Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We have a peak oil date...

When I first started this blog, I had recently seen The End of Suburbia, and I was commuting daily on a bike through Canada's auto-manufacturing heartland, and when you add these plus some other things together, you end up with a guy who couldn't help but blog endlessly about peak oil. Some of these old posts can be found here and here and here and here.

Oh yeah, and if you haven't heard the phrase "peak oil" before, try this site for some background.

So I was blogging and blogging about peak oil and except for that blip when oil prices rose for stock market reasons (as opposed to resource depletion reasons), nothing really happened. In fact... for a while now I've been wondering if advances in technology (hybrid engines for example), the recession lowering demand for oil, and general environmental awareness, would succeed in pushing back the peak oil date for many decades.

But now, in the Dec. 12-18 issue of http://www.economist.com/The Economist, Fatih Birol (chief economist of the International Energy Agency), says the date is 2020.
The reasons are not hard to find. After analysing the historical production trends of 800 individual oilfields in 2008, the IEA came to the conclusion that the decline in annual output from fields that are past their prime could average 8.6% in 2030. “Even if oil demand were to remain flat, the world would need to find more than 40m barrels per day of gross new capacity—equal to four new Saudi Arabias—just to offset this decline,” says Mr Birol.

So even if China and India DON'T acquire the North American appetite for cars (which they will), the world will need to find 4 new Saudi Arabias by 2030 just to offset the decline in production from existing oil fields.

What does this tie into? Canada's absolutely atrocious reputation at the Copenhagen Climate Talks of course! Because conventional oil is fast running out, the economic worth of Alberta's tar sands is about to skyrocket. Unfortunately getting oil from the tar sands is one of the most polluting and carbon intensive industries on earth. So, to protect the economic value of the tar sands in an era of green activism, here's what you do (if you're the federal conservative government):

a) Create a smokescreen: say that you're committed to reducing Canadian carbon emissions 20% below their 2006 levels by 2020. Sounds great until you realize that the rest of the world is talking about reducing carbon emissions by at least 20% below their 1990 levels by 2020.

b) Just say screw it and throw away most carbon reduction targets for the oil sands.

So - the age of skyrocketing oil prices is only ten years away, and Canada is moving to cash in on this phenomenon, at the cost of its international reputation and (with only a little bit of hyperbole here), the planet.