Has Oil Peaked?

Before any more time goes by, I want to point to this segment from the February 3 Rachel Maddow Show.

Is there a chance the stranglehold of the oil industry on our democracy is getting looser? See also The First Step Is Admitting You Have a Problem by Michael Patrick F. Smith at the New York Times. He does a magnificent job pointing out how much we are surrounded by petrochemicals, and how much oil industry jobs tend to be short-lived and dangerous. He’s a bit short on solutions, though. I don’t think returning to a hunter-gatherer economy is going to happen right off.

6 thoughts on “Has Oil Peaked?

  1. I sure hope oil has peaked!

    And I think it has.

    This pandemic gave our planet a momentary respite. 

    Soon, it'll be a year with a dramatic decrease in auto traffic, and other internal-combustion engine usage, worldwide.

    And in that respite, people in cities usually ensnarled in car, truck, and bus traffic, saw clear skies for the first time in generations. The stars at night were more visible.

    European and Asian countries are well ahead of us in the use of renewable energies for transportation.

    But now the Biden administration has made a huge step for America by mandating all government vehicles be electric in the not too distant future.  America's car companies are switching over as well.

    Plummeting oil prices help us geopolitically.

    First, the lower the price of oil, the weaker Putin and Russia get.  Russia is a flailing and failing petro-dictatorship, and the workers there aren't seeing any improvements in their lives.  As their wages stagnate, more and more of them will turn on Putin.  The protests around Navalny's imprisonment are also protests about the declining economic conditions in Russia.  Putin may be toppled sometime sooner than we think.  I know a bit about Russian/Soviet history, and major social upheavals tend to prophesy changes in government.  Successful demands for freeing the serfs in the mid-19th Century brought about changes that bled power from the Tsar, and eventually led to the 1905 mini-revolution, and in 1917, the October Revolution.  Dissatisfaction with wages and consumer goods as compared to the West led to the fall of the USSR.  And further dissatisfaction with progress led to the fall of the brief experiment in democracy in the 90's, which led to Putin's rise – and eventual position as a virtual Tsar.

    Plummeting oil prices will help settle things down in the Middle East.  Eventually, anyway.  I've dropped enough word-turds, so I'm going to go watch the Knicks game I recorded earlier.

    Here"s hoping we're peeking at the "de-peaking" of oil's hold over humankind!

    • While I would relish seeing Putin fall and don't disagree with you on that part, it will be dangerous to have these countries have fossil-fuel reliance economic distress. 

      I am also not ready to call petro dead yet, either. Diesel is the most important fuel out there for mining, construction, and transport. Container ships are not sailing anytime soon and bunker fuel is still the standard. And Tesla will not power rare earth metal mines anytime soon.

      I think that the most dangerous thing about the petro industry is that the Trumpkins are terrified of change and will fight tooth and nail to preserve a sunseting tech that they see is a part of their identity. They would rather choke themselves on a toxic atmosphere before even considering mere conservation.

  2. "… I don’t think returning to a hunter-gatherer economy is going to happen right off."

    Sooner than you think. 

    Over the next ten to fifteen years, the last few American engineers are going to retire/die, because we destroyed our educational system, from confusion, laziness, self-indulgence, and spite, starting about 1960. 

    Twenty years from now, the pipeline of engineers from China and India, upon which American business has become almost totally dependent, is going to dry up, because those countries are going to destroy their educational systems, starting now, in order to maintain the incumbent party dictatorships. 

    Over the ensuing thirty years, those last cohorts are going to become a finite and diminishing global resource; some firms will engage in competition for them, but more will attempt to transition into lines of business that do not depend upon engineering.

    After that, most technology is going to have to be scrapped.


    • A part of this is also the prefab world we live in. All of that cladding and plastic molding are going to get long in the tooth and the question is whether, not only will the $$ be there to update it, but will the knowledge be there to figure out how to accommodate it.

  3. Will Big Oil go away? Not in my lifetime, but I'm 67. Is Big Oil going to be the dominant force in politics? Maybe not. At one time, the railroads had a lock on politics and Congress could not do enough to make railroads happy. That was before I was born but the control looked eternal. 

    The railroads are still around but they aren't the force they once were. That's the future of oil – there will be some internal combustion engines for decades, but probably not a century. The volume of oil refined for engines will decline – the price will go up as the profits go down. 

    The GOP has been the patron saint of  oil expansion. They served by making subsides available and opening up drilling markets offshore. Influence is proportionate to contributions to lobbyists. Some industries pay off both parties but Big Oil married the GOP. A decline for big oil cuts the flow of money to the GOP. 

    After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia could have diversified. They had a great educational system, which meant they had a pool of talent to draw from. Putin built his empire on oil. A huge chunk of European geopolitics has to do with pipelines from Russia to Europe. (That's one reason Ukraine has been a big player.) If Europe breaks the oil addiction, Russia's power declines possibly in the next decade.

  4. I bought my first electric vehicle a month ago. It was used, cost me about $13k, and covers 99% of my daily needs for scooting around STL. I had leased a big snarling muscle car before the pandemic… and while it was a lot of fun, it was horribly inefficient and expensive, and not at all appropriate for my routine. I returned it back in May and went without wheels until January 2.  

    My spouse still has a very nice internal-combustion Acura that we take on trips. She needs it as she's traipsing all over servicing her clients. But eventually we'll replace that one too, with something that has a bigger battery.  By the time we do that, I expect we'll have lots more options to choose from.

    So, has oil peaked? For me it has. I've proven to myself it's no longer a necessity. $0.02 more per killowatt-hour lets me power the whole household and charge the car with renewables. 

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