How Technology Lets Us Push Back The Day We Run Out Of Oil

from the peak-what? dept

In recent years, a confluence of factors including environmental concerns, geopolitical issues and worries about the scarcity of oil have led to record investments in green technologies as well as ethanol, whose green credentials are up for some debate. But all the same factors have also prompted fresh investment into the traditional energy industry as well. Paul Kedrosky points to a great article in the New York Times exploring the way the oil industry has greatly increased production levels at aging oil fields. The results are rather dramatic. Using new imaging technology and other engineering techniques, fields that had been good for just 10,000 barrels per day a few decades ago are now yielding over 80,000. And it's not just a matter of sucking oil out of the ground at a faster rate; companies actually have access to more total oil than they thought they could get out of these fields. It's important to keep these things in mind whenever people talk about things like Peak Oil or other neo-Malthusian theories of resource depletion. Typically, they all fall into a common trap. They look at the supply of a certain resource (Malthus, of course, originally talked about food production), and then calculate how much longer we'll have it based on an estimate of future demand. But the consistent mistake is in holding supply constant. As demand (and price) grow, technology often allows for the creation of more supply, even for a "non-renewable" resource like oil.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    ALLurGroceries, 6 Mar 2007 @ 12:52am

    Supply?

    "But the consistent mistake is in holding supply constant."
    It seems pretty obvious that this is a good thing for big oil and consumers alike. But to say that it is going to make a notable increase in the total amount of oil on the market, near or long term, is naive. It's not some "common trap," obviously there is fluctuation of the amount of oil available at any time, but most of these fluctuations are artificial restrictions imposed by the oil producers. Don't get me wrong -- getting the most out of every oil field is a good thing. However, the almost glaring reason that this is a piece of news at the moment is because the rate of new oil discoveries is quite low. It seems you may have caught onto this with the last sentence but left out the underlying logic behind it. We must get the most out of every known oilfield because the situation is so critical. Estimating when "peak oil" will be reached (or was reached) is anyone's guess. Judging from what is known about the rate of discovery, it may not be off base to say we may be close. Technology may end up buying us a few days in the end, but we're still just as reliant upon oil with or without new tools and techniques for getting dinosaur sauce out of the ground.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.