Restrictions on World Oil Production

Restrictions on world oil production can be divided into four categories:

1. Geology

2. Legitimate National Interests

3. Mismanagement

4. Political Upheaval

Consider each in reverse order:

Political upheaval is currently rampant across the Middle East, resulting in a major spike in world oil prices. No one knows how far the impacts will go or how long it will take to reach some kind of stability and what that stability will mean to oil production in the Middle Eastern countries that produce oil. We are thus relegated to best guesses, which span weeks, months, or years before there are clear resolutions. One pre-Middle East chaos country limited by political upheaval is Iraq, which is believed to have the oil reserves to produce at a much higher level, but Iraqi government chaos has severely limited oil production expansion. In another long-standing case, Nigeria has been plagued by internal political strife, which has negatively impacted its oil production.

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Natural gas, coal, frac water, and ignorance

You and I use a lot of energy. Every second of each day and night we devour 100 times more energy than we need to live. If I were to eat that much energy as food, I would be a 50-foot long bull sperm whale, weighing 40 tons. There are 300,000 sperm whales worldwide, half of them bulls (females are much smaller), and 300,000,000 Americans (females are about the same in size). Our Earth cannot feed and protect 300,000,000 male sperm whales. She is simply too small.

Our voracious appetite for energy must be either extinguished or quenched with local sources of energy (and, no, wind turbines and PV cells are too small to provide even a single ample energy meal per day).

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The Difference Between Oil Reserves and Supply

In his recent column in the New York Times, Michael C. Lynch shows that he does not grasp the crucial difference between crude oil reserves and supply (“Drilling for an Oil Crisis”, February 24, 2011). Demand and the rising cost of getting oil out of the ground are apparently not important in his “don’t worry be happy” message that the plentiful oil of the past will continue into the indefinite future.

For him, reserves are all that matter. The fact that reserves usually take years of drilling and complex negotiations before they become supply escapes him. Of all the oil discovered in the last decade, less than 3 percent has been produced so far (M.K. Horn and Associates, Giant Fields Database, 2010). I suppose Mr. Lynch thinks that this is good news for the future, but it does nothing to address today’s soaring demand.

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