Matthew, Joel, and I have been engaged in an ongoing debate for a few months now concerning the Peak Oil crisis, which for the uninformed, is the concept that the world has reached it’s peak oil producing capacity, and is now on the downhill slope of that graph.

My theories concerning Peak Oil are very Kurzweilian in nature.  I share the belief with Ray Kurzweil that most of the world’s global problems will be solved before the bulk of the world realizes they are problems, and of course those solutions will in turn present a new set of problems to overcome.  This is the nature of progress, and what has happenned time and time again in accordance with the Law of Accellerating Returns.

Before Hurricane Rita hit the gulf coast, Matthew and I had a debate as to whether the nation could recover simply from the damage that inevitably would be done to the refineries and the secondary and tertiary systems in Houston and Galveston.  Matthew stipulated that we may be on the verge of a national crisis, since so much of the nations oil refining capacity (some estimates say 30%) takes place there, and these refineries have been down for so long.

I have a number of contentions to this line of thinking, one that was brought to mind directly as a response to this article from CNNMoney. The article states that the Wall Street Journal is reporting that efforts “to restart facilities a week after Hurricane Rita blew through the area are being hampered by sufficient workers, helicopters, and equipment.”  I find the assertion, and the rest of the article’s exposition on that assertion to be somewhat absurd.  We do not live in a closed market society.  Helicopters and people resources are mobile, and there are around 200,000 extra workers from NOLA area in the Houston/Galveston area that have settled in and are looking for work – many of those people undoubtably experienced in refinery work, as there were refineries in NOLA shut down, as well.

To me, this looks more like local corporations pandhandling the federal government for some entitlements.  Listen, I understand more than anyone else the unexpected expenses in even getting hit with a Cat1 hurricane, and how that can disrupt your entire workflow situation, and cost lots of money.  But I also know from experience that a lot of problems with a business can get lumped into “hurricane damage” that aren’t necessarily related.  My guess is here that this might be the case – early reports said that there was little or no damage to the plants. We’ve also got to keep in mind that we’re still well within the predicted amount of time it was going to take to get these refineries back online – two weeks to four months.

All in all, most of what my opinion is based off of when it comes to Peak Oil is shooting from the hip.  It’s a hard area to get into – there’s not a lot of public data on the subject.  One of my next personal projects is going to be to apply some Kurzweil logarithmic graphs to the energy industry.  It’s one area of technology that really hasn’t been sufficiently graphed in terms of Moore’s Law and TLOAR, in my opinion.  If anyone wants to join me on this project, drop me a line.  I promise, next time the subject of Peak Oil comes up here, I’ll go into more detail of what I’m talking about.  By that time, I hope to be through a bit more of the new Kurzweil book, and I’ll have a little more structure to work with as well.

Peak Oil may be further away than previously imagined
In other peak oil news, as I was doing my research for this bit of the entry, I came across the latest Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) newsletter, which contained some interesting information:

A detailed revision of the deepwater evaluation has been made on the basis of new information covering the world’s fields … this has an impact on the overall model, as illustrated in the Table on Page 2, shifting the peak of All Liquids from 2007 to 2010.

Even if our best estimates put the peak oil production out at 2007, I firmly believe we have ample time to move our infrastructure to an as-of-yet undeveloped technology.  This opinion, however, is unsupported by fact (which is why a Kuzweilian logarithmic graph based on TLOAR is necessary).  We need to figure out what part of the curve we are in – are we below the knee of the curve?  Is energy technology past the knee?  Where’s the lag?  Deployment or research?  These are the questions we should be asking – it’s less important how much oil we have left, and more important to focus on fixing the problem. We will eventually run out of organic and fossil fuels – this is a fact, because it’s a finite resource. We need to prepare for the eventuality, because it’s the Next Thing to Do, not because it’s a crisis.  This is not even an assignment of blame issue – even if Cheney/Bush/Halliburton/Enron is to blame, putting them in jail for 300 years a piece will not help anyone.

With an open pie system such as America’s, TLOAR at our backs, and ingenuity and versatility in our history, America should be able to seamlessly make a transition off of organic and fossil fuels.  The stage is set correctly, in my opinion.  It must be our goal at this point to a) determine if the proper actions are being taken and b) if not, take those actions.

If the tech boom taught us GenExers anything, it’s that we have the capability to reshape society as we see fit.  We must do it.

/rizzn