[ Former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett has discussed peak oil many times in the congressional record. Here are some of his earliest remarks for those of you interested in peak oil history. He educated the other house members and formed a peak oil caucus consisting of the following House representatives: Mr. Udall of New Mexico, Mr. Goode, Mr. Grijalva, Mr. Jones of North Carolina, Mr. Tancredo, Mr. Gingrey, Mr. Kuhl of New York, Mr. Israel, Mr. Butterfield, Mr. UDALL of Colorado, Mr. Van Hollen, Mr. Gilchrest, and Mr. Wynn). Peak oil activists have and are doing everything they can to alert leaders of the coming crisis so that proper preparations are made, but for reasons listed in “Why do political, economic, and scientific leaders deny Peak Oil and Climate Change?” it is unlikely that government will do anything about energy descent (except perhaps at local levels) Alice Friedemann, www.energyskeptic.com]
March 14, 2005 US Congressional Record [H1409]
Peak Oil Presentation in the US Congress By Roscoe Bartlett http://www.bartlett.house.gov/
OIL DEMANDS — House of Representatives
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Daniel E. Lungren of California). Under the Speaker’s announced policy of January 4, 2005, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Bartlett) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.
Mr. BARTLETT of Maryland. Mr. Speaker, in this first chart we have some headlines from The Washington Post just a month or so ago. These are headlines from just one day in The Washington Post. The Dow drops 174 points driven, the article says, by economic damage from rising oil prices, the plunging dollar, and growing worries about consumer spending. It goes on to say that a recent oil price rise of 20 percent is continuing to crunch the profits of struggling airlines and is believed to be a factor in disappointing retail sales. Another headline: “Dollar Slides Against the Euro and the Yen.” And another headline: “Consumer Confidence Slips in February.”
Now, should we have had any indication that these were going to be the kinds of headlines that we have been reading in our paper recently? We need to go back a few years, as indicated on this next chart. Let us go back to the 1940s and the 1950s when a scientist by the name of M. King Hubbert, a geologist, was working for the Shell Oil Company. He was watching the discovery and the exploitation and final exhaustion of individual oil fields. He noticed that every oil field followed a very typical pattern. It was a little slow getting the oil out at first, and then it came very quickly and reached a maximum, and then it tailed off as it became more difficult to get the oil out of the ground.
This followed a bell curve. Here is one of those bell curves. Now, bell curves are very familiar in science, and in life, for that matter. If we look at people and how tall they are, we will have a few people down around 4 1/2 or 5 feet and some up to 7 1/2 feet; but the big mass fall in the middle, clustered around 5 1/2 to 6 feet.
Looking at a yield of corn, a few farmers may get 50 bushels per acre, some may get 300, but the big mass today it is somewhere around 200 bushels per acre for corn.
Hubbert noticed when the bell curve reached its peak, about half of the oil had been exhausted from the field. Being a scientist, he theorized if you added up a lot of little bell curves, you would get one big bell curve, and if he could know the amount of reserves of oil in the United States, and he was doing this in the 1940s and early 1950s, and could project how much more might be found, he could then predict when the United States would peak in its oil production.
Doing this analysis, he concluded that we would peak in our oil production in 1970. This curve is what is known as Hubbert’s Curve. The peak of the curve is what is known as Hubbert’s Peak. Sometimes this is called the “great rollover” because when you get to the top, you roll over and start down the other side. It is frequently called “peak oil.” So peak oil for the United States occurred in 1970, and it is true that every year since then we have pumped less oil and found less oil. The big blue squares here are the actual and Members see they deviated a little from the theoretical as M. King Hubbert predicted, but not all that much.
At the bottom, see the difference the big field in Alaska made, and see what that made in the down slope, that never increased production in our country. It just meant that we were not going down quite as fast. You can see that here on the curve. Notice that the Alaska oil production was not the typical bell curve. It should have been, but a couple of things meant it could not be. One was it could not flow at all until we had a 4-foot pipeline. So the fields were developed and they were waiting; then we got the pipeline on board, and it was filled with oil and oil started to flow, and Members see the rapid increase here. It could not flow any faster than through that 4-foot pipe, and so it levels off at the top. We have pumped probably three-fourths of the oil in Prudhoe Bay.
Many people would like to open up ANWR. ANWR has considerably less oil than Prudhoe Bay, so the contribution will be significantly less. I want to note on this chart we also have the red curve, which is the theoretical curve for the former Soviet Union. It is a nice bell curve, peaking a little higher, they have more reserves than we do, and later because we entered the industrial age with vigor before the Soviet Union was quite there. Notice what happened when they came apart; notice how precipitously it fell here. After they got things organized, the fall stopped and now they are producing more oil. As a matter of fact, we might see a little upsurge in this; but the general trend is still going to be down.
On the next chart, and we have here the same Hubbert Curve, but the abscissa is a little too long and the ordinate a little too compressed, so it is not the sharp peak that we saw before. That is the curve we saw before. It shows the Texas component, and it shows the rest of the United States; and it also shows some natural gas liquids. We learned how to extract those a little later. So if you were plotting that as a bell curve, it would peak about here. It is little and then it is much, and then it tails off.
This is the contribution of Alaska, and you can see this not going to be our salvation to pump ANWR because ANWR contains probably not even half as much as Prudhoe Bay. And notice the small contribution that Alaska made. And that is not a bell curve for the reason I mentioned before because we had to develop the fields and they waited for the pipeline, and then it would surge through the pipeline when it was developed. So you do not see the tail getting greater and tailing off.
This is gulf oil. Remember the hullabaloo about the big finds of gulf oil that were going to solve our problem? That is what it did. There never was a moment in time between the big Alaska oil find and all of the pumping discovery and pumping in the gulf, there never was a moment in time when it decreased the fall in our country. The peak occurred, as you see here, about 1970.
Now, the next chart shows what is happening worldwide.
The red curve here shows the actual discovery of oil. Notice that that peaked. There was a big find here that distorted the curve a little but if you rounded that off, you would have the typical bell curve. It started somewhere back here off the chart, then it peaks, and then it is downhill and it tails off. These are the discoveries. The last find there is simply an extrapolation. We have no idea where it is going. We are, by the way, very good at finding oil now. We use 3D seismic detection techniques. The world has drilled, I think, about 5 million oil wells and I think we have drilled about 3 million of them in this country, so we have a pretty good idea of where oil is.
A couple of Congresses ago, I was privileged to chair the Energy Subcommittee on Science. One of the first things I wanted to do was to determine the dimensions of the problem. We held a couple of hearings and had the world experts in. Surprisingly from the most pessimistic to the most optimistic, there was not much deviation in what the estimate is as to what the known reserves are out there. It is about 1,000 gigabarrels. That sounds like an awful lot of oil. But when you divide into that the amount of oil which we use, about 20 million barrels a day, and the amount of oil the rest of the world uses, about 60 million barrels a day, as a matter of fact, the total now is a bit over the 80 million that those two add up to. About 83 1/2 , I think. If you divide that into the 1,000 gigabarrels, you come out at about 40 years of oil remaining in the world. That is pretty good. Because up until the Carter years, during the Carter years, in every decade we used as much oil as had been used in all of previous history. Let me repeat that, because that is startling. In every decade, we used as much oil as had been used in all of previous history. The reason for that, of course, was that we were on the upward side of this bell curve. The bell curve for usage, only part of it is shown on this chart. That is the green one down here, the bell curve for usage. Notice that we are out here now about 2005. Where is it going? The Energy Information Agency says that we are going to keep on using more oil. This green line just going up and up and up is a projection of the Energy Information Agency. But that cannot be true. That cannot be true for a couple of reasons. We peaked in our discovery of oil way back here in the late sixties, about 1970. In our country it peaked much earlier than that, by the way. But the world is following several years behind us. And the area under this red curve must be the same as the area under the green curve. You cannot pump any more oil than you have found, quite obviously. If you have not found it, you cannot pump it. If you were to extend this on out where they have extended their green line, even if it turned down right there at the end of that green line, the area under the green curve is going to be very much larger than the area under the red curve. That just cannot be. We will see in some subsequent charts that we probably have reached peak oil.
Let me mention that M. King Hubbert looked at the world situation. He was joined by another scientist, Colin Campbell, who is still alive, an American citizen who lives in Scotland. Using M. King Hubbert’s predictive techniques, oil was predicted to reach a maximum in about 1995, without perturbations. But there were some perturbations. One of the perturbations was 1973, the Arab oil embargo. Other perturbations were the oil price shocks and a worldwide recession that reduced the demand for oil. And so the peak that might have occurred in 1995 will occur later. How much later? That is what we are looking at this evening. There is a lot of evidence that suggests that if not now, then very quickly we should see world production of oil peak.
What are the consequences? What are the consequences of this depletion? The remaining oil is harder to get. It requires greater energy investment, resulting in a lower return on energy invested. That is the energy- profit ratio, which is decreasing. When we started out, you put in one unit of energy and you could get 30 out. Then that fell off, and then we found a few more fields and we got really good at extracting oil with better techniques. It looked for a little while like it was going up, but look what happened. It falls off to where it would have come anyhow if this curve had simply gone down. This is an inevitable consequence of pumping a field.
Lower profits are not the only concern. When more energy is required to extract it than is contained in the recovered oil, that is, when this ratio is less than 1, notice, we are over there at about 1984, we have got to get now another 20 years, I am not quite sure where we are now when you plot that day. We are getting very close to the unit it takes as much energy to get the oil out as you get out of the oil. It may still seem profitable from a monetary perspective, but when you are using more energy to get oil out of the ground than you are getting out of the oil, then clearly you need to leave it there when we reach that point. I mentioned the bump there was caused by a few more discoveries and particularly by increased efficiency in pumping the oil.
What is the current U.S. status? We have only 2 percent, between 2 and 3 percent, not really known for certain, but approximately 2 percent of the known reserves of oil. We use 25 percent of the world’s oil. By the way, we have about 8 percent of the world production. What that means is if we have only 2 percent of the reserves and 8 percent of the production, that means we are real good at pumping oil, does it not? That means we are pumping our reserves at roughly four times faster than the rest of the world. That means that this 2 percent will not stay 2 percent by and by because we are so good at pumping oil, we are going to be down to 1 percent of the known reserves in the world and we will still be using about 25 percent of the world’s oil. We are now importing about two-thirds of that. At the Arab oil embargo we imported about one-third of that. So we are now importing, relatively, two times more oil, actual quantity much more than that, but relatively about two times more oil.
Chart 6 shows us that more drilling just will not solve the problem. This is a very interesting chart. This shows the difference between the amount of oil that you are finding and the amount of oil that you are pumping. Notice from 1960 on until about 1980, declining for sure, but every year except for one we found more oil than we pumped. The yellow line up here is drilling. You remember the Reagan administration and all the emphasis on drilling because we knew that we were approaching this flipover point where we were going to be pumping more oil than we found and so there was a rationale that if you just give them a profit motive and you have the right incentives, tax and regulatory incentives and so forth, they will go out and they will dig more wells and they will find more oil. Sure as heck they went out and dug more wells. But did they find any more oil? As a matter of fact, in 1982, more oil was used in looking for oil than the oil they found in 1982. Pretty consistently for every year after 1982, we have used more oil than we found.
Today worldwide we are pumping at least six barrels of oil for every barrel that we find.
Chart 7 shows that worldwide discoveries are repeating the U.S. pattern. This is a rough bell curve. You find a big find of oil and it is going to make a spike. This is average for 5 years. If you look at it on a year for year, it is really up and down as you find big reservoirs of oil. But generally it starts low and it goes up and it comes down. It follows roughly a bell curve. I would not pay too much attention to the figures on the ordinate here, because the area under this curve must equal just a little bit over 2,000 gigabarrels of oil. If I visually sum the area under this curve, it is going to equal something more, not frightfully more but something more than 2,000 gigabarrels of oil which from other sources we know ought to be the total amount of oil under the sun. Notice that we are tailing off to something very low. It is unlikely that we are going to find big additional finds in the future. Again, we are very good at that. We have dug about 5 million wells worldwide. We have done a whole lot more than that explorations with detonations and seismic and 3D and computers and we are very good at looking at the kind of geology where you might find oil. There is just no real expectation that there are going to be big additional fields of oil found out there. This dropoff in discovery is really in spite of very improved technology for finding oil.
Chart 8. This is a very interesting chart. It has nothing to do with time, because on the abscissa here, we have the number of wells that are drilled, the cumulative oil caps, and on the ordinate, we have the amount of oil that was found. For any relatively big field, here we are talking about 50 gigabarrels. Remember, there are about 2,000 gigabarrels worldwide, so this is a meaningful part of the world reserves of oil. We see that that goes up and up and then it tails off. You cannot find what is not there. No matter how many more wells you drill, you are not going to find oil that is not there. The same pattern should be apparent on a world scale. Chart 9. This is a very interesting chart. It is a little too busy, but let me try to explain what is there. The oil companies for reasons of pricing and regulations and so forth have had the habit through the years of underreporting initially how much oil they found. Then later when it was appropriate to their license to produce more oil, they would report additional oil. They never found any additional oil, they simply reported oil they had found previously. By the way, you may have noted that three times in the last roughly 3 weeks, oil companies have admitted that their estimates of the reserves were exaggerated and have downscaled the reserves that they said were there. If you took the original reporting of the reserves, you might be able to construct a curve, a straight line curve which said we are just getting more and more. But if you backdated that to the actual discoveries, then you get this curve. This curve is asymtoting at a bit over 2,000 gigabarrels, which is about what the world’s experts say had been there. We have now pumped about half of that. We have about 1,000 gigabarrels remaining.
What now? Where do we go now? One observer, Matt Savinar, who has thoroughly researched the options, and this is not the most optimistic assessment, by the way, but may be somewhat realistic, he starts out by saying, Dear Readers, civilization as we know it is coming to an end soon. I hope not. This is not the wacky poclamation of a doomsday cult, apocalypse Bible sect or conspiracy theory society. Rather, it is a scientific conclusion of the best-paid, most widely respected geologists, physicists and investment bankers in the world.
These are rational, professional, conservative individuals who are absolutely terrified by the phenomenon known as global peak oil.
Why should they be terrified? Why should they be terrified just because we have reached the peak of oil production? Last year, China used about 30 percent more oil. India now is demanding more oil. As a matter of fact, China now is the second largest importer of oil in the world. They have passed Japan. When you look at how important oil is to our economy, you can understand the big concern if, in fact, we cannot produce oil any faster than we are producing it now and there are increasing demands, as there will be, for oil. In our country, for instance, we have a debt that we must service. It will be essentially impossible to service that debt if our economy does not continue to grow. So there are enormous potential consequences, which is why he says that these people are absolutely terrified by the phenomenon known as peak oil.
What can we do to avert the kind of a catastrophe that he hints at with those words? We must not squander an opportunity. One is always reminded of Malthus. I am sure you have heard of him. He was looking at the increase in world population and he looked at our ability to produce food and he says, gosh, those two curves are going to cross because the world population was increasing faster than our ability to produce food and we are going to have mass starvation. That did not happen. The reason that did not happen was because Malthus could not have anticipated the green revolution, which, by the way, was made possible almost entirely, well, the plant science had a lot to do with it but better plants and better genes without the fertilizer to make them grow is not going to do you much good, so the green revolution was very largely the result of our intensive use of oil. Most people do not know it, but all of our nitrogen fertilizer is made from natural gas. You may have observed that when you have a thunderstorm in the summertime, your lawn is greener than when you have watered it.
That is because of what is known as poor man’s fertilizer. The lightning combines some of the nitrogen so they can be carried down by the water and one’s lawn is, in fact, greener after a thunderstorm than it is when they water it. We have kind of learned how to mimic lightning, and we now know how to make nitrogen fertilizer from gas. By the way, before we knew how to do that, the only sources of nitrogen fertilizer were barnyard manurers. If one is on the Eastern Shore with a lot of chickens, one could go a long way with that now in agriculture, could one not? But barnyard manurers would fertilize only a tiny percentage of the nitrogen needs of our plants.
And other than that it was guano. My colleagues know what guano is. Guano is the droppings of bats or of birds on a tropical island, their droppings accumulating for thousands of years, and there was a major industry insending ships around the world to tropical islands and getting the guano.
We must not squander the opportunity that we have. Jevons Paradox becomes applicable here. Just a word about what Jevons Paradox is because I am going to mention it a time or two again. But Jevons Paradox says that frequently when one works to solve a problem, they really make the situation worse.
Let me give one little example. Suppose there is a small businessman who owns a store. He is really concerned about peak oil, and he is concerned about energy, and he wants to do something. His little store is using $1,000 worth of electricity a month, and he decides that he can really cut that use. So he does several things. He gets a storm door. He puts on storm windows. He insulates more. He turns down the thermostat, and he asks his workers to wear sweaters. And he is successful because he reduces his electric bill from $1,000 to $500. Almost no matter what he does with that $500, he has just made the situation worse by doing that.
Let me explain. One of the things that he may do, and it is a natural thing for a small businessperson to do, he may decide, I could hire more people and have a bigger business if I expanded. And so now he will expand, and he will still be using as much energy. Or if he decides to invest his money, if he invests his money in the bank, the bank will lend his money out five or six times, and at least some of those loans will be to small business people. And what the small business people will do is to create jobs and use energy. So the store owner is concerned about energy and the environment and being a responsible citizen, cutting his use of electricity, because everybody did not do it, because only he did it and nobody took advantage of the opportunity that was presented because he used less energy, he really contributed to the problem.
Because after he expanded his business, he would be using still more energy. Or if the money was lent out by the bank and small businesses created more jobs and they used more energy, the situation would have just gotten worse.
All that the “green revolution” did was temporarily extend the carryng capacity of the world. If we think about that, ultimately if we cannot do something about it to stabilize it, the green revolution just made matters worse. In the meantime we have all eaten very well in spite of the fact that about a fifth of the world will go to bed hungry tonight; but on the average, we are eating very well, and because of the average American, we are eating maybe too well.
But what we have done with the green revolution is to permit the population of the world to double and double again. So if we cannot now make sure that we stabilize population and bring it to the point where it can be supported by a technology where there is not what was ordinarily perceived as an inexhaustible supply of oil, there will simply be more people out there to be hungry and starved if we cannot meet their needs. So we have got to make sure that whatever we do to solve this problem that Jevons Paradox does not contribute.
Chart 10, this shows that this growth cannot be sustained forever. The greatest power in the universe, Albert Einstein was asked this question: Dr. Einstein, you have now discovered the ability to release energy from the atom. We get just incredible amounts of energy from the atom. A relatively small amount of fuel in one of our big submarines will fuel it for 33 years now. Enormous energy density. And they asked him, Dr. Einstein, wat is the most energy-intensive thing in the world? He said, “It is compound interest.”
That is what we have here in this exponential curve. And by the way, we, and when I say “we,” I mean the world, have been using oil as if our economy could just continue to grow on this unlimited exponential curve.
Whether it is 2 percent a year or 5 percent a year or near 10 percent, which is what China has been growing in the last few years, we are still on an exponential curve.
Not quite so steep if we are on a lower growth rate. It goes up and up forever and ever.
Obviously, there is not an inexhaustible amount of oil in the world; so we have the exhaustible resource, which is this lower curve. It reaches a peak,which, if not now, shortly. Oil, as the Members may have noticed, is $54 or $55 a barrel. I saw the other day one future had sold for $100 a barrel, and the experts are saying we are probably going to see $60 before we see $50. We will wait and see.
The third curve here is the renewable resource curve. Do not be confused by the size of these curves. They are simply placed here so that lines would not cross other lines. But in actual practice, the renewable resource curve is likely to be nowhere near the peak of the exhaustible resource curve, energy.
Let me give a little example of what the problem is and why this is almost certainly true. One barrel of oil, 42 gallons of oil, equals the productivity of 25,000 manhours. That is the equivalent of having 60 dedicated servants that do nothing but work for someone. We can get a little better real-life example of this. A gallon of gas will drive a 3-ton SUV, and some of those are better than others, and let us say it takes it 20 minutes, which some will but most will not. Most are around 10. But let us say one gallon of gas will take a 3 -ton SUV 20 miles at 60 miles an hour down the road. That is just one little gallon of gas, which, by the way, is still cheaper than water. We pay more for water in the grocery store than we pay for gas at $2 a gallon at the pump, added up.
How long would it take one to push their 3-ton SUV the equivalent of 60 miles an hour, 20 miles down the road? To get some idea of the energy density in these fossil fuels, there is just nothing out there in the alternatives that have anything like this energy density. There are some potentials, nuclear, and we will talk about those in a little bit. But of the general renewables, there is nothing out there with that kind of density. So this curve is likely to be much lower than this curve; and notice that if it is, in fact, going to be renewable, it cannot go to an unrealistic height. There is only so much wood to cut. Easter Island had that experience. When they cut the last tree, they totally changed the ecology.
The Bible talks about the large clusters of grapes and the honey and so forth that they found when the spies went out. That now is a desert. The Cedars of Lebanon, the grand Cedars of Lebanon that built the temple, that is now largely a desert. Why is it a desert? Because they cut the trees, they changed the environment, they changed the climate. So obviously this line has to be a reasonable sustainable level. It just cannot go on forever.
The challenge, then, is to reduce consumption ultimately to a level that cannot be sustained indefinitely without succumbing to Jevons Paradox.
How do we buy time, the time that we will need to make the transition to sustainability? Obviously, there are only two things that we can do to buy time. One is to conserve, and the other is to be more efficient. And the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Gilchrest) mentioned our increasing efficiency. We have done a great job. Our refrigerators today are probably twice as efficient as they were 20 or 30 years ago. But instead of a little refrigerator, we have a big one. Instead of one, we may have two. So I will bet we are using as much electricity in our refrigeration as we ever used.
Conservation, we can do that. Remember several years ago when there were brownouts, blackouts in California and we were predicting, boy, the next year is really going to be rough? Do the Members know why it was not and we did not see any headlines about blackouts in California? Because knowing that there was a problem, the Californians, without anybody telling them they had to, voluntarily reduced their electricity consumption by 11 percent. That is pretty significant. And that avoided the rolling blackouts or brownouts.
And, finally, we must commit to major investments in alternatives, especially as efficiencies improve. This must ultimately lead to the ability to do everything within the capability of renewable resources. If we have got a solar breeder, and this shows a picture of a solar breeder. That, by the way, is about 5 miles from my home. It was built by Solarex, and it is a sign of the times. Mr. Speaker, this is now owned by BP. They know that oil is not forever. They are now the world’s second largest producer of solar panels.
A few years ago, the largest buyer of solar panels in the world, and I do not know if that is true today, but a few years ago it was Saudi Arabia. Why would Saudi Arabia, with the most oil in the world, be the biggest purchaser of solar panels in the world? The reasons are very simple. These are not dumb people, and they figured out that solar panels were better for them in producing electricity than oil because they had widely distributed communities that were very small. Electrons in a wire are very different than oil in a pipeline.
Put a gallon of oil in a pipeline up at Prudhoe Bay, and a gallon will come out where it goes on the ship. If we put electrons in a line which is long enough, nothing will come out in the other end. It is called line loss.
And they knew that in their small communities, widely distributed, with the enormous line losses they had from big plants, that they would be better off with distributed production.
By the way, just a hint to our people who are concerned with homeland security, the more distributed production we have, the less vulnerable we are going to be to terrorist attacks on our power infrastructure.
Transition to sustainability will not happen if left applying market forces alone. Everyone must be part of the effort or Jevons Paradox will prevail. If only our country tries to do it and nobody else helps, we will just put off the day when we must make the transition, and it will be even more difficult. The market will, indeed, signal the arrival of peak oil. To wait until it does, however, is like waiting until we see a tsunami:
by then it may be too late to do anything.
We now are doing a lot of talking here in the Congress and fortunately across the country about Social Security, and it is a big problem. But I tell the Members if the problem of Social Security is equivalent to the tidal wave produced by the hurricane, then this peak oil problem is equivalent to the tsunami. The impact and the consequences are going to be enormously greater than the impact and the consequences of Social Security or Medicare or those two put together.
It will take a sustained, conscious, coordinated national and even international, effort. If everybody is not working together and buying time by conserving and being efficient and using wisely that time we bought, then all we do is put off the inevitable.
The hydroelectric and nuclear power industries did not arise spontaneously from market forces alone. They were the product of a purposeful partnership of public and private entities focused on the public good. This is what we have to do relative to alternatives.
As I mentioned, California solved their energy crisis by voluntarily reducing their demand for electricity. Time, capital and energy resources are all finite. We have only so much time until it would be too late to avoid a real problem. Capital is limited and energy resources are certainly limited.
This time it will not be like the seventies. The big difference between now and the seventies is that in the seventies, we were just going up this curve, we were nowhere near the top of the curve, so there was always the ability to expand, to surge. If, in fact, we are now at peak oil, there is no such ability remaining.
Is there any reason to remain optimistic or hopeful? Let me go back to Matt Savinar, that not-too-optimistic journalist. “If what you mean is there any way technology or the market or brilliant scientists or comprehensive government programs are going to hold things together or solve this for me or allow for business to continue as usual, the answer is no. On the other hand, if what you really mean is is there any way that I still can have a happy, fulfilling life, in spite of some clearly grim facts, the answer is yes. But it is going to require a lot of work, a lot of adjustments, and probably a bit of good fortune on your part.”
What now? Well, what we need to do now clearly is to buy time, and we buy that, as I mentioned, with efficiency and conservation. This will keep energy prices affordable. If demand continues to increase and output cannot increase, energy prices are going through the ceiling.
So we have got to reduce demand so that prices do not get so high that it is impossible to invest the capital necessary to develop the alternatives, using existing conventional technologies to make the transition as new technologies are developed.
We must use it wisely. If we do not use it wisely, and I have talked about Jevons Paradox several times, we have got to make investments in efficient, sustainable technologies, further reduce requirements for energy in any form, making smaller systems feasible which reduce both initial and operating costs.
The benefits are enormous. Additional benefits include business opportunities, lots of business opportunities we do not even dream of. Look at the business opportunities created by putting a man on the moon.
I have 200-some companies in Maryland alone which are there only because of technology breakthroughs in putting aman on the moon.
That same thing could happen if we had a Manhattan type project focusing on renewables, potential worldwide markets, if we are the leader, and we have every reason to be the leader because we have the biggest problem.
We can develop worldwide markets, domestic job creation and environmentally benign technologies with potential to reduce and or eliminate pollution. We could be a real role model.
We are, as I mentioned, less than 5 percent of the world’s population, and we use 25 percent of the world’s energy. I was in Europe a month or so ago, and their comment was somewhere between anger and disdain. “You are still only paying $2 a gallon for gasoline in your country.” It is $5.50 or $6.00 a gallon there. And they are not unmindful that this one person in 22 in the world is using 25 percent of the world’s energy. We have a real opportunity to be a role model.
Let me put up the last chart. This is potential alternative solutions. For what time we have remaining, let me ask my colleague, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Gilchrest) to join us as we talk about this.
I have only have some of the potential solutions here. I just want to go down this list and look at these. There may be some others. The gentleman mentioned hydrogen from the ocean. That is certainly one.
There are some finite resources here, ones we have not maximally exploited here, and some renewable resources here, and we want to spend another whole hour talking about this, because there are a lot of things to talk about in these resources. But almost none of these have the density of energy that we find in fossil fuels.
There are tar sands in Canada, there is oil shale in this country, but it takes an awful lot of energy to get energy out of those. You may not have much more than a one-and-a-half to one. I have heard it takes six barrels of oil to get one net barrel of oil out of these tar sands and oil shale. There is an awful lot there, but there are considerable environmental costs and enormous economic costs to develop it.
Mr. GILCHREST. If the gentleman will yield, another analogy I heard recently about the efforts to bring out ever-increasing and diminishing oil reserves and how that simply is not going to work for sustaining our energy needs, this particular physicist gave an analogy that compared the oil to a lion in Africa taking the energy of catching two gazelles to catch one gazelle. How long would that lion last? It takes the energy of catching two gazelles to only catch one, but he needs it to sustain himself, and that simply is not going to work.
I want to compliment the gentleman from Maryland, and I would like to be a part of the extra hour that we will do maybe this week to show what the alternatives are, simply because our energy requirements are increasing, they are not decreasing, and they will continue to increase.
Political parties are not going to let the grid go cold, but what do we do when we rely on oil and natural gas as the predominant energy source for this country? We have to simply find alternatives.
If I could just say briefly, there are two problems with our dependence on oil, and the gentleman has laid those out exceptionally well tonight. Part of the first problem is trade deficits and national security because of our oil dependence. When the price goes up, because we do not have most of the reserves, when oil peaks, we have no control over that. There will never be a decrease in demand. There will always be an increase in demand, no matter what happens, and our energy hunger is gargantuan.
The other problem with our oil dependence is that we are burning fossil fuel. We are returning to the atmosphere carbon that has not been there in this amount for millions of years, and what we are burning in decades it took the natural processes millions of years to lock away.
One other comment about letting the market forces deal with this fairly eminent problem. The global marketplace deals with the CEOs that are rightly so in the business to make a quick profit. The international marketplace is when nations get together, discuss an issue and they find mutual benefit to these vast problems.
Vast solutions are available through what the gentleman has described so well tonight.
Mr. BARTLETT. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, of course the real challenge is to have everybody agree on what the facts are. I suspect a big percentage of the people that might read or listen to what we say this evening had not even heard of peak oil.
We really had about 30 years warning that this was going to happen. When M. King Hubbert predicted oil would peak in this country in 1970 and it did, and 5 years later, certainly by 10 years later we knew absolutely he was right, because we were well down on the curve 10 years later, we should have had some hint that he probably was right, he and Colin Campbell were probably right about world production? We paid no attention to that.
As a matter of fact, the people that were talking about this until very recently have been quickly relegated to the lunatic fringe. If I had been up here 3 or 4 years ago talking about this, someone may want to relegate the two of us this evening to the lunatic fringe.
But I think the evidence is out there. I think the evidence is out there, and the marketplace is saying that it is out there, because oil is now at $54 or $55 a barrel, they are saying we are going to see $60 before we see $50. I saw one future that was $100 a barrel.
By the way, at $100 or $200 a barrel, tar sands and oil shale become somewhat competitive, but with enormous costs. They will be positive, we will get a little more out than we put in, but not the kind of energy we are now using.
Coal, we have a lot of coal. China has a lot of coal. We now use coal primarily in this country for producing electricity. It is very dirty. Our environmental requirements now, there has not been a new coal plant in a long while, it is all natural gas. It is a real pity. Oil and natural gas are, in a very real sense, too good to burn. They are the feedstock for an enormous petrochemical industry. I mentioned only the fertilizer that grows our crops and the pesticides we make from oil. We live in a plastic world, and all of that plastic is made from oil.
Now, it is true that you can also use biomass and so forth to do some of that, but let us remember that we are just on the verge of not being able to feed the world. Tonight about one-fifth of the world will go to bed hungry. We we are not going to bed hungry in this country, not by a long shot, and we are living very high on the food chain. The time will come when you will not be able to eat the pig that ate the corn, because there is at least 10 times as much energy in the corn that the pig ate as you are going to get out of the pig by eating him. So we can certainly do a lot of by living lower on the food chain.
Mr. GILCHREST. If the gentleman would yield for a second, first of all, I want to compliment the gentleman on this fascinating factual presentation which leads me to what I want to say.
The gentleman said something earlier about finding solutions to the problem is going to be similar to the Manhattan Project or similar to placing a man on the moon within a decade when President Kennedy made that statement, and it is that kind of leadership from this Congress, from the administration, to incentivize, to create the kind of inspiration from the general public, to put these forces together to make it all work.
Mr. BARTLETT. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, but now we must do it on a global basis, because of Jevons Paradox, if all the world does not cooperate, we will not get there. Had we paid attention to M. King Hubbert and not relegated him to the lunatic fringe, and he was right as evidence indicates on his prediction from 1970, had we paid attention to him we would have had at least 20 years headstart, and then we could have done it alone in this country because we are so big and use so much of the world’s energy.
Before we leave coal, we are going to come back to this and spend another hour with a lot of detail on this, but someone said there are 500 years of coal, that is not true there is maybe 250, at present use rates. But as oil becomes harder and harder to find, we are going to turn more and more to coal, and that 70 years with enormous environmental penalty will shortly become a relatively few years. That is not forever. But we will be leaning on coal more than in the past nuclear.
Three ways we can get nuclear energy. For one of them we are home free, and that is fusion. We send a little less than $300 million a year on that. I would like to spend more if there was the infrastructure out there to support it, because if we get there, we are home free.
But I kind of think that hoping to solve our energy problems with fusion is a bit like you or me hoping to solve our personal financial problems by winning the lottery. That would be real nice. I think the odds are somewhere near the same. I am about as likely to win the lottery as we are to come to economically feasible fusion.
I hope I am wrong. Frequently my hopes and my anticipations are different. My anticipation is we are not going to get there because of the enormous engineering challenges. My hope is I am wrong and we are going to get there.
Two other ways to get energy from nuclear. One is the light water reactor, which is all we have in this country. By the way, tonight when you go home, every fifth home and every fifth business would be dark if we did not have nuclear. It produces 20 percent of all of our electricity. But there is not all that much fissionable uranium in the world, so we are not going to get there with light water reactors. France produces about 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear. They have a lot of breeder reactors. They do what the name implies, they make more fuel than they use, with big problems, in enrichment, shipping it around, squirreling away the products for a quarter of a million years. That presents enormous challenges to us.
So there is the potential here in nuclear, but a lot of problems involved with it. It is not just that simple. By the way, it takes a lot of oil to build a nuclear power plant.
At some point, you pass the point of no return where there is not enough readily available high-quality fossil fuels to support our present economy while we make the investment we have got to make to transition to these renewables. And then we come to true renewables: solar, wind, geothermal, ocean energy. All of these suffer.
By the way, I am a big supporter of these. I had the first hybrid electric car in Maryland. I had the first one in the Congress. I have a vacation home that is off the grid and totally powered by solar. And I am going to put in a wind machine. I am a big supporter of this.
But the energy density here is very low. And it is intermittent. It takes a lot of solar panels to produce the electricity that you use in your home. It takes 12 of them to power your ordinary refrigerator just as an example. So those are real potential, and they are growing. Wind machines now produce electricity at 3 1/2 cents a kilowatt hour. That is getting competitive. A whole lot of them in California. They are in West Virginia. We are putting some up on Backbone Mountain in western Maryland.
Boy, if we could get down there to geothermal we would have it, would we not?
There is not a single chimney in Iceland because they do not need them. They have got geothermal. They have a little bit of it in the West. But for most of the world that molten core is far too deep for us to tap.
Mr. GILCHREST. If the gentleman would yield just for a second, I am sure he knows, but the general public, I do not think realizes it is not necessary to be sitting right on top of a volcanic area, an earthquake zone to get geothermal energy. We on the Eastern Shore of Maryland have a number of schools that are actually providing heat for those schools from geothermal energy. Some of these things are sort of a hidden secret. But it is the classical conventional wisdom that keeps us from exploring some of these things a little bit further. And I think the gentleman is bringing those out tonight.
Mr. BARTLETT of Maryland. Is this tying the school to the molten core, or is it simply using a heat pump and exchanging, not with the air? What you are trying to do in the winter-time is cool the air and what you are trying to do in the summer time is heat the air.
Mr. GILCHREST. It is actually bringing water up from the surface, from the subsurface. The water is much warmer further down.
Mr. BARTLETT of Maryland. It is indeed. But you still have to have energy to use that. You are much more efficient using a heat pump that is tied to the ground, to groundwater than it is to the cold air in the winter and the hot air in the summer. If you are thinking about what you are trying to do is to cool the cold air in the winter time and to heat the hot air in the summertime. And obviously ground water is very much better in both seasons than either the air in the winter or the cold, the hot air in the summer or the cold air in the winter.
Ocean energy. You know, it takes an enormous amount of energy to lift the ocean 2 feet. That is roughly what the Moon does in the tides, is it not? But the problem with that is energy density.
There is an old adage that says what is everybody’s business is nobody’s business. And the corollary to that in energy is if it is too widely distributed, you probably cannot make much of it. And we have really tried to harness the tides. In some fjords in Norway where they have 60-foot tides you put a bar there, when it runs in you trap it and then you run it out through a turbine. When it is running out, you can get some energy from it. And there is potential there, a lot of potential energy. But you know it is very dispersed. We have a hard time capturing that energy.
I suspect that our hour is about up, and this is maybe a good place to end. We are going to come back and spend another hour looking at agriculture, enormous opportunities from agriculture. But let me remind the gentleman that we are just barely able to feed the world now. And if we start taking all of this biomass off the field, what is going to happen to the tilth of our soil, to the organic matter in our soil, which is essential to the availability of nutrients in the soil by the plant. So there are lots of challenges here. There are lots of opportunities here. And we will spend another hour talking about them. Thank you very much. And I yield back, Mr. Speaker.
In the 109th Congress, Bartlett serves as Chairman of the Projection Forces Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee. One of three scientists in the Congress, Dr. Bartlett is also a senior member of the Science Committee. Due to his ten years of experience as a small business owner, he also serves on the Small Business Committee and is its Vice Chairman. More info at www.bartlett.house.gov
20 Apr 2005 by US Congressional Record. Our Dependence on Oil by Roscoe Bartlett
Mr. BARTLETT of Maryland. Madam Speaker, on March 24 of this year, 30 of the prominent leading individuals in our country wrote a letter to the President about what they considered a very critical national security issue. The letter was signed by Robert McFarlane, James Woolsey, Frank Gaffney, Boyden Gray, Timothy Wirth, and 30 other people, including 12 retired generals and admirals, five Secretaries of Defense Departments, and several retired Senators and Representatives.
To understand their concern, we need to go back about 6 decades to a sequence of events that brought us to a situation that very much concerned them. We have only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, we use 25 percent of all of the oil used in the world, and we import two-thirds of that. We have less than 5 percent of the world’s population.
How did we get here? The next chart shows us that, and this goes back the 6 decades that I mentioned to a Shell oil scientist by the name of M. King Hubbert who, in the 1940s and 1950s watched the exploration, the pumping, and the exhaustion of oil fields, and he noted that each of the fields followed a bell curve. It rose to a maximum, and then it fell off as they pumped out the remaining oil. He noticed that at the peak of that curve, that about half of the oil had been consumed from the average field. It is logical that the second half of the oil would be harder to get and take more time, and it would not flow as quickly. He theorized that if you added up all of the individual fields in the country, you could predict when that country would peak in its oil production. And in 1956, he made a projection for the United States. Fourteen years later, which was when he said it would occur, the United States peaked in its oil production.
This curve here in green, the smooth, green curve was his prediction. The little more ragged curve, the points that do not fall quite on the curve were the actual data points which we see fell remarkably close to his prediction. We are now well down that curve. We are now producing less than half of the oil that we produced in 1970.
The red curve there, by the way, is the curve for Russia. There is going to be a second peak there, because after the Soviet Union fell, they kind of got their act together and they are going to have a second peak, but not so high, and so their real peak was when it is shown there.
The next chart shows us the elements of the oil in this country, where we got it from. We see a whole bunch of it came from Texas, and then the rest of the United States, and then nos gas liquids, the red above, and we see what is called Alaska there. That is all the oil that we got from Prudhoe Bay, the north slope, a lot of oil.
But it really did not make a very big difference. You see, we are still sliding down that slope and there is just a little blip produced by Prudhoe Bay, and then we slide down the slope.
Mr. Speaker, we remember a couple of years ago, the Gulf of Mexico oil, and that oil was going to solve our oil problem. That oil is represented by that yellow there. Not a whole lot, and it did not stop our slide down Hubbert’s peak. The amount of oil that may be present in ANWR is predicted to be, who knows; it may be very little, it may be a whole lot, but the prediction is about half of what was in Prudhoe Bay. So you may agree or disagree that we should drill in ANWR, but it really does not matter because there is not enough oil in ANWR to really make a difference.
The next curve we have shows a very simple curve, the problem that we face. If, in fact, we have reached peak oil, and I spoke here on the Floor a bit more than 5 weeks ago for an hour on this subject and we have had a lot of people come through our offices and a lot of phone calls and e-mails from all around the world, and I will tell my colleagues that there is nobody who does not believe that we are either at peak oil or will shortly be at peak oil. As this chart shows, you do not have to be at peak oil to have a problem. If peak oil occurs here, and we are here, you see that there is a bit of yellow between our use curve and by the way, this use curve is only a 2 percent growth. Now, we think that if our economy is not growing 2 percent, that the sky may fall, the stock market reacts very badly, and this is only a 2 percent growth curve. Look what happens with this 2 percent curve, with that yellow there, that is what we would like to use at only 2 percent growth, and the blue line there shows us the oil that will be available. Now, we cannot use oil that is not there. So that is going to be all the oil that we have available to use if, in fact, this is correct.
Now, I would point out 2 things. One is that M. King Hubbert was right about the United States. Using exactly the same prediction techniques, he predicted that the world would peak in about 2000. It did not quite, because he could not have known about the Arab oil embargo or the big price spike hikes or the world recession that resulted from that net delay that is probably occurring about now. But we have a problem of a shortfall before we actually get to peak, and that is probably where we are now.
Let me just spend a moment on this chart, because I want to point out some realities here. This is the amount of oil that we would like to use, following up this just 2 percent slope. And the amount of oil we will have to use is represented by the blue curve here. But we cannot use all of that oil for the present purposes for which we use oil, because if we do, there will be no oil left over to make the investments we have to make in the alternatives and the renewables that ultimately must take the place of oil, because you see, we are shortly going to be sliding down Hubbert’s peak.
The next chart shows us the slopes of these peaks when you have more than a 2 percent growth. This is the 2 percent growth line, if you chart out with 2 percent growth and then extrapolate that as a straight line, but that is not what growth is. Growth is always exponential. It is like compounding interest, and people understand compound interest, and I am not sure why they do not understand exponential growth, but 2 percent growth follows this curve, it does not follow this straight line curve. The next curve above it is only 4 percent growth. I would note that last year, the world economies grew by 5 percent on average. Now, we did not do quite that well, but China did a whole lot better. China grew at 10 percent. I was kind of playing around with this chart and I think the 10 percent curve goes about here.
Mr. Speaker, with a 10 percent growth curve, every 7 years, it doubles. That means in 14 years, it is 4 times bigger, and in 21 years, it is 8 times bigger. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest forces in this world is the force of exponential growth, and it is very difficult for a lot of people to understand. Albert Einstein was asked, Dr. Einstein, you have been instrumental in developing nuclear energy. It is really very powerful; from a little tiny bit of this, you get a great big explosion. What will be the next big energy source? And his response was the most powerful force in the universe is the power of compound interest, which is an exponential growth curve.
The next chart shows a reality here that we really need to pay attention to, and this was the reason, this was the reason for the letter that these gentlemen wrote. It was in the letter that they said, the United States’ dependence on imported petroleum poses a risk to our homeland security and economic well-being. If we have only 2 percent of the known reserves, and we use 25 percent of the world’s oil, and we import more than two-thirds of it, and as the President said himself, much of that oil, he said, we rely upon energy sources from countries that do not particularly like us. Yes, Mr. President, that is true. Most of the reserves of oil are in the Middle East, and many of those countries go a bit further than just do not particularly like us.
What we have here on the easel is a view of the world which shows what China has been doing. China has been scouring the world, looking for oil. And all of the blue, here is where China has been: In the Orient, in the Middle East, several places in the Middle East, in our backyard. They have contracts in Canada, they have contracts in Colombia, they have contracts in Venezuela, they have contracts in Brazil, they have contracts in Argentina, and they almost bought an oil company in our country; they were just outbid a little. They will be back again trying to secure an oil company in our country.
China now is the second largest importer in the world. Last year, they increased their demand for oil by 25 percent. Now, that will not go on year after year, because last year, they shut down a lot of coal-fired power plants because the pollution was killing them, so they bought a whole bunch of diesel generators; I suspect that the pollution might be almost as much from them, but they are more widely distributed, which is one of the reasons they used so much oil last year.
The next chart shows us something very interesting about energy and the effect that it has had on civilization and on growth of economies. On this chart, and I am sorry that most of it is blank, but that is just the reality of what has happened through history. We started out the industrial revolution relying on wood, and here it is, the brown curve here. We were burning wood. As a matter of fact, the industrial revolution almost floundered before we discovered that we could get energy from coal, because we had largely denuded New England in sending the trees to England to produce charcoal to produce coal. There is a little relic of bygone years up by Thurmont, Maryland, and they denuded the hills of Thurmont, Maryland for a tiny foundry there in Catoctin, up near Thurmont, and then we discovered coal. And notice, there is a big jump. This is quadrillion Btus.
We were going along with the coal economy, they are about leveled out, and we discovered that we could get even more energy from oil. And look what happened in the age of oil: way up. This chart points out something very interesting and very important about these fuels.
Every time we went to a new fuel, we went to a higher density fuel, higher energy density fuel. The energy density in oil is just incredible. One 42-gallon barrel of oil, which if you bought it for $50-some and refined it, maybe another $40-some, it would cost you $100 for the refined products of that barrel of oil.
But the energy you get from that is the equivalent of 25,000 man-hours of labor. That would be 12 people who did nothing but work for you all year long. Everything they did was for you, and the energy they would expend in that full year is the energy equivalent of one barrel of oil.
Now, you may have a little trouble understanding that, but let me give you a little anecdote that may be simpler to understand. A couple of weeks ago we took my brother-in-law and his wife down to West Virginia. And we have a little Prius car, we get 45 miles per gallon, not that time because it was very heavily loaded and we were going up mountains. And the worst mileage we got was 20 miles per gallon in this Prius hybrid electric, hybrid car, carrying this big load up this steep mountain in West Virginia.
That was 1 gallon of gasoline. Still cheaper, by the way, than water in the grocery store. But look at the energy in that 1 gallon of gasoline. It took this car, heavily laden, 20 miles up a steep mountain in West Virginia. Now, how long do you think, Madam Speaker, that it would take you or me to pull that car up the mountain?
Obviously, we cannot pull it, but we can use a little mechanical advantage and get it up there. It is a winch called a come-along and there is a guardrail and there are trees and you can use a chain, and you could get the car 20 miles up the mountain. Do you think you can do it in 90 days? If you did it in 90 days that would be just about the equivalent. By the way, that would be a tough pull. That is a long distance per day to go 20 miles in 90 days pulling your car up the mountain.
That is the kind of energy density that is there. So the big challenge we have is finding alternatives that have something near the energy density of oil, because there is an enormous amount of energy density there.
The next chart I want to show you is a very interesting one, because one of things that we have got to do very quickly is to conserve the use of oil. We have got to buy time through efficiency and conservation. This is a very interesting chart. This shows the energy use for people in California and the energy used per person in the United States.
And notice that the people in California are only using about 60 percent of the energy that is used by the average person in the rest of the United States. Now, nobody told them that they had to do that. I know that they have some regulations that are a little more stringent than some in other States because they have some bigger problems with pollution.
But you remember several years ago they had some blackouts there and it was predicted that they were going to have rolling blackouts year after year there. They did not have any. That is because voluntarily the Californians, without anybody telling them they had to do it, reduced their consumption of electricity by 11 percent. It was enough that they did not have any rolling blackouts.
I will tell you, it is going to be awfully hard to argue that people in California do not live as well as the people in the rest of the United States. And they are doing it on just a bit more than half of the energy that the average person in the rest of the United States uses. So this is really doable, friends. We can conserve. We can reduce our use of oil. And we must do that, because as the next chart shows, we have got to ultimately move to some other sources of energy.
Oil is not going to run out. But the age of cheap oil is probably over, and we are going to be sliding down Hubbert’s Peak; there is going to be less and less oil. No matter how hard you suck on that, you cannot get more out if it is not there.
This shows the alternatives that are available to us. Some of those are finite resources. Some of them are pretty big, by the way. It may be difficult to get it, but the tar sands of Canada, I am going up there in a month or so to look at that, Canadians called after they heard our speech 5 weeks ago, please come up and visit us and look at our tar sands. We have a lot of oil shale in our country. At $50, $60, $70 a barrel, that is probably going to be competitive, and we can get some oil from the tar sands and the oil shale.
Now we have coal, and I should have brought a chart, next time we will bring a chart on coal. Because what it shows is that when we really start using coal to make up for the oil we are not going to have, there is only about 50 years of it there, at just a 2 percent growth rate, now the world grew 5 percent last year. China is growing 10 percent. We sure as heck would like to grow more than 2 percent, but at just a 2 percent growth, that coal lasts only about 50 years.
They will tell you there is a 250-year supply now. That is at current-use rates. But if we have to start using it faster; it is not going to last anywhere near as long. Then we come to nuclear. There are three kinds of nuclear. We need to explore all of them. I had in my office today a gentleman who really believes that we are going to get to fusion. Now, it is not tomorrow, it is not the day after tomorrow, as a matter of fact it is maybe 30 years from now; but he believes we will get there.
Fusion is the kind of energy you have from the sun. It is the kind of energy that you have in a nuclear weapon. If we can really get there, we are kind of home free. But I will tell you, I think the odds of our solving our energy problems, at least for the immediate future through fusion, is about the same as you and me, Madam Speaker, solving our personal economic problems by winning the lottery. It would be nice if it happened, but the odds are not very good that we are going to solve our personal economic problems that way.
There are two other kinds of nuclear power. One is the light water reactor. That is what we use in our country. And we need to have more of them. We produce now about 20 percent of our electricity through nuclear. Some of those who have been violently opposed to nuclear, looking at the peak oil problem, are now reevaluating whether we should go to nuclear or not.
But there is not fissionable uranium in the world. So then you have got to go to breeder reactors, and they have lots of byproducts that you have to squirrel away somewhere for a quarter of a million years. So we face some real challenges that we have to think through what we are going to do with nuclear.
Than we look at all of the renewables, solar and wind and geothermal, if you are close enough to the molten core of the Earth. Ocean energy. Boy, the moon raises the ocean about 2 feet on average. But it is awfully dispersed. It takes a lot of energy to raise the oceans 2 feet. It is going to be hard to harness that. But we are trying and we need to try further.
And then enormous opportunity in agriculture. And several previous speakers spoke to that, about agriculture:
soy diesel, biodiesel, ethanol, methanol, bio mass. And our agriculture really has an opportunity to contribute here.
And then waste to energy. We have a lot of waste that ends up in the landfill. Some places are burning it. More people ought to be burning it. Then hydrogen from renewables. By the way, hydrogen is not an energy source.
Hydrogen is simply a convenient way of moving energy around. You burn it very cleanly. It produces only water.
You can use it in a fuel cell and get twice the efficiency in a reciprocating engine. I would just like to close by going back to one of the charts I had before and to mention that the real challenge now is to use conservation and efficiency to reduce our demands for oil so that we have enough oil left to make the investments in these alternatives and renewables so that we can take the place of the oil that we are not going to have because we are sliding down Hubbard’s Peak.
Now, we have very clever people in our country. We are really innovative, we are really creative, and what we need is leadership, Madam Speaker, to make this happen.
Congressman Roscoe Bartlett has discussed global peak oil in a one-half hour taped program, E&E TV.s .On Point. Host Colin Sullivan, Editor of Environment and Energy Daily, moderated the discussion with Congressman Bartlett and Mr. Roger Diwan, Managing Director, Markets and Countries Group, PFC Energy. It can be downloaded from E&E TV.s website www.eande.tv/main/.
Congressman Bartlett previously discussed the challenges of global peak oil in a one-hour Special Order speech on March 14, 2005. It can be downloaded from Congressman Bartlett.s website, http://www.bartlett.house.gov.
Congressman Bartlett is one of three scientists in the Congress and had successful careers as a scientist, professor, engineer, farmer, and small business owner prior to his election to Congress. He designed and built his own solar-powered home and was the first member in Congress to take delivery of a gas-electric hybrid Prius. Congressman Bartlett earned both a Master’s degree and a Doctorate in Human Physiology from the University of Maryland at College Park.
Congressman Bartlett is currently the Chairman of the Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee and Vice Chairman of the Small Business Committee. He served as Chairman of the Energy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science in the 107th Congress and was a key author of the alternative and renewable provisions in the pending Energy bill.
Transcript of interview:
Colin Sullivan: Welcome to OnPoint. I’m Colin Sullivan. With us today is Roger Diwan, and oil markets expert at PFC Energy, and Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, Republican from Maryland. Our subject today is peak oil and whether or not the world is running out of cheap oil and what effect that might have on the global economy. Thank you both for being here. Congressman, I’d like to first start with you. You made some very strong statements in the past about how world production capacity is headed towards peak, or is at its peak, or in decline. What are the consequences of that, and what makes you so convinced that oil production is in decline and reached its peak?
Roscoe Bartlett: Well, two things, one is the science that led to the prediction that the United States would peak in oil production in 1970. It did, and we have fallen in our production the curve that was predicted. Was predicted, by the way, in 1956 by a scientist and geologist named M. King Hubbert, who worked for worked for Shell Oil Co. He made a prediction that the world would peak in oil production about 2000. Now, we didn’t. We had a few years of grace, because he couldn’t have known about the Arab oil embargo or the oil price spikes or the worldwide recession that occurred, which reduced the demand for oil. The second thing is that oil is now over $50 a barrel. For the fourth week in a row, gas prices have increased in our country. If countries had the ability to increase oil production, $50 a barrel ought to be a big incentive to increase oil production. If we are not at peak oil, we’re very close to peak oil, and so we really ought to be talking about what now and what should we have been doing that we didn’t do, and what do we absolutely have to do now.
Colin Sullivan: Mr. Diwan, what’s your response to that? Does $50 oil sustained mean we’re at peak oil?
Roger Diwan: Well, what we have here, in many ways, is a number of cyclical and structural issues which have brought us $50 oil. It’s true that we’re running at very high capacity. Right now we’re producing at 98 percent. It means that we have very little spare capacity. We’ve rarely had that phenomenon. And in term of this issue of peak oil, if you look at the current conditions, and if you trend them up for the next 10, 15 years, you see that, you know, with the present technology and the present access to resources, it’s difficult to imagine that we’re going to be able to produce a lot more than 100, 105 million barrel per day, which probably could be around 2015. So we’re entering that era, if we don’t have two dramatic changes. One is technology, both on supply and demand, and second one is access to the reserve which do exist in the Middle East.
Colin Sullivan: Well, is there any reserve capacity in the world besides in Saudi Arabia going forward the next 20 years? Or do you have rely exclusively on the Saudis and the Middle East?
Roger Diwan: No, no, I mean you have a lot of oil in the ground, in Saudi Arabia, in Iran, in Iraq, in Kuwait, in the UAE, in Russia. The question is how do we have access to those reserves, and are these countries willing to develop these reserve at the pace we want them to develop them.
Colin Sullivan: And will it be just as inexpensive as it’s been for the past 50 years, or are we talking about more expensive oil production?
Roger Diwan: It could be a little bit more expensive; but, you know, if you’re producing oil at $7 or $8 or $9 in the Middle East, and prices are $50, there’s, you know, it’s not a big issue.
Colin Sullivan: Congressman, what do you see as the consequences of this — if we have reached peak oil, as you say? What are the consequences on our long-term economic growth and the global economy and U.S. economy?
Roscoe Bartlett: Although there’s a lot of oil left in the world, and we agree that there’s roughly 900 to 1,000 gigabarrels of oil left in the world, you need to put that in context. Up until the Carter years, every decade, we used as much oil as had been used in all of previous history. Now, with exponential growth, if you’re at about a 7 percent growth rate, and we were using oil at about 7 percent more per year, the world was, that explains how we got on that curve. Now, the fact that we have about half of all the oil that was ever in the world still there, doesn’t mean that the next 50 years, 100 years are going to be like the last 50 years, 100 years, because the world is now demanding a whole lot more oil. Last year, China increased their use probably 25 percent. In less than three years, that doubles their use of oil. They probably won’t continue on that growth path, but India’s increasing. China’s now the No. 2 importer in the world. What are the consequences of this? Boy, economic and geopolitical. When the world recognizes that there’s only so much oil that can be produced, and we need more oil — by the way, if our economy doesn’t grow at least 2 percent a year, we can’t service our debt. And if we don’t think the economy’s growing at 2 percent a year, the stock market starts tanking. You know, we have to get used to the fact that there is not going to be oil in the quantities there have been in the past available in the future, and we should have started a long time ago, ’cause we knew — the world knew — by at least 1980, that M. King Hubbert was right about our country. If he’s right about the United States, why shouldn’t he be right about the world? And we should have been doing some things that we’ve now blown 25 years, that we could have been doing some very meaningful things to prepare for this time when the world reaches its peak ability to produce oil. We didn’t do those things then. We really need to start doing them now.
Colin Sullivan: Mr. Diwan, what’s your take on what the long-term economic consequences may be?
Roger Diwan: Well, if we don’t believe that the world can produce more than 100 or 105 million barrel per day, and we’re at 80, 84, 85 right now, it’s certainly time to start preparing for what to do next. I mean the technology exists to consume less. You have car technologies. You have other sources of energy: gas, coal. So there’s a lot to be done. The question is how proactive the consuming country are about it, and so far we haven’t, because energy was very cheap. Hopefully, $50 oil will open the eyes and start thinking about that and plan for tomorrow.
Colin Sullivan: So what are the alternatives, especially in the transportation sector? I mean hydrogen seems pretty far out. Fuel cells seem pretty far out.
Roger Diwan: Yeah.
Colin Sullivan: Hybrids are starting to become more — the public seems to be more interested in buying hybrids now. But, still, there’s a consumption of gasoline with hybrids. What’s the alternative? Development of a energy source we haven’t conceived yet?
Roger Diwan: Well, if we can consume less, we have more oil in many ways. So the question is what technology can be put on the market very quickly. And you’re right, fuel cells and hydrogen are not for the next 10, 15 years. So it’s hybrid and it’s more — it’s cars that are a lot more efficient. After all, we’re still using 100-year-old technology. We can do better than that. We can have small cars. We can have lighter cars, and we can certainly have cars which are a lot more efficient.
Colin Sullivan: Congressman, what’s your take on what the alternatives should be going forward?
Roscoe Bartlett: Well, certainly, we need to conserve, and we certainly need to be more efficient. But that alone won’t solve the problem. With the industrial growth in China and India and Third World would like to do for their people what we’ve done for our people and have an Industrial Revolution that will improve the quality of life for their people. We’re going to have to start moving to alternatives. That’s just the reality. This is a very daunting challenge because of the energy density in fossil fuels. One barrel of oil is the equivalent of 25,000 man hours of labor. That’s like you having 12 people that work exclusively for you for one year, and all it costs you is a little over a hundred dollars. That’s the $50 for the barrel of oil and maybe $50 for refining it. And you get that kind of labor intensity. The energy intensity is just phenomenal. I have a little personal experience. I was in West Virginia with a heavily loaded Prius, a hybrid car which we drive, and the worst mileage I got was 20 miles per gallon — 20 miles per gallon going up a steep West Virginia mountain. The car was heavily loaded. How long would it take me to push that car 20 miles up the mountain? Obviously, I can’t do it. I could do it with a come-along and chains and so forth, and if I did it in 90 days, I’d be very lucky, which is really about what the 25,000 man hours of labor per barrel of oil is. None of the alternatives have anything like the energy density of the fossil fuels except nuclear, but you can’t put a nuclear power plant in the back of your car. And, by the way, hydrogen is not an energy source. It’s not a solution to the problem. It’s a good idea, because it’s a handy way to move energy around. And when you finally use it, it’s non-polluting. You get just water from it. but I think that probably more than half of our people believe that it’s an energy source and we can solve our energy problem with hydrogen. You’ve got to produce more energy — you’ve got to use more energy to produce the hydrogen than you will get out of the hydrogen. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea, because it burns so cleanly when you finally use it.
Colin Sullivan: Do you agree with what the congressman has to say on hydrogen, specifically?
Roger Diwan: Yes, I do. I also think that we have a lot of oil still left in the ground, and if oil use is only geared toward transportation, we can actually extend the life of our barrels here. It means also that we need to destroy demand in other use — in industrial and non-transportation. And that’s also feasible, because, as oil prices increase, we’re going to find alternatives, and we’re going to certainly be more efficient. The efficiency gains in burning energy are still improving, and we need to make sure that that continues. Often, the technology exists. It has not been deployed.
Colin Sullivan: Congressman, it seems like you’re saying that the Republicans Party’s — or factions of the Republican Party’s preoccupation with drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a little bit misled. I mean do you — what’s your comment on that? Do you think that drilling in ANWR is just a drop in the bucket and that’s not what an energy policy should be all about?
Roscoe Bartlett: Oh, it is indeed a drop in the bucket. ANWR is going to be probably half or maybe less than half, but about half of Prudhoe Bay, and Prudhoe Bay — we have a chart that we’ll show — Prudhoe Bay had a pretty insignificant impact on oil production in our country. We were on the down slope of Hubbert’s curve when we discovered oil in Alaska; and we had a little bump, but we still went down, and we’re still going down. I’m opposed to drilling in ANWR for a couple of reasons. We use 25 percent of the world’s oil, and we have only 2 percent of the known reserves. Now if you have only 2 percent of the known reserves, I’m having a lot of trouble understanding why it’s in our advantage to use up that 2 percent as quickly as possible. If we could pump ANWR tomorrow, what would we do the day after tomorrow? And I think pumping ANWR will give a false sense of security that is totally irrelevant. ANWR will not solve our problems. We can’t drill our way out of this problem. It just isn’t going to happen. We’re going to have to — as Mr. Diwan says — we’re going to have to use conservation and efficiency, and then we’ve got to use the time we buy with that to move to alternatives. I mentioned that up until the Carter years, every decade we used as much oil as in all of previous history. If that curve had continued, when we’ve used half of the world’s oil, we’d have 10 years of oil left. Now we’re better off than that. At current use rates, we have 40 years, because it won’t be current-use rates. We’d like to use more, but it’s going to be decreasingly available. It’s going to fall off. By the way, nobody yet has mentioned an enormously important use of gas and oil, and that’s the big petrochemical industry. We live in a plastic world. We fertilize our crops with natural gas. All of the nitrogen fertilizer comes from natural gas. And, by the way, when we talk about the depletion of oil, natural gas will follow just about along with it, won’t it?
Roger Diwan: Oh, we have a lot more gas reserves than oil, and we have mined them much less. So in a way, if you look at the ratio of production and reserve, gas is actually the next source of energy. We do have a lot more gas —
Roscoe Bartlett: But we’re now using gas at an increasing —
Roger Diwan: At an increasing rate, but, in a way, we’re 20 — or I would — more like 30 years behind oil. So we have gas, and gas in many ways is our transition fuel here. Question is what happened after oil and gas. But gas is used, as you said, for petrochemicals and for industrial and for electricity, not for transportation.
Roscoe Bartlett: And there’s another problem with gas, and that is that it’s very difficult to move across the ocean.
Roger Diwan: Correct.
Roscoe Bartlett: It’s now used pretty much where it’s produced through a very complex system of pipelines moving it around. To move it across the ocean, you’ve got to what? Liquefy it and store it at very cold temperatures.
Roger Diwan: Yeah.
Roscoe Bartlett: In a pressurized ship.
Roger Diwan: But that’s the next 10, 15 years, we’ll see a dramatic increase in the LNG, in the liquefied natural gas.
Roscoe Bartlett: So we will be dealing — we will be in — using oil — gas more than we are now. But even that will run out. If all we’re doing is finding clever ways to use the little bit that’s there more quickly, we’ve missed the point. Gas and oil are not forever, and we need to be moving to technologies that free us. From a national security basis, by having only 2 percent and using 25 percent is an enormous national security risk. That alone should drive us to do something else, should it not?
Colin Sullivan: Mr. Diwan, changing the subject a little bit, your consulting firm recently released a study that said, “Depletion of oil resources will cause a shift in geographic dominance of production sources.” What kind of shift are we talking about? Are we talking about people — countries in the Middle East being able to dominate more easily now the world energy markets than they are now?
Roger Diwan: Oh, what you have is the declines in oil fields are very steep, in the United States, in the North Sea. So, in general, in the OECD countries and in some of the countries like Mexico, which are close to the United States, and probably even Venezuela, and the reserves that we know of are based in the Middle East and a little bit in Russia. So as we demand more energy, and energy production plateaus or declines in the OECD countries, the gap has to be filled by the producers in the Middle East. So you see that shift happening already over the last two years, over, actually, the last five years. Most of the increase of production came from the Middle East or from Russia.
Colin Sullivan: Now, the Saudis say that they can meet demand growth over the next 20, 30, 40 years. But there’s never really been an audit done on Saudi capacity. How do you do that? Should we believe what the Saudis say about their capacity, about their reserves?
Roger Diwan: They don’t say that. They say they can increase their production to 12 and 14 million barrels per day, which I think is feasible with a lot of investment. But is that enough to meet the increase in demand, and that’s what the Saudis do not answer. I do not believe that they — that if we start to see the big decline setting in later this decade or the next decade in the United States in a number of major fields coming on-stream right now in West Africa, that Saudi Arabia will be able to produce 20 and 25 million barrels per day. I don’t think Saudi Arabia wants to produce 25 million barrels per day. There is a limit of how much production can come from a lease, even if the reserves do exist. To get those reserves into production, you need to spend tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars. And I’m not sure these countries want to do that — to spend that amount of money that fast to meet the energy needs of the West.
Colin Sullivan: Now, if we are on a decline, if we are past the peak, isn’t it just more expensive to get this oil out of the ground? Isn’t that part of the problem? And we’re going to continue to see sustained oil prices beyond $50 a barrel.
Roscoe Bartlett: Yeah, Goldman Sachs says they’re going to 105, and Americans may change their driving habits when gas is $4 a gallon. But the reality is that we will reach a peak. We may have reached a peak now. A lot of authorities believe that we’ve reached a peak now, but we will reach a peak, and then there will be a decline after that. It’s not a matter of spending more money. Certainly, oil is going to cost more. But not only will it cost more, there’s going to be less of it. And those who believe that the marketplace will take care of this problem, you know, and I have a lot of colleagues in the Congress who aren’t worried about this at all. Not to worry, they say, the marketplace will take care of this. But I’ll tell you, you can’t get blood out of a turnip, and the marketplace can’t do what can’t be done, and the ability to produce oil just isn’t there. And the present surge capacity in the world is what? A million, million-and-a-half barrels a day?
Roger Diwan: Probably. Around a million-and-a-half.
Roscoe Bartlett: That’s about what it is. You know, China will slurp that up almost overnight with their increased demand for oil. If we’re not at peak oil, we very shortly will be at peak oil. We ought to be behaving like the reality says we ought to behave, and that is that oil is going to become increasingly more expensive and decreasingly available. And what will the world do? What will the major countries in the world do when they recognize that there’s not going to be as much oil there as needed to support our economy? What do you think the world will do?
Colin Sullivan: Well, what kind of response do you get when you take this message to the Republican Caucus in the House, especially?
Roscoe Bartlett: Well, right now we’re kind of in an education mode. We did one special order for an hour. We got a great response on that. Next week, we hope to do another special order. And most of the people in the country, including my colleagues, we have representative government, and the representatives generally reflect the general knowledge in the population, and most people in our country don’t know that we’re facing a crisis. One of the writers on this, by the way, starts his article by saying, “Dear Reader, Civilization as we know it will end soon.” Now your first impulse is to put down the article. This guy’s a nut. But if you don’t put it down and read through the article, you’re hard-pressed to argue with his conclusions. That if we don’t do some rational things now — what we need is a war, the equivalent of a war on this. We need the equivalent of a Manhattan Project squared if we are going to produce energy from alternatives in adequate quantities to satisfy the enormous needs of our society.
Colin Sullivan: Mr. Diwan, what do you think about this projection of $105 oil? Is that outlandish, unrealistic?
Roger Diwan: Yeah, I mean I read the report. What the report says, oil prices will be around $50. If we have a big supply disruption in the world, prices will spike. And they put the $105 number. I don’t know why they put $105. Why not $85 or $150? So there’s no reason for that. It’s clear that we don’t have a lot of excess capacity. And, in a world without excess capacity, there is a risk premium, and we can have a spike in oil prices. We need to have a disruption to go there. But what we need to think, also, that we had an economic cycle which was very strong, so demand was very strong in 2003-2004. Still strong in 2005, but also the global economy’s slowing down, so the demand actually will slow down at the same time when a lot of investment made earlier in this decade, both in the former Soviet Union and in West Africa, will be coming onboard. So I imagine that in the next five years, if we had a slower economy, actually oil prices will subside. It doesn’t solve the problem. What it might do is dull the problem. You can say, “Well, oil is now at $30. We don’t need to think about it anymore.”
Colin Sullivan: So we might see prices level off over the next couple years, but then long-term we’re gonna see spikes up to —
Roger Diwan: Yes, because —
Colin Sullivan: $50, $60, $70 a barrel.
Roger Diwan: Correct, I mean the question is where we’re going to find our next [supply] of oil if we don’t have a dramatic breakthrough in technology to be able to pump more of the oil in the ground. Because, right now, we have recovery rates between 30 and 50 percent. In any oilfield, this is how much oil you recover. So you can increase your reserve by lifting more oil from the ground. So we need that to change. Well, that, you know, could be 10, 15, 20 years down the road.
Colin Sullivan: So the days of $20 a barrel oil, $1 a gallon gasoline, is over, a thing of the past?
Roger Diwan: Probably, unless we have a very major recession.
Colin Sullivan: Congressman?
Roscoe Bartlett: Oh, I would agree. Unless there’s a worldwide depression, you’ll never see dollar gas again. By the way, this was a resource which was depletable. Oil never should have been a dollar a barrel. Saudi Arabia, early on, what, they got $5, it was a dollar and a half a barrel or something. They got 5 cents of that. You know, recognizing that this is a resource which is not infinite. Oil has never been priced at its real replacement cost. We’re still not pricing it at its true replacement cost. If we have to replace the energy we get from fossil fuels with alternatives, it’s going to cost a whole lot more than the equivalent of $50 a barrel.
Colin Sullivan: OK, we’re just about out of time. Congressman, Roger Diwan, thanks for being here. Join us tomorrow for another edition on OnPoint. Until then, I’m Colin Sullivan for E&ETV.
21 November 2005 Peak Oil resolution in U.S. House of Representatives
Mr. BARTLETT of Maryland, Mr. UDALL of New Mexico, Mr. GOODE, Mr. GRIJALVA, Mr. JONES of North Carolina, Mr. TANCREDO, Mr. GINGREY, Mr. KUHL of New York, Mr. ISRAEL, Mr. BUTTERFIELD, Mr. UDALL of Colorado, Mr. VAN HOLLEN, Mr. GILCHREST, and Mr. WYNN) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce
PEAK OIL CAUCUS FORMED IN U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES A NEW BEGINNING AS THE CLOCK RUNS DOWN
The Caucus was founded by Roscoe Bartlett. He knows that “There is no such thing, ultimately, as sustainable growth.” Hear his presentation at the Denver ASPO-USA Conference:
<http://www.globalpublicmedia.com/events/564> (for the frank admission about “sustainable growth,” go to 18:56). He knows that “our whole monetary system is based on the premise that we will always have growth.” And he knows that those two insights add up to a new world of sacrifice and transformation.
October 24, 2005 PEAK OIL HOUSE RESOLUTION 507 IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Chris Van Hollen
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States, in collaboration with other international allies, should establish an energy project with the magnitude, creativity, and sense of urgency that was incorporated in the `Man on the Moon¹ project to address the inevitable challenges of `Peak Oil¹.
Whereas the United States has only 2 percent of the world¹s oil reserves;
Whereas the United States produces 8% of the world’s oil and consumes 25% of the world’s oil, of which nearly 60% is imported from foreign countries;
Whereas developing countries around the world are increasing their demand for oil consumption at rapid rates; for example, the average consumption increase, by percentage, from 2003 to 2004 for the countries of Belarus, Kuwait, China, and Singapore was 15.9%;
Whereas the United States consumed more than 937,000,000 tonnes of oil in 2004, and that figure could rise in 2005 given previous projection trends;
Whereas, as fossil energy resources become depleted, new, highly efficient technologies will be required in order to sustainably tap replenishable resources;
Whereas the Shell Oil scientist M. King Hubbert accurately predicted that United States domestic production would peak in 1970, and a growing number of petroleum experts believe that the peak in the world¹s oil production (Peak Oil) is likely to occur in the next decade while demand continues to rise;
Whereas North American natural gas production has also peaked;
Whereas the United States is now the world¹s largest importer of both petroleum and natural gas;
Whereas the population of the United States is increasing by nearly 30,000,000 persons every decade;
Whereas the energy density in one barrel of oil is the equivalent of eight people working full time for one year;
Whereas affordable supplies of petroleum and natural gas are critical to national security and energy prosperity; and
Whereas the United States has approximately 250 years of coal at current consumption rates, but if that consumption rate is increased by 2 percent per year, coal reserves are reduced to 75 years: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that– (1) in order to keep energy costs affordable, curb our environmental impact, and safeguard economic prosperity, including our trade deficit, the United States must move rapidly to increase the productivity with which it uses fossil fuel, and to accelerate the transition to renewable fuels and a sustainable, clean energy economy; and
(2) the United States, in collaboration with other international allies, should establish an energy project with the magnitude, creativity, and sense of urgency of the `Man on the Moon¹ project to develop a comprehensive plan to address the challenges presented by Peak Oil.
July 23, 2007. Peak Oil Caucus chairs Bartlett, Udall comment on National Petroleum Council report. eenews.net