Guest Post: The Scientific Challenges To Replacing Oil With Renewables

Tyler Durden's picture


So, assuming the Peak Oil camp is on to something, what's the likelihood for a disruption-free transition to another energy source that can replace the energy output we currently enjoy from oil? There's no shortage of promising claims from new laboratory experiments, and there is a lot of optimism in political and entrepreneurial circles that renewable, alternative forms of energy (wind, solar, biofuels, etc) may be able to fill the "energy gap" in time. How realistic are these hopes?

Not very, says Robert Rapier, energy specialist and Chief Technology Officer of Merica International.

The problem is one of return on invested energy. It is extremely difficult to create fuels with the same energy-density Nature has concocted over thousands of millennia without using up as much (or more) energy in the process.

When you think about what oil is then you understand why these biofuels companies have a tough time of making it work. I mean, oil is accumulation of millions of years of biomass that has accumulated. Nature has applied the pressure, it’s applied the heat and it has cooked these into very energy-dense hydrocarbons. Now, what we are trying to do in real time is speed all this up. Somebody has to plant the biomass, somebody has to grow the biomass where nature did it in the first place. We have to transport it, we have to bring it into a factory, we have to get it in that form, we have to convert it from biomass into some fuel. We are adding energy and labor inputs all along and then finally we get a fuel out of the back end.


A lot of the time, a lot of these so-called biofuels are very heavily dependent on fossil fuels to begin with. So for some of them it is not even clear that they would be viable if you took the fossil fuels out of the process. When you think about all the labor and energy that goes into making a biofuel from an annual crop it becomes apparent why oil has been the dominant fuel for the last 150 years. It is much easier to go poke a hole in the ground and get that oil out of the ground than it is to go through all the labor of actually producing the fuel. So companies are competing against that.     

On top of this, false hope and confusion is frequently created in the marketplace by new companies announcing "breakthroughs" that may indeed work in optimal laboratory environments, but just simply don't under real-world conditions, at scale:

The scale-up issue is the most important issue because in my experience, most technologies get wiped out as they go up in scale. So something you may be able to do in a lab, 90% of those lab ideas don’t work and only 10% will go on to make a pilot plan. And for lab experiments there are going to be all kinds of things: your catalyst didn’t work; your actual process didn’t work....


Let’s say your process did work in a lab. In the lab you are doing all kinds of things that are different than what you would do at a larger scale. Your waste products may not be a problem, you may have a small amount of bi-product that can be thrown away. Lab equipment is smaller and so the heat transfer in that lab equipment is very different than it is as you scale up. The example I give a lot is: think of a turkey. We are coming up on Thanksgiving. If you are cooking one turkey and you imagine an oven with the heating elements on the sides, that is simply one factor and not everybody gets that right: the turkey is too dry, it’s overdone, it’s not cooked enough.


Now imagine taking that turkey and scaling it up to cook, say 1,000 turkeys an hour. You can imagine that the issues there are very, very different than they would be in a smaller oven. You maybe have turkeys in the middle that would still be cold while the turkeys on the outside are burnt to a crisp. So you are trying to get an even heating distribution across this larger oven and it is the same as a reactor. As the reactor goes from lab scale up to larger scale, as you get heat differences and temperature differences inside that reactor you can make different products, different byproducts, more things that you didn’t want to make or not as much of the thing that you did want to make.


And some companies will skip those steps. As you skip the steps, if you think about it – most technologies get knocked out at each step. So normally a company would go from lab scale to pilot scale to demonstration scale to a commercial scale. If somebody is jumping over steps they are greatly reducing the risk or their chance of success...

That will be the case with most of the biofuel companies out there making promises. They get out there; they will build their pilot plant. They will discover that things don’t work as they thought they would and then they will close down.     

While it is critical we invest our current resources to finding solutions to the approaching energy gap, it's also essential we approach the situation realistically and with as little magical thinking as possible. Currently, the US is consuming 10 million barrels per day more than it produces domestically. For perspective, our best ethanol refineries can produce around 4,000 barrels per day (at a much lower EROEI). And if we decided tomorrow to begin converting our transportation fleet to full-electric vehicles (i.e. away from liquid fuels), it would realistically take somewhere between 30-50 years to fully build out the infrastructure and retire the combustion-engine vehicles. The short of it is there is going to be no single fuel source that replaces oil, and the transition to a post-Peak Oil future is going to involve a period of "less energy" for society for an undetermined period of time.

I think that we hope and we believe that our energy predicament can be solved by technology. We have seen technological advancement in so many different fields and we expect this is what we are going to see in the energy field. If you look at where computers have come over the last 30 years we expect that to happen with our energy production that the whole society is going to be running off of solar and wind power going forward. I sometimes say there is not always a neat solution to every problem.


We have still got the common cold. It is still with us. That has not been cured despite it being around forever. So not all problems can be solved easily. And the energy problem is one that is not going to be solved easily in my opinion. Our society has grown up on something that was rich, abundant, and pretty easy to get to. We are trying to replace that with something that the energy required to get it and process it and produce it is a lot higher than the energy required to process oil.


There is not going to be one thing that replaces oil. I think there are going to be a lot of different things and, more importantly, I think it is going to take a lot less oil than we are using now. The good news is we have dropped a million and a half barrels a day over the last five years. The bad news is a lot of that is because of the recession; it shows we do have some capacity to reduce our oil consumption. There is still a lot of low hanging fruit in my view. It is going to be painful as we scale down and some of the alternatives are going to have to meet somewhere -- at some level higher than they are today and at some level of oil consumption lower than we are today -- those will have to meet. 

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Robert Rapier (runtime 52m:46s): 


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jcaz's picture

Yep, technology eventually solves everything, eventually.....  Oil won't go out of favor until it's economically unfeasable, but until then,  there are plenty of gains to be had in general efficiencies......  For example, it's absurd that we still use heating oil- talk about 1932- but there ya go.....

Problem is, no one can extrapolate technology, so all the flat-earth people freak out at the prospect of counting on stuff that has to be yet invented.....

Max Fischer's picture



...oil is the accumulation of millions of years of biomass that has accumulated....

Well, first of all, that's not a very friendly manner in which to start a debate, as you're going to piss off all the Palin-style Christians who think the Earth is ~6000 years old.  Please be more respectful in the future. 

Secondly, no one can refute the dire oil claims made by oil doomers better than Daniel Yergin.  Rather than trying to paraphrase his words, I'll just lead you to his own.  Yergin's article in the WSJ, What's Wrong with Peak Oil:

If you get a chance, take a look at his newest book, The Quest: Energy, Security and the remaking of the Modern World.

Max Fischer, Civis Mundi

Rusty.Shackleford's picture

Yergin is a PR whore, and does not live on planet earth.

Max Fischer's picture



That's a very convincing rebuttal, Rusty. Given the depth of his research against your rebuttal, I'll go with his position. 

Max Fischer, Civis Mundi

vast-dom's picture

Rushmore is facile. Oil is essential.  

rosex229's picture

Daniel Yergin has also predicted on many occassions over the last 6 years that oil is going back down to $10-$20 per barrel... instead its over $100.


He argues (correctly i might add) that higher prices make previously uneconomical oil producable making the total reserves we have access to higher. His arguement is thus that if oil stagnantes in production (like it has since 2005) higher pirces will bring on new production resulting in lower prices once economies of scale kick in. Unfortunately, oil prices are (and have been) over 500% higher than the historical average for some time now, new production has come online from unconventional sources, but its only making up for declining production elsewhere not raising total production.


What Daniel Yergin ultimately fails to comprehend (besides EROEI) is that advanced economies have an oil price limit which when hit throws economies into recession, which reduces investments. In other words, higher oil prices are needed to bring new production online, but those higher prices cause global recessions. At some point the higher prices erode the balance sheets of sovereign nations (and thus bank balance sheets) that complete financial collapse becomes a certainty. Once we tip past that point into financial collapse the advanced systems of credit and exchange will contract severely. These systems are needed to maintain our stubbornly stagnant world production.


Daniel Yergin doesn't see the interconnections between the mortgage crisis, european debt crisis, U.S. debt crisis, failing banks, and record high oil prices. This is odd because no body denies that oil prices (that on an inflation adjusted basis were lower than the prices in 2008 and 2011) caused severe econmic contractions twice in the 1970s.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

"oil is accumulation of millions of years of biomass that has accumulated"


And it is the word "biomass" that causes the failure, not "millions"

LawsofPhysics's picture


So you are saying that the mass of oil (pure hydrocarbon molecules) being burnt every day is being replaced by other biomass? Got news for you retard, biomass begins with plants and photosynthetic algae (the bottleneck of the carbon cycle) and they are NOT pure hydrocarbon molecules (basically fats).  In fact, these organisms are more sugar (mostly cellulose) and proteins than anything else.  Converting those sugars and protein to fat and then to fuel takes energy.

But hey, at least you are in the right profession, gonna need lots of bike repair guys in the future.  Thanks for the chuckle, troll.

defender's picture

Sigh...You are so ready to beat that dead horse that you don't even take the time to read the comment.  He was saying that it is abiogenic oil, ie if the oil is that deep, it ain't made from no shark fin soup. 

But hey, at least you are in the right profession, gonna need lots of physics law guys in the future when people cant even afford to fix their bicycle.  Thanks for the chuckle, troll.

smiler03's picture

Sigh, You are so ready to read what you want but he actually said "FAIL. And it is the word "biomass" that causes the failure, not "millions"

There is no mention of "abiogenic".

But hey, you can be a defender of the deluded if you so wish.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

No fucktard, I did mean "abiogenic".

There are hydrocarbons on Saturn's moon Titan, but there has never been biomass on Titan.

Got it, fucktard?

GMadScientist's picture

What's the energy density of crystallized methane trapped in a ring, dinglefucker?


Bicycle Repairman's picture

Don't change the subject.  This isn't 20 questions, pinhead.

buyingsterling's picture

How do the peak oil chicken littles explain oil at the bottom of the arctic ocean, and miles underground? Seepage? I've never seen a good answer to this. I'll wait for one now.

Popo's picture

Because the entire Permian Antarctic plate was once warm, covered in biomass and significantly less submerged when it was part of Pangea.  

('hope you didn't have to wait too long.)

buyingsterling's picture

So the bakkan fields and the trillion barrels under Illinois are seepage. Lot of seepage. Swiss cheese earth?

Flakmeister's picture

Just for shits and giggles, could you describe where the trillion barrels of oil are found under Illinois and their geological form?? 



buyingsterling's picture

I must have pulled that out of my ass, it had to be natural gas. But just for more grins, here's an article from five years ago, talking about how sad it is that the US can't use it's 2 trillion+ barrels in shale oil reserves. It's oil, but it's utterly and completely useless. Same with all the tar sands oil. And the heavy crude just found in VZ which puts their reserves ahead of the Saudis - one find changes the world oil distribution equation significantly, but it's shit oil that no one wants. Give us the light sweet crude or civilization is doomed. All of that other oil sucks baboon ass, and the only way we can produce it is if oil becomes so expensive that it ends civilization first.

You were right to call me out on the Illinois botch, but peak oilers are still globalist tools, just pumping the next crisis that will be used to expand government power. If we're sitting in the dark in 20 years, it will be because someone wants us to be sitting in the dark, not because it's inevitable.


Flakmeister's picture

As I suspected... you are talking about Kerogen or Marl.... that is not oil and never will be at least not for a few million years, if ever....

Educate yourself, the Bakken is real oil trapped in shales (the source rock). The crap you are referring to is basically the source rock that has not been heated and subject to the requisite pressure to make oil.... It has been known about for 50 years and the oil cos. have no idea what to do with it....It has the energy density of a baked potato....

You are a victim of your own hope and denial...

Jumbotron's picture

Hey pricklicker (Bikey Boy)....remember me?

I blew your ass out of the water the last time we had a discussion.  Not surprised by your inability to answer a couple of questions in a row much less 20.

First of all...have you been to Titan.  No you silly fucktard, you haven't.  You haven't the faintest notion of how it got there.  We still, after all these years of having the Cassini-Huygens Probe discovered if it was even accreted from Saturn itself.  As we have found pieces of Mars on our own planet, Titan could have been a piece of ancient earth flung away when hit by the planetoid which eventually formed into our moon.  As this piece of our planet with the building blocks of life went hurtling away it was captured by Saturn's gravity and over time the bacteria on this piece of rock produced the methane and ethan we see now. 

It's a hypothesis with little to no evidence but so is abiogenic oil formation.

He's not changing the subject dumbfuck.  It is a VERY pertinent quesiton concerning the existence of abiogenic hydrocarbons.  Of course bacteria and heat such as that found close to magma near the mantle of the earth or a distant moon/planet such as Titan or even Saturn or Neptune can produce hydrocarbons such as methane.  But how much, at what cost to extract, what is its nature in the sense of its energy density and and what kind of derivatives can we make from it at scale and once again at what cost?  In other words, if Titan has enough methane and ethan to power Earth for 10,000 years would it still be cost effective to try and build a huge fleet of spacecraft such as the Nostromo from the movie Alien with its attendant refinery to go there and back which would take between 14 to 15 years not including the time it would take to extract the hydrocarbons from the atmosphere?

Of course not....we're fucking broke now and relying on our one time enemy the Russians to cart our sorry asses up to the International Space Station.

Now I know you were not really talking about doing this, just making a VERY weak point about Titan.  But where oh where is this magical cornucopia of abiogenic methane and ethane...much less REAL HONEST TO GOD PETROLEUM.

I's found in your ass, because that's where you and all the other abiogenic nut burgers pull it from. 

And even if there were untold numbers of reservoirs of abiogenic petrolium, just how much would it cost to drill down to the fucking mantle and get it.  And how much refining would it take to massage it back to a form that was usable much less have derivatives such as lubricants, synthetics, plastics, even gasoline?

About as expensive as sending a fleet of interstellar refineries to Titan, you fucking moron.


Flakmeister's picture

But you remember me....

Look, I understand why you need to believe that oil is abiotic... You are a creationist and believe that the divine being endowed Adam and Eve with boundless hydrocarbons...

I ain't going to question your religious beliefs but you really should be go somewhere else and just be quiet...

Element's picture

"oil is accumulation of millions of years of biomass that has accumulated"


And it is the word "biomass" that causes the failure, not "millions"


That general statement has never been shown to be false.

You can not get around that via rank denials.

Indeed, there is a staggeringly VAST body of structural and stratigraphic field-relation data, observations, petrology, palaeontology, and detailed geochemistry and lab experimentation, that shows that statement most certainly is valid and factually correct.

This isn't about choosing personal preferrences, it is about the evidence.

If it is a choice between that scientific observational actuality, and a mere thesis that abiotic oil is gurgling up from the centre of the earth ... well, sorry, but the Principle of Occam's Razor leaves that thesis of abiotic-oil as surplus to requirement.

Geoscientists simply don't need another explanation to adequately explain the observations.

I they did, I would be the first to say so.

Popo's picture

Ultimately, proponents of abiogenic oil are number-challenged.   They have a hard time understanding 250 million years.  

Their argument is basically the same argument that anti-evolutionists make when they proclaim "I ain't never seen a monkey give birth to a human".

Geologic time is beyond their capacity for understanding.





Bicycle Repairman's picture

Equating abiogenic oil with anti-evolutionists is a nice debating trick and also meaningless.

john39's picture

the oil system is totally corrupt... a huge percentage of the oil price is skimmed off... like a hidden globalist tax.

Sizzurp's picture

Exactly....... EROI is steadily degrading.  At some point it isn't even feasible to produce oil. Obviously, this is all going to have horrific consequences on our standard of living.  We are just getting started on this decline curve and very few even recognize what is happening.  Barring an absolute miracle, the chances for effective mitigation have long ago passed us by.  Then again, even if someone discovered economically viable fusion energy right now, the years it would take to implement it would likely be beyond the point where the necessary investment and infrastructure building could be achieved. Sorry to be so pessimistic.  I have 3 young boys and I don't want it or like it either.

DaveyJones's picture

peak debt is the main reason I taught myself food production. Peak oil is the second. We are living at one of the most challenging transitions in human history

BigDuke6's picture

As has been noted here before,

the ability to produce your own food will become one of the main forms of 'resistance' to the oligarchy machine.

Keep up the good work Davy.

buyingsterling's picture

"What Daniel Yergin ultimately fails to comprehend (besides EROEI) is that advanced economies have an oil price limit which when hit throws economies into recession, which reduces investments."

Where? When? It's PURELY theoretical. We waste more oil than we use efficiently. And the US has had a deliberate policy for decades of leaving it's endowment untouched in many places, so that we could use Arab oil paid for with fiat. Do you think the environmental lobby is any match for the oil lobby?

If 'peak oil' makes things more expensive, the wasteful uses of oil will be the first to go. There's another end of the equation besided EROI: How much can you reduce non-essential uses through market price rationing? It's already happening to some degree, and the crunch hasn't come yet. All of the peak oil arguments revolve around maintaining the consumerist status quo - which is a rotten foundation for an economy anyway.

Just watch: if they are ever forced to abandon the climate change shakedown, the globalists will use your peak oil against you, working hand in hand with the oil companies to milk you. Every tanker in the world was full of oil during the 2008 spike. Let's have an open market first, then they can fear-monger. If things get bad enough, we can always go after the 1 trillion barrels in shale oil under Illiinois. What's that? Too expensive to produce? Tell that to North Dakota. The world is swimming with the stuff and you're being scammed into thinking it's scarce so that you can be milked. They milk you with the fiat money system, why should other resources be different? And what is the essence of the scam? That we have to go to certain people to have our needs met, and only they can 'run the system' effectively. Same thing with food, oil, water, birth, death, health - wake up and smell the fraud. Or is every other control freak scare mongering tactic of theirs BS, but this one is spot on?

Flakmeister's picture

Sorry. but your understanding is misguided not to mention your lack of knowledge about basic hydrocarbon geology...

Daniel Yergin seems to be a nice enough guy, he wrote an awesome book called "The Prize", and then became a shill for CERA... If you compare his commentary on the oil markets since 2002 with any of the reputable peak oil anaylysts you will see that he has had his lunch eaten...

Please enumerate the untouched endowments of oil... Do you understand the geologic difference between the Bakken and Green River? Do you understand the difference between permeability and porosity? Look at the flow rates in the Permian Basin compared to the Bakken... You are aware of the latest news on NPR-A?

The American economy is built on the discretionary use of cheap oil.... Suburbia requires cheap oil. The oil we have left has to be put to productive uses not fueling SUVs to go to the mall to buy imported trinkets...

I have made the following observation: There are no people that understand peak oil that deny global warming and vice-versa, whereas almost all peak oil deniers also deny climate change. Also none of the deniers can point to anything besides ideologically driven junk-science and factoids to refute the accepted science of AGW and PO...

buyingsterling's picture

If oil is not abiotic, then we will run out, first of the best and most easily accessible and processed, then the rest. But the doomer scenarios are unfounded. The assumption is that declining production will crash the system, but all of those ideas are about sustaining something like the status quo. It's not an overnight change.

If you believe in AGW, you should be promoting maximum use of all carbon fuels ASAP in Japan, Europe, and the US. Do you want the Chinese and Indians with zero pollution controls to burn more of it? If AGW is true, the AGW people should be all about Western use of the fuels, so that what is inevitably burned will be done relatively cleanly.

Flakmeister's picture

Your logic is flawed on so many levels....

We will never "run out" of oil, there may not be a whole lot of production, but there will be some form of oil available for a long long time and we sure as hell won't be burning it...

If you do not like the doomer scenarios, take it up with them....

Please explain the logic about burning fossil fuels and AGW... that one escapes me... I am real interested based on the nuggets of rational thought and the disinformation you have posted up to now. I need a good laugh....

buyingsterling's picture

I'll humor you.

If AGW is happening, won't it happen faster and worse if more carbons are burned in dirty factories and smokestacks than if they are burned in western autos, factories, and power plants? It's like being trapped in a pool with another guy. One of you is going to take a shit. Do you want the guy with diarrhea to be doing the crapping?

Flakmeister's picture

If that is truly what you think and reflects the depth of your logic and understanding of the physics of global warming, I am very very sorry for you and your kin....

It is a damn good thing that you had no say in the resolution of the Cuban missle crisis otherwise the human species would now be a fossil relic of the plant Earth.... on second thought, you would have been the guy cheering when they cut down the last tree on Easter Island....

thomas pain's picture

not sure if this is because your avatar looks like every yale student on campus or the general fact that your logic failed to compound off the last rebuttal...but fuck you. ill kick your pop collar sweater wearing bitch pant MBA logic any day

Kayman's picture

Best marketing concept Exxon ever dreamt up- Peak Oil.

You're getting a bargain at the pump, lemmings, follow me....

LawsofPhysics's picture

Yes, cause oil is infinite.

Max Fischer's picture



Who the fuck is claiming that oil is infinite?

Max Fischer, Civis Mundi

buyingsterling's picture

Get off the infinite kick. It's irrelevant. The sun is finite. That's not the issue.

This is the peak oil mantra: You can't have infinite growth with finite resources.

This thinking is shackled to something akin to the status quo. Ask yourself: If humanity is still around in a million years with enough genetic variation to continue the species, how important will the idea of growth be? It won't matter much; we'll have found a sustainable way of living. Long-term survival is what's important, not maintaining the status quo. And in that light and for our purposes, all resources might as well be infinite because we're in a self-correcting system. If we ruin all the soil, we have to dig down to find dirt that will grow food, or set up hydroponic systems, and in the meantime we'll be eating the corpses. Life goes on. Humanity will be around for a long, long time; assuming we aren't hunted to extinction by a superior intellect, we will probably live to flee the expanding sun. Someday we'll be arguing about peak uranium, then peak thorium, then peak hydrogen. Eventually our uploads will be arguing about peak matter. 

Flakmeister's picture

The species does not need growth but the political economy of western civilization sure as hell does.... Not to mention that the carrying capacity of the planet without hydrocarbons being used in agriculture is roughly 1-2 billion...

So Houston, we do indeed have a problem....

MrPalladium's picture

Exxon believes in energy corucopia. They dispute the notion of peak oil and claim that there are virtually infinite hydrocarbons in the earth's crust. Exxon likes to skirt the real issue though, which is how much it will cost to get at those hydrocarbons. But then rising costs of extraction is how their earn their living.

The economic illiteracy and magical thinking among commenters on this board is staggering.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

At the same time peak oil nuts can pose as being against Exxon.  Peak oil is a scam the oil companies have been working for a century.  Since Americans have no sense of history the scam works over and over.

Flakmeister's picture

The only scam that has been repeatedly pulled on the American people is that eternal salvation awaits if they only check their rationality at the door....

That and the idea that having more useless stuff provides fulfillment... the irony is that the population that buys this mantra is bascially the same  (by and large). What is sad is the complete disconnect between the teachings of the Saviour and the actions of those who have pledged themsevles (or claim to have) to him....


SWCroaker's picture

I read your linked article.  I don't see what impresses you about his writing.  Lots of attack the messenger, a bunch of numbers pulled from nebulous "recent research" (who? where?  paid for by whom?), and a mindset that would seem to ignore the long term issues of skydiving without a parachute, right up to the moment of impact.  His arguments seem to be built on a foundation of someone else getting a prediction wrong, therefore everyone with aligned views are completely discredited as well.  Bad logic there.

I suggest that you throw out ALL claims of reserves/production/new tech etc.  Focus on a few simple facts: 

  1. How are/were conventional deposits created in the first place?  My own answer: would be from vast accumulation of bio-mass (algae) sinking lots & lots of carbon via free solar energy, then slow cook under pressure for a very very long time.
  2. How long did it take for those deposits to come into being?  My answer: on the order of millions of years.
  3. Divide #1 by #2 and you get a sustainable barrels per period number.  My answer: All the world's reserves, every 100 or so million years.
  4. Our use of oil didn't start until about 150 years ago, and didn't even really take off until the age of the automobile.  Try and pin down an order of magnitude number for how long before humans will burn through the worlds known reserves at current burn rate; don't sweat the small stuff, all we need here is an order of magnitude.  My answer: It isn't uncommon to see ratios of reserves vs production rates on the order of 64:1.  That's 64 years.  I said don't sweat the small stuff, so in my mind 64 years equates to well less than a million years.

If the number you arrive at is anything near the number of barrels we're actually using, then we're cool, and all the noise about this or that specific micro situation doesn't matter in the long run.  If your number isn't anywhere close to what the world regularly uses, then we've got problems, (again regardless of any particular technology or new reserve discovery or the accuracy of someone's attempt to apply a predictive theory).

Unless aliens are secretly pumping oil from a black hole refinery into our Earth's crust, then the simple equation of Increase_Decrease = New_oil_made - (Oil_extracted_and_used + Oil_lost_to_natural_processes) holds and rules all discussions of adequate supply. 

We're worried about blowing through a natural resource that took millions of years to create, after essentially less than 100 years of utilization.  Unless you think we've only discovered a millionth of the oil reserves in the ground, then the problem is real.  Period.  End of discussion.

d_senti's picture

Beautiful reply, +100. I love ZH and love its comments section, but this is the only topic that really irks me when I check how people have replied. Smart people on ZH see through BS in so many areas, yet when we cone to peak oil, we find all the same tired cliches believed by the mainstream yokel: it's a hundred years off, technology will save us, it's a myth from oil companies, it's abiotic, and on and on.
It's all very simple, just as you explained it. We've got a cup of water that refills by a drop every day and we drank half the glass in five minutes. How hard is it to understand that you're going to run out of water at that rate?
I know that it's more complex in certain ways (flow rates, EROI, etc.) but in the final analysis two things are absolutely undeniable. 1. We're using oil far, far faster than it can ever be replaced, and 2. We've done nothing to prepare for that.
I personally think we are at or near peak now (2005-2015), but if it's actually in ten years, twenty, what does it matter? Demand and population already outstrips supply and will continue to get worse every year. Growth as we knew it is dead. Anyone who can agree with that much shouldn't worry about arguing the details of which year it exactly peaks; anyone who can't agree with that much isn't thinking rationally and not worth fighting.

Oh regional Indian's picture

The oil shock is as much a creation of TPTB as it is a natural consequence of over-consumption.

The answers are really, really, really simple. But our technological compass is turned to more tech, more tech....



Oh regional Indian's picture

People, begging for change, some relief, a new way.... clearly this way is not working hmmm?

Totally shat upon by oil, but please, show me the new way through this oil-drenched paradigm, will you?

And yet we want it all packaoged. Nice. Give me a presentation. Show me a prototype. Slap me with it baby, because I'm just too numb to try and dig again.

You don't have to have faith or belief, but to you've got to wield your own hammer. or shovel or chisel as the case may by.



Max Fischer's picture



We're using oil far, far faster than it can ever be replaced...

Oh really?  The facts suggest otherwise. 

From 2007 through 2009, for every barrel of oil produced, 1.6 barrels were added to reserves.  

Since hyperinflation didn't happen, since the Hindenberg Omen never crashed and burned, since a new stock market crash never happened, since the bond market didn't disintegrate, since the COMEX and JP Morgue never imploded, since the US $$ never collapsed, it appears that Peak Oil is the new topic du jour for the doomer crowd.  


If the doomers think that modern civilization is nearing a collapse due to an implosion of fiat currencies and those with gold, silver and canned hams will supposedly be the only survivors, then you can't simultaneously think that we're going to have an oil supply problem, as well.  That's contradictory.  

Max Fischer, Civis Mundi


MrPalladium's picture

Economic illiterate!! Rising price increases reserves!!