA
    #11
    In my humble opinion, the whole idea of peak oil is hooey-baloney.

    Why? They've been warning about this since before 1910! But thanks to worldwide oil discoveries since then and better oil extraction techniques, the world's known oil reserves have gone through the roof--and that's not including developing processes to convert coal into motor fuels using technology evolved from the original Fischer-Tropsch process developed in the early 1940's in Germany.

    Also, we're starting to evolve turning oil-laden algae into motor fuels, too. That means within 20 years we could make gasoline (petrol), diesel fuel, heating oil and kerosene from oil-laden algae on a very large scale, and that right there will end the whole idea of "peak oil," more or less.
     
  12. turtle777 macrumors 6502a

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    Apr 30, 2004
    #12
    There have been very few significant discoveries in the last 10 years.

    Depletion of existing oilfields would require the discovery of new oilfields the size of Saudi Arabia every 4-5 years, just to keep reserves flat. That has not been happening, and nobody knows where this would come from.

    Also, extraction of conventional oil has been in decline for many years.

    You also might wanna revisit the EROEI issue, because not allr eserves are created equal.

    -t
     
  13. citizenzen macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2010
    #13
    But is this really about supply, or is it about price? I believe it's about price.

    Oil will exist in the Earth for a very, long time. The question is how much it will cost to extract and produce enough to satisfy an increasing world need.

    -----

    Here's a fun fact for you. A human being energetically exerting itself for one hour would produce ~300 Watts. A gallon of gasoline produces 36,650.

    One gallon of gas gives the energy equivalent of 15 men working hard for eight hours.*

    No wonder everybody went crazy over it.




    *unless my math is wrong.
     
  14. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2009
    #14
    Actually, it is about demand vs. reachable supply, which kind of does work out to "price". Demand continues to increase, at a rate that is faster than the rate of increase in supply. When demand outstrips supply, that is the peak. It is no a point but a series of extrema as the two parts of the formula try to balance out against each other. As the price pressure increases, more extreme measures are taken to obtain oil (shale, fracking, etc.), but eventually the balance will lead to price collapse, where the product just becomes to impractical for people to produce, buy and sell. We will never really truly run out of oil, it will just become a niche commodity.

    What must happen for us to realistically address this situation is that we absolutely have to look at where the energy is going. Huge amounts of energy are going almost straight into our landfills as the consumer economy is designed to maximize throughput and waste. The only real answer to the energy problem is what I call "grey energy", as in "grey matter", as in, we have to use our brains and figure out how to reduce demand. Renewables could in fact serve most of our needs if we could streamline the economy to eliminate the enormous amount of energy we waste. No more happy-meal-toys, new appliances because the old ones broke, layers of plastic and cardboard encasing a 3' USB cable, on and on.

    The problem is not how much energy we can obtain but how much energy we can stop wasting. Failure to realistically address this is the road to A Boy and His Dog.
     
  15. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    Feb 20, 2007
    Location:
    America's Third World
    #15
    I agree. We need to conserve and be more frugal with resources. After all, resources are limited. But living like responsible adults and being frugal with resources throws a monkey wrench into the grand economic system we've built that's based on the ever-increasing consumption of goods.

    We need to admit that infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible to maintain and start living within our means. However, if tomorrow we abandoned planned obsolescence and build appliances, cars and machines that were made to be repaired/updated rather than replaced we'd need to tweak our present economic system a good bit to avoid an economic Armageddon.

    Unfortunately, few U.S. politicians would be willing to address the issue of tweaking capitalism. Ergo, probably little will change...
     
  16. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    Mar 22, 2010
    #16
    Until it's forced to change.

    Or we get lucky and find the next "miracle" energy source before that happens.
     
  17. VulchR macrumors 68020

    VulchR

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    Jun 8, 2009
    Location:
    Scotland
    #17
    The real issue is the cost of oil and the economic impact it will have if the prices start increases again. It seems to me that we had better start putting alternatives in place before we can't afford to because the energy costs are too high.

    Also, I do sometime worry that the discussion about oil seems to be focused on energy needs, but everybody seems to be ignoring the roles of petrochemical-based polymers in modern life. No oil, no plastics.... it seems odd that we are burning oil instead of saving it for better purposes.
     

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