An observation worth noting … and pondering, from Richard Heinberg:

Still, there are a few observations that no serious energy analyst can dispute. Oil exploration and production costs are skyrocketing (Bernstein Research estimates that this year the industry needs prices in the range of $100 a barrel to justify new projects). The super-giant oilfields that still account for 60 percent of world crude production are aging, and so the more modest contribution of unconventionals, which are expected to be both expensive and slow to come on line, must push against a tide of depletion and decline. It’s only a question of when the overall global production decline begins, not if. Meanwhile, some of the fuels (ethanol, natural gas liquids) counted by IEA and EIA in the ‘all liquids’ category have significantly lower energy content per unit of volume than regular crude oil; thus an increase in barrels-per-day of ‘all liquids’ does not necessarily mean an increase in the amount of energy delivered to society.
Further, all the unconventional liquid fuels (including biofuels, tar sands, and ‘tight’ oil) offer a low energy return on the energy invested in producing them. Therefore, even if the number of barrels of liquid fuels delivered to market is still gradually increasing, the amount of useful net energy being made available by the petroleum and biofuels industries, when energy costs are accounted for, is probably already declining. And this is almost certainly true in the US—the poster child for unconventional oil production. Finally, available global crude exports are declining rapidly as producing nations use more of their oil domestically. [1]

Facts, as I have noted frequently, can be damned annoying … all the more so when they intrude on cozy optimisms where unpleasant realities only spoil all the fun.

There’s been a lot more happy talk of late touting even more Magic Technology (fracking, etc., etc.) which will now, once and for all, at last put the “theory” of Peak Oil to bed. But as Richard Heinberg clearly explains, there are some damned facts we need to keep in mind and factor in to the planning—the planning which so far is not getting much traction among the powers that be. That’s going to cause a fair amount of problems for us down the road, because whatever it is we’ll need to do to address those problems aren’t going to lend themselves to overnight, easy, inexpensive solutions.

To think that the few million barrels of unconventional oil to be produced each day are the answer to our problems is more delusional that optimistic. They’ll help, of course, just not nearly enough—not even close. But as long as we’re not too concerned with reality or the future, then I guess optimism is as good an option as any.

* My Photo: Atlantis – The Bahamas, February 2008

[1] http://www.postcarbon.org/blog-post/985668-peak-denial; Peak Denial by Richard Heinberg – 07.02.12