Oil and Denial

As I write, the disaster continues in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. If you pay any attention to the news right now, obviously you are very aware of this. How much you know about what’s happening, how much any of us know, how much true information is getting to us, how it’s being covered in the news, is probably a subject for some scrutiny. It’s hard to tell. Like many things, I think you have to gather up as much as you can from as many sources as you can and compile it all and sift through it yourself.

One thing that is terribly clear is what isn’t getting any attention at all, as far as I can tell, unless you really dig, and research for yourself. I personally haven’t seen or heard anything about this missing topic, a topic that could not be more relevant.

Nobody I’ve noticed has been talking about oil consumption, oil resources, depletion, and the idea of the Hubbert peak of oil production. Nothing. Not a word. At least nothing I’ve heard or read regarding the story of the Gulf oil disaster and all that surrounds it.

It’s the proverbial pink elephant in the room, although maybe that metaphor isn’t such a good one here. As I’ve always understood it, the idea of “the pink elephant in the room” is usually used in describing a sense of a situation in which everybody in the vicinity of a situation is acutely aware of something (i.e., it’s a pink elephant, for God’s sake… how can anybody not notice?), but to acknowledge it would be, let’s say, extremely uncomfortable. The only problem with this is that it seems to me that, in fact, the overwhelming majority of people really have no idea of the existence of the metaphorical pink elephant of the finite limits of oil resources hitting the turning point of Hubbert’s Peak.

On the other hand, what’s more disturbing and aggravating is that, among the people talking about it in the news, whether it’s the people reporting the story, or people in some position of importance and authority in the story, there ought to be no way they could possibly be unaware of this subject and issue, if even remotely competent. That prompts the question of “why are they not talking about it?”.

In some cases, it might very well be sheer clueless oblivion. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people in the current state of things in American politics and media who feel perfectly comfortable spewing forth pronouncements of supposed great importance without really feeling too bothered to know what needs to be known. That would be too much like work, or, maybe, not fitting the narrative they want to present.

I wonder, then, about the people who, I figure, just simply cannot possibly be unaware of the matter. What then? A matter of not wanting to “rock the boat”? Fear that the average everyday character parked on a couch in front of the TV might get a little wigged out by this startling thought?

There is the very real possibility that, mixed in with the factors just named as possible explanations, is the thought in the minds of some of the people who know very well about this subject, that, basically, you might as well not even mention it, because many people just simply won’t even believe it. Mix all these possibilities together, and this is probably what we have. All of the above. The result; we have this gigantic, huge, unbelievably major story, with all sorts of consequences and repercussions, without a word about the underlying and overarching theme that should be the most important news story going.

Hubbert’s Peak. The peak of oil production rates at a worldwide level. If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, follow the link a few paragraphs up that will open a new browser window taking you to a Wikipedia introduction.

Almost exactly as predicted by M. King Hubbert in 1956, around 1970 the rate of oil production from the oil fields of the United States reached its all time peak, cresting and then going into decline ever since. There was a slight rise back to a plateau for a while as Alaskan oil came online, but then the downward slope continued back down, and even that brief rise never took U.S. oil production rate levels back to the peak of 1970-1971.

It never will. That’s what Hubbert explained, this is how it works. The theoretical perfect bell curve cannot, of course, in the complex real world, be expected to occur when things are graphed, the real data, but the general form is right.

This is just one part of what’s so irritating about hearing the simplistic chanting of the “drill, baby, drill!” crowd. You can punch as many holes as you like in the Earth within United States territory, but as much as you wish, we are not going to magically see oil production come back to life as if it were 1970 again. All you might do is lessen the slope of the decline. All this, while the rate of consumption of oil in the U.S. just goes up, even with economic factors damping down demand. We still burn through the stuff as if it is some infinite bottomless well of plenty.

Conserve it? Maybe, you know, use less of the stuff, and make better use of it, so it lasts longer? You don’t seem to find many thoughts of that sort of thing among the “drill baby drill!” cheerleaders. This shouldn’t be surprising when you look at the levels of sheer stunning delusion and hubris you find in this population. I mean, you will, more often than not, find that the same people will, for example, in deadly serious earnest, try to tell people that Ronald Reagan as President was their hero and all time benchmark of “fiscally responsible and conservative government”, while either completely oblivious to the explosion of the debt of the U.S. federal government under Reagan (and G.H.W. Bush, and G.W. Bush), or they’re just blatantly dishonest about it. We’re talking about serious, profound, pathological levels of disconnection from reality.

In that world, that mode of delusional avoidance and denial, there’s your answer, “drill, baby, drill”. Just drill more wells, and presto, our problems are solved. If you have the general concept of Hubbert’s peak fully on board, take a look at the numbers found here. To be clear, you will encounter arguments that there is still a large quantity of oil underground within the borders of the United States or off the U.S. coastlines. This thought alone seems to be enough to pacify any worries for many people, and the people who don’t want to believe there could be any problem will happily accept that with no further scrutiny or thought. That really seems to be it, end of story. The general, overall, tragically simplistic view is essentially that all that has to be done is to just drill more wells, and all the oil you want will be there.

All it takes is a minute of looking at the numbers found via the last link to make it clear to anybody reasonable that it’s rather unrealistic, to put it mildly, to think that this will bring “energy independence from foreign oil”. Not even close. That horse left the barn 40 years ago, and it’s stunning to see that for many people, the clue never took hold.

The oil embargo crisis of 1973 should have been a pretty good whack over the head to get people’s attention, and to some degree, it did. Then oil from Alaska started down the pipeline, and suddenly the UK and Norway found themselves with a load of oil coming in from platforms on the North Sea. Add in assorted other complexities of international business and politics, and before long, total complacency settled back in. For many people, the only thought given to petroleum was if the price of a gallon of gasoline went up. In the late seventies, during his term as President, Jimmy Carter spoke to the people of the United States about oil and the changes that were happening, talking about the decline in oil resources, talking about how the decline of U.S. oil production would eventually be seen worldwide, and pressing upon people the need to begin changing the way we used fuel resources and energy in general. People ignored him, or even plainly ridiculed him.

It’s definitely worth noting something about all this. You can find people (with a happy supportive home on Fox News, especially) speaking in derisive terms about Jimmy Carter as President, while praising Ronald Reagan as some savior of America or something (while, again, ignoring all the pesky facts of reality), and it’s not being presumptuous or prejudicial to say that the same people almost invariably are in the cheerleading activities of the “drill baby drill” bunch. Admirers of Reagan, and, while we’re looking at it, Margaret Thatcher in the same era in the U.K., seem to commonly overlook the connection between the economies of their respective countries on a timeline along with what was happening in oil, namely, the North Sea.

To get back to the main point, there is, among too many people, a complete ignorance of a very simple idea. Oil is a finite resource, no matter how you wish it to be infinite and endless, and the human race has blown through the stuff at an insane rate. Maybe, it might be thought, we should be working seriously on using far, far less of it, and, at the same time, be working as a top priority on figuring out how to live with very little of it. Because, very soon, there will be, for all practical purposes, very little of it, to put it in slightly oversimplified form.

Moving into areas of somewhat different attitudes and politics, we find people with a different view, but with problems, still. Many people taking what they regard as a more enlightened and forward looking view, will talk about developing “renewable energy” and “clean energy resources” and so on. All that is great. Cool, that’s getting somewhere. Then, too often, way too often, you start to realize something.

Listening to and reading some things, you start to get the nagging thought that, in the minds of many people, doing this means we’ll all be able to roll happily and easily along doing everything we’ve been doing, in the way we’ve been doing it, more or less, only now we will have simply swapped things out for “clean energy”.

There are all kinds of problems there. For a start, just as a quick example, exactly how is this magical swap going to happen?

In a time when we’re bombarded by all kinds of political nonsense and marketing advertising public relations bullshit, to an extent where insanity seems dominant as what passes for public discourse, it’s a lot easier to find nonsense than clear correct facts and reasoned thinking; about damned near anything. In this state of things, even people who are naturally of the fairly reasonable and mentally functional kind get sucked into the swirling vortex of stupid. Just trying to do your best to be objective and rational can put you into a position of being a misfit outsider minority. It’s even worse now with absurdities like what is now known as the “tea party movement”, with people banding together in some kind of notion that things are somehow not the way they ought to be, so the solution is to be noisy and obnoxious and… be even more oblivious to reality and more irrational.

When we get into things like the subject at hand here, we find a situation where any kind of serious discussion of the matters at hand and the problems we all face is obliterated by babbling from people who seem to have not grasped the most basic things about science and technology that are involved. That sure doesn’t help.

This is a complicated matter. This is a very complicated matter. Delusional mental states are no help at all here.

In all the noise obscuring and confusing everything when this general subject comes up in the public realm, we really seem to have something basic getting lost. The idea that things are going to have to be done differently, and maybe many things will have to stop being done at all. Writer James Howard Kunstler often puts it very simply, plainly, and pretty accurately, in his weekly online weblog column Clusterfuck Nation (see links here). As he puts it, people are stuck in the fantasy that, one way or another, we will simply roll merilly on more or less just as we have been, in what Kunstler calls “the era of Happy Motoring”. No, we are not, and this is going to change significantly, very significantly, and this is certain and inevitable, one way or another. Ignoring this and maintaining some particular variant of a cloud of illusion only means that reality will kick our collective asses that much harder.

The “drill baby drill” contingent, to paint a broad picture, generally seem fairly convinced of a fantasy idea that, if only there were no nagging inconvenient regulations and environmental protection activities, there would just be oil aplenty. It seems to be pretty much a standard dogma in the political rhetoric in this camp that in this case, there would be all the oil anybody could want, and in no time, they seem to think, they would find themselves in a happy new situation that might go something like “we ain’t gotta get no more oil from them there Ay-rabs!”.

Go back again to the numbers here. This simplistic and apparently popular notion does not fit actual reality, especially when you look for any signs of understanding of the need to considerably reduce oil use. In fact, there was a case that struck me a while back, if I remember this correctly, sometime during the last Presidential election campaign. I can’t remember exactly where and when this came up, but at some point, Barack Obama was speaking, and raised a very simple thought.

He talked briefly about fuel conservation, and the important of little things, like, specifically, keeping tire pressures up on vehicles, making sure tires were properly inflated. Perfectly sensible stuff. It’s pretty basic. Higher tire pressures reduce rolling resistance as they roll along. There is nothing complex about this, it could not be easier to do, there is essentially no extra expense involved. Keeping tire pressure fairly high reduces rolling resistance, by reducing the amount of deformation of the tire carcass from sidewall flex. It’s not trivial, especially when you multiply out any savings of otherwise wasted fuel across the country. Looking back at the 2008 EIA numbers, we find consumption, for motor vehicles, of 8,989,000 barrels/day, of gasoline. Note that this number shows a volume of gasoline, not the amount of raw crude oil required to refine that gasoline. Let’s say that by simply maintaining higher tire pressures, we were able to save 5% in the amount of fuel used. This would translate to roughly a half million barrels of gasoline not burned per day in the United States. Something like 164 million barrels (again, of gasoline, which means more crude than that to get the gasoline) per year. Is this insignificant? Is this something to mock as ridiculous?

Let’s not even start wondering how many of this crowd haul their carcasses around dozens of miles a day in some jumbo lumbering SUV or pickup or van.

James Howard Kunstler has written a couple of very good books that are most definitely worth reading, important reading. I mentioned them before, The Geography of Nowhere and Home From Nowhere. In each, he writes extensively about, basically, how we live in the United States. More specifically, he writes about the phenomenon, since the end of World War Two, of suburban sprawl, of how we’ve regarded and treated our cities, in short, to skip quite a lot and summarize, about how things have been done, in arranging life in the U.S., not merely in terms of how this affects life in America, but, relevant to this note, how it affects us in consuming finite, limited, natural resources. We have a society in which shortsighted planning (or lack) and perhaps less than intelligent development has led us to being a country where, in countless places, transportation by car is a mandatory requirement to do, well, damned near anything. I suspect many people never even think about things like, how do commonly found “single use zoning” ordinances drive oil consumption in the United States to absurd levels. The matters covered by Kunstler are worth long essays in themselves. Better yet, just read these books yourselves. Then, read another book by Kunstler, The Long Emergency (again, previously mentioned in an earlier note).

I have yet to hear about any prominent public discussion of the relationship between oil, consumption of oil, the question of oil resources, and anything significant about how we do things, anything. There is very little about any serious effort to reduce oil consumption on a large scale, and nothing about how we will deal with it when, as it will be, the availability and cost of oil is a very real and serious problem.

When you get away from the “drill baby drill” simplistic crowd, you can find plenty of people talking about “renewable resources”, “clean energy”, and so on, and that’s all fine. There is nothing wrong with that. About 40 years late, but, hey, cool. Unfortunately, even there, good luck finding anything that addresses what I just said above. There seems to be this general, vague, attitude and assumption that, somehow, “renewable clean energy” will come in with a wave of a magic wand, and, in a different variety of delusion, we will, you guessed it, essentially just carry right on doing the same things in more or less the same ways on the same scale, only now with some new source of power for, as Kunstler puts it, Happy Motoring. You’ll just hop in your SUV and drive 50 miles every day with the occasional longer road trips, just powered by, whatever, instead of petroleum.

Even if that could be, and this is an entire large subject of its own, when, and how, exactly, do these people think this presto-chango swap is going to occur? That, there, is yet another huge subject of discussion.

The short version of all this? There is a very serious lack of objective, rational realism, and if you get sucked into the kind of either/or, us/them, A/B polarizing lunacy that pervades the political world in the United States at present, and focus in on “oil and energy”, you basically encounter a whole gnarly mess of what just amount to being different varieties of simplistic answers and scary delusions.

If somebody wanted to try to boil things down to a question of “what do we do about oil from here moving forward” and create some list of multiple choice answers, the reality of the matter is that the answer is probably “all of the above”, and then some.

Recently on MSNBC I caught parts of a special they ran called “Beyond The Barrel”. It was an attempt to cover issues about energy as a broad subject, a little too broad, I thought, and a little too superficial and vague. It had some good points, in that at least it might have gotten the attention of some people who might have been completely oblivious to some things, or maybe might have been vaguely aware of some issues, but never actually thought anything through. Overall, I found it pretty disappointing. I confess, I did not manage to watch the entire thing uninterrupted, there were other things going on, and so I missed a few minutes of it here and there. However, I never did hear a word about the subject of peak oil. Nothing about the concept of Hubbert’s Peak, and the nature of oil discovery and production patterns. I’m hoping that maybe I just missed it, but it’s unlikely, and if I did miss something on this, if in fact they did cover this, it’s just as disappointing, because if this did happen, given the small bits of time I missed, whatever they covered would have been so fleeting and superficial that they could not have really gotten the idea and meaning across. What they did cover regarding oil just followed much of the same things that are frequently said, that really miss the point. I mean the usual stuff about “dependence on foreign oil”, and so on, as if the only problem at all is the matter of needing oil from politically troubled parts of the world.

It’s no wonder so few people seem to have the most minimal clue about this. Even generally aware and intelligent people, paying attention to a program like this special, and thinking they’re being enlightened and informed, are not hearing about this stuff, except the kinds of superficial bullshit I just mentioned.

It seems to me that in the minds of the vast majority of people, the thinking is something to the effect of this all being about “when the oil runs out”. It is not. That’s just completely wrong. This is where understanding the concept of Hubbert’s peak is vitally important, primarily, although there is also more to understand. It isn’t until you grasp that that you actually realize, it’s not a situation where we go, and go, and then, it sputters to a stop. The analogy of a fuel tank in a car with the gauge heading for the “E” mark just doesn’t work here. It doesn’t work that way.

See the explanation of Hubbert’s peak. The theoretical model is the shape of a bell curve. A slow start to production, steadily increasing, more and more as time passes and things get rolling, until eventually, at somewhere around the point where approximately half of the oil has been extracted, a peak of production rate is reached; it crests. The peak itself is likely to be a complex “wobbly plateau”, a subtopic of its own, apparently revolving around the complexities involved in economic terms of demand and price fluctuations caused by instabilities and complex interactions. Then, the rate of oil production goes into decline, and from that point on, even if there might be some ramping back up for a period for some reason (such as what you find on a graph of U.S. oil production over time, where it blipped back up from the late 1970s to sometime in the 1980s, because of Alaskan oil coming into the action), production rates still won’t return to the peak flow levels (by definition, after all…. that is what defines it as the peak). This works on a local level (i.e., a specific oil field), a national level, looking at oil discovery and production from a specific country, or the world as a whole.

The nature of this is that knowing when a peak has been reached is something that, as you probably have already guessed, can only really be known for sure in hindsight some time after the peak, looking at the data, and seeing the crest, the plateau, and then seeing the charted data on a graph going into the down slope of permanent decline. It was not truly clear that United States oil production had peaked, around 1970, until sometime later. I think that became clear in a stark manner around the 1973 oil embargo and oil crisis.

Looking at available data, worldwide oil production, the whole planet, the whole enchilada, kids, reached a maximum level of a bit over 80 million barrels of oil per day in 2005, and then, went into something that certainly looks like that “wobbly peak plateau” that the people who know this subject talk about, and in 2008, hit a high point of a wiggle in that range, and proceeded to decline (has it had frequently in this “wobble” period), but…. stayed in decline.

It’s obvious to anybody who has been conscious with a working mind in the past few years that there are major economic troubles, and it doesn’t take an advanced knowledge of economics to understand that all that has interacted with and affected oil prices and demand and, therefor, production rates of oil. That is, of course, part of this matter. It’s not strictly only the geology and technical matters involved. But it is entirely possible that we have, in fact, seen the worldwide peak of all time of oil production rates on the planet.

The future might be here right now.

Going back for a minute to what I was saying, in the minds of a lot of people, they know absolutely nothing of this, with no help from the people who should be informing them, it’s some simple idea of “when the oil runs out”, and I suspect if you talk to many people, and find that they have such a mental concept, and then ask them when, might they guess, that will happen, I strongly suspect that their answer will be some time far in the distant future, or, in their own imagined, speculative worst case, at least sometime beyond their own lifetime (and as a result, they don’t give a rat’s ass, never mind what the future will be for their children or grandchildren and generations beyond).

Even if you manage to get across to them the concept of Hubbert’s peak, and they comprehend this, I suspect many people might get an idea in mind that is a serious mistake. I’m thinking of that matter of reaching a peak when somewhere roughly around half of the oil is gone. This might apply to you, yourself, and I feel a duty to explain this if this is the case, or it might be a case where you encounter this in talking to somebody else, having understood, and you’re trying to explain to them.

If you look back and realize that use of oil, in the progress of Industrial Revolution, basically started in the latter part of the 19th century, and look at the present, you could find yourself thinking “well, hey, even if we are reaching the peak right now, it really is here, and the peak means we’re somewhere around halfway through all the available oil deposits of the planet, that’s around 150 years or so of oil use so far, so, hey, we’ve got about a century and a half left!”, and quite possibly proceed to get wonderful science fiction fantasies in your head that in the next 150 years, not only will it be far beyond being your problem, but some future “they” will have invented some marvelous fantastic “free energy machine” that runs on the electromagnetic field of the earth or by gathering cosmic rays or something.

This is a mistake, and a pretty damned serious one, dangerously mistaken, because it just continues what we have had, and, for the most part (the whole theme of this little minor epic), still is continuing. Something like “problem? What problem?”. Or the opinions I’ve heard expressed like “oh, it’s all politics”, or “oh, it’s all just people manipulating markets to make more money with some fake ‘shortage'”, and so on. Some reference to “doom and gloom” or “doomsayers” seems to be popular.

Again, to repeat the point, it’s not a matter of the oil running out. For that matter, and do try to wrap your head around this point very carefully, the oil will never run completely out. There will always be some oil left, somewhere. We will almost certainly never be able to extract every last bit of oil out of the Earth. That’s a major point here and a crucial one. We won’t be able to, for more than one reason. That’s not really even the point.

The point is this. The problem is what happens when the peak is passed, and now, aside from any anomalous wiggles in the graph that wobble around the general curve, the rate of oil production flow is on a down slope, decreasing. Every year sees less oil produced than the year before. While, in the meantime, demand continues to increase, or at least tries to increase. The “tries to increase” is where it gets ugly. When things have been proceeding on a steady upward climb of demand, but, then, disruptions in supply, as production declines, economic effects, economic disruption, this is where the problems lie.

Forget about “when the oil runs out”. This bears repeating.

When we have passed the peak predicted by Hubbert, a concept that has been proven long ago by the real historical data in retrospect, if we have not changed things accordingly and “made other arrangements”, to borrow from Kunstler, we have problems. Many problems, many very complicated and difficult problems.

At that point, we is in the deep shit, boyz.

The time to be thinking about this was, as I’ve already said, decades ago. Definitely now.

The “drill baby drill” brigade overlooks (or refuses to accept, depending on who it is) major and fundamental points. The oil that was the good stuff that was relatively easy and cheap to get (as much as this process can be easy and cheap, it’s no day at the beach in any case) has been sucked up. The same with the large deposits. As far as oil in U.S. territory (or most of the rest of the world for that matter) is concerned, what remains untapped is the lower grade (“heavy sour”, as opposed to the prime “light sweet crude”), in places that are harder and harder to get at, in smaller pockets (and just to explicitly state what should be dead obvious, this means drilling more wells to get a given volume of oil). Hubbert’s peak still holds, so for the U.S., seeking oil in the U.S., whatever oil is obtained from new fields is not going to make us “free from dependence on foreign oil”, as we continue to guzzle the stuff at the same rate, or even if we have a minor decrease in consumption, at best, we might manage to slightly decrease the slope of the graph of depletion. Don’t kid yourselves, people. I’m not the first person to make this analogy, but much of what I see is something like somebody who hit a big jackpot in a lottery drawing, has proceeded to just absolutely piss away all the money, squandering this amazing good fortune, and, instead of knocking off all the insanely stupid wretched excess, and shifting to a more modest and sustainable mode of living to make the best of what’s left, they take what’s left and blow a large chunk of it on buying fistfulls of more lottery tickets in the wish that they’ll somehow get incredibly, miraculously lucky a second time.

And the fantasy delusion that we can is only likely to lead to more of events like the current ongoing, continuing, grotesque and obscene disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding coast.

At the same time, we have the slightly naïve talk about tepid, feeble movements making nice statements about “developing clean energy” and not really getting very far on it, while ignoring the larger issues of how we do things in all sorts of areas of our existence that exacerbate the consumption problems. The idea that somehow, we’ll just wave a magic wand, and everything will be just the same, only then powered by “clean renewable energy” plugged in as a substitute for petroleum.

This is an enterprise that needs to be done, this is another subject all its own, but at times, I read and hear things from people that remind me of things back when I was a child in the sixties, with all sorts of speculation and imagination about the future, particularly focused on the future 21st century as a technological Utopia, and people talking about everyone having flying cars and intelligent robots taking care of their homes. Wild brainstorming of imagination is great, but, to repeat something here yet again, some of the stuff I read and hear is decades behind where it needs to be. There is a lot of fantasy, and a shortage of realism. This is especially apparent, when you look at the general economic situation right now, as of June 2010, and think about what might actually need to be done to make something real and functional.

Leaving you, dear reader, to ponder the economics and finance of any of this, there is another problem of just dead basic lack of comprehension and understanding of basic conceptual matters. It’s a serious problem. I’m not sure what’s worse here. Is it the people who are just really too uneducated, ignorant, and even perhaps generally too dim to have any awareness and grasp of the physical reality, the science and technology involved, or the people who, certainly, have no reason to not be able to grasp some basic concepts and principles and think them through.

Understand, I do have a technical background myself, so there are, naturally, some things I can see and comprehend and understand on at least a general principles kind of level. At the same time, I am not a genius with a shiny crystal ball of omniscient perception and understanding. What I’m thinking and talkig about here is not a matter of digging into endless deep subtle and complicated scientific and engineering problems. We’re looking at things that are within the grasp of reasonably intelligent people who have a grasp of college freshman or high school science.

One of the things about that TV special “Beyond The Barrel” that bugged me was the matter of tossing out once again something that is common enough to be considered a cliché by now, phrased in summary form, something like “to get away from our dependence on foreign sources of oil, we need to develop alternative energy sources like wind and solar”. There it is again. This almost insanely simplistic and mistaken idea of some simple swap substitution. It seems very obvious that a lot of what you can find people saying is pure bullshit based on some naïve idea that any form of energy is the same as any other form of energy, and, for that matter, something even more incredibly, obviously basic. “Energy” and “fuel” are not synonyms. There is a substantial amount of silliness surrounding just this simple principle and either lack of understanding, or inexplicable and disturbing ignorance by people who, in short, should definitely know better. The basic fact I just stated is incredibly basic, absolutely fundamental to everything in this subject. Energy and fuel are not the same thing.

The idea that we can develop something as “a substitute for oil” in something anything remotely like some direct manner, is at odds with reality to the extent that this idea just about qualifies as flat out insanity. Talking about “substitutes for oil” only perpetuates the misconception that we’ll just do this big magic wand swap overnight and carry on more or les exactly as before.

Simply put, there is no substitute for oil. Really. There is nothing else like it. The importance of grasping this cannot be overstated.

At best, we can work out ways to do some of the things that we do using oil, in a different manner, with major changes that extend far beyond some unrealistic fantasy that one day a crew of technicians and mechanics will swoop in somewhere and work for a day or two, and, presto, now we’re using something else.

Just to touch very briefly on another monumentally important subject that cannot be overlooked and ignored in this is another very simple fact. When we consider oil and everything about it, it must be kept in mind that there is, in fact, more done with oil than just burning the stuff as fuel to release energy. There’s another subject of its own.

There is a severe shortage of practical realism and willingness to objectively face the facts involved and think them through. This is true among the “drill baby drill” wishful thinking crowd, who seem to have themselves and each other convinced that, if only we drilled new holes in the Earth everywhere imaginable, with no restrictions and limits, we would all be awash in plenty of oil eternally, and everything would be back to some nostalgic good old days of seemingly limitless and cheap oil. This is true among what seems to be a rather large number of people who think that some easy swap-out of magic technology will ease us into a new world of doing everything as we have with minor changes of some specific details.

In the meantime, here in the United States we continue to blow through somewhere around 20 million barrels a day of crude oil, as off to the south, the Gulf of Mexico continues to have a disaster of almost incomprehensible magnitude.


http://www.eia.doe.gov/basics/quickoil.html

http://energybulletin.net/primer.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubbert_peak_theory

http://www.peakoil.net/

http://www.oildecline.com/

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