Sunday, April 18, 2010

Peak oil may only be a few years away, according to the U.S. Army..

There was discussion of this subject a few years ago, when gasoline was running around $4.50 a gallon. However, since then, things seem to have eased up and bit and there were more important subjects to talk about, like death panels and whether or not Barack Obama is really an American.

But it appears that the concern regarding the world’s oil supply is back, in a big way. When the U.S. Army starts warning about something (other than potential military targets, I mean), we should probably start paying attention.

From Susie Mandrak at Crooks and Liars:

The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact.

The energy crisis outlined in a Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command, comes as the price of petrol in Britain reaches record levels and the cost of crude is predicted to soon top $100 a barrel.

"By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day," says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis.

It adds: "While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India."

The US military says its views cannot be taken as US government policy but admits they are meant to provide the Joint Forces with "an intellectual foundation upon which we will construct the concept to guide out future force developments."

The warning is the latest in a series from around the world that has turned peak oil – the moment when demand exceeds supply – from a distant threat to a more immediate risk.

[...] Future fuel supplies are of acute importance to the US army because it is believed to be the biggest single user of petrol in the world. BP chief executive, Tony Hayward, said recently that there was little chance of crude from the carbon-heavy Canadian tar sands being banned in America because the US military like to have local supplies rather than rely on the politically unstable Middle East.

But there are signs that the US Department of Energy might also be changing its stance on peak oil. In a recent interview with French newspaper, Le Monde, Glen Sweetnam, main oil adviser to the Obama administration, admitted that "a chance exists that we may experience a decline" of world liquid fuels production between 2011 and 2015 if the investment was not forthcoming.

I was hoping, in a very selfish way, that our current situation regarding energy would stay pretty much status quo for the next 10 to 15 years. I would have been long retired. I would not be commuting to work anymore and I wouldn’t have to be concerned about my job, given that it depends rather heavily on the availability of oil. Very selfish of me, I know, but I am not sure what else I could do on a personal level. Our society is based on the premise that no problem is too large to ignore completely until it becomes a huge crisis. That is what is going on with our dependence on oil, foreign and otherwise. Given how much of the stuff that the world’s countries use on a daily basis, it is a foregone conclusion that it was going to run out sooner than later. But this report from the Army is pretty frightening. Two years and all surplus capacity will disappear? I happen to remember the OPEC oil embargo of the 70’s, and it wasn’t pretty. This would make that look like a picnic.

It is unfortunate fact, but I think many of the conservatives and proponents of “drill, baby, drill” are correct. It is going to be much easier to keep trying to tap into more pockets of oil to keep our society, as we know it, going. It is much more difficult to come up with completely new and large scale energy sources. That’s the problem, you know. It isn’t so much that we don’t have the knowledge to do solar power, wind power and hydrothermal power. We just aren’t going to be able to do it on a large enough scale to actually matter before the crisis point hits.

That’s pretty scary.

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