Archive | Peak Oil

NY Times Looks at E85 Ethanol

And it’s not especially pretty. Among other things, it only has 75% of the energy density of gasoline, so you get 3/4 the mpg.

Which illustrates one of the big challenges of peak oil. There are few energy sources as cheap or convenient as petroleum-based fuels.

I won’t even get into the agricultural and environment issues around mono-culture corn production (yes, I know ethanol can come from other crops, but this was a corn-belt-focused story).

American Energy: Breaking Our Addiction to Oil

The Worldwatch Institute, Oregon Environmental Council, Illahee, and the Sightline Institute present

Christopher Flavin
President, Worldwatch Institute

Wednesday, September 27, 2006
7:00-8:00 PM Wine and Dessert Reception
8:00-9:30 PM Speaking Program
Multnomah Athletic Club
1849 SW Salmon Street
Portland, Oregon 97205

Across America, recognition is growing that dependence on oil is the country’s Achilles heel—undermining our economy, threatening our security, and damaging the environment. Christopher Flavin, President of the Worldwatch Institute, is a long-time critic of U.S. energy policy and the failures of several presidents and congresses to develop a viable alternative to dependence on fossil fuels. He and his colleagues have developed a strategy for improving energy efficiency, developing renewable fuels, and building cooperative alliances with countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America that share those goals. Flavin argues that we should seize on the current crisis over high gasoline prices as an opportunity—and use it to permanently kick our dependence on oil. Join us for a stimulating lecture followed by an opportunity for questions, answers and conversation.

COST: $25 for general admission, $20 for students with valid ID at the door. Pre-registration is required by Wednesday, September 20th.

Register online:

$77/Barrel – Test of Peak Oil Theory?

With the Prudhoe Bay oil field shut down for weeks or months, the price of crude spiked yesterday.

Peak Oil theory suggests that as it gets harder and harder to get oil out of the ground, the oil companies will have to put more and more effort into continuing to ramp production to meet ever rising demand. Which would imply that there will be very little spare production capacity to deal with temporary interruptions like this one.

The oil production system weathered Katrina last year. It will be interesting to see how it deals with this glitch.

Just as I’m getting ready to post this, I see there’s an article in the business section of the Oregonian, suggesting that the refineries in Washington state have access to reserves of crude that might see them through this (the article does not appear to be online, probably because it was assembled from wire service reports).

Inelastic Demand

This week’s Business Week has an article (“Can’t Stop Guzzling”) that suggests that higher gas prices are NOT reducing driving, except perhaps among lower income drivers. The Oregonian’s Jim Mayer finds the same effect looking at vacation travel in Oregon.

One theory I’ve heard before is that changes in driving behavior will only occur if there are very sudden and dramatic increases in price – slow changes will just “boil the frog to death” slowly.

Which calls into question the idea that market mechanisms will cope with Peak Oil. If we don’t get behavior changes until we have dramatic scarcities, the adjustment is going to be very painful.