TCS Daily


Running Out of Oil? History, Technology and Abundance

By Max Schulz - March 13, 2006 12:00 AM

Are we running out of oil? That's what the doomsayers say. We are past our (Hubbert's) peak and it's downhill from here. War, famine, pestilence, perhaps even extinction - those are the apocalyptic scenarios posited by folks predicting the oil age is over and the era of stringency is nigh.

Whether we are running out of oil or not, one thing we're certainly not short of is people who claim that we are. The good news about this bad news is that, historically, the doomsayers have always been wrong.

Almost since the first discoveries of oil in the U.S. in 1859, people have been saying we're running out. In 1874, the state geologist of the nation's leading oil producer, Pennsylvania, warned the U.S. had enough oil to last just four years. In 1914, the federal government said we had a ten-year supply. The government announced in 1940 that reserves would be depleted within a decade and a half. The Club of Rome made similar claims in the 1970s. President Carter famously predicted in 1977 that unless we made drastic cuts in our oil consumption, "Within ten years we would not be able to import enough oil — from any country, at any acceptable price." And so it goes today, where a slew of books and Web sites make fantastic claims about dwindling supplies of crude.

The chief problem with those who say the world is running out is that they have always looked at the issue the wrong way. Questions about energy supply shouldn't be thought of in terms of how much is available, but in terms of how good mankind is at finding and extracting it.

In the years after Col. Drake discovered oil at Titusville, Pennsylvania, on the eve of the Civil War, wildcatters could only drill down several hundred feet. If we were confined to relying solely upon the technology available in the 19th century — or, for that matter, the tools available just three decades ago — then yes, quite possibly we could be looking at the end of oil.

But we don't use those outmoded technologies. Advances in seismology and engineering have placed well within our grasp supplies of oil previously considered inaccessible. Today they are easily and economically recoverable.

Today's drills don't stop at a couple hundred feet. They bore miles into the earth. They travel laterally as well, so that a well dug in one spot might recover oil underneath locations miles away. Because of directional drilling, today one derrick can do the work that once took dozens, reducing the surface footprint of oil extraction.

Energy companies today can drill far offshore, too, in very deep water. They recover deposits that doomsayers of the past thought would be impossible to get at. Other technologies and advanced processes have boosted the recovery rates of fields thought to be tapped out.

The Kern River Field near Bakersfield, California, for instance, pumped nearly 30,000 barrels per day throughout much of the first decade of the 20th century. After 1910, production declined for the next 40 years. The field was nearly abandoned.

Innovations like pressurized steam and hot water injections changed that. Production at the Kern River field steadily ramped up after 1960, and the field has produced more than 125,000 barrels of oil per day since 1980. Recent estimates suggest Kern River still holds an additional one billion barrels of recoverable reserves.

That example mirrors the larger trend about oil. In 1970, experts believed the world had 612 billion barrels of proved reserves. Over the next three decades, more than 767 billion barrels would be pumped. Did we use up all the world's oil and then some? Hardly. Conservative estimates today place the world's provable oil reserves at 1.2 trillion barrels. New deposits of oil haven't been created. It's just that human ingenuity has come up with ways to get hard-to-reach deposits.

Expect that trend of increasing reserves to continue. Earlier this month the Department of Energy released a set of reports suggesting that enhanced 21st century oil recovery techniques might quadruple the amount of recoverable oil in the United States. DOE predicted that carbon sequestration technologies that inject carbon dioxide into oil reservoirs could soon add perhaps 89 billion barrels to the 21.4 billion barrels of proven reserves. More fantastically, government researchers found that "in the longer term, multiple advances in technology and widespread sequestration of industrial carbon dioxide could eventually add as much as 430 billion new barrels."

The same goes for Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer. The Saudis have 261 billion barrels of proven reserves. A year and a half ago, the Saudi energy minister suggested that number was way too small. "There are big chances to increase the kingdom's producible reserves by 200 billion barrels," he said. "This will come either through new discoveries or through increasing production from known deposits."

Questions about global oil supplies also must take into account unconventional sources of oil, like Canada's tar sands or shale oil in Colorado. These offer the promise of many hundreds of billions of additional barrels of oil that are currently extractable using today's technology. Processes for shale and tar sand oil generally are more expensive than conventional oil drilling. If crude oil were trading at $20 per barrel, investment in such extraction would not be viable. With the global price of crude trading above $60, however, they are attractive economically.

None of this is to suggest the world won't run out of oil one day. That could happen. It just isn't going to happen anytime soon.

Max Schulz is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He can be reached at mschulz@manhattan-institute.org.

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183 Comments

Dismiss the Doomsayers: Trust in Choice
Events can practically deplete or significantly disrupt the supply of any resource in the short run. The rational consumer/businessman therefore seeks product substitutability, diversity and redundancy for non-optional goods and services. If I shop for soap or power tools or an automobile, I have choices. When I shop for fuel for my automobile, I have virtually no choices. Sole sourcing of critical resources is risky for our economy and our civilization. As consumers, businessmen and citizens we must therefore “demand” competitive options, and trust the market to take care of the rest.

It doesn’t matter whether I believe oil will be depleted in the next 20 years or will be around for the next 10,000 years, I still seek sufficient options to hedge the miscalculations of others on my welfare.

Oil at some price
The point of this post cannot be the economists' tautology that there always will be a price of oil such that if you pay that price you get oil (there never will be NO oil). Having taken first semester econ, you know that the real question is what the price will be, which depends on unknown future discoveries, technology, and demand. The post mentioned shale in Alberta, which could be extracted for, maybe $120/barrel.

I think the point of the article is to suggest that we should not worry about future price rises or take steps to prevent them such as conservation, alternative fuels, etc. It didn't say this because it obviously isn't so. We have every reason to think the price of oil will go up drastically in the near future as India and China ramp up their consumption.

Also, the full price to Americans of gasoline is far higher than the pump price. We have to figure in the cost of the war in Iraq (which we certainly would not have entered if Iraq had no oil), the cost of polution and global warming (deniers, bring it on), the trade deficit, etc.

And if oil were free...
...we'd still have to worry about the climate changes resulting from burning it.

Quit fighting straw men
LG-

It's good to see that you have your arguments well thought out. Unfortunately, they just don't meet the points made by the article's author.

The point made by the author is that there is a ready supply of oil. Beyond large caches that may be out there undiscovered, the reserves we have today are sufficient for a lot of growth.

You get close to his arguments by talking about price. But you still don't get the point. We have a whole host of technologies that can sustain oil consumption at gradually increasing prices. These steady increases in price will encourage NATURAL adoption of alternative energies, just as hapenned with Man's historical transitions to wood, to coal and then to oil.

Will the cost of energy during those times increase? Of course- just as it always has. And that will encourage the gradual adoption of more efficient uses of that same energy. What we shouldn't do (which seems to be the suggestion of most LG's out there) is try to short-circuit the process by abandoning oil for more expensive technologies that are not ready for mass adoption. We'll move over there when we are ready.

Oil not at your price
Your Alberta shale price assumption will be a shock to the hundreds of thousands (on its way to 2 million?) b/d being produced from the shale now--at a all-in cost of about $25-30/barrel.

The reality is that we are an oil economy and will be so until something else that is price competitive comes along (even then, its doubtful much could be done about petrochemicals). Oil prices are headed higher over the next 30 years and that something will evolve naturally, not forced by government fiat.

Unfortunately...
the connection between fossil fuels and climate is still highly speculative and unproven. Not to mention the advances in technology that have greatly reduced emissions from oil/coal burning technology.

The point of the article is not pricing nor is it that we should not even bother looking for energy alternatives. It is merely exposing the unfounded alarmism that is being bandied about as fact. It also points out the utter failure one can expect by predicting the future based on the capacity of what is currently possible. All in all, quite comparable to climate change alarmists like Fortunato.

Why not find out alternative to oil?
I donot understand if U.S.is so advanse in all technology, why scientists donot search alternative for oil.

Being done
Alternatives are constantly being explored.
If/when the cost of oil reaches a certain level, more research will be conducted to make the alternatives more cost effective.
Supply and demand.

Re: oil at some price
Indeed, there are many negative externalities associated with the price of gas at the pump, the problem of course is quantifying them. Any politician that dared to try this then rectify it would surely be looking for another job in no time.
Not only would we not be in Iraq were it not for oil, we'd be nowhere in the Middle East were it not for oil--it'd be the ultimate "flyover" region. Alas, that is not the world we live in. It's fairly evident that the globe is warming. However, those that claim they can model it with any sort of accuracy are arrogant to the nth degree in my opinion. The interaction of the earth's 5 sub-systems is extremely, extremely complex--in ways we haven't even begun to understand that we have no understanding of. Anybody who claims they caan accurately interpret the data that makes up the sum of the outcomes of each of the individual relationships each sub-system has with eachother is a pollyanna.
When the day comes that the weatherman can predict with 100% certainty what the weather will be like every second of the day from this point until next Tuesday, then perhaps I will begin to believe those who glibly claim that fossil fuel burning is the reason the globe is warming. One of the reasons? That's plausible, but be careful that the prescription is not worse than the disease(Kyoto). By that time, the fact that we haven't run out of fossil fuels will be irrevelant, as the simple law of supply/demand will have long before spurred innovation in other energy sources.

Indeed
To an extent, it already has. Nuclear power largely reduced oil-fired generation during the 1970s-1990s.

Unclear on the concept
>the connection between fossil fuels and climate is still highly speculative and unproven

No, it is not, not in the opinion of the National Academy of Sciences of the US, and parallel bodies in 10 other industrialized countries.

>Not to mention the advances in technology that have greatly reduced emissions from oil/coal burning technology.

This technology can cut down on ozone, soot, carbon monoxide, sulfer and all kinds of other things. But it can't cut down on CO2. That's what burning fuel is. The combustion reation is carbon + oxygen = C02 &
heat.

>All in all, quite comparable to climate change alarmists like Fortunato.

For someone who doesn't even know what it means in chemical terms to burn fuel, you're awfully quick to call other people names. And if you think the NAS is being alarmist, why not call them & tell them so. Be sure to tell them how advanced technology can burn oil without producting CO2: that will impress them.

choices
You do have choices, oil comes from dozens of places.

If you are looking for a car that can run on a multitude of fuels, then you are looking for a car that is substantially more expensive than it needs to be.

Maybe you shouldn't have stopped at econ 101
As gas prices rise, conservation takes care of itself.
Despite the beliefs of your average liberal, the common man is not stupid.

The point of the article was not that we shouldn't be looking at alternatives or conservation, it's that the panic that certain groups is trying to instill is unjustified. If you weren't blinded by your own agenda, it would have been easy to see.

If you really believe the only reason we went into Iraq is because of oil, then you really are as stupid as you believe everyone else is.

no we don't
Because the change is so small as to be hard to measure, and since it's beneficial, why worry?

posited by some, disputed by others
As usual, eric declares that only the experts who agree with him are to be listened to.

They are
The question is cost and convenience.

True love for the NAS
Quite heart-warming to be sure. While I am sure they have come out in support for humanity being the root cause of climate change, I would like to point out that:

1. Not all the scientists in the NAS are climatologists.
2. Even if they were this would be quite an insigificant number of the total.
3. Many climatologist, meteorologists, and earth scientists are not convinced that humanity is the cause of climate change.

One more thing. Notice how you say "in the opinion of the National Academy of Sciences"? An opinion is far from proven fact. There is no proof nor consensus, merely opinion at this stage.

>But it can't cut down on CO2.

What this article is about is clearly demonstrated here. Fortunato has the ability to see into the future and stands firm on the absolute conviction that no technology, ever, can reduce the emission of C02 from coal/oil burning technology. An efficient filter that traps CO2 in some form or another is one example. While it is a fact that the burning of coal/oil produces CO2, it is not a fact that these emissions can not be trapped, filtered, or otherwise chemically reduced as many other emissions have. That is the concept of "reducing emissions".

Perhaps this is why Fortunato is so inept at debating this issue, he has no grasp of the concepts involved.

By the way, you really show what an idiot you are by saying:

>That's what burning fuel is. The combustion reation is carbon + oxygen = C02 & heat.

Because actually, coal/oil are hydrocarbons. Without hydrocarbons the combustion doesn't work. Try burning pure carbon sometime Fortunato and tell me what happens. Yet another attempt at wit gone wrong. I must say, when you put your foot in your mouth you do it right!

But hey, you have one more foot...

It's not cost and convenience
It's energy in vs energy out.

Currently, if I pick a number between the two extremes touted by the two sides, it takes something like 80% of the energy we get from ethanol and biodiesel to produce the fuel. This does not make sense, economically or energy wise.

Look back to the history of synthetic oil, (WWII Axis.) Not much has really changed since then.

as usual
says the first thing that comes into his head, wiih not back up for it.

who is eric?

Cost
Cost in out economy is the ultimate driver.
Of course, if the measure of cost is truley represented, then it is energy.

One stop shopping for dimness
Sorry, but you're still misinformed.

>1. Not all the scientists in the NAS are climatologists.
That's why they NAS formed a special committee of climatologist and atmospheric physicists, including Nobelists in the subject to study the problem.

>2. Even if they were this would be quite an insigificant number of the total.
Not an insignificant number of the best in the field. Being elected amember of the NAS is one of the top honors a scientist can receive.

>3. Many climatologist, meteorologists, and earth scientists are not convinced that humanity is the cause of climate change.
You say this, but the support isn't there. It rests on deeply flawed or actively deceptive surveys like that of a crank Oregon outfit, or simple assertion.

>An efficient filter that traps CO2 in some form or another is one example. While it is a fact that the burning of coal/oil produces CO2, it is not a fact that these emissions can not be trapped, filtered, or otherwise chemically reduced as many other emissions have.

Yes, theoretically CO2 could be trapped. Here's the problem there. If you burn a ton of coal, you create more than a ton of CO2. This may work for some uses, but you see the problem.

>ecause actually, coal/oil are hydrocarbons. Without hydrocarbons the combustion doesn't work.

Fine, add the amount of water produced by hydrocarbon combustion to the mix along with the CO2. The water doesn't present an envionmental problem. in fact pure carbon - diamonds and graphite can burn. And coke -- almost pure carbon formed from coal burns extremely well without ash, producing an intensely hot fired used in steelmaking.

the evidence is before you
but you refuse to look

you are

cost
cost is usually a very good proxy for energy content.

Wood, Whale Oil & Petroleum
Whether or not we are running of petroleum hardly matters when we are on the threshold of a better source of energy. By the end of this century, petroleum, like whale oil and wood, will have fallen out of wide-spread use.

Suppliers of solar panels can't keep up with demand for cheaper energy
Ventura County Star, March 11, 2006

...Solar energy has become so hot that suppliers of the main component in solar panels can't keep up with demand ... "I've seen this market where you couldn't give the stuff away for $5," said Rob Bushman, former president and now consultant for Silicon Recycling Services Inc. in Camarillo, which was sold to ErSol Solar Energy AG at the end of February. "Today, YOU CAN'T GET ENOUGH AND SELL IT FOR $50."

...Solar Electrical Systems does a high-volume business, warehouses solar panels and works directly with the manufacturers, limiting effects of the shortage, Reed said. However, some smaller businesses have suffered. "It's causing industry consolidation," Reed said.

...Alternatives also are getting a closer look. Instead of silicon-based solar cells, Shell is focusing on a different kind of solar technology called COPPER INDIUM DI-SELENIDE, or CIS. Production is easier and more cost-effective, O'Leary said, and the technology creates solar cells that work well in low light and have a smooth, dark appearance.

Shell just introduced the Eclipse80, the first CIS module to be certified under international standards.

http://www.shell.com/solar

http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2006/03/12/1449913.htm

you are
>you are

yes, you are.

Nice dodge...
but ineffective. I am sure you're use to that though.

So the small NAS created an even smaller group to study climate change. This does not change the fact that they are not the end-all be-all of science. Perhaps you can tell me how one gets a position on the NAS. Is one appointed? By who? Is it purely on the merit of one's area of study or is it more political? Let us look at some of their other "opinions".

Perhaps you would like to check out their position on the regulation of biotech plants as "plant pesticides". This position opened the door for the EPA to implement a regulatory scheme that would cripple biotech innovation. This created quite a firestorm of protests from the scientific community (Hoover Institute at Stanford) and also went against their former position. Why would the NAS contradict itself? Because panel members were ex-EPA members who helped craft the regulation.

How about the NAS report stating that Flouride is a "nutrient" in support of the FDA?

How about the NAS "opinion" that heavier regulation of the internet and enforcement of anti-obcenity laws in order to stop kids from obcene images? Do you support this? If so, what is obscene and should the government have the power to decide this? Most importantly, what is the NAS doing wasting time on this?

The NAS often is in support of the government agencies that fund it as well as being stacked with those scientists who support the current dogmatic trends in science. Why would I rely on them for my one-stop shopping for scientific reality?

So please jump off the NAS wagon. It will run you over like most of your arguments tend to do.

Like this: "If you burn a ton of coal, you create more than a ton of CO2."

So burning a substance actually creates more matter in emissions than what was in the original substance? I have to laugh since you call me misinformed. At least I understand that merely burning a substance does not create matter. Talk about ignorant and proud to show it. You are a joke.

More humor: "in fact pure carbon - diamonds and graphite can burn. And coke -- almost pure carbon formed from coal burns extremely well without ash"

This doesn't change the fact that pure carbon is not used in petroleum fuels nor is it used as fuel in any capacity. Only hydrocarbons are. If you don't understand the difference between pure carbon and hydrocarbons then their is not much I can do to educate you.

Saying that something can burn is weak. All things can burn if you have the right temperature. By the way, Coke is not used for creating "hot fired". It is used in the smelting of steel in order to make it harder and stronger which is entirely different from what you are talking about.

So very weak Fortunato. But what's new?

Rosy fingered dawn
I think the original post made the point, which is commonly agreed to: at current consumption levels, oil reserves will last at least several decades and the price would rise slowly enough for people to adjust. That's the rosy scenario.. .

which doesn't take into account China and India, with huge populations and rapid economic growth. Their competition for oil is driving up prices (see http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/chron.html ) because it seems hard to increase the rate of production.

Externalities (term from duffman12): Iraq at $250B/year
costs $1K/person/year, which is more than I spend per year on energy (city boy).

Global warming: "When the day comes that the weatherman can predict with 100% certainty ..." (duffman12). In chaotic systems like the Earth's atmosphere (read any book on chaos), it's often possible to predict long term averages than specific events. For example, they can predict about how many rainy days there will be without knowing which days will be rainy. To Tlaloc, people talk about scrubbing mercury or sulphur from emissions, but not CO2.

People talk about the positive effects of pollution, and Angelenos know this one: beautiful sunrises and sunsets as Rayleigh scattering off all that polution filters out the shorter wavelengths (blues) in sunlight. It's a rosy fingered dawn a'comin'.

To MarkTheGreat: "..then you really are as stupid as you believe everyone else is." There are people in this thread who I think have misjudged, but only one who I think is stupid.

Insults and misinformation
Maybe you think calling me names makes your argument stronger. It does not.

Regarding the NAS: it was established by President Abraham Lincoln to give the best possible scientific advice to the US government. It has done so for more than a century. It is not political - it in fact takes strenous steps to avoid doing so. New members are elected by the current members, and membership is regarded as one of the highest honors a scientist can receive. I suggest you do a little research before you start telling people what they are.

>Perhaps you would like to check out their position on the regulation of biotech plants as "plant pesticides"....

Please document. Note that the fact that there were protests from industry does not mean the science was wrong. Hoover Institute is not a "scientific institute

"The notion of energy independence is unrealistic..."
That was from Rex Tillerson,Exxon Mobil CEO. Bush says we're "addicted to oil", that we're being "held hostage" by foreign producers of oil.

Pat Robertson, wing-nut that he is, realizes that Venezuela can indeed "hurt us" by depriving us of their oil. His Christian solution is to kill Hugo Chavez.

But Cheney said it best of all: "We're there (in Iraq) because the fact of the matter is that part of the world controls the world supply of oil, and whoever controls the supply of oil, especially if it were a man like Saddam Hussein, with a large army and sophisticated weapons, would have a stranglehold on the American economy and on — indeed on the world economy."

Anyway you look at it, slight fluctuations in supply can and will wreak havoc with the US economy. Major interruptions in supply will be catastrophic. The US imports 2/3 of its oil. The blinkered, free-markets-and-technology-will-save-us types just don't get it.

So Much Heat, So Little Light
The author completely misses the point of Hubbert's Peak by quoting anecdotal evidence that some fields in the US have become productive again using secondary and tertiary recovery techniques. The real point is that total US oil production peaked in the 1970's and has been going down ever since. Hubbert predicted this and using his calculation methods, world production has been predicted to peak fairly soon.

An additional point: proven and provable are not interchangeable terms. It costs money to prove reserves, so they will always appear to indicate that there are only a few years of oil supply available. Provable reserves, OTOH, are educated guesses based on current and anticipated future technology as well as estimates of future selling price, among other things.

The big unanswered question is, will world oil production be increased fast enough to keep the price of oil low enough to avoid serious economic (and societal) disruption until we develop (and implement, which can't be done overnight and will cost a lot of money) alternative energy sources at competitive prices? I don't think you can easily dismiss this question by waving your arms and saying the market will take care of it.

Insults and misinformation
Maybe you think calling me names makes your argument stronger. It does not.

Regarding the NAS: it was established by President Abraham Lincoln to give the best possible scientific advice to the US government. It has done so for more than a century. It is not political - it in fact takes strenous steps to avoid doing so. New members are elected by the current members, and membership is regarded as one of the highest honors a scientist can receive. I suggest you do a little research before you start telling people what they are.

>Perhaps you would like to check out their position on the regulation of biotech plants as "plant pesticides"....

Please document. Note that the fact that there were protests from industry does not mean the science was wrong. Hoover Institution does not do natural science, it researches social issues --"individual freedom, private enterprise, representative government, peace and prosperity, and leadership and ingenuity," per its mission statement. This iaudable, but not natural science.

>How about the NAS report stating that Flouride is a "nutrient" in support of the FDA?

Please document. are you talking about dingbat stuff like this?
http://www.zerowasteamerica.org/Fluoride&NAS.htm

As for the rest of the stuff about the NAS - what in the world makes you a better judge of what is science than them? Particularly since you don't seem to understand even first principles.
for example:

>Like this: "If you burn a ton of coal, you create more than a ton of CO2."

So burning a substance actually creates more matter in emissions than what was in the original substance? I have to laugh since you call me misinformed. At least I understand that merely burning a substance does not create matter. Talk about ignorant and proud to show it. You are a joke.

It doesn't "create matter." Combustion of hydrocarbons combines carbon atoms with oxygen atoms from the air to form CO2 (and also hydrogen atoms with oxygen atoms to form water.) If your hydrocarbon contais 1 ton of carbon, combustion will turn that carbon into more than a ton of carbon dioxide. Matter isn't "created," all that happens is two oxygen atoms get attached to each carbon atom. This was established by Lavoisier more than two centuries ago. You seem to be going on the phlogiston theory of combustion.

>All things can burn if you have the right temperature.

No, as a matter of fact, some things can't combine with oxygen to produce heat no matter how hot you get them. But don't worry about facts.

>By the way, Coke is not used for creating "hot fired". It is used in the smelting of steel in order to make it harder and stronger which is entirely different from what you are talking about.

talk to cokemakers about this:
"Coke has three important roles in the blast furnace. First, coke reduces iron ore with carbon, releasing the iron content. Second, coke provides passages for the reducing gas and molten iron in the blast furnace. Lastly, coke provides a heat source for melting iron ore and limestone."

But wait -- it can't burn, can it?

>So very weak Fortunato. But what's new?

Sounds like someone name Tlaloc is really, really insecure. And I think we can see why.

sad eric,
really sad

The original post
missed the point as badly as you usually do.

That being, we have sufficient oil left for a lot more than a few decades, and that's using worst case scenarios.
A hundred years or more is more like it, and probably still too pesimistic.

the point is
that those who predict we are about to run out of oil have always been wrong, and there is no reason to assume that they have finally gotten it right.

Indeed, there is much evidence supporting the notion that the modern day Malthusians are still wrong.

Nailed it
"Questions about energy supply shouldn't be thought of in terms of how much is available, but in terms of how good mankind is at finding and extracting it."

The author nailed it. Every prediction has failed to anticipate human ingenuity.

I remember a project in Sweeden that was drilling to the bottom of huge meteor with the idea that crude oil is created by inorganic means.

If crude oil is created by the earth, there must be more down there.

The cost of energy
You seem sort of sanguine about the coming increase in the cost of energy. I can't be quite so blase about it.

Energy is the real measure of worth. Productivity is really measured in energy, not dollars. When therms go up, everything that has to move in the physical world goes up. So if your wealth is denominated in dollars-- or indeed in any other currency-- your portfolio will be worth less.

The aspect of the "more expensive technologies" you speak of that not enough is being said about is that they are more expensive in terms of energy, not merely in dollar terms. Oil shale? It costs more energy to crush the shales, and extract and refine the oil. Hydrogen? Same thing. Coal gasification? Same thing. Biofuels? Ditto. And the same with scraping the bottom of the oil wells.

You only escape this dilemma with the true renewables-- geothermal, wind, solar and tidal.

So as other forms of energy begin to increase in price due to tight supply, the course of civilization will be defined by those renewables. Of course, that year is still well up the road.

In the meantime, you give the best advice. Explore greater efficiencies.

That darned government fiat
"Oil prices are headed higher over the next 30 years and that something will evolve naturally, not forced by government fiat."

I think you'll find it difficult getting away from government fiat. The pump price of oil, for instance, is artificially low through government fiat. The oil depletion allowance and other tax devices cause you to pay the taxes oil producers don't have to. Plus, we have to build the road system. There are many externalities beside the cost of a gallon of gas.

Nuclear is even worse. It's only cheap when we first pay the humongous cost of building the plants. Once they're built, we pay to refine the ores into fuel. And when it's burnt and we've used the energy, we still have to pay to get rid of the radioactive glop. The cost showing on your electric bill is the least part of it.

So the latest energy bill also gives financial incentives to renewables and to biofuels. As well they should-- that makes it a little closer to a level playing field.

If there were no subsidies, and we had to pay the actual price of energy, we'd all say we can't afford it.

Mark, find something else to rub your insecurities against
and lose some weight: the fat's impregnating your brain.

Towering intellect
Rainy-- All the rest of us must seem puny to you, when you have such a towering intellect. I can imagine how deluded we all must seem.

I miss your point when you go on about the majority of scientists in the NAS not being climatologists. But this is easy to grasp: "Many climatologist, meteorologists, and earth scientists are not convinced that humanity is the cause of climate change."

You know, there is no "the" cause of climate change. It's an N-dimensional puzzle, with multiple contributions in the complex interrelations of the solar flux, the carbon and nitrogen cycles, the Milankovich cycles, ad infinitum. About the only thing you can say with assurance is that when we also burn fossil fuels and add CO2 to the atmosphere from previously sequestered sources, we add energy to the heat engine all the other factors work to maintain. And if we were to find a way to remove that carbon (that's shorthand for CO2) we would reverse the effect of our addition, and help make the climate cooler.

I had no trouble following Fortunato's shorthand. It's obvious what he meant. I think (my opinion) you would make better headway if you didn't spend so much time trying to disprove the obvious.

Incredible display of knowledge
"So burning a substance actually creates more matter in emissions than what was in the original substance? I have to laugh since you call me misinformed. At least I understand that merely burning a substance does not create matter. Talk about ignorant and proud to show it. You are a joke."

If you can't imagine how this could happen you should take a high school chemistry class. At some point you would realize you are NOT smarter than all the world's scientists.

If ever there were an instance where humility was in order, this would be it.

(Here's a hint: another word for burning is "oxidation". What happens when you add oxygen to a molecule? Does it get heavier?)

Earthly gas
The Earth may be making its own methane.

Gaia passes gas!

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/DyeHard/story?id=421532&page=1

typical eric
all insult, no intelligence

Simple solution for CO2 scrubbing
You could always plant more trees. Divert that water melt from Glacier National Park to a nice dry area like Nevada. Then plant trees. Keep this up until the CO2 goes down to the point where the glaciers stop melting and you have a balance! You also get much more O2 into the air.

No Subject
" The pump price of oil, for instance, is artificially low through government fiat. The oil depletion allowance and other tax devices cause you to pay the taxes oil producers don't have to."

Corporations don't pay taxes, consumers pay ALL taxes.
State and federal per gallon taxes are supposed to fund the highways.

Uranium is not burnt. The waste can be reprocessed to extract unspent fuel.

I'm all for paying the actual price for energy if the goverment would completely deregulate the energy markets, including electric utilities. And this includes state and local deregulation as well.

When the telephone market monopoly was broken, phone technology improvements exploded and costs dropped.

What would happen to your utility company if we could put a nuclear battery the corner of our house and have power for 10 years?

Abiogenesis
Hey marjon! Want some interesting reading? Google up "abiogenesis" and see what you find.

Contrary to what the article states, this Gold fellow is far from being alone in his thinking abiogenic processes may have made much of our gas-- as well as oil-- deposits. There's quite a lot of research that's gone into fleshing out the idea.

More to the point, the biogenic crowd, thinking all our deposits come from biologic breakdown products, haven't been able to drive any good nails into the coffin. A readers researching the issue in good faith (like all of us, mon frere?) would find convincing points on both sides of the debate.

In other words this is science at its best. An issue where no school totally predominates. Of course the standard version is still that oil and gas are mostly all made the same way coal is.

And you're right, there's no longer any reason to trade in your Hummer for a Prius. IF the theories are correct, forty or fifty million years after we run out of gas, there will be a fresh supply of the stuff, spontaneously arisen from the bowels of the planet. Then the creatures that succeed us can dig up your old Hummer and drive away in it. Cool, huh?

Food for thought
"Corporations don't pay taxes, consumers pay ALL taxes."

This is a familiar opinion. And it's certainly the case that corporate taxes are passed along to the consumer. But the system places an unfair burden on small businesses. I would rather see ALL taxes paid by corporations. Then they could pass them along as they chose, and we wouldn't have to bust our brains in the April rush any more.

"State and federal per gallon taxes are supposed to fund the highways." True.

"Uranium is not burnt. The waste can be reprocessed to extract unspent fuel." Also true. Inexplicably, we don't do that. We prefer instead to fill up all our broom closets with cumbersome spent fuel rods. Europe takes a much more sensible approach to this issue.

"I'm all for paying the actual price for energy if the goverment would completely deregulate the energy markets, including electric utilities. And this includes state and local deregulation as well."

We agree, nice idea in theory. But in the real world, what happened when California deregulated energy? They still haven't gotten back to a stable place.

"When the telephone market monopoly was broken, phone technology improvements exploded and costs dropped."

Ma Bell was a dinosaur. Now we're forming a new telecom monopoly. Is there any rule that states it will have to be as bad?

"What would happen to your utility company if we could put a nuclear battery the corner of our house and have power for 10 years?"

I don't know. We don't have nuclear batteries yet, so far as I'm aware. Maybe you can inform me if such things exist. I'd like to know how it works.

CA did not deregulate
"We agree, nice idea in theory. But in the real world, what happened when California deregulated energy? They still haven't gotten back to a stable place."

CA did not deregulate their energy market.

"Ma Bell was a dinosaur. Now we're forming a new telecom monopoly. Is there any rule that states it will have to be as bad?"

Only if they are protected from competition.

Nuclear batteries

http://www.atomicinsights.com/apr95/batteries.html

Planting more trees
Nice idea, disman, only bright minds have already looked at it. There's not enough land surface on the face of the earth, even if every square mile that could grow a tree was growing trees instead of cities, suburbs and farms.

Plus, you can't stop there. Once the forest stops growing at maturity, you have to cut it down and sequester it (not burn it). Then you have to plant a new forest. It's not the trees per se that take up CO2, it's the act of growing.

You might google up the "carbon cycle". Then you could see that most plant activity absorbing CO2 actually takes place in the ocean, in what they call the phytoplankton. These babies are really at the base of the pyramid. Life in the ocean would dwindle and die without them. And the CO2 now in the air and the oceans would never get absorbed.

We are now in a bit of trouble regarding our phytoplankton, as the excess CO2 in circulation is causing the oceans to acidify. It's already a problem with corals, whose skeletons decay in acid water. As it gets worse it will also wipe out the diatoms and other phytoplankton, who likewise have limestone skeletons.

Then we's in a heap of trouble.

CA 'deregulation'
http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2001/october24/energy-1024.html

"The California energy crisis was not the result of deregulation per se, but of the way it was implemented, the panelists agreed.

He noted that the original legislation, signed in 1996 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson, was not responsible for two of the "fatal flaws" that led to the energy crisis: rate caps on retail prices and the prohibition of long-term contracts between the utilities that sold power to consumers and the generators that produced it."


Rate caps and prohibtiion sound like regulation to me.

chemophyll
One idea that has been put forward is the creation of 'chemopyhylls' - catalytic processes that would use sunlight to recycle atmospheric CO2 into fuel or, better, structural material. Think of a floating island in seas with lots of sun turning out a kind of plywood whenever the sun shines.

Problem so far: not so easy to find a synthetic process than can use sunlight do the CO2 splitting thing. Worse, nobody's now funding research.

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