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Crying Wolf (is gas the issue)?

It is interesting to listen to people's reasons for not wishing to consider hydrocarbon depletion.

One is that people have "cried wolf" before. The point about that story is that in the end there was a wolf.

Another is the Vince Cable (who used to be an economist for Shell) position who argues that as the price goes up there will be more oil extractable. There is some truth in this position, but it still does not deal with the fact that there will be a year of peak production and after that production will come down.

This is faced by the fact that the deposits of oil and gas people are going after are now smaller. Ramco's saga where they went for a gas field and found it didn't work as expected will happen more and more frequently. There will be a resource cost issue and a risk management issue for this.

The interesting question rests with some of Chris Vernon's analysis of potential gas shortages. It sounds nice and easy to import gas. There was a good photo in the press of a boy stealing gas in a big balloon and cycling away with it. Transporting gas is not easy. You either need a pipeline or to liquify it (liguifaction takes a lot of energy). It remains that the gas needs to come from somewhere.

40.6% of our primary energy consumption is Natural Gas and 31.8% Petroleum.

Comments

Simon Titley said…
See this article on the depletion of oil reserves. Although it was published nine years ago, nothing has occurred since to diminish its relevance; if anything, current events are bearing out the author's thesis.
Apollo Project said…
Actually Peter, but borrowing Tabman's password).


We had a look at this issue on the apollo project (as mentioned below) (http://liberalism2010.blogspot.com/2005/08/when-will-oil-run-out-hemming-cable.html).

I didn´t think there was a conflict between your psoition and Cable's (at least necessarily). Cable's statement should be true until it is appraent that peak production is upon us (or behind us). I hope you succeed in shedding more light on this.

Incidentally I think I have seen two sets of comments from Cable on the subject of price. In the first peice he was (IIRC) quoted as saying that prices won´t hit 1000USD but will settle back at around 50USD. In the other piece he points out that oil firms are not investing where extractions cost exceed 20USD (implying that prices might drop back a very long way).
TheStarFromAfar said…
What is the present Lib Dem position on nuclear energy in the context of providing power for Britain John?
Christine said…
Another issue is how much hydrocarbon we can actually afford to burn. According to reliable estimates, existing reserves of hydrocarbons are already several times more than the amount we can safely burn without causing catastrophic climate change, so it defeats me that governments and corporations are still investing in extracting more oil and gas as a supposed solution to hydrocarbon depletion. Really, we need to complete the move away from hydrocarbons as a matter of urgency, *before* depletion forces us to, if we are to stand any chance of tackling global warming.
John Hemming said…
This was the issue we discussed this morning. Apart from coal I am pretty certain that the estimates you refer to are not accurate. I am not sure about the position with coal.

Coal creates its own problems.
Christine said…
I'll have to do some more research on this but in all honesty, if there are conflicting estimates I'd rather take a 'better safe than sorry' approach. After all, if we assume we need to stop using hydrocarbons now, the worst that can happen is that we'll have to confront the economic dislocation that will cause a bit earlier. If we assume it's ok to continuing burning what we've got and turn out to be wrong, the worst that can happen is the destruction of the world as we know it. To me this is a no-brainer.
John Hemming said…
The Kyoto and Uppsala protocols both talk about a reduction in the use of fossil fuels.

One key to this is air flight. Through the "dash to gas" the UK emissions (of CO2) have gone down with a consequent increase in H02.
This and certain changes in the chemical industry are the main factors influencing the fact that the UK is online.

My view is that the first step the UK government has to accept is that air flights cannot increase as they plan.

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
Peter Pigeon said…
"I'll have to do some more research on this but in all honesty, if there are conflicting estimates I'd rather take a 'better safe than sorry' approach. After all, if we assume we need to stop using hydrocarbons now, the worst that can happen is that we'll have to confront the economic dislocation that will cause a bit earlier. If we assume it's ok to continuing burning what we've got and turn out to be wrong, the worst that can happen is the destruction of the world as we know it. To me this is a no-brainer."

The trouble is you can´t take such a decision. As long as hydrocarbons are cheaper than the alternatives, people will use them. A decision by one country to withdraw their use would simply mean that somone else would burn the fuel instead. It is just about conceivable that we could reach agreement to slow down the use of hydrocarbons by for example changing the tax regime for aviation fuel. And that is about it.

So if we are going to switch, either other sources will need to become cheaper or oil prices will have to rise bvecause it is becoming scarce.
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