Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Friday, July 16, 2004
 
Drip, drip, dry: The Oil is Running Out
 
 
Slate's round up of other magazines pointed me to this chart in the Economist:  A ranking of the oil-producing nations of the world.  Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and the UAE top the list, with what looks like around 65% of the total between them. What "years left" means exactly is not clear to me at all, and if anyone else can dig out the precise meaning, please let me know. My best guess is that the meaning is if we continue to pump those reserves at rates each of them are currently being pumped, they should last the indicated number of years
 
 That would explain why, even though Saudi Arabia is sitting on a much bigger pool than Iraq, Iraq is listed as having a longer lasting pool--it's not being very efficiently pumped right now, given problems like a sabotaged pipeline. This only highlights why using current rates of pumping is a bit of a silly metric when projecting how long an oil reserve will last over the course of the century: there's every reason to think rates of pumping will change.  But if we accept that bit of silliness, it does give us a useful way to grasp the fundamental finiteness of what in gallons is a very large amount of oil. 
 
 The source of all this data is the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2004, released about a month ago.  The dominance of the Middle East in the oil game is pretty clear in their bar graph.  I will revert to a physicist's habits of rounding off numbers and thinking in terms of significant figures and orders of magnitude. It would appear that we provably have about 1200  billion barrels of usable oil in the earth--or, using more handy notation, 1.2 *(10 ^ 12) (pdf).  We consume about 80,000 thousand barrels a day, or 8*(10^7) (pdf). That works out to about 3*(10^10).  It doesn't take a genius to figure out that there aren't a whole lot of orders of magnitude difference between our yearly consumption and the provable usable total. A factor of fifty, a factor of one hundred. Fifty years, one hundred years, maybe two hundred years.  This bit from the BP report on terminology seems to cloud the issue:
 

Ultimately recoverable resource (URR) is an estimate of the total amount of oil that will ever be recovered and produced. It is a subjective estimate in the face of only partial information. Whilst some consider URR to be fixed by geology and the laws of physics, in practice estimates of URR continue to be increased as knowledge grows, technology advances and economics change. Economists often deny the validity of the concept of ultimately recoverable reserves as they consider that the recoverability of resources depends upon changing and unpredictable economics and evolving technologies [Italics mine]

 
I don't know when economists became post-modernists, but all the economic and technological upheaval in the world does not invalidate the concept of URR. There IS a finite amount of oil in the earth, because, if nothing else, the earth itself is finite. A real and true value of the URR does exist. Our estimate of that value may be incorrect, in fact it almost certainly is. That is why it is called an estimate, and like all estimates, is most useful as a concept and less useful for very precise calculations.  It is not a concept that can be ignored, however, or swept under the optimistic rug of "evolving technologies." Even accounting for the most fantastic discoveries,  unforseeable drops in population grown, and a sudden reverse in global warming, we simply do not have the resources to sustain our current way of living for very long.
 
I don't know about you folks, but I intend to be alive in fifty or a hundred years, and I certainly intend for my descendants to be alive in two hundred. I don't have children yet, but I'm assuming when I do I will love them, and by extension care about the things they care about, including, say, their grandchildren. Talking about long term plans and the need for foresight and a sustainable energy plan is the most logical extension of true family values.  Fifty or a hundred years. Maybe two hundred. Oil and energy will be the dominating issue of the twenty first century

 


<< Home
Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

ATOM FEED



Spring 2006: Guest Bloggers!
Colin!
Rishi | Scott | Emily
Echan | Robert | ToastyKen

MAIN:ssrdatta.blogspot.com
Email me!
Ways to help the Tsunami Victims Here

Want this badge?

ARCHIVES
01/01/2003 - 02/01/2003 / 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 / 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 / 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 / 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 / 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 / 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 / 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 / 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 / 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 / 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 / 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 / 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 / 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 / 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 / 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 / 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 / 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 / 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 / 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 / 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 / 05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010 / 09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014 /


Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
ChennaiCentral
ClimateBoy
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Ennis
Ephemera
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
Wonkette
Yglesias:Tpmcafe

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Ephemera
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

Literature, Fiction and Entertainment
Dave Barry
Neil Gaiman
Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud


A Note on Comments
Haloscan is not very good at counting comments. If a comment thread is more than three months old, and you think there might be comments, please click the comments link even if it indicates zero comments. It won't display the true count properly. Thanks!


A note on permalinks
I find that a lot of people don't know about permalinks. When you want to have someone read a specific blog entry, then you should find that blog entry's permalink, click on that, and send them the resulting browser address. Otherwise they will just be sent to the blog in general, and between your reading the blog entry and your correspondent's or audience's getting to it, a whole slew of material may have pushed the entry off the front page. In this blog, the permalinks are the timestamp at the end of the entry. (Feel free to frequently send your friends and family permalinks from my blog!)







Weblog Commenting and Trackback by 
HaloScan.com Powered by Blogger