Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Game Changer?

The publication of this report from Harvard, may be a game changer.
 It describes how the increase in oil investment since 2003 and the increased use of "unconventional" technology such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has led to increased production and predicts a net increase in  production capacity of 17.6 million barrels per day by 2020.   The report mentions that there is an economic prerequisite of a long term price of $70 per barrel, but when you consider that Brent Crude is currently about $100 per barrel this is not unfeasible. 
The report indicates that the 4 countries with the highest potential for growth in oil production are the US, Canada, Brazil and Iraq.  Largely by exploitation of "unconventional sources" such as Oil Shales, Tar Sands, Extra-heavy Oils and
Pre-salt oils. 
I (and many others) accept(ed) peak oil as near-future.  Which while having the potential to be a major crisis in its own right perhaps had the potential to "crash"  the current fossil fuel driven industrial paradigm and maybe help us to curb our emissions with the consequent impact in terms of climate change. 
With the idea that peak oil is no longer the likely near future and that our oil drenched society has the fuel to continue for some time with the impact which it has driving climate change, there opens the frightening vision of us rushing headlong off the cliff, without any "crash" to stop us first, especially when you consider the extra heavy environmental costs of unvonventional sources.

Of course there is still the question of the Energy Return On Energy Invested (EROEI), how much energy it takes to get the oil from "unconventional" sources and the economic and political impact that will have, the infrastucture difficulties such as supply pipelines etc which affect the all important "flow rate".   With increasing global demand, to some degree, the question of peak oil still remains and  this article in The Guardian indicates that peak oil may still be "on". 

The threat of "peak" other resources like water and metals and rare earths still remains and of course the political and economic climate may change.  But to my mind this highlights the importance of taking action to adress climate change now, to adapt before we unknowingly pass the tipping point. 

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