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End of Fossil Fuel: Crisis and Opportunity

End of Fossil Fuel: Crisis and Opportunity

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Published by: Ananta on Mar 03, 2009
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The End of Fossil Fuel: Crisis and Opportunity
By Roar Bjonnes
The real solution to the energy crisis is not simply alternative energy: huge forests of wind mills, solar panels on every roof top, and hydrogen cells in every basement. Thereal solution certainly includes alternative energy, but can better be summed up as a“whole systems solution.” We need a whole-new-systems-approach to economics, politics, culture, values, science, and yes, energy.
Remember the old gasoline commercial, “I’ve got a tiger in my tank?” Remember the oldnovelty tiger tails that were available from Esso stations during that commercial’s heydays in the 1960s? If some of the world’s geological experts are right, the fuel tigers inour tanks of the future will soon be completely extinct. Just as extinct as dinosaurs. Justas extinct as that old gasoline commercial.Deep down, we all know that. Even those driving expensive, gas guzzling SUVs knowthat fossil fuels are a limited commodity. Nevertheless, most of us behave as if thisnonrenewable resource will always be with us. No further away than the next Shell or Arco station. But, according to some experts, it’s time to reconsider. There’s a fuel crisislooming on the earth’s smoggy horizon. The most pessimistic of them, such as geologistColin Campbell, estimate that soon there will be no more oil. The world fuel supply, heclaims, will peak by 2010 and be down to half that level by 2025-30. To top it off, huge price increases will hit us after the peak.The not-so-pessimistic experts, such as those from the US Geological Survey, estimatethat reserves discovered by 2030 could be twice as large as Campbell believes. John
Edwards of the University of Colorado also belongs in the optimist camp. He predicts aglobal peak in oil production between 2030 and 2040. So, even according to the mostoptimistic data, a future oil crisis is just around the corner.The experts do agree on one thing. The grand peak of oil production is going to occur when about half of the estimated ultimately recoverable reserves (EUR) of oil in theworld have been produced. According to the World Resources Institute’s Program onClimate, Energy and Pollution the “great majority of these studies reflect a consensusamong oil experts that the EUR for oil lie within the range of 1800 to 2,200 billion barrels.” And, writes, Jeremy Rifkin in his book 
The Hydrogen Economy
, “the world hasalready consumed more than 875 billion barrels of the total.” So, put on your seatbelts.The Battle of Oil’s Armageddon may soon be upon us.Hubbard’s CurveHow did the experts figure all this out? They employed the methodology of geo-physicistM. King Hubbart. His thesis is as simple and graceful as his bell-shaped curve. In thewords of Jeremy Rifkin: [“Hubbart] argued that oil production starts at zero, rises, peaks,when half the estimated ultimately recoverable oil is produced, and then falls, all along aclassic bell-shaped curve.” It sounds almost too simple, had it not been for Hubbart’sconvincing track record.In 1956, Hubbart wrote a now famous paper that predicted the peak and decline of US oil production. He predicted that US oil production would peak between 1965 and 1970. Hewas right. Production peaked in 1970, and the US lost its role as the largest oil producer in the world. Today, more than 60 percent of the recoverable oil in the US has been produced. And, writes Rifkin, “using the same model, Hubbart estimated in 1971 that themiddle 80 percent of global oil production will be produced within fifty-eight to sixty-four years, or less than one lifetime.” If Hubbard’s right, our increasingly energy-hungryworld will soon be on a slippery slide down his bell-shaped curve.
Oil and GeopoliticsActor Viggo Mortensen, famed for his role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is clearly indisagreement with George Bush about the reason the US went to war in Iraq. The T-shirthe was wearing recently as a guest on the PBS talk show
Charlie Rose
said it all: NOMORE BLOOD FOR OIL. The war in Iraq, according to him, was not, as Bush claimed,about weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.The oil experts may disagree about the timing of when the oil runs out, but they all agreethat most of the remaining “black gold” in the world is located under hot sand dunes inthe Persian Gulf. The five OPEC nations -- Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE —are the world’s leading producers of oil. The most prominent user of oil, on the other hand, is the US. Although the US has only 5 percent of the world’s population, USconsumers guzzle down a whopping 26 percent of this indispensable liquid annually.Surprisingly, though, the US imports a smaller percentage of oil from OPEC than it did20 years ago. In the first 6 months of 2001, the US actually imported more from Canadathan from Saudi Arabia. So, is Viggo Mortensen wrong? Not necessarily.The Russian president, Valdimir V. Putin, said in October 2001, in a “timely” statementshortly after the World Trade Center attacks, that “Russia remains a reliable and predictable partner and supplier of oil.” In reality, experts agree that Russia’s elite statusin the world’s oil market will be short-lived. According to the New York Times, we will,in the next few years, see a decline in oil production in Russia, the North Sea, the Alaskannorth slope, the areas off the shores of West Africa, and other regions. The countries inthe Middle East will therefore soon become owners of the biggest stock piles of barrels of oil around.Here are the crude facts: There are forty super-giant fields of oil in the world, twenty sixof those are in the Middle East. Most importantly, while many of the oil fields in Russiaand the US are in decline, production from the black oceans of oil in the OPEC countriesare still ascending Hubbart’s elegant curve.

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