Big Oil Is Not Big Enough

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      March 29th, 1859  Oil Creek, Pennsylvania.  On this day, Edwin Drake struck oil at 69.5 feet.   While drilling this well, he was mocked by the locals for what they called “Drakes Folly”.  Little did they know that Edwin Drake was going to start a revolution in energy generation that would lead to an unprecedented increase in the world’s population.    

    By today’s standards,  Drake’s first  well was an unremarkable discovery; producing only 20 barrels per day.  The first oil “boom town” quickly sprang up in this quiet farming community.  Until 1901, Oil Creek Pennsylvania was responsible for one half of the world’s oil production; until much more productive oil fields were discovered in East Texas. 

     150 years later, just how dependent are we on oil for energy?   The answer to this question is truly staggering.  The world uses about 85 million barrels [3,570,000,00 million gallons] of oil per day.  For comparison purposes, Niagara Falls flows at the rate of 150,000 gallons per second.  If we wanted to replace some of the water that flows over Niagara Falls with the oil we use daily, the falls would run black for nearly 7 hours per day.  That’s a lot of oil.

     Some of you may remember the energy crisis in the mid 1970’s.  We saw long lines form at gas pumps due to diminished supply and an ever increasing demand.  Some doom-sayers predicted that we would be completely out of oil by the end of the 20th century.  Of course they were wrong.  In the 1970s we simply had no idea of the scope of the world’s oil reserves, nor did we know that increasing oil prices would enable ever more sophisticated extraction technologies such as offshore oil drilling platforms and fracking.

     Unlike the 1970’s, today we have enough knowledge of the geology of our planet to effectively predict the oil reserves we have not yet discovered.  It appears as if we can reasonably expect to access about 4-5 times as much oil as has ever been burned by the human race since the drilling of Drakes first well.  That’s a lot of oil.

     So why are some people still claiming we are going to run out of oil anytime soon? To answer that question, we have to understand a simple mathematical concept called the exponential function.  Let’s assume our demand for oil only increases by a modest 3% per year from this point forward….what will that look like over time?   There is actually a mathematical formula to easily determine the long term effects of modest growth.  If you want to find out how long it will take for anything to double in quantity, simply divide the annual growth rate into the number 70.  So 3% annual growth in demand for oil means our current level of use will double in 23.33 years.  In other words, at a measly 3% annual increase Niagara Falls would run black 14 hours a day in 2038 instead of 7 hours a day today.

     What if demand for oil increases 3% annually after 2038?  Niagara Falls will then run black 28 hours per day within 23.33 more years In other words, we’ll be using 16% more oil than actually flows over the falls by 2071. 

     At that rate of flow, for any practical purpose, there will be no more oil left in the ground to pump out by 2080.  There are people alive today that may actually live to see the exhaustion of fossil fuels by the human race on this planet. 

     By 2050, the United Nations predicts we’ll have 9.8 billion people on planet earth.  Humanity's unprecedented growth spurt has only been made possible by fossil fuels.   I don’t know about you, but moving as quickly as we can into alternative energy sources of any kind seems like a prudent thing to do for the human race.  If you are one of those people that were born into a fossil fuel economy, and assume that oil, gas and coal will always be there to use, think again.  Nothing lasts forever.

     So what are you going to do about it?


Norton Louis Added Jun 16, 2015 - 4:36pm
David.  I don't even know why I try to explain the exponential function to people.  They just won't get it until they run out....then they'll be pissed because "nobody told them".   "Plenty of oil" is correct ONLY if we do not increase our useage by small amounts year over year. 
Five times more than we have ever used as a race seems like a lot, until you factor in modest growth sustained over multiple doubling periods.
We are in the production peak, so everyone is fat and happy.  Fracking has made the peak even more enjoyable than it otherwise would be.  You'll know it when demand starts outstripping production in about 5 years......the downside of the bell curve is going to be a much rougher ride than the upside.
Anyone that glibly uses "plenty" or "a lot" without backing up their statements with factual data is not being intellectually honest.  Increasing demand on a finite resource can only end one way. 
Larry Kauf Added Jun 17, 2015 - 1:05am
You certainly make a case for switching to Natural Gas.
Utpal Patel Added Jun 17, 2015 - 2:39am
Anonymous made some good points, why didn’t you address them?
The exponential function is only as good as the assumption regarding growth rate.  Population growth has been leveling out and oil consumption in industrialized nations is actually in decline.  Accordingly, your 3% growth rate assumption isn’t a very realistic number especially when coupled with the fact technology has made it possible to heat our homes and power our cars using less oil. 
Thanks to fracking and hydraulic drilling and other yet to be discovered methods of finding an extracting oil, you might also want to consider applying one of those 3% growth rates to supply. 
Even after factoring all of this, you still must realize that if supply should ever become a problem, the price will rise and humans will find other ways to get to work and heat their homes.  Should that happen, your growth rate will go negative much like it has already done in the industrialized nations.  
Bill Kamps Added Jun 17, 2015 - 8:36am
Norton, the supply demand equation is complex and not at all static. For example, the economy today uses far less oil per $ of GDP than we did in the 60s, why ? because oil is more expensive. The most obvious evidence is car mpg, but this is happening throughout the economy.
So when the supply gets tighter, or more expensive to extract, three things happen. People use less, there is more incentive to look for more, and there is more incentive to find a substitute.
The recent price decline happened because the price was over $100, giving incentive to people to produce more. The shale fields produced enough more that the price dropped.
I think it is very difficult to say how much oil there is. People have tried this many times over the years, and always grossly underestimated things. Having said that it is still relatively finite resource, and there are alternatives. 
I think the supply/demand situation is flexible enough, that it will adapt over time.
Leroy Added Jun 17, 2015 - 8:45am
No need to get out collective panties in a wad.  If push comes to shove, nuclear energy is always there.
Norton Louis Added Jun 17, 2015 - 9:50am
Utpal, you asked "Anonymous made some good points, why didn’t you address them?"
Frankly I don't agree - but I'll answer your question.  First Anonymous says my estimates for increase are overblown - I'll address that in a second.  Second Anonymous says we are discovering "oil we never thought we had" all the time.
Utpal....think about it for a second.  Where are these discoveries being made?  The answer is offshore, polar areas, shale deposits (fracking) and tar sands.  All of these are much more expensive to get at.  If we could just pump good old fashioned black gold out of the ground like we used to, do you think we'd be exploiting ever more expensive, hard to reach and hard to process sources?  We are doing this because we HAVE to.
The world economy is based on fossil fuels.  The day that most of the public understands that we are through the peak of production and only have diminished supply to deal with, the world economy will be rocked to its foundation.  Those that are still making money playing musical chairs in the fossil fuel economy want the music to go on for as long as possible. 
For a model of what the behavior of business looks like when reaching a peak, you have no farther to look than the housing bubble.  Underwriting restrictions were relaxed, and people we telling us that the real estate market was great.  I remember Countrywide (home loan company) buying hundreds of TV commercials just before the crash and saying "Nobody can do what Countrywide can do, nobody".  They were right.
I don't know what skin Anonymous has in the oil game, but his/her generalizations smack to me of the strategies employed by those invested in the peak of the real estate market.  I'll address numbers in my next comment.
Norton Louis Added Jun 17, 2015 - 10:42am
Utpal, Peak oil theory states: that any finite resource, (including oil), will have a beginning, middle, and an end of production, and at some point in the center of the bell curve it will reach a level of maximum output.  This makes sense doesn't it?     
Anonymous may have  correct, my forecast for growth may have been overstated.  I used 3% annual increase in my exponential consumption example. Most economists agree that a 2% annual increase in total energy demand is what we can expect for the foreseeable future.  Considering we use 85 million barrels per day today in the world, let's see how long it will take us to get to 170 million barrels  per day using variable annual growth rates:
1% growth = 70 years to double
2% growth = 35 years to double
3% growth = 23.33 years to double
4% growth = 17.5 years to double
5% growth  = 12 years to double.
So there are two questions here.  First, is it reasonable to assume that fossil fuel energy demands will increase?  Despite your point about declining birth rates, our longer life spans will guarantee that another 2.8 billion people will be on the planet by 2050 - the United Nations has an extensive population study division and predicts this to be so.  Since there is a demonstrated correlation of feeding people to average energy consumption, the numbers dictate that we'll need 40% more energy on the planet in 2050 to feed everyone.  The second question is to ask:  is it reasonable to expect alternative energy sources to be developed in the next 25 years at rates fast enough to soak up the extra demand?  I don't think so, but I would love to be wrong.
There are the numbers on a macro-scale.  One of the best white papers have seen on the subject of peak oil can be found at  .  This paper is formulated with data from one of the best sources of data on oil ever compiled, The BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2007.   Unlike the comments from Anonymous which are generalized and baseless, there is some actual, factual data for you to review at your leisure at the end of this link.
Don't be lulled into a false sense of comfort with fracking......we have probably already reached our peak in oil production in spite of the bump fracking has given us recently. 
Larry is entirely correct, we will see the use of Natural Gas and Coal begin spiking up considerably as production in some of the world's largest oil fields continues to decline.   In fact, coal use has already spike significantly, and Natural Gas is undergoing a renaissance even as we speak.
Final thought:  Every population expands to exploit natural resources to their maximum.  When resources peak, momentum still exists in expanding population trends.  The gap between responding to the reduction in resources and expanding population is called a population overshoot.  Regardless of when we think the peak of oil production occurs, isn't it prudent to prepare for that day by developing alternative energyso that we don't overshoot our population by billions? 
Norton Louis Added Jun 17, 2015 - 2:15pm
Joe...agree in spirit with your number one. Population growth is already outstripping natural resources in many areas including fresh water, over-fishing, depleting topsoil, deforestation - you name it.  There is no reason to believe natural resource fossil fuels are somehow immune to depletion.  Unlike forests or fish however, we have to wait millions of years for the planet to make more fossil fuels.
      Also agreed that solar and wind are far less efficient and require more infrastructure than fossil fuels. 
     As far as future discovery techniques....yes we will most certainly discover and harvest more fossil fuels with ever more clever (and expensive) techniques.  We already have extended our reach to tar sands, shale, off-shore drilling, etc.  Our energy needs keep increasing, while our really big fields like the Dammam Dome in Saudi Arabia are becoming less productive. 
    Welcome to the peak. 
Larry Kauf Added Jun 17, 2015 - 2:55pm
Apparently the Saudi's, the Kurds, the Iranians, the Kuwaiti's  OPEC in general don't see a problem with peak oil and are pumping like crazy to keep prices at < $60/Bar    The effort is nothing more than to try and get the US,  OUT of the market as we were on our way to Oil independence with the Baaken, in N.Dakota.  
Joe with your background in Oil knows this to be pretty accurate.  Venezuela's Oil production has all but dried up as they simply cannot compete at $60.   Mexico and their Nationalization of their Oil industry,  thru PEMEX  Has plenty of untapped oil, as the Texan Basins do not stop at the border and extend into Mexico.  Unfortunately PEMEX cant find their tush with a flashlight and their Oil as well as Gas Production is inconsistent.
Canada is awash in Tar sands Oil but without the Keystone XL they have to ship the oil by rail, east to where the processing facilities are.
An expensive, and often hazardous endeavor.
We DO need to get off the Oil teat.  There are some promising efforts with Thorium reactors;   Using the sun for Plasma generation of electric instead of the traditional Solar panels, because the Plasma can still generate electric at night and on cloudy days.  Tidal energy has not been perfected yet but several test projects are running around the world.  Harnessing the energy of the tides and ocean.
If there is NO water to be had,  then what does it matter how much it costs to desalinate the Ocean?   If your dying of thirst in the desert, what you you pay for a glass of water?
A final thought.  While you can make the same case with Natural Gas as you are making with Oil,  Natural Gas can be created from a Landfill from trash to generate electric.  Most Municipal Landfills around major cities are already doing this to peak shave.
Norton Louis Added Jun 17, 2015 - 3:14pm
Larry - interesting point.  Biological science may yet play a role in our energy drama.  Converting biomass to methane using tailored organisms to break down complex molecules may yet give us a "Mr. Methane" version of "Mr. Fusion" seen in the move "Back to the Future". 
Of course, there are dangers in producing such an organism and having it survive in the wild.  The more I research Peak Oil, the more I concur with Elon Musk that we need to get all our eggs out of one basket and establish a viable human colony on Mars. 
Humans seem to do better working with scarcity instead of excess.  Given a choice, we grow to fill and eventually overflow any environment of excess..... then we wonder what the heck just happened.
Bill Kamps Added Jun 17, 2015 - 3:28pm
Larry, a minor correction. Venezuela, has almost as much oil as Saudi, though heavier oil to be sure. The problem there is NOT the price of oil, but the problem is that the current government has all but destroyed the oil industry, and chased out most foreign help but the Chinese. So yes production has fallen, but it is still a very large resource should the politics there change for the better.  The oil isnt going anywhere.
However, your point is largely correct. There is a lot of oil yet to be produced, and there are alternatives that can be put into place over time.  There are any number of alternatives that currently work today, and others on the horizon.
To some extent both Norton and you are right. Oil is a finite resource, though we dont know exactly how much of it there is. How much also depends a lot on price assumptions, since as the price rises more supplies become economic.
So we dont know how long the resource will last, and we dont know when alternatives will become economically viable, or even which ones will turn out to be the best.
It really isnt clear what Norton would have us do today.  Subsidies in Europe are promoting alternative energy, and to a lesser extent in the USA.  MANY forms of alternative energy are being tested, and  experimented with.  With the price of oil falling by 40%, these alternatives have become less attractive. However, the price will go up again before too long so I am sure the experiments will continue.
Norton Louis Added Jun 17, 2015 - 3:42pm
Bill.....just as with the housing bubble, all the signs that we are at or near a peak are there for those that wish to see them.  The fact we are even screwing with extracting oil from Tar Sands should make us question current oil production levels.   To your point, oil will be back up over $100 bucks per barrel in short order - I predict as soon as the next 3-5 years.  Then we'll start talking seriously about alternative energy again.  The problem is that 5 years delay in development of alternative energy sources could mean feeding or not feeding millions or hundreds of millions of people 30-50 years from now.
The Saudis are playing a long game.  They still have a lot of oil in the ground, but if they can help to drive prices low enough over a long period of time, they will temporarily damage the economies of fracking and tar sand extraction and set those operations back by years.  This ultimately will give them a higher overall price on selling what they have left in the ground.  From a purely clinical perspective, they are simply using the leverage they have to get the highest average price for their oil before in runs out.
What would I have us do?  Tax all fossil fuel sales in the world by 10 percent or more and use the proceeds to develop and implement alternative energies at the local level.  We've never been good the concept of "an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure" as a race, however.  Too many selfish folks want as much as they can get NOW without regard for how it hoses the future.
Norton Louis Added Jun 17, 2015 - 6:09pm are correct.  Birth rates are slowing in developed countries, but still are accelerating in third world countries. Two things have us still increasing world population until at least 2050 .  First is more people around the world today are living longer.  Second is Africa.  Africa is expected to increase from 1 Billion to 4 Billion people in this century (Africa currently contains 8 of the 10 hungriest nations on the planet).   The UN has made a science of studying world populations.  I find their forecast of 9.8 billion (40% more people on the planet than today) by 2050 to be entirely credible.
Ethanol from corn is certainly not much of a net gain based on what I have seen. Solar and wind offer low energy yields for a relatively high level of investment - but we really should be making those investments now while we can afford it.  Tidal power generation seems to require heavy investment and maintenance  but may prove to offer net gains as well.
All that being said, we will need massive energy dense sources like fusion, and an across the board focus on biologic sciences to generate methane to replace the Niagara Falls of Oil we are currently burning.  The old companions of humanity War, Plague and Famine are still hovering in the wings waiting for an opportunity to reassert themselves in a not too distant future of fossil fuel scarcity.
As for those people that believe we have 300 years or more of any fossil fuel left  - don't believe what you are told.  Those forecasts do not take into account small year over year increases in demand that result in exponential growth.  100 years tops are left for ANY fossil fuel based on current trends.
Norton Louis Added Jun 17, 2015 - 6:30pm
Jamie - LOL.  You always crack me up.  What you say is so true with regard to not dealing with problems until the land on us like a ton of bricks.  Whatever that "magical fix" is, it is going to have to be revolutionary in terms of energy density and cost effectiveness to replace the massive Niagara Falls of oil we pump out of the ground and burn each day.
I too want to try to think optimistically that technology in the end will save us.  The huge numbers of our population that are tied to fossil fuels to eat give me some serious pause, however. 
Wealthy countries will be able to outbid poor countries for fuel, so starvation will not hit the US, though we will be forced to tighten our belts.  We also have some significant reserves of Natural Gas - so we are  probably going to be OK for the next century or so.  The rest of the world, not so much.  Wars will increasingly be fought for resources.  We could argue that has been happening for the past ten years in the Middle East.
Larry Kauf Added Jun 17, 2015 - 7:25pm
Wars will increasingly be fought for resources. We could argue that has been happening for the past ten years in the Middle East.
You could argue that IF we got anything out of the war,  other than a big run up of Debt.  Where did all that Iraqi Oil go,  that was suppose to "pay for the War" ?  
Norton Louis Added Jun 17, 2015 - 7:30pm
Larry....LOL.  Probably the biggest "whoops, never-mind" in history. 
Did you know of all of the famous conquerors throughout history (i.e. Alexander, Ghengis Khan, etc.) George Bush shows up on the list at the number 10 spot when considering square miles conquered?  Not bad for a compassionate conservative two term President!
Too bad we couldn't hang on to what we conquered......but retaining the nearly 500,000 square miles we took over militarily probably was not an feasible option from the start. 
Larry Kauf Added Jun 17, 2015 - 7:50pm
Yeah but of that 500,000 sq miles only 500 Sq miles of it was worth anything.  The rest was desert and dust.  Let Iraq keep that crap.  It has been seen and proven that ... even with all the money.  Even with all the time and Training. Even with supplying Iraq with state of the art equipment, all that they are good at is turning tail and running in the face of any size enemy.
800 ISIS fighters attack 5,000 Iraqi troops and they run, leaving brand new equipment on the field and stripping off their uniforms,  as they scurried.  THIS is what you want US troops to defend and die for?  People that have no respect for themselves and little appreciation of what is given to them so that they can stand on their own 2 feet.
They should have split that country into 3 parts ...Kurdistan since the Kurds seem to have their shit together and want their own country and have even set up a Govt and defeated ISIS in their territory for the most part.    Sunniland and Shiteville.  Let the Saudis  help Sunniland and let the Shites do, whatever they are gonna do, just as long as the US is outta there.
Bill Kamps Added Jun 18, 2015 - 7:48am
Norton, I have no problem taxing fossil fuels, they are pretty heavily taxed already, and in Europe taxed quite a lot more than in the USA.
I worry when government gets involved in picking winners. There are subsidies in place, and maybe there should be more or different ones. But allowing the politicians to spend the fossil fuel tax seems to be inviting folly, but maybe that is still the best choice.
Al Gore's carbon tax is just another scheme for some people to get still richer. I dont think it necessarily solves any problem.
I dont think there will be a lot of lost time because the price of oil is low for now. A lot of research is going on, and while some of it may stop, most probably will continue because as research it was never meant to turn a short term profit any way.
Norton Louis Added Jun 18, 2015 - 9:46am
Bill....agreed.  Government sucks at picking winners, and placing them in charge of redistribution creates expensive bureaucracies and more corruption.
What we saw with NASA may offer a model for converting away from an increasingly corrupt, moribund government however.  Cash prizes were posted to encourage private companies to reach milestones.  For example SpaceX earned 30 million dollars after a successful test of the escape function for their crew capsule.  In this way, private companies can factor in these prizes in their development schemes.
 Elon Musk has interrupted some crony treasure baths between NASA and Boeing utilizing this process.  I love it.
If government had to pick a space race winner at one time, they probably would,have chosen Richard Branson's effort due to his branding.  SpaceX came out of nowhere because Elon Musk knows how to manage a team to get the most out of them.
It is possible to meld the human ingenuity and efficiencies that come naturally to private enterprise with government if bureaucrats are willIng to forego enhancing their own personal power in the process.
What more compelling reason do we have than converting away from fossil fuels to save as many humans as we can?
Bill Kamps Added Jun 18, 2015 - 9:54am
Norton, sure not a bad idea. There are a lot of things going on in addition to the more traditional wind and solar forms of renewable energy. Tides, biology and other things are being experimented with on more than trivial scales.
Certainly one of the challenges will be scaling things up. Even wind, with as many windmills are there are out there, only affects a fraction of the energy equation.
Musk is producing solar, and selling it in a very creative way, again barely making a dent in the fraction of energy supplied.
The trick will be determining what technology really has the promise to scale to the kinds of numbers that oil provides. Even with our experience with solar and wind, it is not clear those will ever be more than niche providers, similar to what hydro is today.
However, it all has to start somewhere, and its not like the solution has to be completely flushed out in five years.
Larry Kauf Added Jun 18, 2015 - 10:06am
Granted, Space is exciting but certainly not the Final Frontier.  What about all the land available right here on this Planet, before we go screwing up other worlds.  70% of the world is covered in water.  We haven't figured out how to use that water to our benefit,  or even live in habitats under the water, to any great extent.
We haven't learned how to harness the Oceans Energy,  The Oceans are the greatest unexplored areas on Earth.  At the bottom of the Ocean in many areas, Geo Thermal energy is a lot easier to get at than many places on  dry land.
A Company or group of companies,  that are willing to invest, explore and exploit,  could open up a whole new business growth area for jobs, right here at home.
Norton Louis Added Jun 18, 2015 - 10:09am
David E.  I watched your link....interesting that MSNBC had such a starkly truthful assessment of the banking casino that led to our financial collapse.
I agree, chasing exponential growth will ALWAYS leadto a crash whether it is a financial instrument or the use of natural resources.
Norton Louis Added Jun 18, 2015 - 10:17am exponential number systems, five years early in the doubling process could mean saving hundreds of millions of lives that would otherwise succumb to starvation in 30-50 years.  I get your point however.  With the price of gas back down to 2.50 or so from 5 bucks a gallon, what me worry?  (Picture a face of Alfred E. Nueman) 
I know that many of us are just old white guys talking on this post by now, but widespread change sometimes starts with just a handful of early adopters.  I am going to make the discussion of the need to develop alternative energy a part of my social conversation.  It's just one snowflake I know, but I hope someday to have been a participant in an avalanche of change.
Larry Kauf Added Jun 18, 2015 - 10:51am
Norton Here is a peek at what our Company is doing as a snowflake.
Under the umbrella of AUS Energy
we own:
I am more of the Gas/Electric guy and have not branched into the green area, which is a career in itself.  I certainly do support it however.
I hope that you will look at the above links to get a better idea of what is actually happening today with more than just wind and solar.
Larry Kauf Added Jun 18, 2015 - 12:42pm
Bladeless Wind turbine !!!   Take a peek.  Pretty interesting but you have to wonder how much this can actually generate/unit?
Norton Louis Added Jun 18, 2015 - 2:00pm
Larry totally cool oscillating windmill....this is the type of  thinking (alien to our traditional Euclidean thought processes) that we need more of.  Just because we have used blades to catch the wind for centuries does not mean that is what we need to use in the future. 
Because of greatly reduced cost and space requirements, you could probably get several of these babies in where a traditional wind mill would go before.  Ergo, even if they are less efficient at energy production, scaleability may more than make up for it.
David E.  Great far as I am concerned you can comment like this as much as you want.  I think what Autumn was looking at earlier was just the sheer number of comments....maybe like too many people in a boat can swamp it.  After she said something, I went through and deleted some of the back to back comments that were a above my IQ grade.
Armond:  You said  "Until we remove the ill from leadership, nothing will change."  I agree.  But think on this: the leadership is and always has been us.  Over and over again in human history we see leaders become increasingly corrupt over time.  Countless revolutions to throw the dirty bastards out just lead to more dirty bastards that must be thrown out, ad infinitum.  I submit to you that your conclusion should be modified to read "Until we embark to change the very nature of the human race, our inherited survival traits of greed, aggression, selfishness and jealousy will continue to dominate the affairs of mankind".  If the monkeys in the monkey-house at the zoo asked us how to run their cage better, we'd tell them they need to evolve and get smarter.  The human race has not evolved the necessary traits it needs to run a planet cohesively.  Our tribal thought biases prevent us from creating large scale solutions.  It is past time to take control of our own genetic code to begin gradually selecting for more intelligence to help us control our baser instincts. 
Larry (again) - as to the earth being 7/10ths water, there may be some genetic solutions to adapting part of the human race to occupy water in addition to land.  Exploring the oceans as a denizen of the deep would be a much greater adventure for the human race than going to Mars in my opinion.  Other implications of mastering genetics have energy applications.  But uplifting dolphins or great apes to sentience and communication so that we are not alone governing this planet could also have widespread positive implications for our future. 
Norton Louis Added Jun 18, 2015 - 4:23pm
Brad.  Humans have a difficult time thinking in long timescales.  We don't live long enough to see continents subside one under the other where continental plates meet, or see massive swamps drop vegetation to the floor of the swamp for millions of years, only to be later buried by geology.  We do know that sunlight + photosynthesis creates life.  Life is full of carbon compounds.  It is highly likely the detritus of life accumulated over millions and even billions of years is distilled and compressed into fossil fuels.  Even if there were a magical process run by pixies to create fossil fuel, they have only created us a limited amount.  We need to catch the pixies and force them to make more, or figure something else out to replace fossil fuels within this century. 
Barbie Added Jun 19, 2015 - 9:06am
There is a huge amount of research being done (way beyond solar & wind) behind the scenes which will be clean, efficient and cost a fraction without damaging the environment which combined with traditional clean energy (solar and wind) and it will become our only option. It won't be in my life time but it will be in our children's life time. In the interim, there will those that will fight diversifying from oil and coal tooth and nail right until the bitter end.
Norton Louis Added Jun 19, 2015 - 12:58pm
Barbie....I appreciate your attitude.  I can only hope we find a clean source of bountiful energy to replace fossil fuels. 
Replacing the Niagara Falls of energy we use as a world is not going to be possible without something revolutionary like Fusion.  Our future will be one of regional energy generation, and minimal energy use.
The greatest concern is food production.  Fertilizers made from fossil fuels replace the nutrients that we have stripped to a large extent from our topsoil.  Fossil fuels are burned to give us high-yield factory farming.  Many of us will starve due to population overshoot before adapting to a world without abundant energy. 
As far as adaptation, you will begin to see signs soon of widespread adaptation to Natural Gas.  Ford is releasing a Natural Gas F150 model soon.  This is no accident.  USA's future is increasingly going to be dependent on Natural Gas as we descend down the slope of the fossil fuel bell curve in coming decades.
Enjoy the Peak of oil production today while it is here!  Travel and see the sights....our grandchildren will not have many of the luxuries afforded by virtually unlimited energy when they are our age.
Larry Kauf Added Jun 19, 2015 - 3:04pm
Hey Norton !   lol    (sorry couldn't resist the Honeymooners reference).    Have you been reading my Natural Gas info.   Yes .... Ford is coming out with a NGV F-150  later this year for 2016.  Honda has had a Civic on the road got years that runs on Nat Gas and with it comes a GPS to lead you to fueling stations where you can fill up.
Most Municipalities in major Cities have their Buses,  running on Natural Gas.  The Postal Service is converting as is FedEX and UPS.  Clean Energy Fuels, has built out the Natural Gas Superhighway for the fueling of 18 wheel trucks at all the Flying J truck stops.
If you want to see a REAL stimulus package to jump start the economy.  Simply have Obama announce that the Fed Govt. will be converting (or buying)  all vehicles to Natural; Gas in the next 3 years.
The big 3 Automakers get a big boost.  All the Auto ancillary services start hiring to meet the need.  MORE service station are converted.
employment takes a big jump.   More people start paying more taxes and the middle class starts to come back to life.
More workers means more people needing services and with money to pay for those services.
Gas production has to ramp up even further to meet the NEW source of demand so more workers are hired in that are as well at those high paying jobs which means even more revenue for the Govt.
The change is coming slowly.   I would like to see it come at a faster pace, but hey...thats just me.
Norton Louis Added Jun 20, 2015 - 11:02am
Hey Larry, Yes I did check out your websites and agree Natural Gas offers a great future for us here in the US.  In the short term I commend you and your company for the good work you are doing.  I shudder to think of all of the Natural Gas that has been burned off and released as unusable over the years that we did not capture.
One thing I think is terribly unwise is the lifting of the Natural Gas export ban......we need to keep as much of our natural gas inside of our borders as possible as we descend down the far side of the fossil fuel bell curve.  This is a clear cut example of short term profits of a few trumping the future needs of our country.  We have so many corrupt politicians thinking only in terms of getting theirs today without considering the price our country must  pay tomorrow.  There will be a time within this century that our descendants will look back and wonder at how we could have made the decision to end the export ban on natural gas.
Larry Kauf Added Jun 20, 2015 - 11:30am
Norton,  On my side of the business, my concern is price for my clients.  Now when you compare what I get the gas for vs. what they would have to buy the gas for , from the Utility, that results in a savings.  That's my business model.  The greater the savings the happier the client, the longer they stay with me.
Price on the rise or fall is a sliding scale and of course there is Supply and Demand that effects price.  But there are also a huge amount of other factors; ie.  Weather, Pipeline Capacity, time of year,  Production (which could be under Supply ) etc.
Just under the Marcellus Shale is the Utica Shale, virtually untouched. So how much gas is really available is anyone's guess.  It certainly wont run out in my lifetime or my kids lifetime.  But short term, an increase in demand due to exports, could boost the price back into the Low $5.00/MMbtu which is almost double where it is today.  That's quite a jump for a businesses budget, if you do not build that in or forecast it in any way or mitigate the increase, which is what I do.
We see Flare Gas being wasted today, in N. Dakota as a free byproduct of the Oil drilling.  There simply is not any infrastructure in place to capture the gas. The reason is the cost of the infrastructure is more than the gas is worth.  To justify it on a gas only basis is not cost beneficial but if you add it to the cost of the Oil side, as a cost of doing business, Oil prices then would have to be much higher than they are today to make the numbers work for the Oil well in the first place.  So the cheapest , in the long run, is to burn it off for now.
It is a shame and it is a total waste
Norton Louis Added Jun 20, 2015 - 12:29pm
Larry you probably don't want to hear this, but nationalizing our gas and oil may be what we need to secure America's future.  Government sucks at most things, but one thing we can guarantee is that gov't would capture that flare gas.  Also, with nationalization of our fossil fuels, the corruption factor of big oil/gas/coal to influence politicians to drop the ban on exports would go away.  I still can't believe we dropped the export ban on natural gas.  The very least we could have done is taxed the hell out of natural gas exports to fund alternative energy development in some way.
We should be importing everything we can and reserving as much of our own fossil fuels for the future.
Sitting here in the peak of peak oil, I can see why so many in the oil industry want to foster the perception that we have several hundreds of years of supply left.  Once it becomes apparent to the public at large that we will be out of most fossil fuels for all intents and purposes by 2100, the current situation with regard to sales and regulation will dramatically change.  I did not start out writing this blog with nationalization in mind, but it is now apparent to me that we will end up there sooner or later.
Larry Kauf Added Jun 20, 2015 - 11:21pm
But whether or not we can siphon the carbon out of the atmosphere and restore ocean stability are far more daunting issues that we must face once we have transitioned to a clean energy grid.
Well Brandon unless you have just invented a CO2 siphon ... that's not gonna happen.
The best CO2 scrubbers on the planet are the Rain Forests and the Ocean itself.  The Ocean is also a great heat sink.  The Planet will heal itself once we stop crapping it up.

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