Stan’s Obligatory Blog


Oil: Or we’re all gonna die!!!

Filed under: — stan @ 5:57 pm

I just finished reading two books about oil and why we’re about to start running out of it. And actually, neither of these books is of the alarmist bent that says that civilization will collapse when we pass the peak of world oil production. But they make the case that things are going to be difficult, and that day is most likely upon us now.

Twilight in the Desert is Matthew Simmons‘ magnum opus about Saudi Arabia and its super-giant oil fields. They are apparently the largest ever found, and even now they provide some huge percentage of the world’s supply. And the end is drawing near for them. Most oil fields are most productive for 20-30 years, and then they start to taper off. The big Saudi fields have been going for fifty years, and they are showing signs that they are past their prime. And more troubling is that in most cases, when the natural pressure of the field is depleted, they can inject water into it to get the oil flowing again. But the Saudis have been doing this since the 1960s, so they are already doing secondary recovery on their fields. So when they do start to decline, there is less that can be done to try and squeeze out more oil. There is an article available on the web that contains a short version of the information in this book.

Beyond Oil is Kenneth Deffeyes’ companion to his book from 2001, Hubbert’s Peak. In the first book, he told us why the peak of the oil age is imminent, and in this one he refines his prediction to say that the worldwide peak of oil production would be in December, 2005. The rest of the book examines what can be done about that in terms of alternate sources of energy. He’s fairly optimistic in that there are things we can make from coal that will take the place of oil for most applications. But environmentalists will probably shit when they see how dirty that’s going to be.

So no, civilization is probably not going to collapse or even grind to a halt. But it’s going to get dirtier and more expensive. As for me, I just got a new tire for my bicycle, so I’m set for commuting for another five years.

3 Responses to “Oil: Or we’re all gonna die!!!

  1. Karen Says:

    Going to have to check these out…but the real problem could whether we will reduce the burning of these fossil fuels and halt or stabilize global warming in time (or before they will run out anyway).

    Do either of these books address that facet of the fossil fuels (coal or oil) currently dominating our fuel market?

  2. stan Says:

    Nope. They were focused on just the immediate problem of how in the near future we’re not going to have as much oil as we’re accustomed to to burn.

  3. Steve Ryan Says:

    One of the eye-openers for me was how much we depend on oil for non-fuel purposes. We can (with difficulty) find replacement power from alternative sources, but what about raw ingredients for plastics, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, and the many other things made from petroleum?

    Hurray these books and for increasing gas prices! Economic forces should help us find a way to handle this problem, but only if we have our eyes open. The books will help on the intellectual side, and gas prices make it real for those who don’t recognize a problem until it hurts. Of course there are those like Stan who use maybe 50 gallons of gas a year, but he’s reading the books :) .

    By the way, the book I read was physicist David Goodstein’s “Out of Gas”. I can’t compare it to the others, but it talks about Hubbert’s Peak, what consequences we face, and about some alternative energy sources we might try. It’s a pretty short and easy read – not what you might expect from a physicist.

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