June 24th, 2008 at 6:00pm

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The peak oil theory suggests global oil production will peak around 2012. And if it’s right, today’s gas prices could look like a bargain.

Not everyone buys into the global peak oil theory, which first gained notoriety about a decade ago. That theory postulates that oil production in the world will hit its maximum around 2012 then drop off quickly after that.

So far that prediction seems to be right on track. Oil production is already declining in many oil-producing countries. But global demand for oil keeps climbing, and prices, as we all know, are soaring.

But if global oil production starts to decline sometime around 2012, prices are going to go a lot higher than that. The pessimists are saying we could see $500 a barrel. I’m not trying to be an alarmist in reporting this, I’m doing so because a lot of people have not heard of the peak oil theory. And with oil prices doing what they’re doing, it’s a topic that really needs a national debate.

7 Comments to “AUTOMOTIVE INSIGHT: Peak Oil Theory”

  1. Enn Norak Says:

    Oil futurists predicted 40 years ago that demand for oil would dramatically outstrip production by 2025 — these early projections are probably still valid today. That said, replacement fuels are on the horizon. Coal to liquid fuel is one of the most promising as North America has vast reserves of coal. Who would have predicted that Alberta’s tar sands would play an increasingly important role with the promise of supplying most of North America’s oil needs for decades to come?

    The sun radiates more energy to earth than we can possibly use. Unfortunately, its conversion to a useable form requires significant capital investment. Several firms are pursuing microbial processes that convert all sorts of carbon-containing waste into useable fuel. Brazil has gained virtual independence from oil imports by producing vast quantities of cellulosic ethanol from sugar cane.

    I believe we are entering the age of renewable fuel at a cost far below $500 per barrel which would make oil uncompetitive and burn speculators who think otherwise.

  2. Robert Says:

  3. Robert Says:

    Prof Rick Smalley – Our Energy Challenge
    Columbia University Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center presents “Our Energy Challenge” by Nobel laureate Professor Richard Smalley of Rice University.
    Power point presentation Smalley is using in the above lecture

  4. Robert Says:

    at 1000 barrels per second the world uses 86 million barrels per day. How many Olympic sized swimming pools of oil could you file in one day, one year with this volume?
    It’s estimated the current world uses 1000 barrels of oil per second
    1000 bbl x 86,400 seconds in one day = 86,400,000 bbl of oil used by the world in one day.

    86,400,000bbl / 15428bbl = 5,600 Olympic sized pools of oil used each day.

    5,600 pools x 365 days in a year = 2,044,000 Olympic sized pools of oil is use by the world in one year.

    Olympic Pool dimensions: 50m x 25m x (2m depth)**
    1 meter = 3.2808399 feet
    1 mile = 5 280 feet

    Olympic pool length: 164 feet
    Olympic pool width: 82 feet
    Olympic pool depth: 6.5 feet

    164 feet length x 2,044,000 Olympic pools = 335,216,000 feet in length
    335,216,000 feet /5280 feet in a mile = 63,488 miles

    If all Olympic pool equivalents of oil used in one year were lined up end to end, the pool would be 82 feet wide x 6.5 feet deep x 63,488 miles long.

    Does anyne really believe we’ll replace that with corn ethanol? And what about the amount of water used in making ethanol?
    Bill Reinert, Toyota’s alternative fuel manger on ethanol

  5. Enn Norak Says:

    The production of corn ethanol is not the best use of food resources even though animal feed is a valuable byproduct of the process. Far better to make biofuels from something like algae or the jatropha plant that is native to India. The University of Florida is investigating ways in which the Jatropha plant can be grown in the southern U.S. which should not be a problem if the plant can be genetically engineered to resist mild frost.

    Brazil relies almost entirely on sugar cane cellulosic ethanol today. India could produce large quantities of jatropha-based biofuels. Japan is undertaking serious research on beaming energy to earth from orbiting solar collectors.

    Oil is finite and cannot last forever — we will run out sooner if the population keeps growing. Necessity is the motherhood of invention which means that we will eventually overcome the energy supply problem.

  6. John Says:

    Developing Nations need to BYPASS emulation of the old U.S. transportation model. This talk from China that the U.S. had its’ industrial reveloution and now it’s China’s turn is B.S. . That is moronic.

    Developing nations Must Bypass Oil dependent transportation, and go straight to alternative and hybrid vehicles.

    Then mabey the global warming issue may stand a chance.

  7. Tom Martin Says:

    I don’t see how anyone can argue that oil will never run out and we will never reach a point of peak oil.

    I can understand arguing the peak oil date.

    In the U.S., we reached peak oil over 20 years ago. Great Britain has reached the peak, and many others have as well.

    Like the U.S., China and India are each adding one million new oil burning vehicles to the roads each month, and the world’s population continues to grow. Clearly the demand for oil is increasing as well.

    We will see $500/barrel oil within ten years. That will make gasoline about $15/gallon.

    Yes, electric, fuel cell, and ethanol will mitigate the demand, but oil will still be in demand for the 100′s of millions of existing vehicles, airplanes, powerplants, plastics, synthethics, and thousands of other uses that require oil.