Arthur Berman’s commentary, “Say It LOUD: A Few Words About Peak Oil” (February EXPLORER), sure was a step backward.
For most of the last decade those who wanted a discussion on the topic and who voiced a contrary view were summarily shouted down and buried under book after book and speech after speech about how dire was the oil supply situation. When the U.S. Geological Survey published its assessment of undiscovered resources they were accused of cooking the books with inflated figures. In the era of “peaker” domination, the cost of oil ran up to nearly $150/bbl and voices could be heard signaling potential prices of $500 or more. “Be thankful it is only $150,” some were heard to exclaim as they headed off to the bank.
We also ran head long into the war in Iraq, and I, for one, have always wondered just how much of the thinking behind closed doors in Washington was about securing a beachhead in the Middle East oil patch because of “peaker” warnings.
Berman says, “ … we have run out of the cheap oil on which the global economy is predicated.” Really? I know the Saudis’ are selling their oil for $80/bbl, but what does it cost them to produce? A lot less, I can assure you.
The world seems to have adjusted to this $80/bbl oil, and therefore Berman’s further statement is equally curious: “Because of the high price of oil, consumption in the United States has fallen 1.5 percent since 2005.”
Hello! Wasn’t there a global recession soon after 2005? I don’t think oil was the cause but rather a casualty of it. Also, and this is very important, the long-term trend of energy substitution has been taking place and we are now in the era of natural gas rising in prominence – substituting mostly for coal, but also for some oil.
So where do we now stand, and what should the AAPG be discussing?
The current hydrocarbon boon is palpable and good news for the United States and the world, in the short term. But in case you haven’t heard, there is a raging debate going on about climate change and the role of carbon dioxide, a certain by-product of hydrocarbon combustion.
We do not need nor can we afford a knee jerk reaction, but we do need to carry out thoughtful discussions about the role AAPG should be playing in this arena. In the 1990s my fellow cornucopians understood that in time we would move beyond oil as an energy source and much oil would be left in the ground. Wasn’t it a Saudi energy minister who cautioned the industry to think of the Stone Age and stones? Clearly the lack of stones did not spell the end of that era.
The AAPG has a serious problem, however, and it’s the “P” in our name. I would like to suggest that in the next several years, the AAPG consider a path for a name change.
The organization is great. The mission is well understood. And the body politic is robust. So why don’t we think about becoming the AEA (American Energy Association) or the WEA (World Energy Association)? The headquarters remains in Tulsa, the constitution stays intact and an overarching focus becomes the long-term transition from where we are today to where we need to be by the end of this century. With that, the renamed organization will be strong and vital well beyond 2100.
(And think about it this way: If “peakers” turn out to be right, a name change will really need to be made.)
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