Thinking alternatives: From “Mobile” to “Mobility”

Shai Agassi is the CEO of The Better Place to get rid of oil dependency (especially for running vehicles). The idea: Give away electric cars for free (like mobile phones) and make the batteries part of the electric grid system (instead of a costly component of the car). You basically pay for miles, thus the service of mobility – not for the hardware.

Here is an interesting interview with him:

Crisis or not

Now watch closely what is going on here:

On one side Claude Mandil (head of IEA) and Klaus Töpfer (head of the UNEP) warn about global energy crisis due to the dependence of oil and the latest development on the oil markets.

On the other side OPEC moves to calm fears by re-iterating that tey will outpace the rising demands by growing production. OPEC is claiming the supply problem is an issue created by the downstream side: recieving ports and refining facilities haven’t been scaled up enough in the early past. In fact OPEC even estimates it will almost double it’s production of 37.9 million barrels per day to 58.3 mb/d (see page 12 of this report) within the next 20 years. The projected worldwide production of oil in this period is claimed to raise fom 81.0 mb/d today to 114.6 mb/d. In their words (page 13):

Concern over an impending oil crisis because of a shortage of resources, even over the coming decade, continues to be voiced in some quarters. Indeed, conventional global oil production is projected by some analysts to peak as soon as 2010. Such messages, that the world is “running out of oil”, continue, however, to be strongly criticized by energy economists. The estimates of the ultimately recoverable reserves (URR) have been increasing over time, for example, from just 0.6 trillion barrels throughout the 1940s, rising to 2 tr b in the 1960s and 1970s, up to the most recent mean assessment by the US Geological Survey (USGS) of 3.3 tr b. These increased estimates are due to the availability of improved data, as well as technological improvements.
The last four estimates of the URR by the USGS have seen consecutive rises. At each point in time of those estimates, since the mid-1980s, the cumulative production, as a percentage of the estimated resource base, has been relatively stable, at just under 30 per cent.
This debate concerns the interplay between geology, technology and economics. The “peakers” point to the turning point for production being reached when around 50 per cent of the URR has been produced, assuming symmetric growth and a decline in production; the repeated revision of the size of the resource base has made this point recede further and further into the future. Technology also continues to blur the distinction between what is considered ‘conventional’ and ‘non-conventional’ oil. It is in this sense that the very concept of a resource limit is regarded as misleading. Although the figures that are estimated for the resource base need to be interpreted with caution, due to the existence of many associated uncertainties, it is nevertheless considered a sound conclusion that the oil reserves are sufficient to satisfy world oil demand growth over the projection period.

So in other words:

According to the OPEC the reasons for the »peak oil« debate a matter of false models used by »peakers« to project the peaking of worldwide production. You might also cynically conclude, that the peak oil hype may also be a artificial debate kept alive by some that have a strong interest in very high oil prices. And in fact this would brilliant example of dialectic marketing: create a meme about supply shortages in near future, call it »peak oil« and you’ll get a better profit on the oil market. At least OPEC is not arguing there won’t be a peak at all – they just claim it won’t happen in the next 20 years.

Draw your own conclusions.

Katrina & the end of oil

Michael Ruppert on August 28th:

Katrina’s landfall on August 29, 2005 may well be remembered as the beginning of the collapse of the American Empire. It could also be remembered by future generations as the day that Mother Earth declared full-scale war on the human race.

And in a later article:

What is not being discussed rationally by the mainstream media is Katrina’s impact on energy production. They don’t dare. By my calculations and those of oil energy expert Jan Lundberg, the United States has just lost between 20% and 25% of its energy supply. My projection is that it’s not coming back — at least not most of it.

In other words: Katrinas could be the historic event that marks the beginning of a world wide production drop below the demand. What will happen if this fact becomes evident? There are many grim prospects. Here is one by Jan Lundberg from earlier this year:

The trucks will no longer pull into Wal-Mart. Or Safeway or other food stores. The freighters bringing packaged techno-toys and whatnot from China will have no fuel. There will be fuel in many places, but hoarding and uncertainty will trigger outages, violence and chaos. For only a short time will the police and military be able to maintain order, if at all.

A good resource about the news coverage is the Energy Bulletin. It also has a very good peak oil primer.

Hydrogen is no solution

Yesterday I saw a TV report on hydrogen cars. What they did not say (again) and what many people don’t get: it will not solve the peak oil issue. Hydrogen is not an energy source – it is a way to store energy like a battery. The fossil fuel will be consumed in the energy production plants instead of inside the motors. The only energy source available to date that could replace fossil fuel is nuclear power – if production would be ramped up radically (and then we still need oil for all the raw materials, right?).

It’s just another example of the fact, that media did not fully understand the peak oil issue or think it may be a too complex issue to bother consumers with. I can’t remember to have seen or heard a documentary about the peak oil issue in German TV to date.

Peak oil ads: No easy answers

Everybody needs to understand peak oil. Chevron started a campain called “Will you join us”:

Energy will be one of the defining issues of this century. One thing is clear: the era of easy oli is over. What we do next will determine how well we meet the energy needs of the entire world in this century and beyond. So we incite you to join us for a series of discussions on some very important issues.

Financial Times reports Saudi officials saying that within the next 10 or 15 years OPEC will not be able to compensate rising demands anymore. Many people don’t have the slightest idea what that means.

Matt Savinar has provided a useful metaphor to explain what having less than demanded means:

… the ramifications of Peak Oil for our civilization are similar to the ramifications of dehydration for the human body. The human body is 70 percent water. The body of a 200 pound man thus holds 140 pounds of water. Because water is so crucial to everything the human body does, the man doesn’t need to lose all 140 pounds of water weight before collapsing due to dehydration. A loss of as little as 10-15 pounds of water may be enough to kill him.
In a similar sense, an oil-based economy such as ours doesn’t need to deplete its entire reserve of oil before it begins to collapse. A shortfall between demand and supply as little as 10-15 percent is enough to wholly shatter an oil-dependent economy and reduce its citizenry to poverty.

Here is a audio presentation (MP3) of Matt Savinar at globalpublicmedia.com.

Also:

Matthew Simmons is a reputated speaker on peak oil issues who provides a number of superb PDF presentations on the issue as well.

Eating fossil fuels

After doing a detailed math about energy resources and consumption Dale Allen Pfeiffer casts a dark image of the future if controlling the earth population will not happen anytime soon:

Should we fail to acknowledge this coming crisis and determine to deal with it, we will be faced with a die-off from which civilization may very possibly never revive. We will very likely lose more than the numbers necessary for sustainability. Under a die-off scenario, conditions will deteriorate so badly that the surviving human population would be a negligible fraction of the present population. And those survivors would suffer from the trauma of living through the death of their civilization, their neighbors, their friends and their families. Those survivors will have seen their world crushed into nothing.