Peak Oil

About a month ago I came across a website that changed my outlook on life. Frankly it scared me. I haven’t as yet completely figured out how this will change things for me in the long run, nor have I entirely come to grips with what this will mean for the future. However, I think it is critical that everyone out there is aware of this, because we as a society, as a nation, and as a species need to decide our fate.

“Peak Oil” is a term to describe the point at which the planet’s oil reserves in relation to the cost of extraction hits the high point. Oil production in any given oil well and in the entire world follows a bell curve. You’re probably familiar with this shape from grades in high school or college.

Basically what this means is that since the 1800s when the first oil well was tapped, the cost of production of those first few barrels of oil was very expensive, but as time goes on the methods get more efficient and the cost to extract one barrel of oil gets cheaper and cheaper. Unfortunately the amount of oil available eventually catches up with the demand. This is the point when production peaks. There is still oil available and it can still be extracted but it gets more and more expensive to get another barrel of oil.

Think of gold. There were several gold rushes in America’s history in the mid-1800s. When gold was first discovered in California, some of it could be just picked up out of stream beds. When those first prospectors got to the site they where able to set up a system for mining the gold out of the ground using picks and shovels. Eventually they had to sift loads of earth and water through a series of filters to extract the gold. And finally over time it was too difficult to get any gold out of the ground and still survive.

Today large corporations use technology to mine for gold. Large deposits like were discovered in the 1850s are no longer available. We now use heavy machines to strip mine for gold. I recently saw a “Modern Marvels” program on the History Channel where they said that it takes many tons of earth put through a series of chemical filters to get an ounce of gold.

Now think about the fact that oil production will eventually reach the point that gold production is at. It sounds far-fetched but it’s true. Still doubtful? Think about how much the price of gas gone up in the last 6 months. Sure, every time we have price spikes like we are currently going through, the price of gas eventually goes back down, but it never seems to go down as far as it was initially.

Need another example? How about Iraq. According to our government we went into Iraq because Saddam Hussein represented a danger to the security of the U.S. and the world, because he had Weapons of Mass Destruction, and because he ignored many U.N. resolutions over the years. But Iraq also has large reserves of oil. Sure, not as much as Saudi Arabia, but it still has a lot. And now since we’ve removed the ruler of Iraq we are going to have troops in the country for many years to guarantee the security of Iraq. Or should I say the security of Iraq’s oil?

Here’s that scary website I found.

And this is a recent editorial from the LA Times.

And here’s an AP article from today about record high U.S. gas prices.