In the last commentary, we discussed how various people are claiming that we are at or past “Peak Oil” – when the world can no longer produce more oil and meet energy needs because oil is more and more scarce and more and more expensive to produce and use. Read that commentary here. Let us continue that discussion today.
The claim has been made for more than a century that this would happen. As with new ice ages, global warning, destruction of the environment, overpopulation and starvation, and the return of Jesus Christ, these predicted dates have come and gone. And the horrible (or great) things have just not happened. The first prediction of Peak Oil was to have happened in 1919! The latest? 2020 – or even looking back a few years.
But those failed predictions accomplished at least some of the reasons they were touted. They gave government and certain organizations (businesses and “not-for-profit” alike) more wealth, more power, more control. As do today’s claims – promoting services, products, and poor decisions based on errors, poor assumptions, and a refusal to let people run their own lives.
Here are some examples of how assumptions about the origins and existence of petroleum, and technology and its limits, have been proven wrong by events. Which actually weaken both the concept of “peak oil” and demonstrate why we are nowhere close to such a thing.
My grandfather worked to develop some of the first oil fields in the Permian Basin west of Odessa back in the 1920s and 1930s. (He was born in 1899.) They were supposed to be played out within 20 years – and absolutely by 1955. But after coming back to Texas after being in the oil fields in California during the war years, my grandfather worked in those same fields. Still pumping – indeed more than ever. In the 1960s, I sometimes accompanied him to those fields: the pumpjacks and the tank batteries, and more. I saw the new technology deployed to keep them going for decades longer. And I heard people claim the fields would be “empty” – pumped dry, by the 1970s. As did some of my professors, right in that decade! Except the fields there in places like Wink and Penwell weren’t pumped dry. My grandfather continued to work in those same fields until he
died in 1982. Nearly 40 years ago, now. And these fields are STILL producing oil and gas today, in the 2020s!
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Over the years, I read more and more about how West Texas oil was almost all
gone. But… today, many of those same wells are still pumping out black gold.
It isn’t all just the new technology: the water flood and CO2 flood and the
fracking. Somehow, from somewhere deep under the pay formations, oil and gas is
still rising. From somewhere. Somehow – and NOT done by technology. It isn’t
just the Permian: there are similar things happening in some of the world’s
oldest plays: in places like Pennsylvania and the Colorado Rockies and Romania.
Maybe somebody is taking care of us. Maybe we don’t have all the answers.
Maybe the geologists of today are STILL as wrong as their predecessors were a
half-century and century and two centuries ago.
In 1859 and then in 1906, what pitiful amount of oil was produced in places
like Pennsylvania and East Texas was transported from the wellhead to the
refinery and then the users in wagons. Horse-drawn wagons. Carrying a
half-dozen open-topped barrels. As I’ve been told, 55-gallon drums (wood,
initially, steel later) which could only carry 42 gallons of crude oil without
a lot sloshing out! (Which is why an oil barrel is defined as 42 gallons even
now.) It was expensive because it was hard to find, hard to drill for and
produce, and hard – costly – to transport.
But technology changed: rail cars that could carry 500 and then 5000
gallons. Trucks and semi-trucks that could carry 600 and then 6000 gallons.
Unit trains of 110 railcars, each carrying 10,000 gallons/car. And pipelines.
And more and bigger pipelines. All with better and better safety, protection,
handling, and efficiency.
Despite increasing suppression by government backed by environmental movements and political opportunists who want us all to be back in V Dynasty Egypt. Despite more and more theft by government, more and more emotionalism, and worse. Why?
Technology – not as neat to most people as the latest gaming computer or
phone, but technology that makes and will continue to make modern, advancing
living and other technology available, at less and less cost (ignoring
inflation). And despite the constant efforts of governments and their shills and
supporters and controls to keep this from happening.
Because we had freedom to innovate, and encouragement (the free market) to
And it doesn’t have to end here. If we can just get government and the weird
promotions and ideas of the social justice warriors and the Gaea-worshippers
under control. And use what we have been given on this planet and this solar system and this universe. Especially what is between our ears.