Peak Oil and Peak Coal

Looks like we just hit Peak Coal in 2012 and Peak Oil in Summer 2018. That means that the world’s coal and oil production hit its ultimate peak in those years, and every year after that, production is going to drop. Production could peak for a lot of reasons.

One reason would be that the resource is becoming exhausted. However, in the case of coal, it is possibly just that coal has hit peak demand and the world is weaning itself off the stuff.

Although we did hit peak oil, I suppose it’s possible to hit it again as many producers have reduced their output to drive up prices. Venezuela and Iran have seen output plunge due to crippling sanctions the US put on both of them. Many oil fields are not even fully exploited and there is always the argument that you can find new fields.

More importantly, no more than 10% of the oil can be extracted from any underground oil basin. The rest is simply not reachable for some reason.  However, new technology is enabling us to get up to 25% of the oil from a basin. This could also ramp up production.

The fact that we are resorting to the awful, and deadly polluting process of fracking of oil shale seems to show that humanity is nearing  the limits of the oil it can scrape out of the ground. Shale oil fracking looks like a desperate attempt to grab even the haziest and most dubious extractable oil in a desperate attempt to head off Peak Oil. And even that’s not working.

After Peak Oil, oil production is supposed to decline every year after that. Quite a few folks think this will be a catastrophe but that may not be so. One thing is that oil demand will drop for a lot of uses in the coming decades. A lot of enterprises that burn fossil fuel and move off it onto renewables, with the generation of electricity leading the way so far.

Cars are another matter. Demand for oil for cars rose every year in the last decade. That is because the world continues to add more and more cars, especially in emerging markets like China.  And 97% of cars run on oil. Ethanol never panned out and it has to be mixed with oil to work anyway.

Oil is used for other things. 10% of oil is used to produce plastics. I don’t understand why we should not continue to pump oil to make plastic. I mean oil and coal are only problems when you burn them to create energy. Oil is simply transformed as a raw material in the production of plastic so this use of oil does affect Global Warming at all. Actually even coal has other uses besides burning. It is also used in the production of various manufactured products.

The nonsense about “clean coal” has been a mantra for over a decade now. Obama was fond of that one. Apparently it’s a big fat lie. My research has found that there is no such thing as clean coal. So-called clean coal is dirty as Hell. If anyone has any contrary information about clean coal, I’d like to hear it.

The thing is is that demand for oil, as for coal, may decline in coming years at least for certain uses such as electricity. And if the price does go up, oil producers usually respond to increased demand by increasing supply. When the price drops or demand falls, producers simply reduce production.

All of these factors make it so that skyrocketing oil prices are not necessarily going to happen with Peak Oil, or at least not for some years if ever. There’s a lot more to prices, supply, and demand of products than production of the commodity peaking out.

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One thought on “Peak Oil and Peak Coal”

  1. We should have never discovered oil and coal – or at least discovered solar energy before it. However, the way humankind is – it was obvious ways to exploit solar have come too late.

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