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Peak Oil

  1. Feb 15, 2005 #1
    I am really curious as to what the minds on this forum think about Peak Oil.

    Set to hit around 2010, Peak Oil seems to get an insanely small amount of attention, especially considering that the 1970's oil crash was due to just a 5% decrease in oil production.

    After Peak Oil, it is predicted that (conservatively) oil production will drop by 3-6% a year every year - irreversibly. This spells complete global disaster! Perhaps the end of civilization as we know it...

    I doubt anything can change in 5 years time, that might as well be tomorrow!

    What do you guys think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 15, 2005 #2
    i think the saying "end of civilization as we know it' is pure idiocy. Its utterly meaningless. All that means is that civilization changes in ways that have never been seen before--hell, that could mean we get a unified global government, world peace, brotherly love and all that jazz. Or it could mean Mad Max goes beyond thunderdome. The phrase itself is a meaningless idiocy.
  4. Feb 15, 2005 #3
  5. Feb 15, 2005 #4
    OK... but what do you think of the impending crisis known as Peak Oil?

    If it makes you feel better I'll try and omit cliches in the future.

    Something to consider: EVERYTHING (in our industrial civilization) runs on an oil infrastructure. This includes food, medicine, and the extraction of alternative fuels.

    It seems that Peak Oil is unavoidable and no solution is present, suggesting an enormous global economic catastrophy and the complete collapse of industrial civilization, beginning in just five short years.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2005
  6. Feb 15, 2005 #5
  7. Feb 15, 2005 #6
    Hydrogen fuel cell power is where we'll go for cars, the technology has been there for years, its just currently more expensive than gas. With rising oil prices cars will switch over to fuel cells. Electric cars are unlikely, simply because you can't get enough mileage out of a single charge. In one of the threads linked too they mentioned reliance on current fuel sources to porduce hyrdrogen fuel--well people, its time to get nuclear--we don't need to burn coal to produce electricity after all. Ideally, solar power would get more cost-effective, but i don't see that happening. NO it looks like fuel cells in cars, nuclear power for electricity, electric heating systems replacing natural gas.
  8. Feb 15, 2005 #7
    Thanks Aquamarine -

    Briefly glancing over the threads you posted I didnt see any specific references to Peak Oil (though I could easily have missed them..)

    Thanks for the Wikipedia link, its a good one.

    I'm more interested in peoples opinions though =).
  9. Feb 15, 2005 #8
    Hate to break it to you but Nuclear Power is heavily dependant on natural gas and oil (which is required to extract uranium and maintain the plants).

    Furthermore the link in Wikipedia states that the U.S. would have to increase its nuclear output eleven fold (!!!) to cope with the crisis.

    As to solar power, I read elsewhere that 4 blocks of solar panels would be required to replicate the power produced by one gas station.

    As to hydrogen:

    "A single hydrogen fuel cell requires 20 grams of platinum. If the cells are mass-produced, it may be possible to get the platinum requirement down to 10 grams per cell. The world has 7.7 billion grams of proven platinum reserves. There are approximately 700 million internal combustion engines on the road. Ten grams of platinum per fuel cell x 700 million fuel cells = 7 billion
    grams of platinum, or practically every gram of platinum in the earth."

    Taken from http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/
  10. Feb 15, 2005 #9
    Show me where these cannot be replaced by other sources?

    Sounds about right. Nuclear power is actually not very common in the country. More common here than elsewhere, but it still provides a minor portion of total energy production currently. But we need to go somewhere, and really there aren't many other options.

    Which is exactly why i said i do not foresee solar power to be a viable solution.
    Now that i didn't know, and seriosuly complicates the problem.

    As an aside, the webdesigner for that page sucks. The images are right over the text, rather defeats the purpose methinks.

    Don't get me wrong, i agree that things will be forced to drastically change, however the doomsday people are blowing it out of proportion, we lived without burning oil for a long time, and we can live witohut it again once we have to. The big thing is going to be phasing alternatives into use. Nuclear power is going to become an absolute necessity for base electric power. More machinery will become battery powered rather than gas powered. As for products directly chemically dependent on oil, synthetic alternatives for limited necessary use are possible.

    Necesity is what provokes innovation. When there is a need for an innovative new way of doing things, it will be produced, assuming the technology is available to do it. So i'm not horribly worried.
  11. Feb 15, 2005 #10
    Oil will not suddenly disappear after the peak. It will become more expensive but there will be plenty of time to build for instance new nuclear reactors. Furthermore, there are large known coal reserves that can be converted to fuel. Something already done in South Africa on a large scale. Higher energy prices will also automatically cause conservation.

    Long term there are alternatives like hydrogen, boron or biodiesel that can replace petroleum as transportation fuel.
  12. Feb 15, 2005 #11


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    A good short-term alternative is actually natural gas. There are plenty of deposits that are untapped, especially in Russia. The main problem is transport. The gas needs to be liquefied for transport and we don't have enough regasification (don't you just love that word) units to import very much. We'll need to build more.
  13. Feb 15, 2005 #12


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    "Peak Oil" is the name of a book and though he presents his predictions with some confidence, the reality is that there is still a lot of controversy over the concept.
    Well - 2010.... 2020....2030? Geologists/economists don't all agree on when supply will peak. I was in elementary school 20 years ago and heard that in 20 years (today), we'd actually run out of oil. So it doesn't get much attention because few people actually buy it.
    Conservatively according to whom? One of the things often left out of this discussion is the fact that there is a lot of oil that is mine-able, but it isn't economical to mine it. When oil prices hit something like $75 a barrel, available reserves will suddenly increase by quite a bit when these resources become economical to tap. In addition, oil production may well level off slower and not start to fall for quite some time.
    Well, that's a little bit overly dramatic. We're near the point today where nuclear power is again going to be politically viable. If we start soon, within 20 years we could have a significant increase in our nuclear power production. In addition, if a "complete global disaster" was looming, we'd up our coal production and that would easily offset the loss of oil (you can even make gas from coal).

    Basically, MaxS, don't get suckered in by a guy who'se main purpose is selling a book.
    As always, the problem is more economics (and politics) than anything else. As gas prices increase, the incentive to tap those natural gas resources increases. It'll be done.

    Overall, I'd say if we don't make radical changes over the next 50 years (yes, I know that's a contradiction) in the way we use energy, we'll be in for some serious problems. This doom and gloom in 5 years stuff is BS.
  14. Feb 15, 2005 #13


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    The biggest impact of dwindling oil supplies is to transportation and to the numerous products manufactured from petroleum. Most of the fixed infrastructure relies on enough alternative sources of energy (coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, etc), that dwindling oil supplies would be painful, but they wouldn't be devastating.

    Two of the alternative energy sources you mentioned actually have a little more potential than is being realized right now.

    Considering the amount of energy you get from nuclear power, the fuel needed for the overhead is still a good investment. Wikipedia's point about the current number of nuclear power plants is the more pertinent point. If we've licensed the construction of any new nuclear plants since Three Mile Island in '78 or Chernobyl, it's definitely been the exception. There's a long lead time to build a new nuclear power plant, so nuclear power definitely isn't the answer to a an oil embargo. As the price of oil goes up, I would expect more people to find nuclear power more acceptable and it will provide us more power in the future.

    Solar power isn't even competitive, YET. Electricity from solar panels is about 3 to 4 times more expensive than current electricity generation methods. Solar energy also has the biggest potential to experience a drastic reduction in cost. How long before drastic drops in cost come and if the breakthroughs are enough to drop the cost down to competitive levels is hard to predict, but eventually, there won't be nearly as big a disparity, especially if oil prices rise. Considering the research for improved solar panels dovetails nicely with research for improved semi-conductors and improved lasers, it's safe to say the cost of solar power will get consistently get cheaper, even if only gradually, while the cost of other combustible fuels gets more expensive.
  15. Feb 15, 2005 #14


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    Right on (recycled hippie talk). And in response to Bush's State of the Union speech and ethanol, it is said that corn etc. would have to replace all other crops in order to produce enough for the entire world to switch to this fuel. What came to my mind is that global warming is likely to affect climate and crop production before we'd ever find out if this is true. Anyone know where I can purchase a hydrogen vehicle? :approve:
  16. Feb 15, 2005 #15


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    Page ten of this document (http://www.fuelcells.org/info/charts/vehiclestudy.pdf) has info on when hydrogen fueled cars will arrive on the market. As of right now, there are still very few refueling stations. GM recently announced that it will be building the first (along with a small fleet of vehicles) in the New York metro area. I believe there is already one in LA somewhere, but that's just from memory.
  17. Feb 15, 2005 #16


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    There have been many threads re: oil reserves. The fact is; there are sufficient reserves of oil in the US alone for over 200 years at present rate of consumption. World wide, the total is sufficient for over 300 years. The oil is contained in bituminous marl.


    “…If the containing organic material could be converted to oil, the quantities would be far beyond all known conventional oil reserves. Oil shale in great quantities exists worldwide: including in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Estonia, France, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the US…”

    Extraction is more expensive than drilling but as oil prices continue to rise, the cost becomes more and more competitive. Canada will shortly begin to reap the harvest of its tremendous oil sand reserves. In doing so it will have to renege on its Kyoto emissions standards, as will other signature nations.

    There are also enormous untapped sources of methane gas.

    Hydrogen is a great, almost clean burning fuel but is only a means of storing energy, not a prime source. Producing hydrogen results in a net efficiency (best process) of about 70%. Distribution will eat up an additional 20 to 30%. Presently, burning fossil fuels must make up the energy deficit.

    IMHO, the best solution is rapid completion of fission utilities to provide the energy to generate hydrogen gas, followed by fusion plants in the future. I have previously posted that I believe a world wide tax should be placed on every barrel of crude oil to promote fusion research. This is too expensive for the US or any single nation to undertake, it must be a worldwide research effort with several competing technologies being investigated.

    Environmentalists do much harm by opposing nuclear power.

    Last edited: Feb 15, 2005
  18. Feb 15, 2005 #17


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    (Thank you for the link.)

    From Internet news on energy independence: "Foremost, we must end our addiction for foreign oil. It begins with reducing our gasoline usage. Governor Arnold Swarzenegger just unveiled the first hydrogen vehicle fueling station in California. The fuel is about four times the price of gasoline, but with gas / oil prices going up, and mass production bringing the prices of hydrogen down – the prices could be comparable in several years." I believe Arnold drives a hydrogen Humvee.

    Fossil fuel is not an infinite resource, and will peak. Aside from energy independence, I'm more concerned about the effect on the environment, so believe alternatives will be implemented regardless of when these reserves will peak. I was wondering if there are safety issues in using natural gas in vehicles...? With regard to nuclear plants, what advances have been made with disposal of the waste? Back to ethanol, there is a lot of investment going in this direction because it is clean, etc. (Sorry--this is a topic of great interest to me, but not my strength.) :blushing:

    In the meantime, here in the southwest we do use solar panels to produce electricity--but then we have plenty of sun and space, as well as harnessing wind, also requiring a lot of open space.
  19. Feb 15, 2005 #18
    A while back I remember reading about an experiment in Austrailia for generating electricity. basically a long pipe is stood on end and a plastic sheet is attatched to it. It resembles a circus tent with a center pole. cool air flows in, under the edges of the tent and gets heated by the sun hitting the plastic. The only way out is up through the pipe where it turns a turbine. From what I remember it wasn't terribly efficient at that time, but looked promising. I haven't heard anything else about it in years.
  20. Feb 15, 2005 #19
    I hope all the oil peaks, nuclear fuel peaks, energy crisis happens after I die. I'm 16 so with my unhealthy lifestyle i'll probably live to 65. So another 50 years.
  21. Feb 15, 2005 #20


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    No advancements needed.

    Cleaner maybe but not clean.

    You can even connect pipes to a cow’s arse, but lets keep it serious. Wind and tidal power may be plausible for some local needs. Solar panels need a lot of research to contribute a small fraction, it probably needs to be a satellite thing. In southern US you get about 1/4 watt per sq. cm best edfficiency at high noon.

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