Yet another in the seemingly endless string of cherry-picked story lines attempting to put to rest the “theory” of Peak Oil has found its way onto the internet, completely unremarkable in the talking points offered, which I’ll get to. What was most striking was not so much the uniform lack of understanding on the part of all but a handful of commenters.

The blatant, racist stupidity of several caught me completely by surprise. I didn’t think that offensive nonsense had found its way into the Peak Oil conversation, but Racist Ignorance is alive and well in this arena, unfortunately. But any forum will do, I guess….And the relevance of that conversation to Peak Oil is … what?) In this day and age, that moronic tripe still flourishes … amazing! (And of course, the continuing nonsense about the fascist-socialist-Kenyan-Muslim President out to destroy America hasn’t abated any, judging by some of the other comments.) Ironic that those who lament and fear what this nation is coming to fail to appreciate the fact that the paranoid garbage they parrot is a primary cause and symptom. Each and all of us need to be better than this. We’ll need no less in the years to come.

I probably should not be as stunned (and dismayed) as I was, given the nonsense that passes for mush of the political discourse today, but it is striking to see how many people seem utterly incapable of stepping back and considering a bit of reality, even if it is at the expense of a carefully-tended, fear-based ideology. The commentary tarnished my optimism, but only temporarily. Best not to give that ignorance any more attention….

A sampling of what that article had to offer, beginning with the almost-obligatory snarky comment passing for relevance to the discussion [my bold/italic]:

‘With only 2% of the world’s oil reserves, we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices,‘ [President Obama] said. ‘Not when we consume 20% of the world’s oil.’
The claim makes it appear as though the U.S. is an oil-barren nation, perpetually dependent on foreign oil and high prices unless we can cut our own use and develop alternative energy sources like algae.

Nice touch … bona fides duly established. But just in case there’s doubt, we start with the magic words [my bold/italic] from Page One of the Deniers’ Playbook [see this]:

[F]ar from being oil-poor, the country is awash in vast quantities — enough to meet all the country’s oil needs for hundreds of years.

And then more selective facts, without context or even a bit of accompanying, vital information to educate and inform. Only a handful of knowledgeable commenters bothered to discuss the claims and provide missing context, given that most of them were much too focused on slamming the aforementioned socialist-Muslim yadda, yadda, yadda. How does perpetuating ignorance and/or lack of understanding help in any way?

A sampling [my bold/italic]:

At least 86 billion barrels of oil in the Outer Continental Shelf yet to be discovered, according to the government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

About 24 billion barrels in shale deposits in the lower 48 states, according to EIA.

Up to 2 billion barrels of oil in shale deposits in Alaska’s North Slope, says the U.S. Geological Survey.

Up to 12 billion barrels in ANWR, according to the USGS.

As much as 19 billion barrels in the Utah tar sands, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Then, there’s the massive Green River Formation in Wyoming, which according to the USGS contains a stunning 1.4 trillion barrels of oil shale — a type of oil released from sedimentary rock after it’s heated.

When you include oil shale, the U.S. has 1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable oil, according to the Institute for Energy Research, enough to meet all U.S. oil needs for about the next 200 years, without any imports.

For starters, Chris Nelder recently offered a healthy dose of reality about shale.

Even those with no knowledge about oil production whatsoever might find some reasonable answers to these questions: How difficult might it be to find, extract, and then produce oil from near the North Pole? Think there might be an issue or two? Perhaps some weather concerns? Maybe just a bit more expensive? More difficult? Riskier? Might take a while, too.

As for “a type of oil released from sedimentary rock after it’s heated”: kerogen is not exactly the same thing as the oil we’ve all seen gushing from wells. Despite several decades of effort, it’s still not a commercially feasible enterprise. And the “after it’s heated” part is just a bit more complicated that the author bothers to explain. [See this, for example.] But inconvenient facts just get in the way….

Perhaps as remarkable as anything, however, was this statement by the author, which almost all of his commenters failed to mention or apparently even notice:

To be sure, energy companies couldn’t profitably recover all this oil — even at today’s prices — and what they could wouldn’t make it to market for years.

See … that’s kinda the whole problem with being “awash” in “vast” quantities….A bazillion barrels of anything buried underground, or in the Arctic, or otherwise not extracted by conventional means will stay right there if there’s no profit to be made. High prices might of course make some companies willing to go for it, but what wasn’t mentioned is the fact that high costs on their end means higher prices for us consumers (even the ignorant, racist ones). That’s not a good thing, and thus not especially helpful.

Telling someone that within walking distance of their home are millions and millions of dollars in local banks is all fine and well. But if that someone can’t get any of it, the amounts stop being impressive fairly quickly. Vast quantities of inferior, unconventional oil tucked away for many more decades is not any different. Impressive totals, but mostly useless to us. Those kinds of added facts would be ever-so-helpful to the many who clearly do not yet appreciate the challenges of Peak Oil.

And not making it “to market for years” … that’s kinda problematic, too. See, shocking as it is, conventional fields—the ones we’ve been tapping into for decades now—are depleting. Every day. They’re not limitless. Worldwide demand is increasing. More of those conventional crude supplies are also being kept by the producers to satisfy demands in their own countries. More for them, less for us. Easy math!

As I and others in the know point out day after day: the United States uses in the neighborhood of 18 million barrels of oil per day, about half of which we still import. Getting all of these inferior, unconventional supplies (and shale, tar sands, etc. are most definitely not the same as conventional crude) to a point where they will meet just our demands, let alone contribute to world supply, is decades away at best, if ever. And all the while, worldwide demand is still increasing and existing fields are still depleting.

These magical supplies Mr. Merline speaks of are harder to get to (thus more expensive); they require more refining (thus more expensive); their rate of production is much less than the ever-dwindling supplies of conventional crude; the energy efficiency quality is not the same; and in general, much more time, effort, expense, and risk is required to produce what’s left. This is good news?