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Wednesday, May 8, 2013
In the May 4 issue of The Roanoke Times, an Associated Press energy story claimed, “Technology has found so much oil and natural gas that worries about running out are no more” (“Oil technology leaps, clean energy lags”). Some simple mathematics shows that that statement is patently and dangerously wrong. The mathematical analyses use only the well-established principle of conservation of energy/matter.
The article stated that there are crude-oil reserves of perhaps up to a few billion barrels in the United States, implying that means there is nothing to worry about. The maximum yearly discoveries of crude oil for the world were nearly 60 billion barrels around 1960, according to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas; the amount of expected discoveries for the declining discoveries curve currently is below 10 billion barrels per year.
So, a few billion barrels still available in the United States is compatible with what is mathematically expected at this time in the discovery curve. There is much to worry about in terms of oil supply.
For many years, I have done depletion analyses for extraction of fossil fuels for many countries and the world. Humans have extracted crude oil so fast that even huge new discoveries would not change the date for the peaking of extraction by more than a few years. It appears that the world extraction rate for crude oil is peaking at about now. The price of crude oil has averaged about $90/ barrel for many months and will continue to be high due to declining world extraction.
A mathematical analysis for crude-oil extraction in the United States can be studied at roperld.com/science/minerals/CrudeOilUs.htm. It is often stated that the United States will extract more crude oil than Saudi Arabia in the near future. My study, using an optimistic estimate of reserves, shows that may occur for a short time between the years 2016 and 2033, but then the U.S. extraction will fall much more rapidly than extraction in Saudi Arabia.
It is often stated that United States extraction of natural gas can provide demand for 100 years. That is not correct. A mathematical analysis, using a very optimistic estimate of reserves, roperld.com/science/minerals/NaturalGasUS.htm, indicates that natural-gas extraction in the U.S. will peak before 2025 and then decline very rapidly. If power plants are being built or converted to use natural gas, that would not be a good thing for more than two decades. The price of natural gas in the U.S. has doubled in the last year, partly because of demand for it for electricity generation and partly because fracked natural-gas wells deplete very rapidly.
The article stated “the outlook for wind, batteries and biofuels is as dim as it’s been for a decade.” I disagree. A study, roperld.com/Science/electricityus.htm, shows that electricity production in the U.S. from renewable sources has been growing exponentially for the last decade while coal electric power has been declining, nuclear electric power has been level and natural-gas electric power has been growing linearly. The exponential growth of renewable sources can overtake the fossil-fuel sources by 2020.
Electric cars on roads have been growing about twice as fast as the growth of hybrid cars during their first years of introduction; millions of hybrid cars are on the roads now. I drive a Nissan LEAF, one of the best cars I have ever driven, and plan to never drive a strict gasoline car again. I just converted our 2006 Toyota Highlander AWD Hybrid to a plug-in, and I have an electric-assisted bicycle that I use as often as possible. My plan is eventually to have an electric car and a biodiesel plug-in hybrid AWD car. My great-granddaughter will be driving a plug-in car when she is my age because there will be no other choice.
I stated above that the article is dangerously wrong. It is dangerous because it might implant the idea that we can continue to use fossil fuels for energy far into the future, thereby causing citizens not to support rapidly moving to renewable energy, which we must do for our civilization to survive. Even worse, the article is dangerous because it mentions nothing about the dire future humans face because of the carbon-dioxide burning fossil fuels puts into the atmosphere. Our descendants will curse us for burning fossil fuels instead of using them to make useful objects and recycling them many times into the future.
The already dire climate events caused or exacerbated by global warming will eventually cause governments to mandate not burning fossil fuels. Already some advanced governments are beginning to do that.
Weather Journal70 Thursday to ice Sunday?