Thursday, February 26, 2009

thinking backward

It is said that as one ages the perception is that one is younger than is in fact the case. This is not really a surprising distortion. Much valuable science is performed around the obvious. By the same token, surely I am living about five years back in a self hallucinated past. By god, I'm enjoying it.

Today, scanning the articles at Energy Bulletin, one might think there is some risk in being that peak oil commentator who lives in the past. Not in terms of physical reality of the position, but in terms of cultural relevance.

Fundamentals are still valid. Oil is depleting. Natural gas is depleting. Fine, friend. The need for alternatives press in. So raise the alarm, bell the cat, and don't be scared. One shouldn't be scared. The cat is dead. There is no pressure at the top end for oil supplies, or need for greater production, at present. And as the economic collapse progresses, there is an outstanding possibility that while production declines literally, demand will drop, masking the shortfall.

The peak oil crisis: a turning point?
It does not take much excess supply to fill that 80 million barrels worth of floating storage that is bobbing around on the world's oceans right now. Less than three months during which oil exporters are pumping out a million b/d of excess supply will do it nicely. It has now been about five months since OPEC realized there was too much oil for the demand and began a series of production cuts now totaling 4.2 million b/d. [...] We know there was an oversupply of oil because of the price collapse, we just don't know how much. While the reporting agencies are circumspect as to the size of the drop, they seem to be suggesting 1 or 2 million b/d.

The slightly terrifying conclusion I draw is that it will be difficult for the reality based geology crowd to get anyone's attention for a while. Years.

Not just that, it will be hard for anyone to get a loan to invest in alternative energy, period. And I'm critical of about seventy-five percent of what passes for alternative energy, as a casual reading of this blog would reveal. The bad bets are giving the workable projects a bad name because the entire sector is seen as marginal.

"Urgency surrounds numerous clean tech companies, which saw a drying up of tax equity-structured financing in 2008," stalling solar, wind and biofuels programs and threatening some of the companies with bankruptcy, said the report obtained by The Associated Press.
Despite the overall growth in 2008, venture-backed investments in clean energy declined by 14 percent in the last three months of the year, reflecting the impact of tight credit markets, according to the report released Wednesday.

So I reckon some time around 2014, after the fiscal “swamps” have been drained, the globe will reformulate around a new system of bartering fresh water for oil, and discover that there is not much of either left.

It will never be 1939 again.

[Image sourced to]