October 3, 2006

"I am at the vanguard of the environmental movement."

Said Dennis Miller on Conan O'Brien last night, explaining why he drives an SUV.
I think we need oil products for a while. They talk about how we need to do away with it. But we're not getting away [from] it until somebody can make money off the next thing.

He's driving an SUV so we'll "run out of oil quicker." Nice joke, because it's quite true, isn't it? By the way, I remember believing, back in 1972, that all the oil would be gone in 20 years. Did you -- if you were around and mature enough to think about such things -- believe that?

54 comments:

Goatwhacker said...

I went to college in the late 70's. I remember one of my professors that devised a computer model showing the Earth would be completely out of oil by the year 2000, even if we increased exploration and maximized alternative energy sources. This is one of those predictions eventually someone will be right about, though. I can't remember if I took him seriously or not.

Revenant said...

We've been a few decades away from "running out of oil" since the 19th century. Make of that what you will. None of them were "wrong", per se, there's just no way of knowing if we'll find more reserves or not. The Skeptical Environmentalist had a good section on this.

Anyway, while we will eventually "run out of oil" that doesn't necessarily mean we'll run out of gasoline. If battery efficiency and lifespan doesn't improve dramatically it may be more cost-effective to produce synthetic gasoline and use *that* instead of switching to electric cars.

Birkel said...

Rockefeller's business partner sold out of their partnership because he thought the market for petroleum would expire within 20 years.

"The Prize" by Daniel Yergin does a great job of laying out the history or the petroleum industry. It's a page turner as these things go.

Eli Blake said...

I was still growing up in the 1970's, but my mother who is always on the mark said, 'in thirty years they'll be fighting wars for oil.'

I know conservatives don't want to believe that the Iraq war had anything to do with oil, but considering the fact that when Baghdad fell on April 9, 2003 the only government ministry that we had troops go and protect was the Oil Ministry, and that we've let North Korea (where there is no oil) develop nukes without any opposition, I think my mom had something there.

Doug said...

I heard similar predictions in my 6th grade social studies class in 1978 or 79. I think the textbook or handout said we would run out of oil sometime in the 90's. In the same class, we also had an article about how a Big Mac was going to cost $3.00 in five or ten years. I guess they never predicted the value meal.

Eli Blake said...

Also, it's worth noting that in every other country in the world, fuel efficiency standards are higher than the United States.

Heck, even in China, one of the most notorious polluters on the planet, they are fifty percent higher than they are here. So clearly even the Chinese understand the value of a barrel of oil better than we do.

George said...

Miller must read the Wall St. Journal as that theory was propounded in great detail in an op-ed in that newspaper a year or so ago.

Hayek said...

The late great economist Julian Simon eased my mind regarding the alleged scarcity of all natural resources. He made a great bet with one of the leading scaremongers (Paul Erlich) and was handsomely rewarded when proven correct when the bet became due many years later. There is more oil in the tar sands of Canada and the oil shale in the United States than in Saudi Arabia.

Revenant said...

when Baghdad fell on April 9, 2003 the only government ministry that we had troops go and protect was the Oil Ministry

Uh, because the entire Iraqi economy depends on oil? The rebuilding plan depended on Iraq having that income.

and that we've let North Korea (where there is no oil) develop nukes without any opposition

You're on drugs. We used economic and diplomatic sanctions at first, then tried bribing them with oil and food (a dumb idea, of course). We did not use military force against them because military force against North Korea is not feasible. If you care why, let me know and I'll explain.

Revenant said...

in every other country in the world, fuel efficiency standards are higher than the United States.

Really? Out of curiousity, what are the fuel efficiency standards for Zimbabwe? I couldn't find them on Google.

mcg said...

As fine and dandy as it may sound that China's fuel efficiency standards are tighter than ours, it really is small potatoes compared to their inevitable growth rate. Their oil usage goes up something like 100% a year, compared to our growth in the single digits to low tens. Soon they will eclipse the U.S. as the single biggest oil producer, and they already do eclipse us in coal usage.

So no, I don't think they necessarily understand the "value" of oil any better than we do, if that is meant to imply that they do a better job of controlling their usage.

Ratcheting up fuel efficiency standards simply isn't an effective "solution" to anything, long or short term, because it just doesn't address the core problem, no matter what you think that problem is. If you think the problem is that we'll run out of oil, then increasing efficiency just prolongs the inevitable; the only solution is to find the alternative.

On the other hand, if you believe the problem is emissions, then address that directly, and let the scientists worry about how to get there. If they can get there without forcing people out of their nice SUVs and into coffins on wheels, why not?

tommy said...

I grew up in the oil fields in West Texas and pretty much all of the workers out there claim it's just a matter of cost. The oil is there, it just depends on whether money can be made getting it.

I don't know how much is there, but they do keep drilling and finding some, and when the price is high enough they open up previously capped wells and start pumping again.

But then Texas is also the largest wind energy producer in the nation, so maybe there really isn't that much oil. Or maybe producing energy is messy no matter how you do it, and parts of the country that are used to that are always going to be the parts of the country that produce it.

mcg said...

"oil producer" --> "oil consumer" above. Sorry.

mcg said...

Well, there is always, as our good President puts it, nucular. I for one am all for it.

Elizabeth said...

It's a page turner as these things go.

ha! That's a crafty compliment, birkel. Thanks for the chuckle.

David Walser said...

Did I buy into the energy shortage crisis of the 1970s? No. I thought then that the gas lines were caused by price controls and that higher prices for crude oil would lead to new discoveries (or new alternatives). Does the fact that I was right back then indicate that I've got super insight into such matters? No. I was in jr. high and high school (graduated in 1977) and was just lucky to have been right. I also did not buy into the then current warnings about the coming ice age. Not because I did not believe an ice age was coming. I just figured we'd use cheap nuclear energy to heat our homes and run our hydroponic gardens. (Wasn't there a lot of science fiction in the 70s based on a premise of the coming ice age? All those cute girls running around in fur trimmed mini-skirts sounded kind of attractive at the time. Still does.) So the warnings did not scare me.

I do notice, however, that many of those who were wrong back then are the same ones who are predicting global warming and energy shortages today. (I'm still not scared. Cheap nuclear fuel can provide a lot of air conditioning.) With their poor track record, why should we (and do we) give them much attention today?

Gahrie said...

I tend to believe in the abiotic theory of fossil fuel formation. I've written about it several times, here is a post with some good links.

http://gahrie.blogspot.com/2005/09/refilling-oil-fields.html

If that theory is correct, we will never run out of oil.

Gerry said...

"Did you -- if you were around and mature enough to think about such things -- believe that?"

I sure did. And I believed the hype that overpopulation would cause us to run out of things other than oil.

I also believed in the danger of global cooling.

Gerry said...

"I know conservatives don't want to believe that the Iraq war had anything to do with oil, but considering the fact that when Baghdad fell on April 9, 2003 the only government ministry that we had troops go and protect was the Oil Ministry,"

Myth

"and that we've let North Korea (where there is no oil) develop nukes without any opposition,"

I remember something about a deal President Clinton made with North Korea. Perhaps you can help me out? In the meantime, I will just point out that our ally, South Korea, has a wonderful city with a large population. This city is called Seoul. One small problem with Seoul is that the highlands in North Korea are positioned just so that volleys of artillery fire could obliterate hundreds of thousands of people before we could do anything to stop the onslaught. And if we ever tried to prepare to invade NK, that would be the first think NK would do.

"I think my mom had something there."

I think that apples do not fall far from trees.

Old Dad said...

No one alive can predict our oil reserves. That's not to say that we shouldn't diligently and seriously attempt to estimate and plan accordingly. But we choose instead to politicize bullshit on both the upside and the downside.

Freeman Hunt said...

If we were going to run out of oil anytime soon, energy companies would switch over to new sources and new business plans. It's not like they're just going to say, "Oh well, no more oil. Guess we'll just give up and not make money anymore."

Markets work, and Miller is right. Energy sources will change over as it becomes more cost effective and logical.

downtownlad said...

Anyone who believes that we will run out of oil has ZERO understanding of basic economics.

We will never run out of oil until the Earth falls into the Sun.

quietnorth said...

If Thomas Friedman is right, and using gas is funding both sides on the war on terror, Miller is at the Vanguard of playing both sides on the war he supported! Lots of yucks, there Dennis!

Of course, there will be some solution to the problem of the shortage of oil, but that solution might involve more wars and economic disruption on a massive scale as China and India come on line. The problem is that Americans feel entitled to "their" gas. And as prices go up (part of the "solution"), they will vote for people who won't tell them the truth about how we will have to get those resources. Why not encourage alternatives now?

MobiusDick said...

The world is burning through 2000 barrels of oil per SECOND. That's about 60,000 gallons per second. The replacement rate worldwide is less than half of the burn rate. There have been no giant oil fields found since 1967. Do you think it's because nobody is looking? We are tapping the reserves at an unstainable rate.

Oil production for the lower 48 states peaked in 1970, and has been declining ever since, in spite of enormous growth in drilling activity since then. The US is burning 20,000,000 barrels of oil each and every day. We have 5% of the world population, and consume about 25% of the world supply.

Oil shale requires more energy inputs to extract the oil than the energy recovery. It's a non-starter. Oil sands in Canada and Venezuela require vast amounts of natural gas and water to tap the oil. Oil prices need to continue higher for expansion of the tar sands production. By the year 2015 Canada is expected to be producing 5 million barrels a day. Compare that with today's consumption in North Amercia of about 22 million barrels a day. Where will the other 17 million barrels per day come from? The Middle East, South America, and Russia, non of which are particularly close in ideology with the US.

Ethanol? It requires fossil fuels to produce, it needs about 30% more volume than gasoline because it's less energy intensive, and we don't grow enough corn. If we used 100% of the corn we produce, it would replace about 15% of our gasoline needs.

I could go on. The point is, energy fields/sources do exist elsewhere, and we won't run out in the next 30 years, but because of growing demands from China, India, South AMerica, Russia, etc, and because of increasing expense in finding, growing, mining these sources, fuel prices will continue to escalate way beyond the normal inflation rate.

We will have our energy, but at what cost, and for whose benefit?

Richard Fagin said...

I had to pick my college major in 1975, when Massachusetts, where I grew up was flat on its economic back. I decided to major in geology for the sole purpose of working in oil and gas exploration. It was about the only industry hiring in those years. the ar biz was going broke, the space program was over, and the military industrial complex was just about to go out of business. Why oil? All the experts, save the occasional Milton Friedman or Julian Simon said back then all the easy oil had been found. Going into the exploration business seemed like a sure bet.

Then came 1986. An ecomonic cyclone passed over Texas, Louisiana, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Alaska the likes of which hadn't been seen since the Great Depression. For the next 18 years there was periodic talk of a "glut" of oil. The only reason I let myself be pressured by a former employer into going to law school was the complete fear that the entire oil industry was going into the toilet.

What happened? Technology happened. The only downside to technology is that in the short run it's unpredictable.

So here are some words from a person with deep personal experience with the subject. We aren't running out of anything in the long run. If you value the gas money more than the space and convenince, drive a Prius instead of an Excursion, but for goodness sake don't think you're making one bit of difference to "the environment"in the long run. Individually none of us is smart enough to second guess these sorts of things.

AJ Lynch said...

Eli Blake said:
"Heck, even in China, one of the most notorious polluters on the planet, they are fifty percent higher than they are here. So clearly even the Chinese understand the value of a barrel of oil better than we do."

I think Eli meant to say Americans clearly understand free choice and value freedom more that the Red Chinese.

mcg said...

The sun provides this planet with so much raw energy that we can harvest but the tiniest fraction of it---a tiny fraction, even, of what plants consume---and satisfy all of our energy needs for as long as the sun is alive. I did the math here.

We may or may not be running out of oil iminently. Mobius Duck may be right, or he may not be. The folks I work with in petroleum engineering are not so concerned; indeed, in a seminar I attended today there was some excitement about the recent Gulf of Mexico find. Though frankly they make money either way, whether it is by volume or by price.

But regardless of whether or not oil supply is limited, I am not the least bit worried that we will run out of energy.

And here is a nice piece of news that I sure hope turns into something. It has the potential to make true electric cars, even electric SUVs, as feasible as their gas-powered bretheren are now. And with a fully electric solution, we are given the freedom to harvest that electricity from any source we can develop.

Gahrie said...

There have been no giant oil fields found since 1967

You havn't been paying attention to the news lately. (and I even linked to an article on the Clinton News Network for you)

http://money.cnn.com/2006/09/05/news/companies/chevron_gulf/index.htm

Maxine Weiss said...

I couple of weeks ago, I was browsing the new Toyota Hybrids...

---just browsing.

(Oh Santa......are you there?)

I just can't see myself in a 'Hybrid'.

I want the car to start. I want some sort of a guarantee.

The Hybrid is an unproven animal.

A nice, good gas guzzling V-8, or V-6, you have some assurance that when you turn the ignition, the thing will run.

No such guarantees with a Hybrid.

Peace, Maxine

Zeb Quinn said...

I remember the 1972 talk about the finite quantity of oil. A Life magazine article on the subject I particularly recall. But I also remember an event a few years earlier that I trace it to. All oil "shortages" are as a result of this one 1969 event:

http://tinyurl.com/2egap

Ever since then the domestic production of oil has been a disfavored industry to the max, and it was as because of this that crude is largely imported and not drilled for here, even though there is plenty of it here. Wells were capped and exploration ceased.

Which played nicely into the oil companies' long-held strategy that a scarcity of resources, perceived or real, but particularly perceived, is their economic friend.

Henry said...

Mobius -- We will have our energy...

Coal, nuclear.

but at what cost...

About the same

and for whose benefit?

The poor. Cheap energy benefits the poor. Rural electrification in the Great Depression is a good example.

Revenant said...

The world is burning through 2000 barrels of oil per SECOND.

The US is burning 20,000,000 barrels of oil each and every day. We have 5% of the world population, and consume about 25% of the world supply.

I'm not sure where you're pulling your data from, but it obviously isn't a very high-quality source. 2000 barrels of oil per second gives us a worldwide usage rate of 172.8 mbpd, which would make the US's 20 mbpd 11.5% of world usage, not 20%.

In any case, you appear to be under the impression that this is the first time in world history that we've been burning oil faster than we've been discovering it. In reality that has been the case many times in the past century. There is no reason to believe that *this* time around is the "real" shortage.

Oil shale requires more energy inputs to extract the oil than the energy recovery. It's a non-starter.

It isn't a non-starter. Food requires more energy to produce than *it* produces, too -- does that mean growing food is stupid? Of course not, because food -- like oil -- is energy in a form we can use.

The problem is not energy production. If we want to produce energy, solar and nuclear are the ways to go. The problem is *storing* energy, and we've yet to find any way of storing energy suitable for our transportation needs in ANY form other than chemical.

You could rely on improvements in technology to solve that problem, of course. But why no rely on them to solve the oil shale/sand extraction problem, then?

Oil sands in Canada and Venezuela require vast amounts of natural gas and water to tap the oil.

The wikipedia article on oil sands has a good list of alternate methods for extracting oil that don't require "vast amounts of natural gas and water".

We will have our energy, but at what cost, and for whose benefit?

If it is possible to produce and use energy in a form superior to that of fossil fuels then we will eventually learn how to do so. If it is not then we were always doomed, as a species, to eventually have to use inefficient energy sources. Either way there's no point in stressing about it. Either we're inescapably doomed to not be quite as energy-rich as we'd like, or we aren't.

Internet Ronin said...

Did I believe the '70's meme that we would run out of oil within 20 years or so?

No.

Did I believe the '70's meme about overpopulation and increasing food scarcity?

No.

Did I believe the '80's meme about the spread of AIDS to vast numbers of the population at large, the inevitability of a nuclear armageddon, or the superiority of the Japanese economic system?

No.

What can I say? I refuse to become apoplectic about the apocalyptic visions of self-appointed seers, high priests and priestess of pseudo-religions, and their true believer lemmings.

DRJ said...

Did I believe in 1972 (when I was in college, BTW) that we would run out of oil by 1992? Not for a minute. For 50 years, my father worked as a drilling engineer for for one of those big bad oil companies. He knew there was plenty of oil to last for a long, long time. It was just a matter of developing technologies and raising prices so that producing the oil is cost effective.

For that matter, the answer today is the same as it was in 1972. It's still a matter of technology and price because there's still plenty of oil available.

Tim Sisk said...

When I started college in 89, I briefly considered Petroleum Engineering before settling on Mechanical Engineering. My thinking at the time was that there wouldn't be a career in Petrol (we'd run out). Now Exxon is the most profitable country in the history of the world and the last two major multi-million dollar donors to my hometown college were petrol executives out of our engineering program.

Of course, I never could pass Cal III to get any engineering degree, so in the end it didn't matter.

Somewhat off topic but touched in an earlier comment: If the Iraq War were only about "the oil" wouldn't it have been easier for Bush to tell the Iraqis unofficially we'll lift sanctions if you'll sign an exclusive contract with Haliburton? And isn't that why the French and the Russians have opposed us because they had done the same thing with the Oil for Food program?

Joan said...

downtownlad:Anyone who believes that we will run out of oil has ZERO understanding of basic economics.

Record this day in history: I actually agree with downtownlad. Well done, sir!

Personally, I'm kind of psyched to see what new technology will be developed to reduce our dependence on gasoline for transportation. There's a lot of potential there. It's gonna be cool. (I hope.)

Sebastian said...

I remember believing, back in 1972, that all the oil would be gone in 20 years. Did you -- if you were around and mature enough to think about such things -- believe that?

I wasn't born until 1974, but one thing that drove me away from hard-left environmentalism was the doom and gloom predictions that never seemed to materialize. I can remember seeing films in schools that talked about global cooling from all the particulate matter that we were emitting. Now we don't emit much of that, and it's global warming that's a big threat.

I'm not suggesting that global warming isn't a problem, but I'm not sure I believe a lot of the doom and gloom scare tactics, because these people have cried wolf before.

Seven Machos said...

Eli Blake -- I am a conservative.

The war in Iraq had everything to do with oil, and also trying to establish a Western-style government in the Middle East, and also establishing a long-term place for a powerful American military presence.

It's called protecting and promoting American interests. Look into it.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

2000 barrels per second is utter bunk. Global consumption is about 83 million barrels per day -- divided by the 86,400 seconds in a day -- or roughly 960 barrels per second.

The Alberta oil sands are well in the money with $40 crude. What we need is some new refineries in the northern or central US to handle the production. It's a heavy synthetic crude and all our refineries (except for Citgo in Houston ... a Venezuelan gig) are configured for light-sweet or intermediate.

On the 'alternative' side I suspect the most likely bet will be DME -- dimethyl ether which is easily extracted from coal and runs just fine in diesels. Not without challenges (it wants 600 psi and has no distribution infrastructure) but nearly unlimited.

Most people are not aware that gasoline is a by-product of the refinery process and thus we will always need vehicles to burn gasoline, just to get rid of the stuff. One reason gasoline prices are drifting down faster than the price of crude is doing is that there is a LOT of heating oil being refined for the winter, and that creates a surplus of gasoline.

And, BTW, to answer your original question ... no, I didn't take it seriously in 1972. I was working on my Masters. In Geology. In Alberta. Nor do I take it seriously now, for it's all a question of price and substitution.

BrianOfAtlanta said...

I graduated from high school in 1979 and was on the debating team. In 1978 the topic for debate was about running out of energy, and centered around the imminent disappearance of oil. My side was given the job of debunking the doom and gloomers.

It was a nearly impossible task. The "scientific consensus" at the time was that we had 10 to 15 years of oil left, max, and I think we found one article which said we might have 50 years left. We had to make a rosy scenario out of fluidized bed combustion of coal and nuclear energy, because nobody, and I mean nobody, in the published scientific community had any hope for the future of oil. I suspect there were "deniers" of the oil crisis back then, but like today, "deniers" don't seem to get published in the journals very much.

knoxgirl said...

these people have cried wolf before

Crying wolf is all they do. It's not good enough to say, "hey, this is a problem;" it has to be The End Of The World.

Which really is a very clever strategy, because it makes for an easy, exciting story for a lazy media, and it's like some crazy religion where if you don't Believe, well, how dare you!!! And it's also a way for a bunch of scientists who would normally live boring lives to have easy access to grants and get attention. *Bonus* It's another great way to criticize the U.S., as Eli's post perfectly demonstrated. China's standards, indeed. I also hear Castro gives great health insurance. Explain to me how poor people are going to trade in their giant American cars for a nice, fuel-efficient Prius. Oh, let me guess.... a nice fat(ter) gasoline tax. On SUV owners, naturally. Something like that'll work.

The environmental movement has just about every harbinger of the worst leftist bullshit around. Its proselytizers have an awful record for chicken littling, but still get attention from the media as if we haven't heard it all before. And don't get me started on Laurie David! : P

Dad said...

knoxgirl, BINGO!

We will never run out of oil. Never. The late great Julian Simon explains why in The Ultimate Resource II.

Hamsun56 said...

I remember having to read the Club of Rome report in a Politcal Science class in the late 70's. Not only was oil going to be very scarce but there was going to be a huge food shortage in Asia by the year 2000.I beleive India now exports food.

SteveR said...

Having an education in Geology and having worked in the oil industry (and the environmental industry) for 30 years, I have no fear of running out of oil. Its all about economics. There are places in the world were oil is known to exist (or is very likely to exist) that have not been explored because of cost and/or environmental concerns. Oil sands and shale oil contain massive amounts for the right price.

Basically Miller is right.

yetanotherjohn said...

It was in the 70's when my highschool debate topic was energy. We had the inevitable quotes about running out of oil in 20 years. The best counters were the numerous quotes that we would be running out of oil in 20 years every 20 years going back to the 1800's. In short, this is one of a string of predictions of the future that have proven wrong (very persuasive with the "nonprofessional" judges. Second, we had the economic data showing the improved oil recovery from "depleted fields" and ability to drill in new areas based on rising prices that said the end was not in sight.

So yes I heard it. It didn't sound right to me then. A little research for debate proved to me why it was wrong.

Fenrisulven said...

Oh, let me guess.... a nice fat(ter) gasoline tax. On SUV owners, naturally. Something like that'll work.

Whats even funnier is Maryland considering a "usage tax" because of hybrids. Do your part to use less gas, and we'll make up the lost fuel tax revenue by taxing you for miles driven instead. Gah.

Mark said...

In response to the guy who dissed the US because other countries have higher vehicle fuel economy standards: here's another example of someone who doesn't "get" the concept of a free market, and who thinks that things won't change unless government passes a law.

Hey, if you want a vehicle with high fuel economy, go buy one! And if there are others like you, they will want one too, and there will be a market for them, and there will companies that make them. But if fuel prices are relatively low, people prefer to have large cars with large engines and are willing to pay for it. Why should the government forbid that kind of car in the name of fuel economy? When fuel prices get high enough, people will change their preferences. There is zero need for government to involve itself in how fuel-efficient cars are. It can never respond as accurately and quickly to changing supply and demand realities as the marketplace.

So, the ones to feel sorry for are the citizens of countries whose governments don't allow them to make their own choices.

Karen said...

A lot of the commenters have said they heard we had 20 years of oil left in the 70's. Well, let me tell you, that meme lasted a LONG time!
In the early 90's I was teaching 9th grade geography with textbooks written in the late 80's that stated as fact we'd be out of oil by 2000.

mcg said...

I need to correct something... earlier I said China's petroleum usage was near 100%... Well, I couldn't find those numbers now. I now think I confused annual growth rate with some long-term projections.

For example, this projection of total energy usage pegs the U.S. as growing from 98.1 to 133.9 quadrillion BTUs between 2003 and 2030---a 36.5% increase. China is projected to grow from 45.5 to 139.1 quadrillion BTUs---a 205% increase. Worldwide usage grows from 420.7 to 721.6, a 72% increase. Obviously, the bulk of the growth is coming from the rise of the developing world.

But that's a 28 year span. It translates to an annual growth rate of 1.2% for the U.S., 4.2% for China, and 2.0% worldwide. The numbers seem small when you look at them that way.

Anyway, I just wanted to correct the record on that.

John said...

As a colleague in the office often states:

"We didn't move past the stone-age because we ran out of stones."

Anonymous said...

If other countries have greater fuel economy, isn't that a function of the types of vehicles used and government-imposed fuel taxes?

If gas were $6 a gallon and I lived in a densely populated country, I'd probably drive a hybrid or a sub-compact. If I lived in a big city, I might use a moped or a scooter.

But there are drawbacks to those vehicles -- (safety, comfort, ability to haul 5 people and/or stuff) -- which is why most Americans will continue to choose good-sized cars with v6 engines unless forced by government policy not to.

Freder Frederson said...

Anyone who believes that we will run out of oil has ZERO understanding of basic economics.

Anyone who thinks we won't run out of oil has ZERO understanding of the concept of a non-renewable resource and simple thermodynamics. The supply of oil is finite. It is as simple as that. The rate of creation of new oil is infintesimal compared to the rate of consumption. Furthermore, the consumption of oil results in the destruction of useful energy that can never be recovered, so we are using up the energy resources of the planet in the space of a couple hundred years that it took literally a couple hundred million years to store. All fossil fuels will eventually be expended and we need to find something else. The sooner we start looking, the easier the transition.

I just figured we'd use cheap nuclear energy to heat our homes and run our hydroponic gardens.

And when has nuclear ever been cheap. It was always going to be "too cheap to meter" but ended up being the most expensive way to boil water ever invented by man even with massive government support at every step of the process.

mcg said...

Freder---obviously our oil supply is finite. But we won't just keep using it, just as we do now, until one day the taps run dry. Rather, as supplies dwindle, the costs will skyrocket, forcing changes in behavior---eventually to a complete transition from oil.

Thus I think it is quite reasonable, and indeed correct, to suggest that we will never run out. We'll stop using it first.

Revenant said...

[Nuclear power] was always going to be "too cheap to meter" but ended up being the most expensive way to boil water ever invented by man

Meanwhile, back in reality, modern nuclear reactors cost approximately as much as coal-burning reactors on a $/mWH basis and are getting steadily cheaper. And if you believe that global warming exists and threatens to do zillions of dollars in damage to the environment then nuclear reactors are *already* far cheaper than coal-burning plants.

And for some perspective: Wind power costs about the same as nuclear, wastes a lot more land, and is nowhere near as flexible or reliable. Solar power costs three to seven times as much as nuclear and is also nowhere near as flexible or reliable.

In the long run, if we develop decent power storage technology and solar power becomes a LOT more efficient that might be the way to go. But for now, its fossil fuel or nuclear, take your pick.