Drill, baby, drill

Diverse — Drokles on July 4, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Leonardo Maugeri har for Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs udarbejdet rapporten “Oil: The Next Revolution” der, som titlen antyder, ikke ser enden på olien foreløbig.

Mark Perry trækker nogle konklusioner op på Carpe Diem

1. Contrary to what most people believe, oil is not in short supply and oil supply capacity is growing worldwide at such an unprecedented level that it might outpace consumption. From a purely physical point of view, there are huge volumes of conventional and unconventional oils still to be developed, with no “peak-oil” in sight. The full deployment of the world’s oil potential depends only on price, technology, and political factors. More than 80 percent of the additional production under development globally appears to be profitable with a price of oil higher than $70 per barrel.

2. The shale/tight oil boom in the United States is not a temporary bubble, but the most important revolution in the oil sector in decades. It will probably trigger worldwide emulation, although the U.S. boom is difficult to be replicated given the unique features of the U.S. oil (and gas) arena. Whatever the timing, emulation over the next decades might bear surprising results, given the fact that most shale/tight oil resources in the world are still unknown and untapped. China appears to be the first country to follow the U.S. example. Moreover, the extension of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing combined to conventional oil fields might dramatically increase world’s oil production and revive mature, declining oilfields.

3. In the aggregate, conventional oil production is also growing throughout the world, although some areas (e.g. the North Sea), face an apparently irreversible decline of the production capacity.

Guardians George Monbiot, der er en uofficiel talsmand for en stor del af miljøbevægelsen (eller det indtryk får man i hvert fald af hans formuleringer) har også erkendt dette og med ham er det kun et spørgsmål om kort tid før det bliver alment accepteret så også Danmarks Radio beskæftiger sig med det. Monbiot indleder tro mod sin konstruktivistiske overbevisning - og meget bemærkelsesværdigt i øvrigt - med at konstatere “The facts have changed” (Ja, det er fakta der har ændret sig) og angler derfor efter at miljøbevægelsen sadler om.

Among environmentalists it was never clear, even to ourselves, whether or not we wanted it to happen. It had the potential both to shock the world into economic transformation, averting future catastrophes, and to generate catastrophes of its own, including a shift into even more damaging technologies, such as biofuels and petrol made from coal. Even so, peak oil was a powerful lever. Governments, businesses and voters who seemed impervious to the moral case for cutting the use of fossil fuels might, we hoped, respond to the economic case.

Some of us made vague predictions, others were more specific. In all cases we were wrong. In 1975 MK Hubbert, a geoscientist working for Shell who had correctly predicted the decline in US oil production, suggested that global supplies could peak in 1995. In 1997 the petroleum geologist Colin Campbell estimated that it would happen before 2010. In 2003 the geophysicist Kenneth Deffeyes said he was “99% confident” that peak oil would occur in 2004. In 2004, the Texas tycoon T Boone Pickens predicted that “never again will we pump more than 82m barrels” per day of liquid fuels. (Average daily supply in May 2012 was 91m.) In 2005 the investment banker Matthew Simmons maintained that “Saudi Arabia … cannot materially grow its oil production”. (Since then its output has risen from 9m barrels a day to 10m, and it has another 1.5m in spare capacity.)

Peak oil hasn’t happened, and it’s unlikely to happen for a very long time.

(…)So this is where we are. The automatic correction – resource depletion destroying the machine that was driving it – that many environmentalists foresaw is not going to happen. The problem we face is not that there is too little oil, but that there is too much.

We have confused threats to the living planet with threats to industrial civilisation. They are not, in the first instance, the same thing. Industry and consumer capitalism, powered by abundant oil supplies, are more resilient than many of the natural systems they threaten. The great profusion of life in the past – fossilised in the form of flammable carbon – now jeopardises the great profusion of life in the present.

There is enough oil in the ground to deep-fry the lot of us, and no obvious means to prevail upon governments and industry to leave it in the ground. Twenty years of efforts to prevent climate breakdown through moral persuasion have failed, with the collapse of the multilateral process at Rio de Janeiro last month. The world’s most powerful nation is again becoming an oil state, and if the political transformation of its northern neighbour is anything to go by, the results will not be pretty.

Humanity seems to be like the girl in Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth: she knows that if she eats the exquisite feast laid out in front of her, she too will be consumed, but she cannot help herself. I don’t like raising problems when I cannot see a solution. But right now I’m not sure how I can look my children in the eyes.

De ændrede fakta, som Monbiot kalder det at han og hans slags ikke vidste en hujende fis, mens og vel også fordi de argumenterede ‘moralsk’, har andre påpeget meget længe. Nemlig at menneskets evne til at løse tekniske udfordringer er en opadgående kurve og at lysten til at kaste sig over nye udfordringer stiger med gevinsten. Så jo dyrere olien bliver jo større incitament i at lede efter nye forekomster og at udvikle nye teknikker til at hive olie op fra steder, hvor det førhen ikke har kunnet svare sig økonomisk eller ladet sig gøre teknisk.

Denne manglende tiltro til menneskets evner leder også Monbiot og andre fascister udi den forvirring, hvopr de ikke ved om de skal juble over civilisationens sammenbrud fordi de ikke ved om den bryder sammen på en miljømæssig forsvarlig måde. Så mens miljøtosserne ikke ved om de skal græde eller rase ser Paul D Miller i The National Interest udviklingen i et geopolitisk lys

The geostrategic importance of the Middle East is vastly overblown. The region matters to the United States chiefly because of its influence in the world oil market, but that influence has been in terminal decline for a generation, a fact almost wholly unnoticed by outside observers. A confluence of developments—including rising prices and production costs, declining reserves, and the availability of alternate fuels and unconventional sources of oil—will decisively undermine the defining role of the Middle East in the global energy market. Meanwhile, the United States has vital interests at stake elsewhere in the world at least as pressing, if not more so, than its interests in the Middle East. These include thwarting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, fighting transnational terrorism and maintaining stability in key strategic locations of the world.

For centuries prior to World War II, the Middle East was considered strategically irrelevant. Alexander the Great marched across the impoverished Arabian Peninsula only because it lay between him and his goal: the fabled wealth of Persia and India. The region was merely an expanse to be crossed for traders on the Silk Road between Europe and China in the Middle Ages. The great empires of modern Europe turned to every other region in the world, including Africa, before colonizing the Middle East late in the age of empire because the vast desert appeared to be of little use to them. The British occupied Egypt in the nineteenth century and invested in the Suez Canal not because of anything Egypt had to offer but because it was the fastest way to get to India.

The contemporary strategic importance of the Middle East stems from its comparative advantage in producing oil, a commodity vital to the modern world economy. This comparative advantage is based on four factors. First, Middle Eastern oil is the cheapest in the world to produce because of simple geology. Middle Eastern oil lies under flat desert, not under an ocean or in the Amazonian river basin. In 2008, producing a barrel of oil cost between $6 and $28 in the Middle East and North Africa, compared to up to $39 elsewhere in the world and up to $113 per barrel of oil shale.

(…)SINCE 1945, the United States has rightly sought to prevent any single power from dominating the Middle East’s oil supplies. An oil hegemon, whether Soviet, Baathist, Nasserite, Iranian or Islamist, would have had the capacity to blackmail the United States and the world with economic warfare. To that end, the United States supported anticommunist monarchies and autocracies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, among others, during the Cold War. It has armed Saudi Arabia with a staggering $81.6 billion of arms sales since 1950, almost a fifth of all U.S. weapons shipments. It supported Iraq against Iran in the 1980s before fighting Iraq to defend Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in 1990–1991. After the 2001 terrorist attacks, it further bolstered ties in the region, adding Kuwait, Bahrain and Morocco to its collection of major non-NATO allies, which includes Egypt, Israel and Jordan. In 2003, it invaded and occupied Iraq over fears, later proven overblown, that Iraq’s WMD proliferation might give Saddam Hussein or allied terrorists unacceptable leverage in the region. The U.S. military’s Central Command, formed in 1983, has a forward headquarters in Qatar, and the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain. This military infrastructure guarantees a long-term U.S. military presence in the region.

Those policies were largely sensible efforts to maintain the security of world energy supplies. However, they make less sense in light of the brewing realities in the world oil market. These developments—the world’s increasing energy efficiency and the Middle East’s loss of its comparative advantage in oil production—will take time to play out fully. But they have been under way for several decades already. In two decades or so, the global oil market and the Middle East’s geopolitical influence will be dramatically different from what they are today. The Middle East will remain an important player, but it will no longer be able to act as the “central bank of oil,” as the princes of Saudi Arabia style their kingdom. Moreover, it will forever lose the ability to credibly threaten to wield oil as a weapon. The sword of Damocles that has implicitly hovered over the West since the 1970s will be gone.

That means the central goal of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East will essentially be achieved: no power will be able to threaten the United States with unacceptable leverage over the American economy. That is because oil itself will be less important, and the world oil market will be more diffuse and diverse. The importance of this development cannot be overstated. It is a tectonic shift in the geopolitical balance of power, a strategically pivotal development only slightly less momentous than the fall of the Soviet Union. It is the slow-motion collapse of the Middle Eastern oil empire.

Ikke alt går den gale vej.

0 Kommentarer »

Ingen kommentarer endnu.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Kommentér indlægget...

Monokultur kører på WordPress