Monday, July 09, 2007

Smells like Peak Oil?

How the World Works: Globalization, Globalization Blogs - "But there's a problem with this formulation that demonstrates a very careful, if not disingenuous, attempt to skirt the troubling implication of 'peak oil.' Peak oil does not mean, as has been emphasized a thousand times before, here and elsewhere, that 'the world is running out of oil.' It means that 'the world is running out of cheap oil.'

And that interpretation seems to be completely justified by the IEA report. Take, for instance, BP's much delayed 'Thunder Horse' Gulf of Mexico offshore oil project. The IEA report notes that the project has faced a 'perfect storm' of problems, including technical issues related to the new challenges of ultra-deepwater oil drilling, hurricanes and more mundane bumps in the road. Then the report notes that 'Other projects may not face the same litany of problems as Thunder Horse, but as incremental non-OPEC supply becomes increasingly concentrated in technologically challenging areas, so cost over-runs and delays will remain part of the industrial landscape.'

That's the most important sentence in the report. New supply is going to be harder to get, posing greater technological challenges and requiring higher levels of investment.

The world's oil companies and national governments will no doubt respond to this challenge. All those new middle-class citizens driving in their air-conditioned cars to their air-conditioned offices will demand it. But it's not going to be cheap. It's going to get more and more expensive.

Ironically, or tragically, there appears to be only one thing that can effectively dampen growing demand for oil. And that would be a collapse of economic growth, which, quite possibly, could be a result of the ever-higher prices for fossil fuel products that economic growth mandates.

Meanwhile, crude oil futures sit tight around $72 a barrel.

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