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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: technology

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One might argue that statistics nearly two years old don’t tell much of a story, but it’s not the numbers in the following quote which matter so much as it is the underlying context and concerns. Those consideration won’t go away. [Production issues since this article was first published aren’t exactly changing the facts much, either.]

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The essential problem is not just that we are tapping the wrong energy sources (though we are), or that we are wasteful and inefficient (though we are), but that we are overpowered, and we are overpowering nature – Richard Heinberg, from the Introduction to ENERGY

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Our infrastructure (roads, bridges, train tracks, water and sewer pipes, power lines, etc.) does not exist in current form without the ready availability of inexpensive conventional crude oil. Our modern society with all of its technological marvels and the wide ranging conveniences was made possible and sustained in large part because we have had the boundless opportunities this fossil fuel resource provided.

But production of that finite resource peaked a decade ago.

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The unpleasant truth now and soon is that the ready supply of oil and gas which we almost always take for granted [the occasional price spike notwithstanding] is on its way to becoming not-so-ready. A host of factors now in place are steadily converting possibility into likelihood. Thinking that we’ll just implement a few crash programs to straighten out that potential mess is a nice thought, but we simply do not have the means to make that happen—not the technological capabilities, not the personnel, not the industries, not the leadership … yet. Clearly, we do not have enough time to do it all with effortless ease and minimal disruptions.

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A fossil fuel-driven-and-made-possible life is all any of us have ever known. There are virtually no aspects of commerce, leisure, transportation, or consumption which do not depend in some part on inexpensive, readily-available and easily-produced fossil fuels. That is most certainly not going to change dramatically overnight, but the situation we’ll soon be facing simply isn’t going to get any better if all we’re counting on for many more years is even more inexpensive, readily-available and easily-produced fossil fuels.

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The truths, unpleasant though they may be, are the truths: inexpensive, readily available oil is slowly but surely becoming less readily available, more expensive, and harder to come by. Current conditions [ultra-low prices; curtailed/canceled oil production and exploration projects; over-supply; declining investments; high debt] only highlight that the problems of maintaining an adequate, affordable, accessible supply of fossil fuel needed to power modern society aren’t going away.

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Daniel Yergin’s Pulitzer Prize (for his book The Quest) has earned him a fair amount of street cred, judging by how often his opinions are solicited on the state of fossil fuel supply and production. I haven’t read the book, but I’d be lying if I said that anyone worthy of a Pulitzer Prize doesn’t merit a measure of respect regardless of what one thinks of her or his opinions or ideologies. continue reading…

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This is a second look at a recent Reuters article by John Kemp, which got me thinking that those who deny peak oil ought to be magicians.

The tactics are standard by now: Toss out some carefully massaged facts bearing the imprint of near-truths but without context (just to be continue reading…

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A few more thoughts about transportation and the looming challenges we’ll face in the years ahead as our fossil fuel supplies become more challenging to develop and distribute. continue reading…

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Mason Inman recently posted an excellent 2012 interview he conducted with James Schlesinger, our nation’s first Secretary of Energy, who passed away shortly before that posting. [Quotes here are from that interview.] There are some lessons available to all of us. continue reading…