James Kunstler and Peak Oil

Perhaps about a year ago I was interested in this subject and recently have been thinking about it again. An author and blogger by the name of James Howard Kunstler (http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/) has been writing about this for a long time.

His position is that our oil indulgence days are coming to an end and no amount of "alternative energy" will be able to replace oil as a primary fossil fuel. He also posits that the US will be the most affected because it's such a car-centric nation with no viable transportation system. I'm not a fan of doomsayers myself but he comes across as reasonable, not to mention funny as fuck if you read the blog.

Thoughts?
 

MidniteSpecial

Ostrich
Gold Member
I've always wondered about this.

I remember in college I asked a professor the question, "doesn't the earth need its oil? Don't you think it's probably wrong to just be taking all the oil from the earth?"

He looked at me like I had two heads and rudely dismissed me.

Common sense would tell me oil is inside the earth for a reason and its probably not the best thing to just be extracting it 24/7 365. Time will tell I suppose.
 

samsamsam

Peacock
Gold Member
I cannot comment on the article since the article couldn't load - 404 error.

But there will always be oil, the question is whether prices support the costs to recover the oil. Some wells become non-economic and the companies either plug the wells or shut it down. For example new fracking technologies have revived old wells. Ne technology has allowed companies to go back through old oil fields to see if anything was missed.

But, I agree we are a country heavily dependent on cheap energy. And cheap food. We will face changes as we need to adapt. There was a book "$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better." It was interesting, I don't agree with all the commentary, but our lives will change if gas got that high, fuck even if it got to 6 or 7 for a steady time. (US perspective)

Last night Rachel Maddow's show talked about the Iraq war, no surprise the findings were: we went to war for oil. The other things the Bush Administration claimed, WMDs etc seemed just like a case for justifying the war.
 

j r

Ostrich
Peak oil theories are overblown. On the present trajectory, even if we top out the levels of oil production, it won't be a peak but a plateau. Not to mention, the demand for oil is always endogenous to the supply of oil. When supply becomes constrained people invest more in efficiency and move to other fuel sources, which decreases the demand.

Also, there are positive technology shocks all the time. Fifteen years ago no one would have predicted shake and other tight oil. Trying to say something definitive about what the world will look like in 20 or 50 years is a bit f a fool's errand.
 
samsamsam said:
I cannot comment on the article since the article couldn't load - 404 error.

But there will always be oil, the question is whether prices support the costs to recover the oil. Some wells become non-economic and the companies either plug the wells or shut it down. For example new fracking technologies have revived old wells. Ne technology has allowed companies to go back through old oil fields to see if anything was missed.

But, I agree we are a country heavily dependent on cheap energy. And cheap food. We will face changes as we need to adapt. There was a book "$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better." It was interesting, I don't agree with all the commentary, but our lives will change if gas got that high, fuck even if it got to 6 or 7 for a steady time.

Last night Rachel Maddow's show talked about the Iraq war, no surprise the findings were: we went to war for oil. The other things the Bush Administration claimed, WMDs etc seemed just like a case for justifying the war.

How are you so sure of this? And I dont mean that in an antagonizing way, just wondering. The other thing is, if we're going deeper and deeper for oil with each year, doesnt that mean that all the easy oil, so to speak, has already been extracted?
 

samsamsam

Peacock
Gold Member
Because not every last drop of oil in a particular zone/play is ever fully produced. Just a fact.

If you saw my next part of the comment "the question is whether prices support the costs to recover the oil."

This wikipedia link gives a good overview of the extraction process. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraction_of_petroleum

New fracking technology has turned America into a powerhouse of natural gas to the point that they are talking about how to export it. Fracking has also made it possible to extract oil in the US where it wasn't possible before.

The critical factor is the economics of justify trying to get the oil out.

Edit: One side note. Oil isn't just for gasoline, there are so many things that are created out of oil (depending on the quality of the oil). So the impact just isn't in driving our cars, but it will be in other stuff as well. But those other things may have easier substitutes to find/create.
 
I've been reading Kunstler's blog for 6-7 years. It's part of my Monday morning web reading. He gets a bit repetitive but his cultural observations are accurate and humorous. He refers to the American masses as "tattooed, overfed clowns."

Check out his book "The Long Emergency." He believes that shale oil is way over hyped and will only last for a couple of decades, at best. The demand for oil worldwide continues to increase and many oil producing nations are using more of their own product as their standards of living rise. One may not agree with him, but he gives plenty of food for thought.

That book is where I first heard of Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI). If it costs $2 to extract 1 dollars worth of oil, then that oil will stay in the ground
 

samsamsam

Peacock
Gold Member
birdie num num said:
That book is where I first heard of Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI). If it costs $2 to extract 1 dollars worth of oil, then that oil will stay in the ground

That is why oil has been loved for so long - lots of energy for little invested. We are losing cheap energy, cheap oil, but we will always have oil.
 
samsamsam said:
Last night Rachel Maddow's show talked about the Iraq war, no surprise the findings were: we went to war for oil. The other things the Bush Administration claimed, WMDs etc seemed just like a case for justifying the war.

The US is the world's largest oil consumer. The largest consumer within the US is the Department of Defense. I read it a few years ago and don't have the stats right offhand, but it's close to 1/4 of the US's total consumption. Just something to consider.
 

The Lizard of Oz

Crow
Gold Member
j r said:
Peak oil theories are overblown. On the present trajectory, even if we top out the levels of oil production, it won't be a peak but a plateau. Not to mention, the demand for oil is always endogenous to the supply of oil. When supply becomes constrained people invest more in efficiency and move to other fuel sources, which decreases the demand.

Also, there are positive technology shocks all the time. Fifteen years ago no one would have predicted shake and other tight oil. Trying to say something definitive about what the world will look like in 20 or 50 years is a bit f a fool's errand.

Exactly right.

The peak oil guys just have no shame. They were going on about it about a decade ago, peaking around 2008 when there was a spike in oil prices.

Go look at their forecasts from that time -- they're archived on the web. Every single forecast they made has proven to be as spectacularly wrong as possible. They completely failed to anticipate the impacts of shale and fracking technology. They completely failed to anticipate other advances in discovering new sources of oil and gas. No matter -- they just keep going on in the same way, ignoring their total failure with the most blatant shamelessness.

All the "peak X" and "peak Y" and overpopulation leading to famine and exhaustion of resources forecasts have failed as thoroughly as possible, I could start giving examples and never stop. And yet these people just keep going.

Almost as if they just want to believe in failure and decline, facts be damned...
 
- Generation after generation tries to bet against the oil majors
- this stuff isn't new. Read "The Prize". Same rhetoric over and over again since about 1920. Hell people have been gasifying coal and turning into liquids because we needed "alternative fuels" since 1930.
- oh, coal to liquid is too dirty? Let's turn a tree into gas and then a liquid.

I did my share of betting against oil and gas. I say, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em"

My take:
- oil majors rarely call it wrong, they are just slow to react (like turning an aircraft carrier)
- if an oil major sets in a new direction, likely a solid trend ahead (like 10yrs...unlike tech)
- gives you plenty of time to set up base camp and see how you can get your boat in the waters of where they are heading
- the majors need to go after absurdly large projects to move the needle...this leaves a ton of opportunities in their wake.
- never hesitate to think like Levi's, you don't have to mine for gold during a gold rush...all those miners need jeans and plenty of other things...
 

DVY

Ostrich
Gold Member
Oil is a solid play lately. Peak Oil is bullshit just like "Artic floes melting and rising water levels".

I really fancy Total SA, largely in part for the huge dividend play and foreign tax recapture for dividends

I have a gambler's itch on BP as well, but haven't pulled the trigger on that one yet.

When something mints money for 100+ yr periods, its not something I would bet long-term against.
 

ColSpanker

Pelican
Gold Member
I've been reading Kunstler on and off for over 20 years. His book "Home from Nowhere" is one of the reasons I live where I do. But over the years he's starting to get a little bit repetitive. And when it comes to "Peak Oil", I just wish he'd STFU. Every prediction he's made in that area has turned out to be wrong. I honestly think he prays for the "Long Emergency" just to pay back every one outside of New York for not recognizing him for the genius he believes himself to be. Sorry, Mr. Kunstler, I wish I too could've been born and raised in the shining temple that is New York City, but the accident of my birth landed me in the Midwest.
I agree with the poster who said that as a cultural critic he's much better. His observation that the invasion of Iraq was an attempt to drop a police station in the the Middle East was spot-on. And he was strangely predictive of the gender f*ck-ups we are now having to endure.
 

Seadog

Kingfisher
MidniteSpecial said:
Common sense would tell me oil is inside the earth for a reason and its probably not the best thing to just be extracting it 24/7 365. Time will tell I suppose.

You're thinking about it the wrong way, almost backwards. Oil isn't 'there for a reason' any more than Mount Everest is there for a reason. It just is because the right set of circumstances happened.

The locations, amounts, and types of hydrocarbons present are present largely due to a series of unlikely events all coming together in the correct order. If hydrocarbons weren't where they are, there would likely just be saline water in its place.

It isn't the same as renovating your house and cutting through cross beams (that big piece of wood is probably there for a reason). The earth isn't a house laid out with some grand design. (Side note, that is unless you subscribe to the whole intelligent design theory, worked with some of them in Texas who literally thought God hid the oil on them, and it was their job to find it)
 

void

Pelican
Peak Oil is not the problem. Peak Energy is the problem, if you need more energy to produce and deliver one barrel of oil than is contained inside one barrel, it is game over. I don't know the efficiency of the newest production methods though
 

Eusebius

Hummingbird
Gold Member
I looked into Peak Oil about 10 years ago, in 2003-04. Kunstler was at it then, ClusterFuck nation was already the go-to website. What's happened since then? Oil prices have gone up and down. America is headed towards fossil fuel self sufficiency which was unthinkable. The world economy has responded to many other factors than oil.

Ten years is a long time. The doomsayers might be right one day, but in the meantime you gotta live your life.
 
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