Published Jul 6 2009 by Energy Bulletin
Archived Jul 6 2009

Peak oil & prices & supplies - July 6

by Staff

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Another perspective on peak oil: Oil patch merger specialist Adam Waterous

Karl Moore, Globe & Mail
... AW: It's an excellent question. There is ‘physical' peak oil, and then there is what we describe as ‘economic' peak oil. Peak oil in its strictest sense is, from a given basin, when do you start to go into decline? So, as you may have talked about yesterday, the United States, I think, went into peak oil decline, peak physical production, in the early seventies. That's the United States oil.

If you want to look at, for instance, natural gas in Canada, then we've actually been in decline since early 2000-01; we're actually in declining production. So it depends on which hydrocarbon you're looking at and what kind of basin you're looking at physically.

Economic peak oil is trying to identify what price can you maintain production in a given basin. Put another way, if you spend enough money you can actually start increasing production. But again, it gets very, very expensive. So in the case of oil in Canada, we actually are going to be able to increase production of oil in Canada. So we are certainly not in peak oil in the Canadian sense.

KM: But that includes the tar sands.

AW: That includes the oil sands, so that's my point. While we will be increasing [production], it's going to be at a much higher cost. That cost, depending on what the project is and what kind of time frame you're looking at, maybe's $70-$80 a barrel is effectively the full development cost to be able to do it.
(30 June 2009)

Book Review: Blackout by Richard Heinberg

Joanna Schroeder, Domestic Fuel
Coal. Under the surface we seem to have a lot of it. It’s fairly inexpensive but this is changing as demand rises to meet increased energy needs especially in countries like China. So we have a lot, its cheap, let’s use it, what’s the problem? Right? Wrong!

Author Richard Heinberg writes in Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis, “In short: two of the defining trends of the emerging century–the development of the Asian economies and climate change–both center on coal. But coal is finite non-renewable resource. Thus, a discussion of the future of coal must also intersect with a third great trend of the new century: resource depletion.”

In the first part of the book, Heinberg takes the reader through a deep analysis of just how much coal is available throughout the world. Keep in mind, forecasts assume that current energy use stays the same, but it is increasing each year, making coal available for a shorter amount of time. Best estimates are that the world will see Peak Coal by 2025 and many believe that the world has already witnessed Peak Oil.

Now, you’re just waiting for me to say there is no such thing as clean coal. So there, it’s out in the open. In the second section of the book, Heinberg talks about the link between coal and greenhouse gas emissions and discusses the technologies to create “clean coal”. They are all challenged to say the least.
(3 July 2009)

Peak oil v home-made jam

John-Paul Flintoff, The Sunday Times
Believe it or not, I don't like writing scare stories, such as my recent post on peak oil, which won a flurry of passionate comments, and nor do I enjoy reading other people's. This is not because I don't believe they're factually correct, but because I don't think that spreading despair is a valuable approach.

The trouble is that when I write upbeat posts about how to enjoy low-carbon life I get little response - and when I do get a response people (perhaps rightly) take exception. They think it's too mild, too domestic, to be worth publishing on the Times website. Too silly, perhaps.

So you may not care to know that I went out last night and gathered from a rather neglected mahonia bush on public land behind my house a vast bowlful of berries, also known as oregon grapes, and with assistance from my five-year-old daughter made juice.

... If this stuff about jam is not for you, let me respond here to a comment on my last post about how higher oil prices will facilitate the extraction and refining of untold quantities of oil remaining in hard-to-reach spots - and that, in a nutshell, we can stop worrying.

Alas, oil is not like other commodities. At some point, it will take more than a barrel of oil in energy to extract a barrel of hard-to-reach oil, and when that happens it doesn't matter what price you pay - it still won't be worth it. As those graphs I posted yesterday show, the energy return on energy invested has been dropping dramatically in recent years. There's very poor return on tar sands, and biofuels in many cases use more energy to produce than they yield.

It's been said that climate change is about what comes out of your exhaust, and that nobody really profoundly cares about that, while peak oil is about what goes into your tank, and people care a great deal about that. Me, I care even more about what goes into my tummy, such as this delicious jam.

I hope that this post, combining the scary stuff with the cheerful, finds you well.
(2 July 2009)
Our man at the Sunday Times in the UK, plugging away at peak oil, sustainability, etc. Keep up the good work, John-Paul. -BA

Flashing Lights on the Console: Albert Bates and Heinberg podcast

KMO, C-Realm Podcast
KMO welcomes Albert K. Bates back to the program, and they sit down together for a chat with Richard Heinberg, author of Peak Everything. Albert admits that he's finding it hard to maintain his "soft lander" status in the face of mounting evidence, and Richard talks about the themes in his new book, Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis. Later KMO plays a clip of post-interview banter with yoga instructor and musician Danny Paradise
(1 July 2009)
Also posted at Global Public Media