Was Hubbert all wrong??

By Libby Murphy

Perhaps the world is not at Peak Oil. We may still have a long way to go. That is the good and bad news of Bloomberg’s recent article titled Everything You Know About Peak Oil is Wrong.

            In college I took a seminar called “Oil”. We studied all aspects of the stuff- from the geology to the politics. We learned how John D. Rockefeller set the standards for modern capitalism through his ruthless pursuit of developing the world’s largest oil company. We spent a while studying the idea of Peak Oil.  At the time it was still a somewhat little known theory outside of the industry but has since entered the general lexicon.

        In the 1950’s, Marion King Hubbert first introduced the idea that fossil fuel production follows the shape of a bell curve. Production starts out small and then increases as demand and technology develops until it hits a peak and declines. Using this theory he correctly predicted US oil production to peak around 1970. The theory was extrapolated by Colin Cambpell who predicted a world oil production peak around 2008-2010. This estimate has been a topic of much debate. Around the time of expected peak, many regions, including the US, did witness a telling sign of Peak Oil known as the Bumpy Plateau. See, the curve of oil production does not always follow a smooth peak but rather a period of jagged ups and downs. This is thanks to the inverse relationship between demand and price: when prices go up, demand goes down, which spurs prices to drop again and demand to then increase. The cycle continues.

            This pretty much explains where my thinking was at with Peak Oil before reading this article. I believed that we were already experiencing the peak and the beginning of rising oil prices that will require harsh changes to our modern living experience. But, according to Charles Kenny, the world is not running out of oil, nor are we running out of many other mineral and metal resources that are vastly important to us. Instead, thanks to new technologies we are steadily increasing the proven reserves of oil every year.

“For every barrel of oil produced in the world from 2007 to 2009, 1.6 barrels of new reserves were added.”

          If we pursue shale gas that will open up enough to satisfy our demand for another 150 years. So why is this not a good thing? Well, there are important environmental ramifications that will accompany use of these resources. We are already on a fast track with increasing global temperatures thanks to our current use of fossil fuels. Thus, the question moves from do we have enough to we have enough but how much should we even use? After all, “the stone age didn’t end due to a lack of stones”.

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