Peak Oil and Alternative Energy

By Shubber Abbas

If someone asked you how a car runs, would you be able to explain? Think about it. What if they asked you what your car runs on? Much easier isn’t it? How about if they asked you where oil came from? Most of us would run over the basics of, ‘It comes out from the ground’; But what exactly is the process of oil production?

I’ll explain it simply; you hire a company to drill a ‘test well’ in an area that you think contains oil. If there’s a positive result, you then drill ‘appraisal wells’ around the test well to see which way the oil field is running off towards. The problem that arises with this is something called ‘Net Energy’. How much energy you put in versus the amount of energy received. Once the amount of energy you gain is lower than the investment, unless there’s a more efficient way to retrieve the oil, the project is scrapped and nobody bothers to try and pump out that oil. For example, if it costs $10 million to drill an oil pipe, and you’re only going to receive a maximum of $8 million worth of oil, logically, you would abandon that oil field, because it you’re receiving less than what you’re giving.

Now we hit another problem. Peak Oil. Imagine a bell curve; the top of the bell curve represents half of the total amount of oil available on earth. Once we reach that point, we will never have that many barrels of oil. Ever. A prime example that we’ve actually reached peak oil is Saudi Arabia. The country holds about ~25% of the earths total oil supply. Why is it that Saudi Arabia is investing so heavily into offshore drilling if it costs them so much less to continue drilling wells in the remaining oil fields that they have? We can safely assume that they are past peak oil; if Saudi Arabia is past peak, it’s axiomatic that the total world is past peak oil. In 2008, the International Energy Agency, declared that there is a total 9% reduction in oil production; this is about 8 million barrels a day. And in that same year, the world used about 85 million barrels a day. But as always, there is still hope.

Most people are saying to turn towards Nuclear Power, but for an immediate impact, that would never work. It takes roughly 10-20 years for site clearance and all the paper work; plus, building a power plant is one of the most energy intensive operations on earth. It’s not like you throw two pieces of radioactive rocks together in a pit and expect electricity to appear. There are also suggestions for tidal power, by harnessing the power of shore waves. Imagine a buoy floating on the water. Using the up and down movements of the buoy, we’re able to turn a generator and thus produce electricity. The issue with tidal power generation is that the production costs of these machines is immense. On top of that, salt water is extremely corrosive, so maintenance costs would be even more expensive.

The two types of electricity production that we have so far that would have an immediate impact to help us would be solar and wind power. If we develop our solar panels to be a bit more efficient, we could line our roofs with them and it would provide free electricity year round. Also, when it’s not sunny, it’s most likely windy, so the mini windmills could cover for that.

There are so many options that we have, and so many more that could be available if we put money into research that actually matters in these times. However, we keep letting unqualified leaders, and corrupt countries telling us how to live our lives. I, personally, cant wait for the oil to run out, because when it does, it’ll show the world how desperately we live our lives, always in search for something to make it easier.

Unless of course, there are oil fields that are being kept a secret…