Tuesday, November 22, 2005

thanksgiving day peak

Geologist Kenneth S. Deffeyes has predicted this November 24 2005, this thanksgiving day of all days, as the day on which global oil production will peak. He puts his prediction this way…

Although it is a bit silly, we can now pick a day to celebrate passing the top of the mathematically smooth Hubbert curve: Nov 24, 2005. It falls right smack dab on top of Thanksgiving Day 2005.

By silly Mr. Deffeyes means that choosing an individual day on which to mark the pinnacle of global oil production is a bit like choosing the day on which you became interested in baseball or the day on which day you decided your favorite colour was red. These specifics were developed over time. They involved a process too complicated to which to assign an anniversary date. They were only fully recognized in retrospect. Peak oil will occur in much the same manner. Even if the peak does technically occur this Thursday, no one will notice. Only time will tell. However, in honor of Mr. Deffeyes’s willingness to commit to a specific prediction I bring you the following peaks to consider over the holiday weekend.

Non-OPEC Peak?


...in 2005 non-OPEC countries only just brought enough new oil onstream to compensate for declining output from mature fields.

This means were going to have to expect OPEC to make up for oil shortfalls starting about now. Matt Simmons, oil economist and former energy adviser to the Bush II administration has a new book out called Twilight in the Desert. In it he argues that Saudi Arabia has substantially less oil than it would have the world believe. How'd you like to bet that other OPEC countries have been misleading us as well? Then again, I’m not sure our own government would tell us if it knew. Look what happened when Jimmy Carter tried to speak sense. If Non-OPEC has peaked you can exspect continued troubles in the Middle East.

American Oil Companies Peak?


The above shows many of the major American oil companies declining in production over the past three quarters. Have you ever wondered why the Oil and Gas companies haven’t built a refinery in 30 years. Why they are contracting in face of ever-increasing demand? Why they are consolidating? Why other oil companies from around the world are trying to acquire oil reserves from wherever possible? Ever get the feeling they know something you’re just finding out?

The World’s Second Largest Oil Field Peaks?


Earlier this month Kuwait reported the Burgan Field is in decline. But wait, didn't we just decide we will badly need Middle Eastern oil to help out with the previously discussed shortfalls?

Light Sweet Crude Peak?


In the arena of oil production light, sweet crude is the low hanging fruit from which most gasoline is refined. If we have peaked you can expect prices at the pump to rise indefinitely.

We have much to be thankful for. Here’s a Thanksgiving Day toast- that we might work together to respond to the global peak in oil production so that we may have many Happy Thanksgivings to celebrate in the future. Enjoi your turkey.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

is the gas crisis over?

No, not really. A temporary dip in the price at the pump has some Americans, especially those with short attention spans, rejoicing that we're headed back to normal. Let's start by examining "normal".

graph from gas buddy

Here in Charlotte gas prices are back down to an average of approximately $2.30 per gallon. That's great but $1 more per gallon than prices at the pump only two years ago at the end of 2003. That's a 77% increase discounting the hurricane price spike. If we continue to follow that track we should expect to see prices above $4 per gallon by the end of the year 2007.

And this is normal?

So how have we been getting low priced gasoline in the wake of the damage done to our oil and gas industry by this year's hurricanes? First there's been the helping hand...

U.S. gasoline imports rose 29 percent to an average 1.2 million barrels a day last week, a Sept. 28 Energy Department report showed. European countries such as France and Germany pledged to release oil and gasoline stocks earlier this month to help alleviate shortages caused by Katrina.

graph from George Ure of urbansurvival.com

The IEA, however, has already voted to stop letting us have world reserves beyond what was voted immediately after Katrina... As the international aid comes to an end I would expect the drop in gasoline prices to as well.

Apparently our own suppliers are also helping out...

Moreover it seems our domestic refineries are still deferring maintenance and are still cranking out gasoline rather than switching over to more heating oil production at the end of the summer driving season.

Are you hoping for a mild winter? I know quite a few people who are.

The price of gasoline has dropped over the past few weeks. It may even continue to drop over the upcoming holiday season. I would not however add an SUV to your Christmas list. I think you might want to stick with a new winter coat.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

awareness and preparation

Last week’s screening of “The End of Suburbia” was held with mixed results. About 10 people total showed up. It was however a public viewing of an alternative forecast concerning our future and the problems facing our way of life- not exactly a lite topic for a Thursday evening out. Many thanks to the George Washington Bookstore and Tavern for hosting and to all those who attended. More screenings are already being planned as I have been approached by individuals who were unable to attend but who are interested all the same. Most interesting was the discussion that took place after the film was over. The movie ended and those who attended were left with a less than rosy outlook on our near future. No one in the room seemed willing to just get up and walk out. The conversation was sporadic and varied wildly because of the wide range of opinions on topics most of the attendees aren’t made aware of daily. Awareness was the number one goal though and more people are now aware. Any information concerning future local initiatives to address or even discuss the coming global peak in oil production and its effects on Concord NC and the Charlotte region will be posted here.

Speaking of which, the Charlotte chapter of The Peak Oil Mitigation League is holding its November meeting this evening, November 9, 2005 at 6:00 pm. It’s to be held at the Robinson Middle School Cafetorium, Ballantyne Commons Pkwy Charlottte, NC 28277 980/343.6944. My apologizes for the last minute notification. I only recently became aware of this group and this meeting. I do not know much about either and would suggest using the above link to gather more information.

Last Thursday, during our discussion after the documentary was over, I made an observation that I hadn’t fully considered until it was on its way out of my mouth. For several years now (some would argue since the 70’s) there’s been a debate about whether or not the world’s oil production will ever peak, whether a day will ever come when we produce less oil as a planet than the day before. As you fast forward through history towards the present you see almost all authorities on oil production begin to agree that the peak is real and it is coming. The discussion shifted from “if” to “when”. Recently though the discussion has shifted again, this time from “when will it happen” to “well… what do we do about it?” Responses vary widely. There are those who still deny the existence of a problem. There are those who are unworried and point to the free market and the technological marvels of the past century as probable saviors of the future. I characterize these groups as ostriches with their heads fully submerged in the sand. There are however many individuals and indeed several communities who have entered into a dialogue concerning possible responses to peak oil and the end of cheap energy. These groups seem to understand that while the free market and technologies may play a role in any response to the problem they will not be enough to “save” us. They advocate personal as well as community-centered responses to the coming disturbances in the American way of life.

The following are a few of those offering resources concerning personal preparation.

First up is Matt Savinar. He runs a website called Life After the Crash. I don’t normally recommend Matt’s site to those who don’t understand peak oil because his introduction into the issue is so blunt that it can produce a traumatic reaction. He’s recently added a Post-Oil Bulletin section to his website though that is excellent. It costs around $7.00 per issue and is worth much more than that. His philosophy is that getting good advice costs money so he’s paying authorities on various subjects to spend quality time on peak oil response issues. I highly recommend this bulletin to anyone concerned with their future or the future of their family.

Path to Freedom is a website that chronicles the efforts of a family in Pasadena, CA to turn there urban home into an urban homestead. They grow much of there own food, produce much of their own electricity and even brew their own bio-diesel fuel; all of this accomplished from a residential lot within a few miles of the rose bowl. This site is an inspiration to those who think they can’t do more for themselves because they live in the city.

Lastly I want to mention Beyond Peak. This website is an excellent resource concerning all the specific information an individual or family might want to know more about when faced with the challenges of a post-petroleum lifestyle. It’s new and I’ve only just begun to take advantage of the all it has to offer.

There is another group of individuals emerging from the awareness of a future without plentiful petroleum. This group is characterized by a lack of hope when confronted with the extraordinary circumstances likely to be presented to us in the future. Some Americans are awakening to the idea of peak oil and are frozen with dread and inactivity during the very period in which their actions might do the most to mitigate its negative effects- the period before the peak. To this group I’d like to share the idea of doing your best to limit the amount of time you grieve over the future you’ve been promised. To be sure the news of peak oil can be depressing, but don’t waste the opportunity to take steps now to secure your future even if it doesn’t turn out to match your previous expectations. The time for action is now.

In a future post I’ll review some of the organizations and municipalities who are beginning to tackle community-centered responses to these issues. In the meantime please prepare yourselves or as my uncle use to say, “If you want to help feed others, first learn to feed yourself.”