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Re: SC33

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January 04, 2007 10:28PM
http://jameshowardkunstler.typepad.com/clusterfuck_nation/

Forecast For the Year Ahead

....................The Energy Predicament

Oil ended 2006 roughly where it began, at just over $60 a barrel. This reassured the public that all talk about Peak Oil was hysterical blather from a lunatic fringe. It was reinforced by publication of the mendacious Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) report issued this fall -- a tragic document put out by a giant public relations firm representing the oil industry -- with the mission of staving off windfall profits taxes and other regulatory moves that a true resource emergency might recommend.

But beyond this debate, in the background, another ominous trend can account for the stalling of oil prices in 2006 -- totally unrecognized by the public and ignored by the news media: prices on the oil futures market leveled off because the Third World has effectively dropped out of bidding for it -- and using it. They cannot afford it at $60-a-barrel. The Third World has entered an era of energy destitution and it is manifesting in symptoms such as local resource wars, genocides, falling life expectancies, and in many places a near-total unraveling of the sociopolitical order. American mall-walkers and theme park visitors are oblivious to this tragic process, but it is perhaps the major reason why we are not now suffering from $100-per-barrel (or greater) oil prices (with the consequent unraveling of our sociopolitical and economic order).

The major trend on the oil scene the past 12 months is the apparent inability of the world to lift total production above 85 million barrels a day -- with demand now rising above that line. It is unclear how much more demand destruction will come out of the Third World before bidding intensifies between the developed nations. One commentator in particular, Dallas geologist Jeffrey Brown --a frequent contributor on the web's best oil debate site, TheOilDrum.com -- is advancing the idea that we are entering an oil export crisis that will presage a more general permanent world-wide oil emergency. Brown holds that the major oil exporting nations are using so much of their own product, because of rising populations, that their net exports are falling at an alarming rate, perhaps as much as 9 percent annually. This trend combines with general depletion rates now said to be around 3 percent a year.

The question of total oil reserves around the world remains somewhat murky, but Brown, Kenneth Deffeyes of Princeton, and others using a straightforward mathematical model, have stated that the world is roughly at the same point in all-time production as the Lower-48 United States was at in 1970, when America passed its all-time production peak. We know for certain that three of the four super giant oil fields (Daqing in China; Cantarell in Mexico; Burgan in Kuwait) are past peak and there is plenty of evidence that the greatest of them all, 50-year-old Ghawar in Saudi Arabia is not only past peak but perhaps "crashing" into a super-steep decline.

Discovery of new oil to replace the production from declining fields remains paltry. Chevron announced it's "Jack" discovery in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico with great fanfare this year, but neither conclusively demonstrated that all the wished-for oil was down there (between 3 and 15 billion barrels, Chevron said) or that they could get it out of there in a way that made sense economically, since the oil was extraordinarily deep and difficult to lift up.

Meanwhile, companies developing tar sand production in Alberta announced that their costs of production were rising substantially, while a reckoning lay ahead as to how much of Canada's fast-disappearing natural gas reserves will be squandered in melting tar. The oil shale project is going nowhere. American corporate farmers have entered into a racket with congress to subsidize ethanol production from corn and biodiesel fuel from soybeans. The American public remains ignorant of the tragic futility of this project, which depends on oil-and-gas "inputs" to keep the crop yields up and ultimately is a net energy "loser." As the world crosses into the uncharted territory of "The Long Emergency," Americans will find themselves having to chose between eating food and making fuel to keep the car engines running.

The signal failure of public debate in this country is embodied in our obsession with this particular theme -- how to keep the cars running by other means at all costs. Everybody from the greenest enviros to the hoariest neoliberal free market pimps believe that this is the only thing we need to worry about or talk about. The truth, of course, is that we have to make other arrangements for virtually all the major activities of everyday life -- farming, commerce, transport, settlement patterns -- but we are so over-invested in our suburban infrastructure that we cannot face this reality.

The bottom line for oil in 2007: expect the bidding on the futures markets to regain intensity between the US, China, Europe, and Japan. A contracting US economy could take some demand out of the picture, but the sad truth is that we burn up most of the oil we use in cars, and American life is now so hopelessly based on incessant motoring that citizens cannot even go down to the unemployment office without driving. Geopolitical events can only make the oil supply situation worse and probably will. (See ahead.)

We are probably also in the early stages of a natural gas crisis in the US. Over the next decade, the gap between US demand for natural gas and dwindling supply may amount to one-and-a-half times the current equivalent of our oil imports. This is a staggering deficit. Natural gas is used for heating in more than half the houses in the US and accounts for just under 20 percent of our total electricity production. Domestic supply is crashing. We are drilling as fast as we can, with more and more rigs each year, just to to keep up. To make matters worse, the means of gas delivery -- through a vast web of pipeline networks around the nation -- makes "just-in-time" delivery the norm and, tragically, also makes "just-in-time" pricing normal, too. Thus, gas prices are responding only to the shortest-term signals -- for instance, unusually mild winter weather -- rather than to the catastrophic long-term reserve picture. Finally, we are unlikely to solve our natural gas problems with imports for technical reasons having to do with the cost and difficulty of moving the stuff by means other than pipelines and for geopolitical reasons, namely that most of the remaining gas in the world is in Asia. Bottom line: we could enter a home heating and electricity production crisis anytime. Massive price increases are likely to be required in order to reduce demand to the level of available supplies. This will be one of the major factors in the disabling of suburbia -- which is to say, normal American life.......................
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SC33

Wizard 783January 03, 2007 09:50PM

Re: SC33

Wizard 423January 03, 2007 10:04PM

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Wizard 419January 03, 2007 10:36PM

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Wizard 414January 04, 2007 10:00PM

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Wizard 512January 04, 2007 10:28PM

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Wizard 407January 04, 2007 10:42PM

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Wizard 455January 04, 2007 10:50PM

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Wizard 394January 04, 2007 11:10PM

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Wizard 426January 05, 2007 03:57PM

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Wizard 454January 05, 2007 05:20PM

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Wizard 801January 05, 2007 05:58PM

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Paul P. 374January 05, 2007 06:12PM

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Rick 453January 05, 2007 08:16PM

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Wizard 372January 05, 2007 06:19PM

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Wizard 435January 05, 2007 08:54PM

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Wizard 408January 05, 2007 10:09PM

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Wizard 406January 06, 2007 08:37PM

Re: SC33

Wizard 431January 06, 2007 11:04PM

Perfect storm?

mojavegreen 834January 07, 2007 09:03PM



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