Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hardy Perennial: The World is Running Out of Oil

It used to be that every year or two an article would come out predicting the end of the era of cheap and affordable oil. When that eventually came true with the advent of OPEC and geopolitical craziness in the Middle East, North Africa, and Venezuela, another trope began to assert itself.

Yes, not that the price of oil will rise, but that the world will run out of oil, and very soon...... This started in the early '80s about once a year and is now rearing its inaccurate scarified head every six months or so. Running out of oil is a Chicken-Little campanion-piece bookend to Anthropogenic Global Warming, and is just as speculative and selectively based on a few facts which are true by themselves, but counterbalanced by other facts which are never mentioned or are summarily dismissed in these Running-out-of-Oil set-pieces.

I remember back in the late '80s attending a Meeting of the World Geophysical Union, a group of geologists that meets every three years or half-decade to commune on matters geological.... I started a conversation with Saddam's chief oil geologist about how much oil there was in Iraq. He replied, no one knows because the geologists don't want to drill in the desert----the Mesopotamian Foredeep had about 200 BILLION recoverable reserves, so why bother to go offshore or into the desert wastes, even though the geology was favorable.

In the ensuing twenty years, the technological and geophysical equipment for finding and pumping oil to the surface has improved exponentially with each rise in oil prices. And salt domes, horizontal drilling, and many offshore improvements have more than doubled the proven recoverable reserves in places like Saudi Arabia, Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico, and other accessible regions, not to mention politically sensitive regions like ANWR in Alaska, where the footprint of a huge oil apparatus would be less than a quarter square mile. Froth-at-the-mouth tree huggers and caribou humpers still screech and the Left Coast is NIMBY central.

So all this talk about "running out of oil" basically has become a quarterly phenomenon driven by politics and greeniacs rather than science or common sense.

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