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Peak Oil Matters

A fresh perspective on the concept of peak oil and the challenges we face

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Tag: cooperation

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Peak oil’s message is rather simple once all of the fluff and distractions are set aside. It’s about a recognition that we are dealing with a finite resource used extensively for decades upon decades by ever-increasing numbers for ever-increasing needs.

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[O]ur Peak Oil problem is a case of simple mathematics.
‘We stopped finding large oil fields 40 years ago. The production from those fields decreases every year and we simply can’t bring enough smaller fields on fast enough to offset those declines and grow daily oil production….
‘The demand side of the equation is no help either. Population grows every year. And the most populous countries in the  world grow per capita oil production every year as well. When you consider how many people are in China, India and other emerging countries and then consider how little oil each of them uses, it isn’t hard to see that changes in their lifestyle to include more oil consumption will make a big difference.’ [quoting John Hess, CEO Hess Corp]

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Bear in mind the huge scale of the industry and the production infrastructure required. The vast bulk of production is coming from conventional oilfields, the majority of which are past peak and whose production is in decline. A consideration of the discoveries waiting to be developed and the timescale to put them into production reveals a significant gap, apparent even on close consideration of the work of the IEA, which masks this gap as production that will come from as yet unidentified, undiscovered fields. It is totally unrealistic to anticipate future discoveries on the scale required to fill this gap, given the historical record (especially this century) and the fact that most promising oil provinces have already been well explored and developed.

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Entrenched as each side is in what seems an endless and ever-disheartening conflict between conservatives and progressives, finding seams to broaden discussions is no easy task. Cocooned as each partisan is in the selective comfort of peer perspectives and beliefs, suspicion and ridicule are the easier guidelines to follow.

But at what cost to all of us, if not today, then soon enough? Has there been a collective, irrevocable determination by all that the political and ideological wars will continue until … well, when?

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A moment’s pause to consider the practical realities of billions of others looking to improve their lifestyles on any scale by which we measure our own progress and achievements should realize immediately that a finite set of ever-more-challenging-to-acquire energy supplies needed to power those advances can only be spread so thin.

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In last week’s post, I asked what seems to be a reasonable, fair, and obvious observation and inquiry in light of assertions offered by the author of the second article serving as the focal point of this series:

Imagine if we actually engaged in meaningful conversations with ‘the opposition’ which involved honorable considerations and discussions of both the merits and the disadvantages of policy proposals and the many factors in play before solutions were proposed! Who might benefit? Who might not?

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There are—almost always—at least two sides to any story of significance and potential impact upon others. The greater the impact and potential for a range of outcomes, the more certain one can be that there are more than a handful of factors, considerations, and perspectives to be accounted for if the issue at hand is to be both understood and resolved effectively.

Ignoring the “other side” of the issue may be effective if one prefers their narrative to remain unchallenged and to provide reassurance to fellow believers, but beyond that, it’s hard to understand what the benefit might be to those seeking information if what’s shared is inaccurate or purposely incomplete.

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I began last week’s post with a variation of these questions:

How do optimistic projections from ExxonMobil’s “The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040report—which I highlighted in that post—square themselves in the face of the oil production challenges suggested by the news excerpts which were also included in that piece? How long do those opposed to climate change and peak oil implications dance away from the unpleasant truths?

What is the benefit beyond avoiding painful discussions today? At what point do those contrarian viewpoints give way to a recognition that there is more than enough evidence already in play to make those challenges both very real and quite formidable now?

How does postponing not just acknowledgment but any and all efforts to come to mutual understandings and a commitment to work cooperatively in addressing these matters make it any easier or better for anyone?

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Who among us—proponents, deniers, or those with no opinion or knowledge about the issue of peak oil—doesn’t want our marvelous capitalist system to continue uninterrupted, taking us to higher and higher levels of technological achievements? Who is willing to voluntarily give up any opportunity to share in the enormous wealth such progress is sure to create?

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I suggested at the outset of this series that I did not want it to turn into yet another exercise in mocking those who do not accept the implications of peak oil. A legitimate argument could be made that I’ve failed in that objective.

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