Peak oil obsessives are too focused on the “physical availability of conventional” oil, which is blinding them to a bigger issue, writes John Kemp at Reuters:
First, the definition of “conventional” changes over time as a result of price and technology. Deepwater oil only became conventional 20 years ago, and ultra-deepwater in the last decade. In future, higher prices and technology changes could eventually shift ocean and arctic output into the “conventional” category and increase the reserve base substantially.
Second, the focus on conventional oil obscures the much larger reserve base of other hydrocarbons — natural gas, coal, bitumen (oil sands), and kerogen (oil shale), let alone methane hydrates (natural gas trapped in ice formations at the polar ice caps, in the permafrost zone and on the ocean floor).
…The question is cost. Most techniques are expensive compared with drilling and refining conventional crude, though not excessively so ($40-120 per barrel). They tend to be energy intensive (so the net energy gain is lower than with conventional crude). But they are workable and feasible.
Blinded by their obsession with physical availability of conventional oil, peak oilers miss the much larger questions: how much will these alternative hydrocarbons cost and what happens to the environment if we combust them all and don’t find a way to trap the CO2?
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