Saturday, March 3, 2012

Are We All Going to Freeze in the Dark? Probably Not?

It the world running out of oil? It does not look like it. Increasing gas prices make it feel that way, doesn't it?

People have always thought that they were running out of petroleum. In 1873 a Pennsylvania state geologist said there was enough petroleum for another FOUR years of oil lantern use. Ever sense, people have worried about running out.

In reality, we have just changed what we meant by "oil." 

Over the decades, oil drillers have pioneered one technology after another to get to the oil. Going deeper, going offshore, going to unstable 3rd world nations, going miles down under waters, and so on. Increasingly, oil companies are including natural gas in their oil reserve numbers. And gas reserves have been sky-rocketing due to shale gas, and the technology to recover it -- fracking.

Reinforcing the abundance of buried hydrocarbons is an new enormous natural gas estimate in China. Chinese geologists are claiming 25 trillion cubic meters of shale gas. This is 50% larger than the USA has, and the US has huge shale gas resources. See the map.

I don't know why oil prices keep going up, but I am going to pretend that I do. My four reasons are below.

Four Reasons Oil Prices Go Up

1. As the world industrializes it demands more and more cars, and cars run on gasoline. The problem is increasing demand; supply is less important.

2. A second effect is that oil companies need to access petroleum in more and more difficult locations. This is more expensive. Obviously companies have drilled the easiest oil first.

3. More new petroleum is located in developing countries that have nationalized their oil companies, like Venezuela and Libya. These countries take large tariffs, and make exports much more expensive.

4. Speculators are parking their money in oil, and this has created a little bubble in prices. Reinforcing the bubble are other speculators with futures contracts. Oil futures is like Vegas gambling, but as long as prices go up the speculators take a cut of the 'action.'

In summary, I have gone from an oil pessimist to a realist. While petroleum will run out someday, that day is at least a century away -- beyond the lifetime of anyone reading this. This means that global warming will likely continue because we lack any political system to control it. Conservation and climate control measures are worthy goals, because we aren't running out of oil anytime soon.