Sunday, October 30, 2005

Are we running out of oil?

Michael Fumento looks to the future of oil (via MM):
It was a tenet of the late great economist Julian Simon that we'll never run out of any commodity. That's because before we do the increasing scarcity of that resource will drive up the price and force us to adopt alternatives. For example, as firewood grew scarce people turned to coal, and as the whale oil supply dwindled 'twas petroleum that saved the whales.
Now we're told we're running out of petroleum. The "proof" is the high prices at the pump. In fact, oil cost about 50% more per barrel in 1979-80 than now when adjusted for inflation. Yet it's also true that industrializing nations like China and India are making serious demands on the world's ability to provide oil and are driving prices up. So is this the beginning of the end?
Nope. The Julian Simon effect is already occurring.
The evidence is in something called oil sands (also called oil shale), a tar-like substance that can be surface mined as coal often is. The oil is then separated from the dirt using energy from oil or natural gas extracted from the site itself to produce a tar-like goo called bitumen. It's then chemically split to produce crude as light as from a well head.
Oil sands in a single Venezuelan deposit contain an estimated 1.8 trillion barrels of petroleum, with 1.7 trillion in a single Canadian deposit. In all, about 70 countries (including the U.S.), have oil sand deposits although technology hasn't yet made them economical for exploitation. Of Canada's reserves alone, over 300 billion barrels (more than the entire proved oil reserves of Saudi Arabia) is currently considered recoverable. And recovering it they are.
Do read the whole thing. Despite some concerns (which mostly ignore recent positive developments and consistently assume the worse case scenarios) it seems that this should be an interesting compound to nuclear energy in the future.

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