I was an invited speaker at the “7th Biennial International Workshop ‘Advances in Energy Studies,'” in Barcelona, Spain in October 2010. Afterward, I wrote a peer-reviewed academic paper related to my talk called, “Oil Supply Limits and the Continuing Financial Crisis.” It now has been published in the January issue of Energy. It is available free at this link (probably temporarily). The rest of the articles are also available free. A complete listing of articles in the January issue can be found here. Downloading the article from that list is an alternate approach, if you cannot get the direct link to work.
My article abstract is as follows:
Since 2005, (1) world oil supply has not increased, and (2) the world has undergone its most severe economic crisis since the Depression. In this paper, logical arguments and direct evidence are presented suggesting that a reduction in oil supply can be expected to reduce the ability of economies to use debt for leverage. The expected impact of reduced oil supply combined with this reduced leverage is similar to the actual impact of the 2008–2009 recession in OECD countries. If world oil supply should continue to remain generally flat, there appears to be a significant possibility that oil consumption in OECD countries will continue to decline, as emerging markets consume a greater share of the total oil that is available. If this should happen, based on these findings we can expect a continuing financial crisis similar to the 2008–2009 recession including significant debt defaults. The financial crisis may eventually worsen, to resemble a collapse situation as described by Joseph Tainter in The Collapse of Complex Societies (1990) or an adverse decline situation similar to adverse scenarios foreseen by Donella Meadows in Limits to Growth (1972).
I was in Barcelona for an entire week, for the conference and for a related meeting with high school students. The meeting with high school students was in a large auditorium. Students were asked to submit questions in advance relating to oil limits and possible ways to deal with them. There was also time for some impromptu questions.
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Great post, Gail. Thanks!
Reading down the long list of articles, this one jumped out at me:
Shaping the global oil peak: A review of the evidence on field sizes, reserve growth, decline rates and depletion rates
This review paper summarises and evaluates the evidence regarding four issues that are considered to be of critical importance for future global oil supply. These are: a) how regional and global oil resources are distributed between different sizes of field; b) why estimates of the recoverable resources from individual fields tend to grow over time and the current and likely future contribution of this to global reserve additions; c) how rapidly the production from different categories of field is declining and how this may be expected to change in the future; and d) how rapidly the remaining recoverable resources in a field or region can be produced. It is shown that, despite serious data limitations, the level of knowledge of each of these issues has improved considerably over the past decade. While the evidence on reserve growth appears relatively encouraging for future global oil supply, that on decline and depletion rates does not. Projections of future global oil supply that use assumptions inconsistent with this evidence base are likely to be in error.
– We review the evidence on four key variables influencing future global oil supply.
– Less than 100 giant fields are critically important, while small fields are of limited significance.
– Reserve growth is real, significant and not primarily the result of conservative reporting.
– Post-peak decline leads to a significant (>4%) and growing loss of production capacity each year.
– Influential supply forecasts make implausible assumptions about regional depletion rates.
I see that article. It is #71 on the list, so was not one from the conference I was at. It does look like it would be interesting to look at.
This is a link to the original program from the conference.
Good paper some nice references.
This link goes straight to the .pdf
Don’t anymore it seems…
Seems to still work via my Twitter link:
See my comment upthread, the business end of that URL is http://pdn.sciencedirect.com/science? and all the rest of it is about a dozen variables being passed into a server side script. Try right clicking (or ctrl+click on Mac, I think) and selecting “save link as…” or whatever the equivalent is for your browser.
FWIW, the actual filename in the example above appears to be:
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Gail – congratulations. Another great article.
The real options for the future are unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it…) vastly different than what we have today. There will be less, for all of us. This is something the rich/moneymen/illuminati (whatever) do not understand. In a collapse of this magnitude there will be no winners based on the power of money. It will return to our imaginations.
I think we are going to have to for sure put adapting ahead of corporate profits sooner than later to get a good outcome. Letting the marketplace, bankers, and others call all the shots is going to delay this issue and probably lead to a bleak future. Ultimately, we are going to have to make decisions that are not for corporate profit gain, and redesign cities and transportation infrastructure for smaller living spaces and less mass scale marketing, and include more rural space within it. If the poor get too poor and the richest keep getting richer, and everyone loses their place to live, the bankers and the rich are going to be defeated either through social unrest, war against them, lack of debt repayment on a mass scale, massive squatting, new currency, a barter or gift economy, or a combination of all of the above.
I am not sure what type of lifestyle would be possible without fossil fuels. I am thinking maybe a small farming, amish-like or third world like community where food and other supplies are hand made and produced locally, without modern amenities. I am not saying there would not be small amounts of liquid fuels, chemicals, and electricity available though through means of solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels, and other sources.
As to how much of the 20th and early 21st century technology that we may have to abandon or change the scale we use, that is up for debate. Clearly, we will not have enough energy to run everything and continue economic growth on the scale we are today. A lot will depend on how much energy we can sustain and produce with alternative and renewable sources that give high enough EROEI without using fossil fuels in the process of production of such energy, and our remaining fossil fuel base which will be available in smaller and smaller quantities. I don’t think we are going to get to the last drop of oil or coal till after 2200 for example, but we cannot sustain 88 million barrels of consumption per day with a declining supply and lower extraction rates. Certainly the system of 9-5 commutes by car each day is not sustainable. If we eliminate that alone with flexing work hours (pay by productivity), public transit, and working over the internet many days, that may add a decade or so of life into our current other technologies. Over time we will need to do other things, like bring back farms into the cities, revive our railroad system (in fact, we would save even tons of fuel if coast to coast trucking was replaced with Intermodal Rail on Freight Trains), and replace “Made in China” with “Made in the USA”.
I think one issue is that we use oil in so many ways, that it is hard to get along with very much less. Even if we cut back on transport, there are other uses that are essential as well. For example, lubrication and road paving and making medicines and planting and harvesting crops. If we stop paving roads and go back to dirt or gravel, transport will take much longer. We really need barge travel, as in the past. Our systems now are optimized for the amount of fuels we have. It is hard to even think in the terms of what we would need to do with much less. Who would think of setting up barge transport companies, and buying land to recreate canals, for example?
At the end of your paper your state:
And then you suggest more research is needed to answer these questions. I’ve heard any number of estimates and speculations regarding these questions. Do you know of any really serious research that has been done in this regard?
The direct links to the paper failed for me, but I could get it via the link to the “listing of articles” that Gail provided.
I added a comment suggesting trying the “list of articles” approach, if the direct link doesn’t work. I have gotten some comments on Facebook too, with one person saying the direct link worked fine, and another saying that he couldn’t get it to work.
I examined the URL to the pdf and it appears to be passing about a dozen variables into a server side script located at http://pdn.sciencedirect.com/science?, so it’s not technically a “direct” link.
That said, I did have success downloading the pdf in Firefox by right clicking and selecting “save link as…” in the context menu. Perhaps a bit confusing at first because, In my case, it wanted to name the file simply “science” (presumably after the “science” in the URL above), but I found that if you go ahead and save it you do get the full pdf which you can rename to whatever you want.
Your mileage may vary.