/* Added by TWP, 10/12/2012 */ /* End of addition */

One of the live oaks that bless my home

Saturday, June 6, 2015

There Must Not Be Peak Oil

In this post, I explain the logic of wishful thinking and plain denial that rules on the Earth in most matters that matter (population growth, power (= energy per unit time) supply, water supply, food supply, progressing destruction of planetary ecosystems, and so on).  
I imply throughout that without an ample and continuous supply of power as liquid fuels, chemical feedstock and electricity, the societal activities we take for granted are impossible.
I start from formulating a grand postulate that is self-evident, given the finite volume of the Earth's lithosphere and the law of mass conservation:
(The Grand Postulate) If all hydrocarbon resources in the Earth’s mantle are finite (= A) then
there is peak rate of hydrocarbon production  (= B) [as these resources are gradually depleted]: A implies B or A B

This Grand Postulate is logically equivalent to its contrapositive: if not A then not B:  (not A = ~A)  ~B:
If hydrocarbon resources are infinite (= ~A), then there is not peak production rate (= ~B). 
But the following two statements are also always true:
If hydrocarbon resources are infinite (= ~A)  then
there is (=B) or there is not peak hydrocarbon production rate (= ~B) 
We could stop producing ever more hydrocarbons year-on-year, but we don't have to because the resource is infinite.

Instead, we wish that this statement were true, because we don’t like or fear B: 
Even if hydrocarbon resources are finite (= A)  then
there is not peak hydrocarbon production rate (=~B):  A ~B
In view of the law of mass conservation (The Grand Postulate) this statement seems false to a few people who understand science, so we have to find additional “evidence” for the validity of ~B.  The best strategy is to find a new shiny ~A.

Here is where shale oil/gas and/or Arctic oil/gas and/or new technology or anything else come to help.

Let’s try to “prove” the no peak of hydrocarbon production (~B) with shale oil and gas, and technology: 
(The Grand Not Postulate) Since we know that there is a practically infinite amount of hydrocarbons in shales and new technology of recovering hydrocarbons from these shales exists in the U.S. (= a substitute ~A) then
there is not peak hydrocarbon production rate ( = ~B)   Q.E.D.
As you can see, I have diverted your attention from the real problem (the finite Earth and low production rates (power) from shales) by postulating something that is evidently false as true.  Then I followed with what you really wanted to hear: There is no problem. So you happily glossed over the patent untruth of my argument. This is how most media and political proclamations work.
In the U.S., it is now commonly understood that the Grand Postulate is false, because of so many “false” predictions of peak production rates, at least on the scale of few months or years. 
You understand, I hope, that I simply wished away the problem, and used you as dupes to justify my false conclusion.  

Now, if you believe my lies, you are essentially crazy, because you see things that do no exist and non-crazy people cannot see. So the following questions arise:
  • What are people in the U.S. to do when they have been convinced that the silly statements of peak oil [and gas] power production are false?
After a few months of lower oil prices, they are buying again the same old monster trucks and SUVs, and they are driving again a record number of miles. The U.S. is also setting out to export more natural gas. Call it a complete relapse of an old drug habit.
  • What are the now convinced Americans to do when the price of gasoline relative to their (almost uniformly) declining incomes becomes too high? 
They will be very angry and blame others for misleading them.  Heads will be rolling. The absolute prices of gasoline and heating oil do not have to become much higher in magnitude.  It is sufficient that the real incomes fall just enough to prevent people from simultaneously eating, paying bills, and driving to work and to acquire necessities. In the U.S., most people must drive to subsist. 
  • What are [the American] politicians to do when they too have been convinced that the silly statements of peak oil/gas power production are false?
Politicians abhore the giant effort of planning and building an altogether new national infrastructure of small but complete towns, surrounded by their own agriculture/ranches, and possessing a decentralized, partial generation of electricity from wind and photovoltaics, as well as heat from passive solar heaters and geothermal heaters/coolers.  These towns must also have sufficient water supplies from rain catchment, rivers, and groundwater. They must be connected with a sparse network of electrical train rail lines.  Almost all trains are not very fast, because there is little need to go long distances, except for transporting [ever fewer] goods.   There will be plenty of electricity left in the existing base power generation system to propel these trains.

The new houses/apartment complexes are not built in the woods, where they will almost certainly burn and be never replaced, or on high quality agricultural soil.  Today, almost 2 out of 3 new houses in the U.S. are built in places with high fire danger and/or insufficient water supply.

The new housing units are not built on or near the beaches, where they will be swallowed by the swelling seas or destroyed by hurricanes. (Oh, that pesky non-existent climate change!)  They are not built in the flood planes of rivers and streams, where they will be destroyed and there will be no money to rebuild them.

I definitely see a new post entitled: "There must not be climate change."  Yes, climate change is so very inconvenient and scary. We must wish it away.

Unfortunately, the problem of peak production rates of anything has been wished away in the U.S. and so many other countries that grow in population much faster than the U.S.  I will not bore you anymore, because I have written, spoken, and published on this subject for many, many years; to little or no avail it turns out.

P.S. Fresh from my friend, Art Berman: The Grand Not Postulate has also been published by my favorite Wall Street Journal, albeit in more poetic language: "Now Hubbert’s Curve has been trumped by Moore’s Law. There will be no limits to growth in the global economy in a few years when, thanks to American ingenuity and entrepreneurship unleashed upon shale formations world-wide, oil—like transistors—becomes, for all practical purposes, free. And the lower oil prices go, the more money the frackers can make."

To verify your sanity, you really need to read Chapter 2 in the "Philosophy of Deception" or "On Truth" by Harry Frankfurt.

For the record, I regard the Wall Street Journal as a newer, gentler, and smaller-circulation version of the old tried Völkischer Beobachter or Pravda.

P.S.P.S.  6/8/2015.  If you want to be confused by reality, please verify that the global production of conventional crude oil and lease condensate has remained essentially flat for the last 11 years, as depicted by the the blue area in the magnified Figure 1 in "A New Peak in Conventional Crude Oil Production."  Even at $140 per barrel of oil, cold facts do not support the paradigm of no limits to growth of oil production around the world. This paradigm seems to rule in the U.S.

P.S.P.S.P.S.  07/03/2015.  Here is a somber assessment of shale oil production from the Economist, which is not the Wall Street Journal. Stay tuned in October 2015, when most of the current profitable oil price hedges expire.