Social Question

mowens's avatar

Peak oil: Fact or fiction?

Asked by mowens (8264 points ) February 1st, 2011

Personally, I think it is a load of crap brought to us by the same people who brought us the world ending in 2000, then 2001, and now 2012.

That being said, the argument is sound. I understand the concept. I do. Do I think it will happen in 10 years? No. Do I think it will happen in 50? No. We as a society are already removing oil from our daily research. You better believe that people will find another way to get around if gasoline gets too expensive.

I cannot find a single “creditable” article against it.

I also in turn can not find a single creditable article supporting it. Every web page I find is written by someone who is quite obviously deranged. Thoughts from the collective?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

87 Answers

mattbrowne's avatar

We can’t know for sure. Maybe peak oil happens in 2015. But this is a fact:

Peak of cheap and easily accessible oil has been reached.

mowens's avatar

@mattbrowne I’ll give you that. But are you worried? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that life will go on? Are you going to run and hide in the country with a shotgun at your side in anticipation for oil to run out?

Or will you have faith in capitalism, and realize that there will always be someone with smart ideas to sell something cheaper than their competitor? It has not made fiscal sense for someone to compete with oil until recently. Oil has been cheap. The R&D for alternative fuel sources and oil alternatives would not have been able to provide a reasonable profit. Now, we are starting to see things like Honda’s Hydrogen powered car – and the Chevy Volt is a gigantic step towards our ultimate goal. I accept the fact that these are not replacements… not yet. But isn’t it reasonable to assume that capitalism will prevail?

RandomMrdan's avatar

The same person who accurately projected a peak in US oil production is the same person who projected a world peak in oil production. He predicted it back in 1956, that it would occur in 1970. Sure enough, we switched gears, and took on foreign oil.

He initially projected a peak oil in world production in the Mid 90’s, but there was a surge in price which dropped the amount of sales, and was determined to offset that peak by about 10–15 years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil

If you look at the chart, you may say, well we have quite some time until oil completely runs out. But that isn’t the real problem. The problem is, when supply is low, price gets jacked up. Every aspect of our life relies on oil in some regard. All the plastics we buy, anything manufactured. An average meal travels nearly 1500 miles before you eat it. It will literally change every aspect of our lives. We will have hyperinflation of every type of product out there.

You might say…. oh well, Hydrogen can fuel our cars. And that is true, but Hydrogen does not replace oil, because Hydrogen isn’t a source of fuel, it’s a source of energy storage, which requires another exchange to be created.

You might say…. Nuclear has to be the way to go… if only it wasn’t so expensive, took about 10 years to build, and weren’t so many things (politically, environmentalists, etc) preventing any from being built.

You might say…. well, we can use Ethanol. Wrong, the ROI is way off, you expend way too much fuel to even create it, and it becomes a negative return, not to mention we don’t even have the land large enough

You might say… Well, combining all forms of renewable sources of energy can offset this whole oil thing. Also wrong. Even if it were possible to offset the power consumption problem. We still have an entire infrastructure based on using oil as an essential component. Which, sure maybe oil can be replaced in that process, but that switch will not happen over night.

We are going to turn into a self sustaining community, just like Cuba did after USSR failed, and stopped supplying Cuba the oil they needed.

I see a collapse of Capitalism sadly, and I honestly think life is going to change back to a much simpler life style. Growing our own food, living off the land, purchasing some solar panels to power the few necessities that require it, etc.

mowens's avatar

Wikipedia. That’s creditable. I have a non creditable article debunking it. Here you go.
http://peakoildebunked.blogspot.com/

RandomMrdan's avatar

Educate yourselves, there is so much information on the impacts this will have… If we had been given 50 years notice, we may have been able to do something about it. But we don’t have 50, we might have 10. And I forsee some very very bleak times ahead for any industrialized nation that depends on oil.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@mowens more credible than some guys blog.

mowens's avatar

@RandomMrdan Wiki is just a collective blog.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

This is known, there isn’t anymore oil deposits being made ( 300 million years ago Cambrian is gone). There are substitutes and those will have to be developed to replace out of the ground petroleum. Buckminster Fuller use to say that a gallon of petroleum was worth $1,000,000 and that was 70 years ago.

zenvelo's avatar

Back in 1974 I took a course on “Economics of Contemporary Issues”, a wonderful course that the professor kept up date with the current news. At that time the Arab oil embargo had brought scarcity to US oil reserves, and the price of gasoline got up towards 39 cents a gallon.

What was pointed out was that as the price of oil rose, we would never run out, it just gets more expensive. And it is not cataclysmic because alternative fuels become relatively inexpensive to oil. It is pure economics.

There is still a lot of oil, but it is very expensive to get to, and very damaging to the environment to extract.

mowens's avatar

@zenvelo Agreed. Someone will find an alternative as soon as it makes economic sense.

mowens's avatar

@RandomMrdan Read what “That guys blog” says. He sites sources.

mowens's avatar

@RandomMrdan I’ve read both. Still don’t think the world is going to end.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@mowens I didn’t say the world would end. I just said the way we live our lives would. We’ll live simple lives. You can rest all your hopes and dreams on someone coming up with a sure fire way to replace oil, which may never come. But when oil production begins to drop, we could see economies start to fail. We are already seeing things like this happen in countries, and several states here close to home.

http://freedomarizona.wordpress.com/2009/01/30/46-of-50-states-could-file-bankruptcy-in-2009-2010/ 46 of 50? I realize the article was posted two years ago, but still… it illustrates my point.

WasCy's avatar

I wish I could find the reference, but there was a good TED talk on this topic last year.

The idea of “peak oil” doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re ‘running out’ of oil. The thrust of the talk was that there have been ages in mankind’s history of “peak stone”, “peak bronze”, “peak iron” and “peak wood” (I might be making up that last one). But you get the idea. It’s not that we have run out of stone, bronze, iron or wood, but we’ve found better materials to make the things we used those raw materials for. (For one example, we hit “peak whale oil” late in the 19th century.)

So we’re hitting “peak oil”, but we haven’t even made a very good start on the curve of “peak nuclear”, for example. We certainly haven’t hit “peak electricity” (which means that we probably also haven’t hit “peak coal”).

But I would caution you against one potentially overly optimistic assumption: just because we run out of one commodity (if we do ‘run out’ of affordable petroleum) doesn’t necessarily mean that “we will find” a replacement. Oh, I expect that we will; I’m optimistic about human ingenuity. But it’s not automatic.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@WasCy

Coal peak – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_coal

Natural Gas peak – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_gas

coal is expected to peak about the same time as oil, and natural gas has been in decline since 1960.

mowens's avatar

@RandomMrdan You told me earlier today that people would be killing each other for food.

That won’t happen.

I’ll bet you a days worth of food. in 2021, if we can still go to McDonald’s and buy food, you owe me a days worth of food. Deal? There are already alternative forms of energy being harnessed. There is a guy who figured out how to get extremely hot flame from SALT WATER. The most abundant resource on the planet. I think this is the video, I cant watch youtube here.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=l13mWDcrqUw

Did you hear this on Coast to Coast, out of curiosity? The show I call the crazy people?

@WasCy Good point. The resources we used before oil became obsolete.

mowens's avatar

Oh it should be noted that @RandomMrdan and I know each other in real life.

RandomMrdan's avatar

I’ll take that bet Mike. I somehow doubt by the way that our future cars are going to run on salt water… just a hunch. Not to mention, oil is still required to actually build the car.

bkcunningham's avatar

@mowens two good references, both books, one from each side of the issue. 1)Peter Huber: The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, The Virtue of Waste and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy and 2)Jonathan Koomey’s work, including a co-authored book: Winning the Oil End Game.

Here’s an excellent discussion/debate between the two men:

http://www.hoover.org/multimedia/uncommon-knowledge/27086

RandomMrdan's avatar

Sadly, I’m not sure most people are really realizing the effect a big decline in oil production is going to have on a global scale. I feel so certain of it. With population increasing, and demand increasing in countries like China, and India, and the rate they’re buying cars.

WasCy's avatar

@RandomMrdan I think the projections for “peak coal” are seriously underestimated. The Chinese, for example, are commissioning (starting up) new coal-fired power boilers at an average rate of about one per week. They won’t be planning to run those on Soylent Green in ten years.

zenvelo's avatar

T. Boone Pickens has a plan, using known natural gas reserves, to end our dependence on foreign oil. It is actually a sound idea! And in his time line would take only two to three years to convert the United States.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@WasCy it actually said in the article that is varies greatly. but was expected between 2010–2048

wundayatta's avatar

There’s always conservation, too. As other energy sources get more and more expensive, people will make do with less. Either they will improve the efficiency of their use of the energy source, or they will just do without.

Also, we can grow our own oil from any number of crops.

RandomMrdan's avatar

Does anyone remember the rolling blackouts in the summer of 2003 on the east coast? I’d imagine it’ll be something like that when our factories aren’t getting enough oil or natural gas.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@wundayatta you have to be careful about the whole growing oil from our crops sort of thing, it goes back to a Return on investment. Crops require pesticides, which requires natural gases, and all that harvesting requires machinery, which requires oil, it’s this never ending process. But, if the ROI is positive, I guess we could do it.

mowens's avatar

@RandomMrdan We agree that it is a problem. We disagree how large of a problem it is, and how soon it will become prominent in our daily lives.

mowens's avatar

@RandomMrdan I also agree it is a much larger problem for people who don’t live in the midwest, near the great lakes.

RandomMrdan's avatar

I read somewhere that in 150 years, we’ve consumed 1 Trillion barrels of oil, and are expected to consume that same amount in less than 30. We’re reaching an exponential part of all of this, and people seem to think it’ll keep going. We’re stuck in this fantasy, that I honestly think will start to dwindle away pretty quick sometime in about 10 years or less.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@mowens I should also note, that a lot of these theories about peak oil, are mathematically created, and account for possible new findings. increase in population, as well as possible drilling offshore, and in the arctic. Which would lead me to believe they’re pretty accurate.

mowens's avatar

What about Abiotic Oil?

wundayatta's avatar

@RandomMrdan From what I’ve heard there’s a weed—maybe even weed, itself—that grows like a weed and can produce oil. But your point is well-taken. We hear all kinds of proposals, but how many of them are proven?

RandomMrdan's avatar

@mowens

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenic_petroleum_origin – apparently it’s not supported by most geologists and isn’t really a viable replacement. Nor is it abundant enough to replace oil commercially.

RandomMrAdam's avatar

@RandomMrdan
Most people who disagree with you feel that oil will last forever. They suggest alternatives that are hardly proven and when they are dismissed, they brush it off and say ‘Oil is unlimited – we’ll never run out” so it’s not even a point to try and convince the non-believers. I do feel that it is ignorant to think that a resource will last forever. It amazes me how willing people are to ignore the realities of simple arithmetic and assume that technology will save us all.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@RandomMrAdam Yeah, the problem is, everyone is resting their hopes in a technology not founded, and may never be found to replace oil. And even if it were, the question becomes, how to implement the solution in time to save the economies of the world currently depending on oil.

Also… why are middle eastern countries drilling off shore, when we know the return on investment for offshore drilling isn’t nearly as good as on shore? It would appear as though on shore drilling is about all done. It won’t be long until we’re in a resource war over the last remaining oil in the world… Which reminds me..

Why are we in Iraq, and which middle eastern country are we going to invade next in the name of terrorism (oil)?

RandomMrdan's avatar

I think the peak has come and gone, and we’re just now beginning to fight over what’s left.

cockswain's avatar

Another user recently told me about Green River Basin, which is an oil shale field. My knowledge of extracting oil from oil shale is pretty limited, but I’ve heard it’s gaining traction rapidly. Anyways, there is apparently a few hundred years worth of oil there, in the US.

But this does nothing to address the climate problems associated with burning oil.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@cockswain The energy it takes to extract oil from shale is crazy. Skip to the bottom of this link to economics. It all comes back to return on investment. Not to mention the effects on the surrounding environments it’s being extracted from.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shale_oil_extraction

cockswain's avatar

Hmmm, maybe it was a report about getting natural gas out of rock I’m confusing with oil shale. I’m certainly not knowledgeable about either to take an informed stance.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@cockswain It’s okay, I’m no expert, I’m merely just repeating what I’ve been reading, and what I’ve been watching…. It sounds to me like people should stop waiting on a fix, and start working on becoming self sustaining before it’s too late. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, but as the saying goes, “hope for the best, plan for the worst”

cockswain's avatar

I’m with you 100% on that one.

meiosis's avatar

According to the CIA website, as of 2010 proved oil reserves are around 1.4 trillion barrels (which is roughly 222 billion cubic meters). If the rest of the world started to consume oil at the same rate per capita as the United States (23 barrels per year), we would run out in a little over 9 years. That isn’t going to happen, of course, but at the present rate of 4.5 barrels per person per year it will still only last 45 years. Th

The problem with the “the market will provide a solution” is that we’re up against some pretty thorny problems with physics, and that time is most certainly running out for relatively cheap oil. Invest heavily in R&D into alternative energy sources by all means, but we also need to invest in the idea of reduced consumption.

(and, btw, Peak Oil most definitely does exist, at least in England’s Peak Distict)

mattbrowne's avatar

@mowens – I do have faith in capitalism too. Demand will lead to a barrel of oil costing $250 and more. All of us will experience this. It’s just a matter of time. At this point extracting oil from micro algae farms will cost less than $250 per barrel of algae oil. But this still means a lot of people won’t be able to afford an airline ticket. I think it’s better to save as much crude oil as possible, because we need it most for long-distance flights. The US needs a bullet train system to eliminate short-distance flights. This will take a decade to build. The sooner the better. Car engines need to get even more fuel efficient. And we don’t know whether lithium batteries is the longterm solution.

So even today, we should treat crude oil as a precious resource. Not to be wasted.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@meiosis Totally agreed. 45 years until it runs out sounds like it will last a long time… but a comparable thought I read goes a little like this.

Consider a human man weighting roughly 200lbs, in his body, consists of about 140lbs of water. You don’t need to run out of all 140lbs of water to start to feel the effects of what it will do to you, or even die. Maybe a loss of 10–15% could have dangerous effects. It was compared to think of fossil fuels in the same regard to how we live our daily lives.

Conservation needs to happen, but I just don’t see people taking it serious quite honestly. Ask someone about it, and they’ll probably say something to the effect of, “well, it won’t happen in my lifetime, so I’m not going to worry about it” But I think they’re wrong.

@mattbrowne leading back to some of my previous points on, Energy invested vs Energy obtained, how viable do you think algae is? And do you think it could even replace oil on a commercially distributed basis?

flutherother's avatar

Calculating the date of peak oil is complex and subject to debate but there is no debate that it will happen. Our way of life in the West has developed around the availability of cheap oil, a resource which is declining and will become increasingly expensive. Imagining that everything is OK because the ‘markets’ will provide a solution is irrational magic thinking. If we are sensible we will start planning a smooth transition to a post cheap oil economy now. As @mattbrowne says oil is a very valuable resource and we are wasting it as we are wasting time.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@mattbrowne I looked up the financial viability of algae just now on Wiki… not sure how accurate it is… but sounds bad, it would be comparable to oil prices at $800/barrel

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algae_fuel#Investment_and_economic_viability

at the bottom, Investment and economic viability

basstrom188's avatar

Peak oil may a long way off and may never happen especially if the demand for oil drops off with the increasing use of other energy sources. What is happening is the era of cheap oil as the deposits become more difficult to work. Personally I think you in the US and some other countries pay too little for this precious and unique resource.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Just for the record I’m one of the guys growing energy crops: genetically modified switchgrass and sorghum.
By the end of next month we will know our yield per acre. It looks about 600 gal oil eqiv. per acre.

tranquilsea's avatar

I researched this to death about 4 years ago and came to the conclusion that we are peaking out. Why else would we be ringing oil out of sand or even thinking about pounding out of shale?

The way our society runs will be dramatically impacted once oil reaches $150 a barrel.

But is the way we run our societies even worth saving?

cockswain's avatar

@tranquilsea I’m curious why you’re picking the number $150/barrel. Is that something your research showed you as a significant point, or is it an arbitrary number you’re using?

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

tranquilsea's avatar

Not arbitrary and not my own number. I cannot find my original sources but that was the mark where shipping goods start to become unsustainable.

Our distribution systems have been altered so much over the last 50 years that getting food locally for large numbers of people is impossible, or rather, enormously difficult.

I read everything I could possibly read at that time. I think I spent some two weeks getting through it all. It was quite depressing.

iamthemob's avatar

I think @flutherother‘s point regarding the date determination is an important one – and I think it makes a focus on peak oil problematic from a policy perspective.

Most of us, and when combined societies in general, are notoriously bad at accurately incorporating future costs into our present concerns. Peak oil discussions often sound dangerously “apocalyptic” when attempting to emphasize the problem – and if they honestly portray the difficulties of truly determining the risk are likely to be discounted.

The real problem I have with peak oil rhetoric is that it ends up in a discussion of “replacing” oil as a fuel source. So we have the other side saying nothing can replace oil – which is totally right. We really need to mold the argument into a multi-pronged energy development attack that probably includes (1) an increased focus on exploiting our domestic oil production, despite the environmental fallout, (2) a reduced critique of nuclear energy development, and (3) policies designed to increase investment in “greening” infrastructure along with local changes to our behavior (conserve energy, city rooftop gardens, etc.).

Putting forward anything as a solution to the issue will be, and rightfully, critiqued as a red herring – focus on one distracts from investment in all sectors.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@tranquilsea Since you’ve come to the conclusion that we are peaking out, and came to that 4 years ago, what have you done to prepare for it?

tranquilsea's avatar

There’s not much I can do as I live in a city. My sister moved somewhere where she could grow her own vegetables and extended the invitation for the family to live with her there should things get bad.

But it is my belief that sooner or later local governments will have to start planning, or reacting, to what needs to be done.

I don’t feel all apocalyptic about it. Our shared human history spans eons of time where oil was not in use. I have faith that we will work it out.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@tranquilsea it’s true that we as humans have made it a long ways. But it would appear as though, the population we’re currently at, is mostly dependent on how industrialized we are, and the ease of access to products and goods.

It seems to me they are linked. If you take away that access to goods, and services, etc, and industries failed in keeping up in production to meet demands that the population would decrease as rapidly as it increased?

tranquilsea's avatar

@RandomMrdan “population would decrease as rapidly as it increased?”

Perhaps it would. I think what would really change is the size of our cities. Cities really depend on being able to get goods from far and wide. City sizes would shrink to a level that was manageable locally.

People will need to start specializing in ways of old as machinery definitely needs oil.

For some eye opening documentaries you could try watching “End of Suburbia” and “A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash”.

mowens's avatar

Suburbia will never die. It will just get more expensive to live there.

iamthemob's avatar

@RandomMrdan, @tranquilsea – I believe that if we were unable to produce in a manner sufficient to maintain current city/general populations, then the population would shrink. Of course, that depends on a couple of things:

(1) an inability for the populations to settle for less in the way of commodities – i.e., if we transfer production to more necessities and less commercial products, then we don’t necessarily reduce the production sector, and people are just not able to have four televisions, six cars, etc. – just one of each.

(2) an inability for the commercial sectors to find renewable or sustainable methods to produce their goods.

RandomMrdan's avatar

Everyone should watch this video. It’s very insightful. And the video is very new, just this past January.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeRTCepmkqQ

flutherother's avatar

@RandomMrdan Thanks for the video, very interesting and all too true.

WasCy's avatar

Meh. Not a bit “insightful”. So much of what he says is simple tautology: “the first extracted minerals cost less because they’re easier to extract” and “as soon as we’ve used the stuff we have on hand it gets more expensive to get more of it”. So what? That’s the story of history, of economics and technology. That is history and always will be. It’s just Malthusianism dressed up in modern professorial rhetoric and delivered by a guy who seems educated.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@WasCy I’m sorry, but a lot of what he said in that video makes sense to me. If deep sea drilling (among other ideas to extract fossil fuels) requires a lot of energy to extract, and the energy you’re getting doesn’t make it worth it, then where are the rest of these places we plan to get fuel?

It would be like, I’m on a full tank of gas, and I need to get more, but the distance I have to travel to get to a gas station takes up ½ of my tank of gas. I only net a half tank of gas. It wouldn’t make much since for me to drive that far just to get the gas.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, right now oil based on micro algae is about $800 per barrel. Remember the cost of the first CD-R? Compare it to what it costs now.

I’m talking about 2015 – 2020. There are algae species which are 60% oil and which require saltwater, nutrients and sunshine. And there’s plenty of CO2 in the atmosphere. Too much, in fact. So there’s no competition with food production and freshwater resources. We will still have saltwater in 2050 and sunshine in 2050. Crude oil is sunshine from 300 million years ago. Accessing it will become more expensive.

Why don’t we use the Egyptian desert. Big time. This would create thousands of jobs for all the Egyptian academics. We could use their intelligence and creativity instead of having them sell fruits or sweep floors. And then there’s also Desertec and solar thermal.

Same thing in Mexico. Plenty of sunshine. Mexicans won’t have a reason to cross the border illegally. Jobs needs to be created in Mexico.

WasCy's avatar

@RandomMrdan

IF deep sea drilling (and extraction of oil from oil shale and tar sands and from ‘depleted’ oil fields, to name some others) were a wash in terms of energy expended vs. energy gained, then no one would do it (at least “for energy”, although the oil itself also has other properties that make it desirable for other purposes). Obviously, the fact that these forms of energy extraction are being undertaken means that there is a net positive value in the process. Yes, the cost rises because it is more expensive to reach farther and deeper for the product. And that means that “the price of energy” rises to that level, because that is now the new baseline cost. (Why would the Saudis sell oil at near their cost of $10 per barrel to extract if the rest of the world is willing to pay $90 for oil from deep water drilling?) If the selling price for “the deepest barrel” didn’t cover the cost of extraction, with a suitable profit, then again, the thing wouldn’t be done for economic reasons.

The video incorrectly made it seem that the extraction costs and energy expended make it a losing proposition to find and get that petroleum. It assuredly is not – but the price does go up; that much is true.

4m6in3's avatar

Eight Botched Environmental Forecasts

Google Ngram – End of cheap Oil since 1950, which was much more frequent in the 1970s and 1980s than today.

cockswain's avatar

@4m6in3 I’d be very careful what you take from anything from Fox News.

4m6in3's avatar

What exactly is the problem with what they’re publishing? They’re just compiling information from various existing sources. The information is verifiable through the original source which they’re providing.

cockswain's avatar

I believe their motivation for publishing some false forecasts is part of their agenda to discredit the entire phenomena of climate change and its dire effects.

4m6in3's avatar

If they would be publishing false forecasts, why would they be providing links to scientific and statistical data from organizations like NASA?

cockswain's avatar

I’m not arguing they are bad forecasts. But what is their purpose of selecting the bad predictions?

4m6in3's avatar

To demonstrate how easily predictions can get carried away. All the predictions turned out to be false. Why should we assume peak oil will be any different?

tranquilsea's avatar

@4m6in3 Would you agree that oil is a finite resource?

cockswain's avatar

Yes, when lots of forecasts are made, some percent will be false. But a few false predictions does not actually undermine all of climate change data and theory.

So it is illogical to assert that since some false predictions have been made about climate change, therefore predictions about other fields (in this case peak oil) would also be false.

At best, you could say “there may be false predictions about peak oil.” And I doubt anyone would take issue with that.

4m6in3's avatar

@tranquilsea,

Is there evidence that claims oil is a finite resource?

@cockswain,

These were not a few simple predictions. These were global predictions on a magnitude scale, and they were all false. Likewise, as you can see in the Ngram, and other historical data, the predictions of oil date back 100 years. If anything, we’re far overdue on the oil peak, but you’re right, it can go either way. You can see a pattern though, if global catastrophic predictions wound up a fallacy, then I think the trend in oil is no different. Just to point out, according to more predictions, we’re overdue on a lot of the volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc…

tranquilsea's avatar

@4m6in3 but volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis are not an integral part of our society. Oil is.

4m6in3's avatar

@tranquilsea,

If these volcanoes actually erupt as they were predicted, you won’t have a society period.

iamthemob's avatar

@4m6in3

Petroleum according to all available evidence comes from fossilized biomass.

Unless there is an infinite amount of biomass, there must be a finite amount of oil.

Whether or not it is arguably finite or infinite is less important than whether or not it is renewable. Because of the amount of time and the limited amount of biomass necessary for it to be created, oil is non-renewable.

4m6in3's avatar

If whether or not biomass is arguably finite or infinite, then how come you say limited amount of biomass necessary for it to be created” ? It may/may not be limited, therefore, it may/may not be renewable.

iamthemob's avatar

Anything is possible. But with our current technology, it is non-renewable.

Although feasible that maybe we’ll be able to create an infinite amount of biomass or synthesize oil in some way without it, that’s more along the lines of science fiction than science.

We may have warp speed at sometime too, as well as super-effective teleportation. But I’ll bank on the more predictable results than the fantastic possibilities.

meiosis's avatar

@4m6in3 The Google Ngram you linked only goes up to 2000. It looks quite a bit different, and totally ruins your point, if you do the same search up to 2011

incendiary_dan's avatar

I can’t believe I didn’t see this originally.

I’ve only read through quickly, but has anyone discussed the role of growth economies in this? Particularly the idea of constant growth? The reason any civilization goes through some sort of peak moment and possible collapse because of it is because they expand beyond their energy capabilities due to constant growth. The “peak wood” that @WasCy mentioned (and in fact didn’t make up), was a huge problem in pre-Dickensian England, which is why so much are and literature during his period talked about the sooty city of London; they had switched to coal on a grand scale. Mesopotamia used to be lush fields and forests of cedar so thick light never touched the ground. They degraded their soil, and could no longer support their people. Same with numerous other historical empires. Peak oil has a huge danger of becoming peak soil, since it was petrochemicals that basically covered up the Dustbowl, and we still don’t have functional prairies there again. Some states are already experiencing conditions eerily similar to the Dustbowl. Many have speculated that we’re on the verge of food crisis because of this.

Peak oil is a condition within a larger cycle: peak everything. I don’t think the answer lies in thinking up new energy sources; energy on this planet is finite and set by the sun, and we just have to figure out ways to live that don’t use energy faster than it’s made, keep/build topsoil and biodiversity, and don’t expand beyond the land’s carrying capacity. If we just keep using more energy at the expense of the ecosystem(s) (and even algae biomass does that if you produce it on too big of a scale), we’ll just worsen our overshoot. One of the huge reasons indigenous people worldwide have historically valued and continue to value natural family planning methods is because it has allowed them to maintain relatively stable populations. Between that and learning to grow our food sustainably using methods like permaculture we might just be able to transition to something sustainable without the collapse being too hard on us.

tranquilsea's avatar

@incendiary_dan I have done a great deal of research into the peaking of many resources. Soil erosion is a topic that is given very little exposure in the media and is quite scary when you start looking, even shallowly, at the research.

iamthemob's avatar

@incendiary_dan

“Peak oil is a condition within a larger cycle: peak everything.”

Brilliantly stated. I think that we forget that natural resources work much like the market – in a supply-and-demand sense. We cycle through resources in a manner where there is rarely no “objective” peak or trough of anything, but rather such a thing in terms of how it relates to another factor.

laureth's avatar

Here’s another relevant article from today:

$4 Gas: Get Used To It

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