Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Has anyone, in this oil-price-countdown series, talked about Paul Roberts' book The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World?  Because it's basically about exactly this.  We're running out of oil.

From the prologue:

I was standing on a sand dune in Saudi Arabia's "Empty Quarter," the vast, rust-red desert where one-quarter of the world's oil is found, when I lost my faith in the modern energy economy.  It was after sundown and the sky was dark blue and the sand still warm to the touch.  My Saudi hosts had just finished showing me around the colossal oil city they'd built atop an oil field called Shayba....

The illusion slipped.  On a whim, I asked my hosts about another, older oil field, some three hundred miles to the northwest, called Ghawar.  Ghawar is the largest field ever discovered.  Tapped by American engineers in 1953, its deep sandstone reservoirs at one time had held perhaps a seventh of the world's known oil reserves, and its wells produced six million barrels of oil a day -- or roughly one of every twelve barrels of crude consumed on earth.  In the iconography of oil, Ghawar is the eternal mother, the mythical giant that makes most other fields look puny and mortal.  My hosts smiled politely, yet looked faintly annoyed -- not, it seemed, because I ws asking inapproprate questions, but because, probably for the thousandth time, Ghawar had stolen the limelight....  [O]ne engineer boasted that Shayba was "self-pressurized" -- its subterranean reservoirs were under such great natural pressure that, once they were pierced by the drill, the oil simply flowed out like a black fountain.  "At Ghawar," he said, "they have to inject water into the field to force the oil out."  By contrast, he continued, Shayba's oil contained only trace amounts of water.  Ag Ghawar, the engineer said, the "water cut" was 30 percent.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up.  Ghawar's water injections were hardly news, but a 30 percent water cut, if true, was startling.... Gwar wouldn't run dry overnight: depletion takes years and even decades; however, daily production would continue to fall steadily, and the Saudis would be forced to tap new fields, like Shayba, to maintain their status as the world's preeminent oil power....

To me, Ghawar is the perfect metaphor for what is happening to the larger engergy economy, a geologic cautionary tale for a complacent world accustomed to reliable infusions of cheap energy.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Jan 22nd, 2006 at 02:05:41 PM EST

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