A new Peak?

You’d think so, if you didn’t think too much.

Over at his Early Warning blog, Staniford (who I have a lot of time for) gives us the OPEC update:

http://earlywarn.blogspot.com/2011/03/opec-global-oil-production-increased-in.html#more

The direction of the graph is interesting, and it mirrors the rising price. This is ‘All Liquids’ though, and that includes shale, gas-to-oil, corn ethanol, coal-to-oil, and anything wrung out of old bits of cloth. Everything. At the current price, a lot of the lesser quality stuff – the lower EROEI (  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EROEI  )    stuff – becomes ‘commercially’ viable. Light sweet crude – which was what we knew of as oil – peaked in 2005-6, no question.

Given that EROEI has been dwindling since Drake spudded in, we have a simple question: at the margin (which is at about 86 mbpd currently) is the increase in volume, offsetting the quality of what is really being offered?

Meaning, is it actually taking more and more energy, to produce the energy at the margin – say; that between 80 and 86 mbpd. If it is, then that energy is being taken from the far (right-hand) end of the Gaussian

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaussian_function)

it will mean the eventual drop-off is steeper.

If it isn’t – if this is indeed a late surge, it will be interesting to see if society can use it to attain an equilibrium, before the descent. The higher you are, the further you fall. It’ll be interesting to watch.

Me?  I just think the increase in usage renders the question pretty much irrelevant. Energy per head peaked way back in 1979, and much of the drop-off in ‘energy to GDP’ that gets trotted out, probably includes reliance on failing infrastructure, and deferred maintenance. In other words, I think that at this point, we’re fooling ourselves.

Can people like me be wrong? I used to wonder that – for instance, reading ‘Twilight in the Desert’, I was well aware that the writer was an investment banker in energy. I sniffed for rats. In the end, I went with this:

http://www.hubbertpeak.com/bartlett/hubbert.htm

no vested interest there……

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