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View Diary: 2030: The End of Easy Oil (23 comments)

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  •  You should clarify what "easy" means (1+ / 0-)
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    Norbrook

    Because it's not just cost in dollars, or man-hours, but in joules per barrel.

    A number of the proposed "difficult oil" forms actually take more energy to extract than one gets out of them. In other words, they lose their appeal as fuel - though might remain of use for other petrochemical products.

    •  EROEI (4+ / 0-)

      Energy Return On Energy Invested.  

      For example, it takes me one gallon of gas to drive to the gas station and put ten gallons in my tank.  My EROEI is 10.  

      However, let's say it takes me one gallon of gas to drive to the gas station and all I can get is one more gallon.  Now my EROEI is zero.   At that point, the gas I can get does not help me because all of it is used going to the gas station and back.  This is like getting zero percent interest on an investment of money: why bother?

      And if it takes me two gallons of gas to drive to the gas station but all I can get is one gallon, then my EROEI is -1.   At that point it is NOT worth while for me to go to the gas station because I will not even get enough gas to make up for the gas used in the trip.  

      So:

      In the past, it took the equivalent energy of one barrel of oil to get many more than one barrel of oil out of the ground.   Very good, cheap energy, whoopie!

      As we get past peak oil we will have used up the oil that is "easy" to get at, and the remainder will take more and more energy to set up the wells, drill the deeper holes, use the water injection and other special technologies to get at the oil, and finally get it out of the ground and refine it.  

      When the amount of energy it takes is equivalent to what comes out, e.g. 1 barrel of oil's worth of energy to get 1 barrel of oil out of the ground and refined, then it will be pointless to use oil as an energy source because it will create no net benefit in terms of energy.  Like going to the gas station and buying just enough gas for your next trip to the gas station.  

      And the closer we get to this point, the more and more shit hits the fan in terms of energy production for actual use.  The energy usefulness of oil declines even as the supply dries up and the price skyrockets.

      Peak oil has the potential to cause civilization to crash if we do not implement other sources of energy.  Coal is a climate-killer.   At present the best we have are renewables, nuclear, and conservation.    Fifty years from now we may have viable fusion, but we still have to get from here to there.   In any case, thorium is a good fission fuel, it's safe and plentiful, so even if we don't get to viable fusion any time soon, we can keep going on renewables and thorium-based nuclear fission for a few hundred more years easily.  

      Or we can just go back to the caves.  

    •  Winning The Oil Endgame (0+ / 0-)

      Some wheels are already moving on this problem.  If you read a bit of this institute's plan you'll note some of the elements seem errily familiar.  Cash for Clunkers is ripped right from these pages.  Also, our government has been heavily subsidizing Boeing's Dreamliner (another element from the same plan).  And some of you may already be anticipating the Chevy Volt, an electric car with a carbon-fiber body (from a car company currently "owned" by the US Government, last I heard).  In addition, the last time I filled up at the pump my only option was gas with a 10% Ethanol additive.  And, let's not forget the 80 billion dollars the USG dumped into Clean Energy with the Stimulus Act.  And now there's talk of a multi billion dollar jobs bill that will retrofit current homes with energy saving windows and roofs (Cash for Caulkers)!  None of this says to me that we're just playing the proverbial fiddle while the oil-fields burn.  It says to me that our government is trying to gradually wean us off of oil without scaring the crap out of us.  And they're doing that because running out too soon would be bad for EVERYBODY.

      Our business community is not nearly as myopic as we would believe.  Sure, they don't give a rat's ass about their employees.  But they do give a crap about existing for more than the next quarter.  And they do give a crap (sometimes) about turning their own country into a toxic landfill.  Hence why, for all the gnashing of teeth about offshoring of jobs at China's benefit, China has cut it's own environmental throat by taking on so much of our pollution generating manufacturing (that map is from 2007 BTW, talk about old news).  We surmounted the hard part here, though it might not feel like it.  We've changed the zeitgeist.  40 years ago being an environmentalist was freaking weird.  30 years ago it was still wonky (the real reason those solar panels came off of the White House).  20 years ago it was something only whiny, tofu-eating liberals cared about.  10 years ago it was something to think about when we had time.  Now it's a matter of good business sense.  We won.  Being an environmentalist is good business sense now.  Barack Obama is an environmentalist president and nobody really even notices.

      Now, will all of these steps solve the problem?  No.  But they will allow us time to find a solution to the problem, while also working incrementally toward a point where transition will happen organically rather than all at once.  So, yeah.  We'll run out of oil.  But I think we'll be ready.

      •  "we'll be ready"? (0+ / 0-)

        Hahahah. What a joke. We won't be ready unless we tackle world population growth. And that aint happening. No politician dares to even discuss it, except for Al Gore. No, we won't be ready. Sure, we're moving in the right direction on a lot of fronts. But the population issue buries all of our efforts. We are stiping ourselves to death.

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