Monday, April 21, 2008

Peak Oil: More like a big-ass speed bump, really...

I believe in Peak Oil.

I trust that Ken Deffeyes, who was my Geology professor (and who was Michele's thesis advisor) knows about a million times more about the petroleum industry than I do. He's not a lunatic, he knows what he's talking about when he says that oil production peaked on Thanksgiving day, 2005.

(Aside: I can personally attest that he is a lunatic when driving a van down Tioga Pass near Yosemite. Never let a geologist drive when going down a winding, dangerous mountain road that passes interesting rocks. They spend all their time looking at the rocks and ignoring the road...)

It's unfortunate that the word "peak" is used to describe world oil production; it suggest a sharp rise followed by a sharp decline, but that's not what's going to happen.

Instead, we'll get a 300-year-wide bell curve. We've had 150 years of gradually increasing production, with oil becoming more and more important to our economy. We'll have something like 5-10 years of essentially flat production.

And then we'll have another 100 years or more of slow decline.

I have no idea what will replace conventional oil, but I'm confident that somebody somewhere will figure it out (and will get insanely rich doing it). Maybe we'll just stop traveling as much as we do now, or maybe we'll cover Arizona with solar panels, figure out how to build superconducting power lines, and will all drive electric cars.

I'm not afraid. We'll work it out.

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