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Is Peak Oil Real?

Is Peak Oil Real?

Opinion by Alex Groberman
(April 10, 2011) in SocietyOil

For years now, the idea of ‘peak oil’ has been hotly contested and constantly debated. The validity of its existence and possible seriousness has also been captured in various studies and discussions.

Peak oil is recognized as the point in time in which the earth’s maximum rate of global petroleum extracted is reached. Theoretically, after this point is reached, the rate of production enters a serious decline which will ultimately impact countries in many ways from economical and social standpoints.

This theory is centered around observations made on the production rates of individual oil rates coupled with the production rate of a field of related oil rates.

The important thing to keep in mind when considering this matter is that the total production rate from an oil field is technically supposed to grow exponentially over time. Then, at a certain point, that growth will top out – and begin to decline. There are a number of theories on how quickly the decline would occur. However, the fact that there would be a decline is irrefutable.

Originally, the theories behind peak oil were created and modeled by M. King Hubbert. It was Hubbert who accurately predicted that U.S. oil production would peak between 1965 and 1970. As per the Hubbert model, a production rate of limited resource comes shortly after the symmetrical logistic distribution curve based on various limits of market pressures.

The predications for what the negative effects of an oil peak would entail actually vary from expert to expert. Some suggest that if political and economic changes occur simply in response to high prices and shortages as opposed to the threat of a peak, then the ultimate economic damage that happens will depend on how much oil imports will decline after the peak.

Many of the more optimistic predictions regarding when there will be a global decline in oil — or the general point of global peak production — are around the year 2020 or later. Further, it is assumed that by this time alternatives will be able to compensate for any losses that may occur, and as a result, there won’t be any major implications coming of the peak.

The negative predictions regarding peak oil, however, note that the peak has either already occurred or is right around the corner. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), production of conventional crude oil actually peaked around 2006.

Regardless of where you come down when it comes to whether or not peak oil is “real” though, the steps that the U.S. and other countries are taking as they apply to alternative energy sources and back-up plans should go a long way in easing the possibly disastrous effect of running out oil.

 

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