Category Archives: peak oil

211. The price of oil: 4 – a rising road ahead

st pauls cathedral city of london england banking financial crisis 2008As the world begins hesitantly to emerge from this downturn, when and how strongly the recovery will manifest itself is still unknown. There are huge uncertainties remaining.

So why should energy costs be rising again already? Last week’s post about the oil price shock of 2008 described a fall from a $147 peak last summer to $34 in February 2009.

In concluding, I noted that although a $60 oil price looks ‘low’ today, in relation to past prices, it’s still way above the average.

In fact, the oil price has only exceeded $60 for some 15 months across the whole of recorded history. What has happened to keep the oil price high?
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210. The price of oil: 3 – energy economics and the financial crisis

storm in the north seaThe highest ever oil prices.

The fastest and greatest fall in energy costs in economic history.

A lot has happened since early 2008 and my last essay on the oil price.

This article will explore events in the oil markets since then, and in the next I’ll take a look towards the future.

* * * * *

Early last year the oil price lay close to historic highs at almost $100 a barrel.

Supply was tight, I said, and getting tighter. Prices could fall to $60 later in the year if the credit crunch really bit. But long term, the trend was clearly upwards. And a world of $100, $200, $400 oil prices was not that far away.

world oil price jan 2006 to may 2009 energy information administration
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175. The price of oil: peak petroleum production and energy economics in a thirsty world

NOTE: May 2009 — For further updates on the oil price, see also:
The price of oil: 3 — energy economics and the financial crisis;
The price of oil: 4 – a rising road ahead.

north-sea-oil-rig-and-helicopter-offshorepictures.jpgIt was a chilly evening in early February when the Managing Director called us all together. He paused a moment, glanced at the expectant faces all around him, and then he started.

Business is tough, he said, and we’re doing what we can. But finally, we’ve reached that moment when we’ve got to let some of you go.

A hundred of us stood there then, looking at each other, at the floor, and at the winter’s dusk outside.

There was silence. Some more explanation was required, and some more honesty was needed. And, to his credit, Mitch provided it. As ‘this company is going down the toilet’ talks go, it was pretty fairly done.

We’d had problems with one of our installations in the North Sea, he told us. We all knew that already. In the big money business of finding oil and gas and getting them to the beach, failing on either of those priorities was never good.

roustabouts-on-the-drill-floor.jpgAn asset team would miss its targets, and there’d be no bonuses or payrises for anyone ahead. Such is business, in any organisation. But this time, it was worse.

It’s the oil price, he said. February, 1999. Continue reading

133. Tomorrow – Avril Lavigne and global warming

2006 is over, and it’s more than high time that I penned an update to my articles from 2004 and 2005 on global warming and the energy crisis.

Science content is a key component of this site, and I may yet return to write that article, but in truth I’ve been struggling with it all week.

As I ran today, my iPod was set on shuffle, taking me to places that I rarely go. And finally it struck me that instead of writing, I should just leave you with this simple message, delivered directly and emotionally by one young singer-songwriter.

It sounds like a conversation on the environment, from my daughter’s generation to mine.

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110. The hands that built America – Houston skylines

houston-skylines.jpg

Oh my love
It’s a long way we’ve -come
From the freckled hills
To the steel and glass canyons
U2 – November 2002

My watch says almost midday, and still I’m waiting for the sun to come up. I’ve been sitting in my hotel room for a couple of hours already, wide awake and yet bleary-eyed with jet-lag, but a glance out of the window and across the freeway shows a resolutely dark sky over the plains beyond The Loop.

Oh well. There’s no point in waiting any longer. I chuck on a T-shirt and shorts, lace up my shoes, trot out through the lobby and hit the sidewalk running.
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105. A crisis of energy

It was a less of a bang, and more of a low thud, which woke me on Sunday morning just after 6 am.

tarifa-windfarm-buncefield-fire-bp-alternative-energy.jpgSomething had fallen off a shelf downstairs somewhere, I thought, and I went back to sleep.

I’d never really believed those stories about the Krakatoa explosion being heard in India, 5,000 km away, or of Londoners being able to hear the First World War guns in France, but now I do.

Because that sound which woke me early on Sunday wasn’t generated in the house at all, but by an exploding oil storage facility on the other side of London, over 100 km away. Remarkable.
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69. Running low on fuel

north-sea-sunrise.jpgIs the world running out of oil ?

It’s a question I hear a lot. At dinner parties, on school field trips, and always in taxis, pretty much anytime when I tell people I’m a geologist.

And I can almost guarantee what will come next. ‘The oil’s nearly all gone now, and the North Sea is finished, isn’t it ?‘ These are popular perceptions based on media reports, carrying elements of truth, but hiding the full story.

Almost 25 years after the first crude from the Forties field was brought onstream, North Sea oil production peaked in 1999. The North Sea is far from history, though, and today it still pumps 7 % of the world’s petroleum.

And global oil production has continued to grow right up to the present day. But does an oil price of $ 50 per barrel signal the imminent end of our oil supplies ?
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