Paul Schneidereit screws up, again.

Paul Schneidereit (CH July 10, 2012) assures us that peak oil is a myth. Well, here are the facts of global oil production. During the optimistic 1960's, oil production increased from 20 to 45 MBPD (million barrels per day). That's an annual increment of 2.5 MBPD. The shaky 1970's saw the annual increment fall to 1.5 MBPD. It's been all downhill since then, the annual increment averaged only 0.8 MBPD for 1980 through 2005. Global oil production has been pretty much flat since 2005 and so is the global economy. With stagnant opportunity and growing global population, growing inequity is to be expected.

As the years go by, the remaining oil becomes increasingly difficult to extract. The well-being of our huge global population depends upon cheap oil. The fact that we are now turning to fracking is not a triumph, it is an act of desperation. Paul Schneidereit is so wrong, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Actually, we might even create an index for human wellbeing by dividing the global oil production by global population. This gives the figure to the right. *

Human wellbeing increased greatly in the 1960's, peaked in the late 1970's, and has been slowly going downhill since then. Note, it goes downhill so slowly that only a careful observer would realize the problem. Also, the only people who would have had a contrasting experience would be those who were around (and aware) during the 1960's. Perhaps that explains why many people --- like Paul Schneidereit --- are so oblivious.

A wise correspondent pointed out that more modern machines use oil more efficiently so this might have offset the apparent reduction of human wellbeing plotted from 1980 to 2005. On the other hand, the amount of energy expended to extract oil has steadily increased. The question deserves a more thorough analysis. In the long term, machine efficiency must saturate and oil will be ever more difficult to extract.

The article by Paul Schneidereit has been copied below.

SCHNEIDEREIT: Humans' love affair with fossil fuels won't end anytime soon

Fossil fuels, anyone?

Like it or not, the world is not running out of oil or natural gas --- contrary to doomsday forecasts that have been spectacularly wrong for a good century.

Most famously, "peak oil," a concept around since the 1950s, has failed to materialize, despite repeated predictions of its imminent arrival.

Peak oil refers to the theoretical point when oil production hits its "peak," afterwards inexorably slipping downward due to dwindling supplies of the fossil fuel.

People have been predicting "peak oil" for decades. The problem, or good news, depending on your point of view, is that we just keep finding more and more oil, whether from unconventional sources like shale oil deposits or via use of new technologies that allow for the economical exploration and exploitation of previously inaccessible fields.

Ditto for natural gas, which has also been subject to predictions of its demise due to resource exhaustion.

The U.S. now has such large reserves of oil and natural gas --- thanks in large part to fracking --- that it's forecast to soon pass Russia to become the world's second-largest fossil fuel producer, behind Saudi Arabia.

Large oil fields have been discovered --- just to name a few places --- in Africa, off South America and, in what's sure to shake up the Middle East even further, in Israel.

The fact Canada and Israel signed an agreement on energy co-operation late last month is directly tied to last year's discovery of massive shale oil deposits, possibly up to 250 billion barrels, southwest of Jerusalem. Israel is now also believed to have extensive — in excess of 15 trillion cubic feet — offshore unconventional natural gas resources.

So what does this all mean?

First, the price of oil --- though it likely won't crash, as a Harvard University researcher recently predicted --- is quite unlikely to soar to the stratosphere as some have feared.

It's Supply and Demand 101. As oil prices rose, they spurred more exploration --- and more technological innovation --- leading, in turn, to increased supply. That's dampened further price spikes, though of course the global recession has also played a key role.

Natural gas prices vary quite a bit from region to region, but the same factors apply.

Second, whether you believe burning fossil fuels is accelerating humanity toward a fiery, self-induced end or that the world "may" be warming but we've nothing to do with it --- or somewhere in between --- there's virtually no chance the human race will be abandoning the use of oil and natural gas in our lifetimes, our children’s or even our grandchildren's. And probably much longer than that.

Put simply, too much of the global economy relies on fossil fuels to operate to seriously suggest doing without oil and gas for the foreseeable future.

The realization that peak oil is, at least for now, an illusion has struck some diehard environmentalists hard. English writer George Monbiot, for example, said in a recent column that there was enough oil in the ground to "deep-fry the planet." He could see no way to dissuade governments and industry from using those fossil fuels, leaving him unsure whether he could look his children in the eyes.

Well, those who say humanity is facing calamitous ruin if global warming is not checked may be right, but then again, if the world were suddenly deprived of oil and gas tomorrow, millions, if not hundreds of millions, of people would starve to death within months.

That's not going to happen, of course.

As some environmentalists have realized, increased use of cleaner fossil fuels like natural gas, which is now being produced in abundance, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While no one knows, with certainty, the extent of climate change in coming decades, history has shown, repeatedly, that human beings are remarkably adaptable creatures. Given that even under the most optimistic scenarios for controlling GHGs, temperatures are expected to rise, that’s going to come in handy.

(pauls@herald.ca)