Thursday, November 25, 2010

Best of Me on The Oil Drum

From mid 2005 to early 2008, I posted at the The Oil Drum, a peak oil analysis site.  Recently, Nate Hagens, an editor there, asked me to select my favorite ten of my own pieces there, as part of a big post on the site's historical best posts.  Here are my selections:

4%, 11%, Who the Hell Cares?
A very early piece pointing out that the post-peak decline rate is really the critical variable in assessing the seriousness of peak oil - much more important than the date or height of peak, or the degree of warning of peak. This piece still seems pretty good to me.

Hubbert Theory says Peak is Slow Squeeze.
The first piece I wrote looking at the evidence that the post peak decline rate will probably be slow, rather than rapid.

The Auto Efficiency Wedge A piece looking at the fact that at slow decline rates, it's reasonably forseeable that peak oil can be handled by ongoing efficiency improvements (not painlessly, but without complete disaster)

Depletion Levels in Ghawar
A major forensic analysis of the state of oil depletion in the Ghawar field of Saudi Arabia, suggesting that Saudi official oil reserve figures are over-optimistic.

US Peak Oil Adaptation: Prognosis in a Credit Crunch
Rather prescient piece from 2007 discussing the possibility that the credit crunch could collapse oil prices and slow adaptation to peak oil. This turned out to be pretty much what happened.

Fermenting the Food Supply
An argument against continued growth in biofuel consumption as an alternative to oil, on the grounds that the implications for food prices are likely to be very problematic.

The Fallacy of Reversibility
This piece argued that there is no evidence for the idea that peak oil will lead to a revival of local non-industrial agriculture. The reverse seems more likely - that industrial agriculture is being and will be strengthened by high oil prices.

Powering Civilization to 2050
The first of three posts laying out a scenario for how we could get to a fairly close to carbon neutral civilization by 2050, without major collapse or disaster (if I was in charge in of the world). This post looked at energy, and argued that extrapolating the learning curve of solar power, it was possible to see energy becoming cheap again by 2050, based primarily on solar.

Four Billion Cars in 2050?
Second of the "2050" series: Guesstimates on how many cars there might be by 2050, and how they might be powered.

Food to 2050
The third in the "2050" series: Whether there are likely to be limitations on feeding the world's population to 2050 in a cautiously optimistic scenario.


Robert said...

I'm glad you posted this. I was planning on mentioning it at some appropriate moment.

Pangolin said...

So we'll go through peak oil and nothing really will change? People will still drive cars everywhere. Agriculture will still be dependent upon massive petroleum inputs, etc.

Do you write a "climate change: everything will be exactly the same but warmer" blog too?

Stuart Staniford said...


The purpose of that 2050 series was to argue that we could adapt to peak oil, and to suggest something like the easiest path to get there.

This is not to say that I'm certain we will adapt. Human social/political systems are pretty dysfunctional at dealing with big problems, and progress on adaptation so far is not commensurate with the scale of the challenge (with respect to both peak oil and climate change). Whether we will improve over time, or get even more dysfunctional I can't say. Certainly I think there are risks.

Pangolin said...

I seemed to have missed the crucial bit of commentary; my bad.

Currently the response of the US, the worlds largest economy is to regress. The availability of proven technical solutions in such realms as housing and health care where systems are in near-failure mode does nothing for the political will to adapt those solutions.

For the foreseeable future political failure will trump engineering until there is some sort of cultural or psychological shift. It's anybodies guess when that will change.