Peak oil and the (US) National Petroleum Council

Watching someone discuss energy on C-SPAN. Very impressive. The fellow talking was discussing peak oil before I went to out clothes in the dryer, and now showing a chart that demonstrates various degrees of energy efficiency in light bulbs (i.e. incandescent bulbs are 90% heat; LEDs are almost zero heat, with equal amounts of light).

Ah! It’s Roscoe Bartlett, Republican member for Maryland’s 6th district. And it isn’t the first time he’s done this.

I can be forgiven for my surprise. These are the people who put Crazy Ted Stevens in charge of your internet, for Cliff’s sake. I like the fact that he says the US ‘can’ become a world leader in this, rather than the usual obnoxious presumptions that the US already is the world leader in everything. Gets on my tits – and on those of most people elsewhere in the world, actually.

He’ll discuss nuclear energy while I type, it seems. I’ll keep you updated. I’m waiting for a pan to show just how many/few members of Congress are actually in the house, listening. I’m guessing next to none – what, you think Congressional members show up to work?

What impressed me most is that, when I flicked over from a ridiculous ‘interview’ on the Newshour (to which what has happened, incidentally? It used to be very good), was his discussiong of Peak Oil – when it peaked, recoverable oil vs. non-recoverable and, importantly, proven vs. non-proven reserves (more on that in a moment), including sorted according to politcal risk (most of the reserves upon which our happy optimism is based lies in political risk areas: “above ground” problems (in that the oil is there, and gettable, but you might be blown up trying, or lose your money to the government), as opposed to “below ground” problems (just try drilling for gas in Sibera sometime, or getting that last few inches out of the Gwahar superfield).

Hee! Bartlett just equated hoping for fusion to fix our energy problems to hoping the lottery will solve your financial problems, because the odds are about the same (Jason). Very amusing.

I had been planning an oil post anyway, since visiting the Oil Drum this morning to read the news concerning the report of the National Petroleum Council. You can pick up the full report here. Now, first: the NPC was asked by the Energy Secretary, quite sensibly, to examine peak oil from the perspective of global supply, now and potential, vs. demand for the same, globally, now and in the future.


The purpose of the NPC is solely to represent the views of the oil and natural gas industries in advising, informing, and making recommendations to the Secretary of Energy with respect to any matter relating to oil and natural gas, or to the oil and gas industries submitted to it or approved by the Secretary.

He sighs. The Oil Drum recommended Secretary Berman try the National Academies of Science, next time.

I won’t go through the report. When the Oil Drum exists, I am in fact chopped liver (as, I believe, the saying goes). Here’s what set me off, though:

NPC report

That’s right. According to the NPC, there’s no problem. The Middle East will have the oil. All the oil we could ever need. Leaving aside, for the moment, the silliness of a 26-year timeframe (I doubt any of my readers will be dead by then), even the current reserves, as claimed by Middle-Eastern states are doubted – and not even close to this. For a start:

NPB reserves graph

What a pleasant surprise it will be when they suprise us with that extra 16 million barrels-per-day of oil they’ll need to have for us by 2030 (by the way, has anybody told them?). They can’t even match the repeated OECD dare do come up with an extra 1 million barrels per day. Their reasons are good enough – but I still don’t buy it. Nor does the International Energy Agency, for that matter.

So there’s that. According to the NPC, the OPEC reserves are secretly even more vast. The other expectation that makes their Alfred E. Neuman numbers work is commonly called Undiscovered Oil (there is believed to exist more oil than has been discovered). What the NPC make Peak Oil disappear:

NPC potential oil

Score! Problem solved. Until – even in this report – 2030. At which point something seems to be going to happen about which we do not know, which is a little frightening. From the Oil Drum:

As you can see, the growth in total liquids supply comes by and large from about 40mbd of “Exploration Potential”. Now, to put this in context OPEC liquids production at the moment, according to Table 16 of the OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report (PDF)) is just around 30mbd. So the NPC wants us to believe that there is a whole other OPEC plus a third waiting to be discovered.

These two experiences could not be more stark. On one hand is Representative Boscoe doing what looked to me like everything right, on the floor of Congress (or a committee room somewhere on the Capitol), while the Energy Secretary invites a bad report, from a biased industry organisation, doing everything wrong. Did he not learn from Enron and Cheney’s secret energy taskforce?

Cripes. Funnily enough, the primary demand-reducing recommendation of the NPC report is doubling fuel economy standards (their the oil industry, not the Auto industry – I’d love to see Detroit or Representative Dingell respond to this). Also amusing: while channel surfing I saw an automobile advertisement in which a woman said her new car got 28 miles-per-gallon, meaning she could “drive forever”. Mind-boggling, isn’t it? Europeans, piss yourselves laughing at will.

Second on the list was greater efficiency in household energy use, followed by industrial energy use. The post by the Oil Drum is well worth reading. The actual report by the NPC is 422 pages, but it too is well worth scanning, at least. They have a section also on carbon management which is quite interesting. Failing that, there is always the Executive Summary.


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