Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Thirst for Oil

McCain's pursuit of offshore and Anwar drilling as an end to our gasoline price problems are laughable in the face of the simple fact that we are at or crossing the peak of global oil production capacity - the peak originally predicted by Hubbert in 1956, just as he successfully and accurately predicted that the peak of United States oil production would be reached in 1965-1970.

For some time The Powers That Be have been doing their damnedest to discredit Peak Oil with the same kind of eye rolling and "can you believe what these eggheads are trying to sell us now" incredulity that is routinely delivered to those same godless scientists who brought us Global Climate Change and Evolution. But now Peak Oil has finally reached the pages of such mainstream journals as the June 2008 National Geographic, which points out that:
  • Worldwide, output from existing fields is falling by as much as 8 percent a year.
  • Many of the biggest oil companies, including Shell and Mexico's state-owned Pemex, are actually finding less oil each year than they sell.
  • Output is plummeting in once-prolific regions such as the North Sea and Alaska's North Slope.
  • While many new fields are being discovered, they are tiny in comparison to the massive giants of Saudi Arabia - none of which has been discovered since the 1950's.
Worst of all is the other universally accepted fact that the global demand is skyrocketing even as the ability to produce is leveling off and will likely enter a slow decline. Setting aside the options of the scientists, here are the comments of one of our captains of industry:

By 2010, according to James Mulva, CEO of ConocoPhillips, nearly 40 percent of the world's daily oil output will have to come from fields that have not been tapped—or even discovered. By 2030 nearly all our oil will come from fields not currently in operation. Mulva, for one, isn't sure enough new oil can be pumped. At a conference in New York last fall, he predicted output would stall at 100 million barrels a day—the same figure Total's chief had projected. "And the reason," Mulva said, "is, where is all that going to come from?"

Read that first sentence again:

By 2010 nearly 40 percent of the world's daily oil output will have to come from fields that have not been tapped—or even discovered.

First the scientists, then the oil industry executives and now even the weird merger of the two that seems to exist in every corner of our government - the Department of Energy's own blue ribbon panel - the National Petroleum Council - led by former Exxon Mobil CEO and Chairman Lee Raymond. Go read their July 2007 report with the confidence inspiring title, Facing the Hard Truths About Energy the next time someone tells you that current price of gasoline is simply a bubble created by oil barons and speculator-profiteers!

The truth is far worse. Just like the whale oil before it, the era of cheap petroleum is coming to an end. Why else have there been no new refineries constructed in the last 29 years? You'd better believe the oil companies know the truth!

So the question is, will we fight to the bitter end, throwing young Americans and countless civilians into endless wars over a dwindling supply of oil... perhaps even finally going toe-to-toe with Russia, the world's second largest oil producer? (How many of you knew that Russia has used petroleum to quietly climb back into the superpower business?)

So with all of this in mind, does John McCain really believe that everyone is going to climb on his magical bus to yesteryear where the future is powered with good old fashioned petroleum? I liked him a lot better when you went to his bus for straight talk, not the Bush company line.

Wit or without Barack Obama, we must launch forward with a space-race urgency to ending our dependence on petroleum of any kind in favor of the visionary ideas of the future, like this biofuel-producing 7,500 cow dairy farm in New Mexico:

Expected output from the integrated operation includes:

  • 54 million gallons of ethanol per year

  • 5 million gallons of biodiesel per year

  • 11+ MW and 155,000 pounds of steam per hour

  • 525,000 pounds of milk per day

  • 110,000 tons of animal feeds per year

    Or Valcent Products, who is growing carbon-dioxide-absorbing algae in vertical farms that produce 50% oil lipids naturally. For comparison, corn produces 18 gallons of oil per acre per year, while palm produces 700-800 gallons of oil per acre per year, while Valcent says that algae can produce the equivalent of 20,000 gallons of oil per acre per year. They say that with 10% of the surface area of the state of New Mexico dedicated to their system they can meet the entire national demand for oil, while also pulling huge amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

    Or even this collaboration, which is about to install an algae-based biofuel system on the tail pipe of a coal fired powerplant:

    This summer, GreenFuel Technologies and Arizona Public Service Company (APS) were able to grow algae successfully at APS’ Redhawk natural gas power plant at levels 37 times higher than corn and 140 times higher than soybeans using CO2 from a natural gas-fired power plant as input to the GreenFuel system.

    The growth rate—an average productivity of 98 grams/m2/day (ash free, dry weight basis) and reaching a high peak value of 174 grams/m2/day—surpassed previous lab growth rates and exceeded all expectations going into the project. The results provide evidence of the financial viability of using the emissions of a power plant to grow algae for the exclusive purpose of creating biofuels, according to the partners.

    Make no mistake, John McCain will only attempt to lead us to a past that no longer exists.

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