Human imagination trumps shortages


As the population grows, supposedly there should be less to go around. Well, it doesn't work out like that. There is no such thing as peak oil. In fact, we don't run out of anything. We simply substitute or improve processes.

Human intelligence and imagination trumps shortages.

Posted by Christine & John at March 26, 2013 9:00 PM
Comments
Comment #363385

That is truly a stunning chart C/J. Despite a population growth from 2 to 7 billion the price we pay for the most common commodities has dropped significantly. Mankind is amazing in its ability to create and adapt.

Posted by: Royal Flush at March 27, 2013 1:45 PM
Comment #363491

Imagine what it would be like if there were no inflation!

Posted by: Weary Willie at March 29, 2013 12:35 PM
Comment #363495

Peak oil is a basic economic reality, the question being not if, but when we get hit upside the head with it. Simple fact is, there are not infinite places to find oil, nor infinite reserves of it that can be extracted cheaply. You might be able to stave off production declines by bringing new reserves like the Bakken oil fields online, but those are finite, too, and more to the point, more expensive. So are the Tar Sands, especially since it takes energy to actually extract the oil, a lot of it in the form of much cleaner burning natural gas, ironically enough. We may be putting more energy into melting asphalt in Canada, than we would be able to pipe down from the North.

It wasn’t that those reserves weren’t there, or weren’t known in those days. It’s that it was once cheaper to just drill a hole in a near-surface oil field and pocket the difference.

I think the notion that Peak Oil doesn’t exist is just bull hockey. Production is declining in the big fields, and the new resources are more expensive to exploit, perhaps not even energy neutral. At some point, Oil becomes less and less economical as a fuel source.

Now we can procrastinate, saying science will solve the problem with the free market’s help, or we can begin the transition to a new system, before energy prices in general make that more difficult of a change.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 29, 2013 1:33 PM
Comment #363503

Stephen

Peak oil is theoretical concept that is of no practical value. In theory, we will reach a point where half the oil is gone. But we can never know when that point has arrived, since new technologies will for all practical purposes create more. We have more AVAILABLE oil now than we did fifty years ago. In theory, we have less. Theory is good if it helps explain how the world works. Otherwise it is just mental masturbation, like trying to decide how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

The “new” oil is actually cheaper than some of the older oil. The new technologies allow it.

I know a bit more about natural gas than oil, but it is a similar thing. Natural gas “found” today is significantly cheaper to get than gas twenty years ago.

At some point we will “run out” of oil at prices we are willing to pay. This is true. But it will not mean that we really ran out of oil. As they used to say, the stone age did not end because we ran out of stone. Better technologies are developing and will develop.

But think about the guy in the stone age. If you could go back to your stone age ancestor and explain that he could more easily hunt that mammoth with a powerful rife than with his stone tip spear, you would be right. But at his level of technology, he could not make a rife. And he would starve to death, researching making a rifle with the sticks and stones he had available.

We have to balance our current needs and abilities with our hopes and aspirations for the future.

We are not procrastinating. Our energy future is working through the best system ever for innovation - the free market. I support more basic research. There is a role from government here. But when government expands into trying to pick winners and losers among firms and technologies, it makes a big mistake.

Posted by: C&J at March 29, 2013 2:53 PM
Comment #363640

C&J-
I never count on technology to bail me out of a bad decision. I also count on the economy to make a problem of a critical element becoming rarer and more expensive before it reaches the point where we are forced to abandon oil as a fuel source.

Do you get what I’m pushing at here? I believe that before we hit the threshold we’re going to be feeling the pinch, thanks to our dependence on oil.

I think we should make getting off of oil a priority, now instead of later, because the later we wait, the more expensive that oil gets. The only way we can ultimately escape the crippling effects of an energy shock is if we leave the petroleum party early.

As for being the best system ever for innovation?

It is, and it isn’t. R&D has suffered. We have to set the goal of rewarding movement in a certain direction, and then letting the market play its role as the selective force. Set a goal of encouraging this much solar power, then let the Private sector figure out how they’re going to do it.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 2, 2013 2:56 PM
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