- IF THE PEAK OIL THEORY IS TAKEN TO ITS LOGICAL CONCLUSION, THE SUPPLY OF CONVENTIONAL, RECOVERABLE OIL WILL DIMINISH OVER TIME. WE HAVE MOST LIKELY PASSED THE POINT WHERE WE WILL HAVE DEPLETED HALF OF ALL RECOVERABLE, MOSTLY CONVENTIONAL OIL RESERVES.
- WE CAN EXPECT HIGHER OIL PRICES SOON. WE WILL SEE MORE VOLATILE OIL MARKETS DUE TO SUPPLY DISRUPTIONS OF ALL KINDS AND DECLINING OIL FIELD PRODUCTION RATES. IMPROVED ENHANCED OIL RECOVERY MAY NOT BE ENOUGH TO PREVENT DECLINING PRODUCTION RATES.
- WE NEED TO FIND ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF ENERGY THAT CAN MAKE UP FOR THE SHORTFALL IN FUEL. THIS WILL HELP US TO CIRCUMVENT THE DECLINE IN FOSSIL FUEL RESERVES. GIVEN THE OPTIONS AVAILABLE, THIS IS – WITH SOME EXCEPTIONS – AN ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TASK.
- THE FURTHER GROWTH OF RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES COULD SUPPORT THE TRANSFORMATION PROCESS, WHICH ALSO RELIES ON FOSSIL FUELS. THERE ARE, OF COURSE, LIMITS TO THIS.
1. PEAK OIL THEORY: THE THEORY IS PUT TO THE TEST
There are two main theories that are being discussed. We will go through the main ideas in broad strokes to summarize them.
One is that oil replenishes after many years due to geopolitical conditions. This theory does not assume that most recoverable oil is of biogenic origin, although we need to read more on this subject to understand the exact definition.
The other theory goes back to M. King Hubbert who studied oil production curves and superimposed these curves. He found that these production curves roughly follow a standard normal distribution (SND). When we approach the middle of this curve, we will have used up half of the oil remaining in the ground. That is the important part that could be recovered without much technical effort. That’s the oil that’s cheap to produce. The remaining oil is not only more difficult to extract, it’s more expensive to extract. That’s why it’s called unconventional recoverable oil in different contexts. This idea was further refined and explored by Colin J. Campbell.
Can peak oil collapse be averted? This question must be divided into two sub-questions. The first part is related to peak oil and whether one follows Hubbert’s peak theory theory. The second part has to do with one’s interpretation of what one thinks a collapse is. Collapse comes in different stages, and here it is worth examining the ideas of Joseph Tainter and his book on the Collapse of Complex Societies.
We have previously tried to summarize the meaning of peak oil in the context of European, especially German, utilities and would like to refer you to one of our articles on our website.
Previously, we critically examined the peak oil theory and analyzed its social consequences, focusing on the German and European energy sectors. There is a close connection between economic progress and the availability of cheap, abundant and easily procured energy resources.
- If one strictly follows M. King Hubbert’s peak oil theory, one would have to conclude that peak oil cannot be averted.
- This means that we have to find ways to adapt and make the best of the situation. Peak oil means that we need to reduce our energy consumption and support the spread of energy technologies that will help us fill the gap of of energy resources.
- Oil price volatility will increase. Oil prices affect all other goods and services. This means that we will have to become more self-sufficient.
- Such a situation can be managed by providing services locally and adapting to locally available energy sources. Which energy sources will be available depends on the individual location and cannot be generalized.