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Energy Insights: Energy News: Is mankind witnessing the slow arrival of Peak Oil?

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Is mankind witnessing the slow arrival of Peak Oil?


(NATIONAL) -- If you've never heard of the concept of "peak oil" don't feel left out. The news media rarely mentions it even though it may be one of the most significant events in the history of humans on earth.

Because if peak oil hits in our lifetime, things could get dicey for every human being on the planet sometime this century. LIfe as we know it in a modern world could change forever.

Peak oil is a predicted future event made famous by Marion Hubbert (October 5, 1903 – October 11, 1989) who was a a geoscientist working at the Shell research lab in Houston, Texas.

He made important contributions to geology and petroleum geology, including what is called the Hubbert curve and Hubbert peak theory, a basic component of peak oil.

Peak oil refers to the point in time when the maximum rate of extraction of petroleum from the earth - the easy to get to, not horribly expensive to extract oil - is reached, after which the rate of production is expected to enter a "terminal decline"

Peak oil is the point of maximum production. After that, things may roll down hill slowly but surely for modern industrialized society for the earth has no more (cheap) oil to give up.

Some people predict dire consequences for humankind on the downside of peak oil - which would see a major decline in production and major price increases - because of the high dependence of most modern industrial systems in the world on the low cost and high availability of oil.

Given the recent glut of oil and lowered prices for gasoline thoughts of peak oil seem to have been pushed aside.

Lending some new perspective to that is report by Tom Whipple in the Falls Church News-Press
newspaper (Falls Church, Virginia).

Whipple is a retired government analyst who's been following the peak oil issue. The first thing Whipple points out is:

"It's important to understand that the concept of “peak oil,” the time when global oil production starts to decline, is alive and well despite the current, and very temporary oil glut. Conventional oil, the kind that comes shooting out of wells at thousands of barrels per day, stopped growing about ten years back. However, non-conventional oil (fracked shale, tar sands, deep water) is increasing.

These very expensive “oils” gave many the illusion that all was well despite the steep climb in oil prices, which had to be on the order of $100 a barrel or more before they made economic sense to produce."

Whipple claims the technology of horizontal oil drilling and "fracking" only played a part in the shale oil “miracle.” There were several unseen hands at work to bring us the illusion that all is well with the world's oil supplies. They are:

~ It took lots of money to get shale oil out of the ground and a selling price of less than $70 or $80 a barrel was not enough to make it happen. He says only China’s rapid economic growth and ability to pay high prices forced them to unprecedented levels.

~ Moreover, the Federal Reserve and its very low interest rates made the shale oil revolution possible by permitting the drilling of "unprofitable shale oil wells using cheap money."

~ Last summer, the big bonanza came to an end: too much shale oil was being produced; the Chinese and other Asian economies slowed their demand; Europe ground to a halt; a glut developed and high oil prices were over — at least for a while.

~ The massive losses most shale oil and other non-conventional producers are facing (it takes a lot more money to get fracked-oil out of the ground) have resulted in a major cutback in the drilling of new wells and other energy production facilities. Within six months to a year these cutbacks in investment in new production will clearly result in a decline in global production of oil, which may not be possible to recover from. We just may be seeing the arrival of peak oil – conventional and unconventional – sooner than most believe.

Read the full report here .

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