Peak Oil? Not in my lifetime…

The notion of peak oil is like the notion of peak horse manure – it becomes irrelevant before it actually occurs. I say this for two reasons; one, we haven’t yet discovered the undiscovered oil fields and technologies that vastly increase the known reserves of oil; two, new technologies will emerge faster than we think to remove our reliance on oil as the primary driver of the energy economy.

The latest news about oil discoveries off Brazil support this argument. As so eloquently put by the Economist:

The discoveries do suggest that the gloomiest pundits are wrong to predict that the world will soon run out of oil. It is not that there are still lots of huge oil fields out there: the number of mammoth discoveries is declining, Tupi (and perhaps Carioca-Sugar Loaf and Jupiter) notwithstanding. But the new finds do illustrate how the technology with which oil firms hunt for, extract and process fossil fuels is constantly improving. Petrobras’s recent success is only possible thanks to recent advancements in seismic surveys, drilling, and offshore platforms. Other technological developments are allowing a greater proportion of the oil found around the world to be recovered and are even expanding the definition of oil, as firms conjure liquid fuel from the solid tar-sands of Canada, for example, or from coal and natural gas.

Now I’ve posted before, and written MindBullets about the relative ease with which we can already convert gas and coal to convenient liquid fuels. As with most things, the economic hurdles are often the highest. But even sooner than we expect, solar power could make the big leap forward and compete with coal, never mind oil. This MindBullet poses that scenario:

Am I smoking my socks, or could we really see a complete lack of dependence on oil, gas and coal by the 2020s?

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