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View from the Peak
Jamais Cascio, 18 Mar 05

Peak Oil -- Hubbard's Peak -- Peak Energy -- no matter what you call it, the notion that we will be at maximum oil production far sooner than anyone thought has caught fire of late, with a series of reports popping up in the industrial, environmental, and mainstream press. Some of these have been triggered by crude oil prices once again popping up above $55/barrel, flirting with an absolute record price (although still nowhere close to 1980's dollar-adjusted price of above $80/barrel). But the biggest peak oil news has to be the report coming from the analysts at John S. Herold, Inc., a respected independent energy industry research group, which made predictions of when various oil companies would see peak production.

Salon has a good story on Herold's report (subscription or advertisement views required), and it's sobering reading.

Since last fall, Herold has done peak estimates on about two dozen oil companies. Herold believes that the French oil company, Total S.A., will reach its peak production in 2007. Herold expects 2008 to be critical, with Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., BP, Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and the Italian producer, Eni S.p.A., all hitting their peaks. In 2009, Herold expects ChevronTexaco Corp. to peak. In Herold's view, each of the world's seven largest publicly traded oil companies will begin seeing production declines within the next 48 months or so.

Executive vice president Richard Gordon, who heads Herold's global strategies team, says the firm's goal in doing peak-production estimates for individual oil companies is simple: "If the dinosaurs are going extinct, we are trying to figure out which ones are going to go extinct the soonest."

Add increased demand for petroleum from rapidly-developing China and India to the possibility of imminent limits on production and you have, to put it mildly, a sticky situation.

Treehugger wrote an excellent introduction to the complexities of the peak oil concept. Energy Bulletin, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas, and the Peak Energy Blog are good daily resources for energy and oil industry news, with a focus on the question of peak production. The current flurry of attention will undoubtedly fade, but this is an issue definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Do any of you have favorite oil and energy information websites?

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Comments

Do any of you have favorite oil and energy information websites?

You're kidding, right? I live for this stuff. :)

It would be nice as you folks transition Worldchanging if you'd develop a nice reference section for things just like this. We all have our own areas of interest and relative expertise, so it would be nice to put that all together for people to do their own research and whatnot.

Good starting points for energy might be the American Petroleum Institute website.
http://api-ec.api.org/newsplashpage/index.cfm

If you can filter their bias, it's actually got a lot of good information.

RMI, as you know, is fantastic in its coverage of energy issues, especially applicable for Worldchangers.
http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid17.php

Oak Ridge National Lab puts out an annual report called the "Transportation Energy Data Book", which consolidates a lot of data about the relationship between - you guessed it - transportation and energy.
http://cta.ornl.gov/data/index.shtml

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory has some interesting things. It's best to start with the Energy Analysis Department, but you can find other areas they cover from their website index, too.
http://eetd.lbl.gov/EA.html

The "Statistical Abstract of the United States" is a solid compendium of energy statistics and a great jumping off point to figure out who produces what data (see their source notes at the bottom of each table or chart).
http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/04statab/energy.pdf (note: big PDF file)

For comprehensive information about renewable energy, CREST (no, not the toothpaste) is a great resource.
http://www.crest.org/

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is a great resource if you need to find out about which specific models of products are the most energy efficient. They also publish guides to home energy savings and whatnot.
http://www.aceee.org/consumer/consumer.htm

You have of course referenced the Energy Information Administration website (part of the Department of Energy). That's got a huge amount of data on energy, though it's pretty difficult trying to find what you're looking for. It *used* to be much easier to navigate a little over 4 years ago, and I'll leave it at that. Oh, and their homepage is java-heavy, so if you want to avoid that, use the following link to use text menus instead.
http://eia.doe.gov/indexnjava.html

The EIA's "Monthly Energy Review", "Annual Energy Review", and "International Energy Annual" are the best starting points if you want to dig in to their data.
http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/mer/contents.html
http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/contents.html
http://www.eia.doe.gov/iea/contents.html

The DOE and the EPA have a very useful site for fuel economy ratings, emissions, new technologies, alternative fuels, and more. They even have fuel economy ratings for vehicles going back to 1978. It's a very useful, user-friendly, and educational website.
http://www.fueleconomy.gov/

Real Goods (now a part of Gaiam, I think) is a great resource for information on energy, as well as how it relates to land, shelter, water, etc. Their homepage (http://www.realgoods.com/) takes you to their catalog, but if you're doing specific research, their section on "Solar and Eco Information" is the most useful.
http://www.solareco.com/index.cfm

Metaefficient is also pretty interesting, and it seems you at least used to have a relationship with that site. It's basically a hipper, more comprehensive version of the ACEEE's work.
http://www.metaefficient.com/

That's just what comes off the top of my head for now. Let me know if you end up making a permanent reference section for transportation and energy, as I'd be more than happy to put together links for you.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 18 Mar 05

Our friends at Green Car Congress have been puting out a lot of good stories. Their "oil" tag groups them together pretty well:

http://www.greencarcongress.com/oil/index.html

They have good graphs, maybe that's what makes it easy for me ;-)

It was really two of their stories, coming on November 1st and 2nd of last year that convinced me that this might be real:

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2004/11/syrian_oil_prod.html
http://www.greencarcongress.com/2004/11/oman_looks_to_h.html

Spooky to see countries that far apart fall together.


Posted by: odograph on 18 Mar 05

Good question! Joseph - thanks for those links, I've added a few to our list here:

http://www.altenergyaction.org/mambo/index.php?option=com_weblinks&catid=12&Itemid=4

Sites I've found useful that haven't been mentioned yet:
Simmons & Company - energy investment bankers:
http://www.simmonsco-intl.com/

The Institute for Lifecycle Environmental Assessment:
http://www.ilea.org/

International Solar Energy Society:
http://www.ises.org/

Union of Concerned Scientists on Energy:
http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/


Posted by: Arthur Smith on 18 Mar 05

Peak oil isnt as bad as many fear... for america mainly because of a few very important factors.

1 We still have a large margin between the milage of cars we currently own and what we can afford to buy within next 5 years.

2 We still have a massive slush zone of non vital driving we can curtail as prices rise. Mnay other places dont have such a slush zone.

3 We have "easy" access to several mitigating sources of fuel we can use before things get bad.
a The alaskan wildlife refuge wich can handle 10% of current needs and of course a larger percentage of needs after gas prices force people to stop partyin all night long as it were.
b california and florida oil resources. In a dire emergency we WILL exploit those. If the world starts going to heck in a handbasket we have those in reserve.
c Alcohol. We already use a fair amount in gas and very likely will soon double it.
d Hydrogen. You may not belive it but when push comes to shove and fuel runs low the ability to smack down a solar station and generate x amount of fuel per year will be good even if the investment cost is huge. Same with wind and wave and yes nuke powered sources.
e batteries have JUST gotten close enough to allow for alot more cars to go totaly battery powered if need be..
f Hybrid cars and fuel cell cars are a vital step toward SELLABLE mass makable battery cars.
g we have more then enough coal to turn to gas.. yes not cheaply but cheap enough to keep ahead of the tide.

Much of the rest of the world isnt so lucky. Yes it will cause a depression here but thats far beytter then what it can and likely will do to europe and africa and asia.


Posted by: wintermane on 18 Mar 05

One more very good resource are the message boards at peakoil.com where people discuss scenario's and way's to "survive" the coming problems.
Peak Oil is very good to think.


Posted by: Lorenzo on 19 Mar 05

There's an online petition about peak oil, launched by the "Citizens Committee on Oil Peak And Decline".
Sign it if you think we have the right to more transparency about the future of our energy.

http://www.copad.org/


Posted by: Lorenzo on 19 Mar 05

The peak oil hypothesis is really sort of dependant on oil actually being a 'fossil' fuel, that is, derived from biomass. There's some evidence that oil is, in fact, abiotic in origin, produced by natural processes at depths of 100+ km. The Russians apparently did a lot of research on this after WWII, and their geophysicists satisfied themselves pretty thoroughly that the abiotic theory was the way to go.

There isn't actually any evidence that oil is produced by compressed biomass; in fact, theoretical research utilizing thermodynamics seems to indicate that it's highly unlikely. On the other hand, there's quite a bit of evidence for the abiotic theory. Hydrocarbons have been produced in the laboratory, through simulating the conditions found at 100 km depths. The theory also fits the observed data better, regarding phenomena such as migratory oil, replenishing wells, etc.

If the abiotic theory turns out to be right, oil is still a finite resource of course, but far less so than if the fossil fuel theory is right. While we still might run out of oil, we'll have a lot more time, enough for 'sustainable' energy technologies to mature enough that they're economically competitive.


Posted by: Matt Shultz on 21 Mar 05

Has anyone actauly tested current gasoline to see whats actauly IN IT? How much of the gas in your tank actualy came from oil? Where did the rest come from?


Posted by: wintermane on 21 Mar 05

A resource can be limited at the source, or at the sink. In other words, we may run out of atmosphere before we run out of hydrocarbons.

The more difficult issue is growth. It's not just that we may be nearing Peak Oil. It's that we're currently structured to increase our use of oil exponentially. We've been doubling our consumption of oil roughly every 20 to 25 years. That means we need to duplicate all the oil discoveries in history every 20 to 25 years. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, etc.

When exponential growth meets Peak Oil, what could be a manageable technical problem has the makings of a geopolitical upheaval. If there are "Oil Wars" they won't be about oil per se - they'll be about addiction to exponentially increasing consumption of oil. A useful distinction. Peak Oil means we've used half the known oil. That's not a crisis, unless you're structured to use up the other half in 20 to 25 years. If estimates of reserves are wildly off and there's say, twice as much oil as we think, then exponential growth uses all that in 40 to 50 years - unless we hit the atmospheric limit first.

Meanwhile, opportunities abound to increase efficiency, and there are many feasible opportunities to use renewable energy. I believe that about 90% of what we need to do about Peak Oil and climate change will demonstrably improve the quality of our lives. Maybe 10% is "sacrifice", but is it really "sacrifice" to turn away from collective suicide?


Posted by: David Foley on 21 Mar 05

It should be noted that "abiotic oil" is very much a fringe theory - so we shouldn't count on it saving our bacon with regards to peak oil (or cooking our goose by enabling endless carbon dioxide emissions).

No petroleum geologist gives this theory any credence - but the topic does come up pretty frequently. There is a good blog post here:

http://mobjectivist.blogspot.com/2005/03/thy-name-is-mud.html

And a good summary of the topic:

http://www.museletter.com/archive/150b.html


Posted by: Big Gav on 22 Mar 05



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