by a siegel
Sat Apr 28th, 2007 at 01:53:03 AM EST
When will we hit Peak Oil? And, what will it mean?
One of the world's top experts has recently spoken and his answers to those questions are grim.
Who is this expert? According to Byron King of Whiskey and Gunpowder:
ALI SAMSAM BAKHTIARI is a retired "senior energy expert," [retired from] the National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC) ... currently ... in the Corporate Planning Directorate of NIOC ... This alone ought to pique your interest because Bakhtiari has the ear of the most important decision-makers in Iran. What is he telling them?
Fortunately for us in the West, Bakhtiari is also an independent consultant who writes and speaks to a worldwide audience on the subject of oil depletion ... Based on what I have seen, Bakhtiari has a gift for understanding, and a unique ability to share this gift with others. There are few more qualified people in the world who can discuss Peak Oil. So when Bakhtiari talks, people ought to listen.
King, who is someone to listen to, tells me to listen to Bakhtiari. My ears are open. Yours should be as well.
One key challenge related to Peak Oil is whether we'll know it any other way than looking in the rear mirror. At this time, in addition to hard numbers about falling productivity at key oil fields, oil discoveries continually being outpaced by usage, and questions about reserves, what the world (or at least the small portion who understands this issue) is doing is watching the comments of key people ... well, another one has spoken and the words should scare ...
In the just published essay The Century of Roots, A.M Samsam Bakhtiari -- a senior Iranian oil executive who retired in 2005 and has long studied peak oil issues -- starts
The 21st century is still young as there are another ninety-three years to go. So it might sound over-ambitious to claim that 'The Event of the Century' is already behind us. But I'll gladly take the risk; for I seriously believe that the peaking of the global production of crude oil --- commonly know as 'Peak Oil' --- has occurred in 2006  and will be 'The Event' bound to dominate the history of the 21st century: one of those 'Historical Inflection Points'  which abruptly change "fundamentals" in the course of World History. I cannot foresee any other 'Event' coming to eclipse 'Peak Oil', not even the World Wars which might be unleashed in the Peak's aftermath and further fueled by widespread resources' scarcity. Unless, of course, humanity decides upon collective suicide with the massive use of weapons of mass destruction; but such an annihilating 'Event' would spell the word 'End' for most, if not all, of Mankind...
Somewhat terrifying, no?
After some 147 years of almost uninterrupted supply growth to a record output of some 81-82 million barrels/day [mb/d] in the summer of 2006, crude oil production has since entered its irreversible decline. This exceptional reversal alters the energy supply equation upon which life on our planet is based. It will come to place pressure upon the use of all other sources of energy --- be it natural gas, coal, nuclear power, and all types of sundry renewables especially biofuels. It will eventually come to affect everything else under the sun...
According to The Hirsch Report
examining mitigation of Peak Oil impacts, starting significant mitigation efforts 20 years in advance would mean that peak oil would have minimal disruption to the world economy. But, less than 20 years out and, well, not good things.
Mitigation efforts will require substantial time.
- 20 years is required to transition without substantial impacts
- A 10 year rush transition with moderate impacts is possible with extraordinary efforts from governments, industry, and consumers
- Late initiation of mitigation may result in severe consequences.
What is "substantial impact"? For Hirsch, that means roughly 2-2.5% negative GDP for as long as 25 years or more. Easily a 50% total fall in worldwide economic activity. And, by the way, that drop isn't even accounting for the likely wars and other conflict driven by desire to control dwindling oil production (which would likely be even further reduced due to that conflict).
Just so that we all understand, serious mitigation has not started around the globe (and absolutely not in the United States).
According to Bakhtiari,
'Peak Oil', however, is now in the past and we are presently left facing the 'Post Peak' era.
And, well, Bakhtiari's prognosis about Post Peak are stern and, again, rather terrifying:
In 'Post Peak', all of our Systems of Habits are in mortal danger. ...
This "mortal danger" is heightened due to the extreme energy illiteracy worldwide, where the concept of "peak oil" seems to be just penetrating the discourse of some of the elite.
at present, the global masses seem totally unprepared for the two shocks which will inevitably occur in 'Post Peak' ...
What are the twin shocks:
1. A Material Shock;
2. A Psychological Shock.
A "Material Shock" in that our entire economic and social system world-wide will be stressed (if not broken). And, this is not just transportation as oil has so penetrated every aspect of the modern, industrialized world.
How about this for 'material impact'? General projections are for "peak population" to hit somewhere mid century at 9-10 billion people on earth. Those traditional demographic projections don't take account for Peak Oil. What is Bakhtiari's perspective?
Take, for example, population. In the 'Post Peak' era, population growth will gradually decrease before becoming stagnant (following crude oil) and passing a Peak of its own --- my early projections show a 'Population Peak' occurring some time around 2025 (a twenty-year lag respective to oil) at a global level of around 7.5 to 8.0 billion people. There is little doubt that crude oil is our world's 'Master Domino': when it thrives all other dominoes flourish, and when it tumbles it does topple all of the others too. Thus, interestingly, 'Peak Oil' will not usher in a revolution, but rather an evolution 'en sense contraire' ('in reverse gear').
And, "A Psychological Shock" since so few people and so few societies have any idea what the world will go through ...
So that the twin shocks are now inevitable on a global scale, as there is no time left to prepare public opinion for 'Post Peak' sequels. The shocks will first surprise, then jilt and finally entangle swaths of people worldwide. Those better prepared will be less inclined to react in a disorderly way and panic when the shocking truth will be unveiled...
Well, readers of this are among those "better prepared" in terms of knowledge but what is truly "better prepared" in terms of lifestyle? There are those who have created communities, preparing for post-peak. Most of those aware of peak oil's implications have, however, remained caught within lives that inhibit any real concept of "preparing", of retreating to a subsistence agricultural life not dependent on massive fossil fuel use for life.
Now, in many ways, Bakhtiari is more optimistic than Hirsch in terms of the economic impact. While Hirsch states that starting mitigation at the point of Peak Oil would mean 20+ years of 1.5-2.5% negative GDP growth per annum, Bakhtiairi writes that
Due to the benign decline gradient in crude oil production during the early 'Post Peak' period --- only 3 mb/d over the first transition period spanning 2007 to 2010 --- the Material Shock will not pose insoluble problems and accommodation will prove possible with minimal gradual pain. Moreover, sizeable amounts of wastage in most developed societies will provide a welcome cushion for the initial cuts to be made
In other words, the economy (especially the United States) is so wasteful that the initial 'shock', a cut Bakhtiari of roughly 12 mb/d (or, roughly 15%), could be absobed through cutting waste. And, one would hope, the shock of this reality would shift investment and lifestyle choices to foster adjustment to ever dwindling oil production.
But, the psychological?
This shock, in stark contrast, will be electric and abrupt. Stress, fear, depression, despairs and nightmares will be the order of the day --- as people come to face the not-so-palatable facets of 'Post Peak'.
Now this, Bakhtiari concludes, will drive people back to their roots, almost in Medieval revivalist concepts. This, however, seems an overly optimistic assumption ... will the psychological shock drive jingoism ... demands for military action to 'seize' oil ... other destructive demands on political leadership ...
Bakhtiari is a voice meriting listening to ... we can began taking actions to mitigate against Peak Oil's worst impacts now, when some choice remains, or the reality of decreasing oil production will drive us into changes against our choice ... and, from everything that I can see, the time for choice is dwindling. Rapidly ...
This diary's title starts "Be afraid" perhaps because, like they say misery wants company, terror wants company. I want company. Right now I feel like a passenger in the backseat behind Thelma and Louise in the convertible as they put the pedal to the metal heading over the cliff ...
Ask yourself: Are you doing your part?