Monday, July 30, 2007

Dr. Albert Bartlett: Arithmetic, Population and Energy

Video of the lecture and full text at the link:

I have to go to the geology literature and ask the literature, “What do you think is the total amount of oil we will ever find on this earth?” The consensus figure in the literature is 2000 billion barrels. Now, that’s quite uncertain, plus or minus maybe 40 or 50%. If I plug that in and do the fit, the peak is this year (2004). If I assume there is 50% more than the consensus figure, the peak moves back to 2019. If I assume there’s twice as much as the consensus figure, the peak moves back to 2030.

So no matter how you cut it, in your life expectancy, you are going to see the peak of world oil production. And you’ve got to ask yourself, what is life going to be like when we have a declining world production of petroleum, and we have a growing world population, and we have a growing world per capita demand for oil. Think about it.

In the March 1998 issue of Scientific American, there was a major article by two real petroleum geologists. They said this peak would occur before 2010, so we’re all in the same ball park. Now, that article in Scientific American triggered a lot of discussion. Here is an article in Fortune magazine, November 1999, talking about “Oil Forever,” and in that article, we see a criticism of the geologists’ analysis, and this is from an emeritus professor of economics at MIT. And he said, “This analysis (by the geologists) is a piece of foolishness, the world will never run out of oil, not in 10,000 years.” So let's look at what’s been happening.

Here we have two graphs, on one scale, we have here in the graphs, that’s the annual discoveries of oil each year (pointing); here is the annual production of oil each year. Notice since the 1980s, we’ve been producing about twice as much as we’ve been finding. Yet you’ve seen and read and heard statements from PhD non-scientists saying that we have greater resources of petroleum now than ever before in history.

What in the world are they smoking? (audience laughter)

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