Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Peak Oil Per Capita


A reader asks to see a graph of global oil supply per capita - here it is.  The global population data are from the US census bureau, and the oil supply data are from ASPO through 1979 and EIA total liquids after that (the two sources agree to within a percent or so in the overlap).

If you were wondering why things have never been the same after the 1970s energy crises - now you know.  On the other hand, if you've been panicking that peak oil means the imminent end of civilization - settle down.  In a per-person sense it happened decades ago and we've been living in the aftermath ever since.  Peak oil is a slow squeeze.

23 comments:

Ron said...

I don't think we'll see an end to civilization, but slowly we're seeing an end to the civilization we once knew - perpetual consumption and growth. As the graph shows, we're on the so called bumpy plateau, unable to increase oil supply even with extraordinary effort to do so. This makes for a brittle system susceptible to shocks and resulting social turmoil.

Celle said...

Is this US only?

Stuart Staniford said...

Celle - no this is global liquid fuel production divided by global population.

Fixed Carbon said...

Per capita calculations are dicey because not all of the capits have equal access to the oil. The thought comes to mind that we, the wealthiest capits, are actually increasing oil consumption per capita. Which would carry a different psychological message from the graph that Stuart shows. One might do a quantile regression of consumption by by income categories. Because consumption is so close to production globally, the result would be very interesting. Such an endeavor would take me a week, and I wouldn't get the data sets right. Stuart could do it quickly.

Stuart Staniford said...

Fixed Carbon:

I have an intention to plot the consumption per capita for a few key countries tomorrow (unless something else grips my butterfly mind first). However, I would expect the message to be roughly the opposite of what you suggest - my guess is that per capita usage has been rising in a lot of the BRIC and similar countries while dropping in the OECD.

Hal said...

A lot of that BRIC consumption is undoubtedly manufacturing for export to developed countries, so you might both be right.

Emil said...

This is a very misleading graph and although I've come to understand that you have bouts of 'everything's fine' (The Iraq post et al) from time to time, this is just ridicolous.

It's early where I am so I am just too tired to start taking this apart bit by bit.

But Kjell's new takedown of Yergin's bizzaro WSJ article is a good start on why Peak Oil is not 'happening since the 1970s'.

It's happening now.
Because this is the first time we have an involuntary/unpolitical production constraint that is already bound to go down by this decade(which even the U.S. military acknowledges and Bill Clinton recently spoke about)

This is a historical first in the history of the Petroleum age and I just can't believe that you would post just a, frankly, crap post.

You just know so much better, Stuart.


Nonethless, read and make sure that you do not fall victim to the Yergin virus.

http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2011-09-21/there-will-be-peak-oil

I'm sorry for the snark in this post but I am simply shocked at this post and the ignorance of it.

Stuart Staniford said...

Emil:

I'm assuming you are not asserting that I made the graph of per-capita oil incorrectly?

I'm also assuming you are not asserting that the peak in that graph was not in the 1970s?

Presumably you wouldn't argue that the graph is likely to go up above the previous peak in the future?

So then are you trying to say that oil-per-capita is an unimportant variable? Or what?

Stuart Staniford said...

Ron:

I think that's about right.

Stuart Staniford said...

As to Yergin: I think Jim Hamilton's response is pitch perfect.

saif said...

Stuart,
Regarding Emil's comment,
Anything other than total annihilation of the human race is optimistic to the TAE crowd.

Art Myatt said...

According to the U.S. EIA, per capita total energy use in the USA peaked in 1978-1979. See http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/pdf/perspectives_2009.pdf

TomS said...

It would be more interesting to see the graph using total liquid BTUs shipped versus total liquids shipped. Total liquids shipped assumes that a barrel of ethanol is equivalent to a barrel of oil which is not the case.

Stuart Staniford said...

TomS:

The difference would be a small percentage that wouldn't change the shape of the graph materially.

CrowMagnon said...

Your graph is consistent with World Per Capita Oil Consumption 1965 – 2009 (pdf/3 pages) by John H. Walsh.
"The per capita consumption of oil and total primary energy were calculated for the world from 1965-2009 using data derived from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy and the World Factbook of the Central Intelligence Agency of the U.S.A. Per capita world oil consumption has remained remarkably constant at an average 4.54 barrels per capita (Standard Deviation = 0.10) for the 27 years inclusive from 1983-2009."

Manuel Salgado said...

Forget per capita. How about per automobile?

dimposter said...

What a bizzaro comment by Emil. My impression was roughly the opposite in that I thought this post was a welcome return to the underlying numbers, as opposed to glimpses of the Great Unravelling in the rear vision mirror.

Re your partly color-blind correspondent on the following ".. around the world" post, I'm not sure if it is possible in whatever spreadsheet you're using but it would be helpful to order graph keys by the last data point. Eg in that case by 2010 oil usage rather than alphabetical order, so the key would be in the same order as the lines on the right side of the graph.

What I really wanted to comment though is that Yergin's WSJ article is nothing surprising or original or new. By far the most insightful (and entertaining) response I have ever seen on such detachment from reality is "On Why High IQ Fails Us, The Freakonomics of Peak Oil, and Horse Breeding, Manhattan Style" : http://www.energybulletin.net/node/8795

Nick G said...

Do we need oil?

Nah.

There is this puzzling assumption that oil can't be replaced, that it is somehow magically necessary for industrial/modern civilization. Oil has been cheap and convenient for the last 100 years, but the industrial revolution started without it, and modern civilization certainly will continue without it.

• 130 years ago, kerosene was needed for illumination, and then electric lighting made it obsolete. The whole oil industry was in trouble for a little while, until someone (Benz) came up the infernal combustion engine-powered horseless carriage. EVs were still better than these noisy, dirty contraptions, which were difficult and dangerous to start. Sadly, someone came up with the first step towards electrifying the ICE vehicle, the electric starter, and that managed to temporarily kill the EV.

Now, of course, oil has become more expensive than it's worth, what with it's various kinds of pollution, and it's enormous security and supply problems.

• 40 years ago oil was 20% of US electrical generation, and now it's less than .8%.

• 40 years ago many homes in the US were heated with heating oil - the number has fallen by 75% since then.

• 50% of oil consumption is for personal transportation - this could be reduced by 60% by moving from the average US vehicle to something Prius-like. It could be reduced by 90% by going to something Volt-like. It could be reduced 100% by going to something Leaf-like. These are all cost effective, scalable, and here right now.

I personally prefer bikes and electric trains. But, hybrids, EREVs and EVs are cost effective, quickly scalable, and usable by almost everyone.

Sensible people won't move to a new home to solve this problem. That would be far, far more expensive than replacing the car. It makes far more sense to buy an EV and amortize it over 20 years at a cost of less than $2k per year (about the amount they'd save on fuel), versus moving to a much higher cost environment (either higher rent or higher mortgage).

• As Alan Drake has shown, freight transportation can kick the oil-addiction habit relatively easily.
We don't need oil (or FF), and we should kick our addiction to it ASAP.

The only reason we haven't yet is the desperate resistance from the minority of workers and investors who would lose careers and investments if we made oil and other FFs obsolete.

Ron said...

@Nick G: There is no substitute for cheap oil, not in the quantity and convenience required by Big Agriculture, transportation and shipping. We know there are alternatives but there's no way each of these critical industries can convert to them in time. We're too slow to act.

Nick G said...

There is no substitute for cheap oil

Who says it needs to be cheap? I'd say moderately expensive is perfectly affordable. Energy was never cheap before WWII, when the US did most of it's industrial development.

not in the quantity and convenience required

The US has plenty of electricity. Fleet applications need much less infrastructure.

Big Agriculture

is an energy exporter - it will do just fine in an energy-scarce environment. Further, it doesn't really need that much energy.

transportation and shipping

Commercial/industrial vehicles use much less than, and will outbid, personal vehicles.

We're too slow to act.

We should be acting faster, but keep in mind that we have an enormous cushion of excess energy. For instance, water shipping can slow down 20%, and reduce fuel consumption per km by 50%.

Joey said...

Thank you Dr. Staniford for your time and insight.

Looking at the graph oil per capita went from ~1.7 to 5.4 from 1950 to 1970, 20 yrs. When do you think the other side of the cliff will occur and will it have an increase, decrease, or ~same decline?

Thanks Dr. Staniford

Ron said...

>Who says it needs to be cheap? I'd say moderately expensive is perfectly affordable. Energy was never cheap before WWII, when the US did most of it's industrial development.

It needs to be cheap because that is what got us through the industrial revolution in the first place, and on which we based our food production and transportation systems. As the price of oil increases the price of these industrial systems, food, etc goes up.

>The US has plenty of electricity. Fleet applications need much less infrastructure.

Oil does not equal electricity. You can't run massive farm tractors on batteries. There may be alternatives but it would take a huge investment over a long period of time when prices will be high and shortages probable.

>Big Agriculture is an energy exporter - it will do just fine in an energy-scarce environment. Further, it doesn't really need that much energy.

I don't understand how Big AG exports energy - in the form of food? Enormous inputs go in pumping water, feed for livestock, fuel, processing, refrigeration and transportation. I don't think the scale can be supported, and I don't think (esp in the lower midwest US) water will last. (They have to pump it from ever deeper aquifers until the cost of pumping becomes prohibitive).

transportation and shipping

>Commercial/industrial vehicles use much less than, and will outbid, personal vehicles.

Agreed.

We're too slow to act.
>We should be acting faster, but keep in mind that we have an enormous cushion of excess energy. For instance, water shipping can slow down 20%, and reduce fuel consumption per km by 50%.

Good point. But, you can't ship (all) food via water without spoilage. Many other goods can be shipped this way as long as the long lead times are acceptable. (20% slower? than what, trucking?) I agree that we should ship more via water and *rail*.

Nick G said...

It needs to be cheap because that is what got us through the industrial revolution in the first place

Well, no, it wasn't. Before WWII energy was not cheap. Before WWI we didn't use much oil. Neither oil nor cheap energy was the basis for US industrialization.

You can't run massive farm tractors on batteries.

Sure, you can. Just swap them out, like Better Place.

There may be alternatives but it would take a huge investment over a long period of time when prices will be high and shortages probable.

Again, farmers will enjoy high incomes during times of energy scarcity. Plus, they can grow their own fuel, if necessary.

I don't understand how Big AG exports energy - in the form of food?

Yes, and in the form of biodiesel and ethanol. Heck, almost half the US corn harvest is going to ethanol, and that has raised the price of ag products substantially.

Enormous inputs go in pumping water

That's not large, and much of it can be solar powered.

I don't think (esp in the lower midwest US) water will last.

Only about 1/3 of US food is irrigated, only perhaps 1/3 of that comes from the kind of aquifer you're thinking of. I agree, some of those aquifers are in trouble - we really shouldn't be growing rice in the desert.

(20% slower? than what, trucking?

No, 20% slower than previously. Instead of 30 knots, you "steam" at 24 knots, and save 50% on fuel.

Yes, rail, will work quite nicely. Eventually it will be electrified.