Non Peak Oil

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The concept
of Peak Oil indicates we are running
out of this precious resource and that the future may be grave if
dramatic action is not forthcoming by the powers that be. If you
doubt me ask Al Gore or read any of his eco-gibberish. The President has
invaded a sovereign country, Iraq, in order to protect and secure
the life and liberty of American Citizens while conferring the principles
of democracy onto the grateful Iraqi people. It is possible this
is not related to Peak Oil at all.

According
to oil industry sources,
the commonly accepted proven reserves are 1.226 trillion barrels
of oil. Just how much is this? Using established standards for volume
we can convert barrels of oil into cubic miles. The number that
I calculate is about 48 cubic miles of oil. Given that the volume
of the earth is much, much larger (many billions of cubic miles),
then this is really not that much oil. Is oil really so scarce that
the freedom of the Western world depends upon trampling a few small
countries who really do not know freedom and have no history of
anything other than brutal dictatorship, for which our democracy
will be a refreshing and welcomed change?

If we consider
that the world is consuming a lot of oil, and that the consumption
grows each and every year, the key question becomes how long until
we run out? I calculate this to be about 49 years at current consumption
rates. These could actually be too low and thus we could be burning
it faster than that depending on rates of consumption in growing
economies like India and China.

The flaw in
this argument is that every year we have more proven reserves at
the end of the year than we did at the beginning, thanks to vigorous
exploration and improved extraction technologies. This has been
the consistent theme for as long as oil reserves have been calculated.
There has never been a time that the oil industry has had less proven
reserves at the beginning of the year than at the end, even with
the intervening 365 days of consumption being factored in. Odd circumstances
indeed for a scarce resource!

The natural
production theory of oil (biotic) says that crude oil results from
the trapped decay products of living organisms which get trapped
under the Earth and then percolate for millions of years at elevated
temperature and pressure resulting in crude oil. This theory is
so well accepted that the Oil Industry does not even fund the research
into alternative theories, even though this one goes back to the
19th century and is predicated on some pretty weak science. This
always struck me as a bizarre and unlikely series of events, that
deserts, fields and forests would get plowed under the earth and
after millions of years become oil.

What about
a larger scale source phenomena like Solar System formation? It
is well known that there are copious amounts of methane in our Solar
System. The gas giant planets of Jupiter and Saturn are proof of
this. Methane is the most reduced form of a hydrocarbon possible
and thus yields the highest energy content under oxidation (burning).
Under the conventional theory oil forms as vegetable material becomes
coal, which becomes petroleum, and finally natural gas (methane)
as oxygen is removed and the molecules become more and more reduced.

According to
Thomas Gold,
this theory is wrong and he has some impressive figures with which
to back up his ideas. Let's do some calculations with his theory.
If the outer 100 miles of the earth's crust are biologically active
as Gold suggests and the activity is uniformly distributed then
there is a lot of potential oil to be found. If oil is just .001%
of the volume of the outer 100 miles of crust, then we would have
an additional 5,077,713,481,834,820 barrels of oil, or about 4000
times as much as the current proved reserves. If the oil zone goes
deeper then we obviously have more. If the oil is being replenished
from below via primordial reserves left over from solar system formation
then a steady state might be expected in which extraction and replenishment
would balance for a long time to come.

Perhaps this
explains why we never seem to run out and some large oil fields
continue to produce regardless of extraction rates? Some oil pools
actually seem to be filling from below, which supports the deep
hot biosphere theory of Thomas Gold.

Why then would
the oil industry cry shortage in such a period of abundance? There
is nothing like a perceived crisis to suspend rational thought and
behavior. This happened during the seventies when stagflation ruled
the day and we were running out of oil (again), in spite of the
proven reserve facts.

If we are not
running out of oil, then just what are we doing in the Middle East?
We are currently spending about $150 billion dollars per year defending
about 350 billion barrels of oil of which we purchase about $12
billion dollars worth for imports. This is clearly a bad bargain.
We could withdraw the troops and let the price of oil quadruple
and still save money and lives, theirs and ours. Clearly no one
is performing cost benefit analysis on this fiasco.

Current "expert"
consumption rates indicate the pool will run dry this century, but
if history is any guide at the end of this century there will be
more proven reserves than at the beginning of the century (which
was the case with the last one). Freeman
Dyson
thinks Thomas Gold is on to something, and as co-inventor
of Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) he is nowhere near the intellectual
schlump that I am and he might be worth listening to.

The basic thesis
here is that lots of eco-nuts, and policy wonks think that oil production
has peaked and that doom is around the proverbial corner (as it
always seems to be, no matter how many corners we safely round).

I oppose these
ideas for two reasons: 1) in my experience Al Gore gets virtually
nothing correct in his public policy proscriptions, and 2) even
if we are running out of oil the market will adjust and other forms
will become available. Nothing will ration supply accurately like
price, that is, market forces, and historically these are just the
things not allowed to function, instead we get myriads of laws,
regulations, incentives, and taxpayer funded boondoggles (Synfuel
Coporation comes to mind) perverting the process.

If I am correct
then this is another non-issue. At the end of this year, like the
end of every year in the past we will have more proven reserves
than we did at the beginning. Odd considering we are discussing
an increasingly scarce resource, but the politicians and their funding
dependent sycophants never let truth interfere with a good story,
and that story is usually about picking our pickets.

July
6, 2006

George
Giles [send him mail] is
an independent thinker and writer in Nashville, Tennessee.

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