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The Forum > Article Comments > Peak oil and an economic recovery > Comments

Peak oil and an economic recovery : Comments

By Mike Pope, published 15/9/2009

The cost of continued dependence on fossil fuels will see world economies in increasing strife by 2015.

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Mike Pope's article serves to highlight the significance of the push to 'privatise' electricity generation, distribution, and retailing that seems to pervade at State and Federal government level, and across the political divide, throughout Australia.

'Big Oil', without enough crude to meet demand, disregarding the effects of escalating prices maybe temporarily improving its bottom line, is facing the prospect of going out of business unless it can diversify into other means of energy supply. Nowhere would this be better known than within 'Big Oil' itself.

Far from being a problem, the prospect of a significant part of transportation being converted to electric propulsion is either a massive business opportunity for, or a major threat to, 'Big Oil' interests to the extent that they are able, or unable, to either diversify into, or alternatively in some way hold back, existing electricity suppliers from capitalizing on this business opportunity. Even at today's prices for oil and electricity in Australia, it is largely only the absence of a mass market for after-market electric vehicle propulsion kits and widely distributed rapid recharge point infrastructure that prevents transportation oil consumers from making significant savings.

The establishment of such a mass market for conversion to electric propulsion, with all its economies of scale, could well be established by governmental initiative in a manner not much different to how it would mobilize industry in a time of war in the national interest.

It makes one wonder whether it may be an inconvenient truth that 'Big Oil', knowing earlier and in more detail what was coming, has paid for all the hype about the evils of coal just to hold back its existing competition until it can con its way into world-wide control of alternative energy supply.

For example, could the push to see Kores be granted coal mining rights adjacent to some of NSW's power stations have, as an intended side-effect, the foreshortening of the continued viability of those publicly owned electricity generating assets? Has nobody thought we might need that coal for our own future electricity requirements?

Oops, forgot AGW.
Posted by Forrest Gumpp, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 9:42:00 AM
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In my opinion most Australians won't take to electric cars. Even at the sacrifice of power they want cars with room and range. Therefore I predict a shift to compressed natural gas (CNG) when petroleum based fuels become unaffordable. Our politicians are crowing about LNG sales from Gorgon and elsewhere which is supplying the rest of the world with petrol equivalent fuel at about 40c per litre. Will Australians get such cheap fuel in 2015? The other problem is how to charge electric cars without burning fossil more fuels. Using irregular renewable energy would require elaborate monitoring devices with variable electricity pricing.

I fear that high fuel prices will arrive suddenly and catch us unprepared. A study needs to be made of the energy outlook for the next twenty years that shows how coal, gas, oil and nonfossil energy will contribute to the energy mix, both for transport and electrical generation. Repeat that exercise under a tough CO2 cap not the feeble cap actually proposed. Incidentally these 'major' oil discoveries off Brazil and elsewhere represent just a few weeks additional world supplies when they come online ten years from now.
Posted by Taswegian, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 10:04:58 AM
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Mike Pope's article is the latest in a series about peak oil but his timing is way off. In fact the oil industry is being turned upside down by the discovery of big fields - announced recently by both Esso and the Brazilian Government - at depths (10kms) far below where the current theory of oil creation say they should be. These are billion barrel fields decades after the last are supposed to have been discovered, and in the wrong places. Forget peak oil, what is going on?
also to talk about energy scarcity in the same week they sign the Gorgon gas deal would seem to be ridiculous.
Posted by Curmudgeon, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 11:20:26 AM
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Curmudgeon you're funny!

Yep there might have been big finds off the coast of Mexico. But have you done the math? Even if they are as good as advertise (which is often doubtful) they're not even a SKID MARK on the side of the oil depletion curve. See here...

"The Tiber discovery, which could hold more than 3 billion barrels of
oil equivalent, follows another massive nearby find in the Kaskida
field in 2006. If both are developed, they could boost BP's output in
the Gulf to around 650,000 barrels of oil equivalent day during the
next 15 years...."

Ooops. An increase of 200k barrels a day doesn't quite cover the MILLION BARRELS a day increase we will need in 2010. And 2011. And every year after that as India and China's demand growth increases! Peak oil gone because they've "found some more"? Always do the math!

However, unlike Taswegian and others above, I'm VERY optimistic about our ability to adapt to Electric Vehicles.

"Better Place" is a company creating international standards for all-electric vehicle battery-swaps. The 2 challenges preventing mass electric adoption have been:
1. the cost of buying expensive new batteries every 3 or 4 years
2. the fact that long trips are not possible and charging at garages takes too long.

The Better Place business model solves both these problems. You buy the car, they own the battery. Simple! So as well as charging up while parked (which is most of the time), you can always do a battery-swap in an emergency. The battery swap station is fully automated and only takes 40 seconds. Video here.

They sell you kilometres, not oil. In a few years "Moore's law" with batteries may make them so cheap you'll sign a price per km plan for 6 years and they'll give you the car for free!
Posted by Eclipse Now, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 11:35:29 AM
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Eclipse Now - nope, sorry the finds are extremely signifcant and you've missed the point entirely. Those fields shouldn't be there! They are far too deep for the current theory of oil formation. They are far too deep to be compressed beds of organic material - peat beds and such - that have been converted into oil by pressure and migrated up until they've reached a cap ect. And those fields have been discovered decades after the last billion barrel plus fields are supposed to have been found.
In fact the oil industry may have to face the possiblity that all their previous theories and forecasts have to be thrown out of the window entirely.
Never mind burbling about peak oil. What's going on? Long-term energy forecasts are a waste of time until geologists work out what is happening.
Posted by Curmudgeon, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 5:37:36 PM
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Evidence? Any links to peer reviewed work that explains why this is so revolutionary? What depths... the depths of the ocean or the earth's crust beneath the ocean? I think you've got a bit more work to do to prove that this one smallish field is actually going to totally reinvent oil geological theory! Such grand claims for such a relatively insignificant find are making you sound trollish (and the lack of reference to authoritative references is also suspect!) But if making grand claims without evidence amuses you, go ahead, just don't expect to be taken seriously.

In the meantime those countries that are already past their peak continue to decline (like yours truly, Australia, down to less than half our 2000 peak) and we are having more and more trouble producing enough oil just to compensate for the declining production LET ALONE finding new oil for new demand!

As for the Tiber find, not only is it too little, it will also be too late. The world may be at peak oil now, and so when does Tiber come online?

" But experts said it could be a decade or more before BP begins pumping oil from the field, given the technical hurdles and huge costs involved with operating in the harsh environment.

I would say 2020 would be a good target [for producing Tiber], said Matt Pickard, analyst with Quest Offshore Resources, a Sugar Land company that studies deep-water oil discoveries.

The same may be true for other high-profile Lower Tertiary discoveries [in the Gulf of Mexico] in recent years, including Chevron Corp.s Jack field. Three years ago at Jack, an industry-first well test confirmed that the trend contains a vast quantity of oil and that it can be brought to the surface.

That's 10 years after 2010, so that's another 10 million barrels of NEW oil we have to find! Tiber's 200thousand barrels is simply irrelevant.
Posted by Eclipse Now, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 5:58:13 PM
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