Decline

Delta and Northwest are Dying, and it’s not because people aren’t flying anymore.

Gas Prices hit $2 a gallon last year, and though I heard a lot of complaints from my co-workers at Canandaigua Wine, after 2 weeks of paying unprecedented prices, no one seemed to care much anymore.

Everywhere I went, I saw hand-drawn 2’s sitting on the pump price signs, there having been a painted-on and supposedly permanent ‘1’ sitting in front of the decimal point for the past 15 years or so (at least in the Northeast).

$2 was an outrage just last year. Now we pay $3, and we’re told it’s because of our gulf refineries. I laugh about it as I read a story in the newspaper that tries to justify a 60-cent jump in a week. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind paying my fair share of the cost of crude oil. Americans have been lazily soaking up super-cheap gas for decades.

What I do mind is being lied to about why gas prices are jumping the way they are.

The age of oil is about to reach its limit.

Don’t misunderstand the statement. I’m not saying that you’re going to be going about daily life, and all the sudden Mr. W is going to appear on television and say…

“My fellow Americans–we just sucked air through the oil straw. We’re plum out. God bless freedom.”

That’s not how it’s going to happen. It will be a decline that looks much like the incline in production that we’ve experienced since the dawn of the 20th century. But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be pretty. Even decades ago, we’ve waged wars to protect resource interests that we don’t have (and, indeed, haven’t had) here at home since 1973. This cycle will not relent. Hybrid cars and bio-diesel aren’t going to save us. There is a clear fact: we will not
continue our lifestyles for another generation.

$3 for gas is the least of our worries. Crude oil is used for much more than refining gasoline. We make plastic with it as well. That’s right. The casing for the monitor you’re looking at was made with–you’ve got it–oil. The keyboard you’re using to type your angry response to me, telling me that I’m just a doomsayer trying to frighten the masses, that was also made with the help of oil. When you go and glab a glass of water out of your gallon jug of Poland Spring, that polyethylene terephthalate bottle was also created with help from our greasy friend from the ground.

“We’ll find more. We haven’t found all the oil there is yet.”

We’ve been looking, friends. In the mid-60’s we found one the largest caches of the precious fluid to date. Since then, prospects have been rather grim. Even as our technology for finding it has become better and better, our returns get lower and lower. That’s not really a promising sign for the future. In the 1960’s, our methods for finding oil seemed to be working just fine. Forty-five years later, do you think our technological methods for subsurface scanning are much better, or much worse?

Judging from our discoveries, you’d be inclined to say worse, but that’s ludicrous. We throw more and more money every year at finding new fields, even to the point of searching deep water oil and layers of shale and sand in search of “heavy oil.”

It seems that our world energy executives are procrastinating. They’re waiting for a miracle solution that will appear before them. It’s not going to. Though we can find hydrogen in space, here on earth it’s not too readily available in large quantities. Sure, we can make it from water, but that takes electricity. In other words, it takes energy to make energy. This is the problem with methanol and bio-deisel. Sure, they burn cleaner and they seem like good ideas, but in the end they cost more energy to prepare and refine than we get from using them.

I’d say burning coal to make electricity to run the plant that’s making methanol or extracting hydrogen from water isn’t a real stable long term solution to the oil problem.

Happy trails, kids. Don’t drive too much.

Here are some links that have to do with the subject at hand.

http://www.suntimes.com/output/business/cst-fin-oil18.html (Recent Chicago Sun-Times)

http://www.hubbertpeak.com/ (Hubbert accurately predicted our Nation’s peak in the 70’s)

http://www.peakoil.org/ (another oganizational site)

http://www.geologie.tu-clausthal.de/Campbell/lecture.html (A lecture by Professor Campbell)

http://peakoil.blogspot.com/ (A fellow blog that illustrates the issue better than I)

http://www.peakoilaction.org/ (Citizens on the headway)

http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/1546/ (A Vonnegut warning)

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/biz/archives/2005/09/19/2003272353 (We’re not the only ones worried)