Olje | Noen nye tanker rundt Peak Oil. Siden Avaldsnes og slikt.

Brad Plumer ved The Washington Post angriper ‘peak oil’ filosofien. Denne gang med en vekstbetingelse som kostnaden ved oljeinvesteringer.

Også det faktum at etterspørsel vokser fort, så fort faktisk at sammen med svingningene i makroøkonomien er det ingen som har nok ledig kapasitet til å prisstyre.

Jeg lurer vikrkelig hvor lav skyggeprisen må bli for at fokuset skifter fra olje til grønn/annen.

What is ‘peak oil,’ anyway?:

The debate over peak oil can get rather slippery at times. Geologists will point out the (obvious, banal) truth that there’s a finite amount of oil out there beneath the rocks and, at some point, we have to hit maximum production. Economists and other peak-oil skeptics, for their part, say that markets will adjust. If supplies dwindle and oil gets pricier, then companies will find it profitable to drill for harder-to-nab supplies in the Arctic and elsewhere. And if that oil starts running out, well, we’ll just shift to alternatives. No big deal.

Another way of looking at matters, though, comes from petroleum economist Chris Skrebrowski, who argues that peak oil is best defined as the point at which “the cost of incremental supply exceeds the price economies can pay without destroying growth.” In other words, eventually we’ll max out on production of the cheap, easy oil — the stuff we currently get from Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries. At that point, as long as oil demand keeps growing, prices will rise to a level that hinders economic growth — even if we do start drilling for more expensive oil in the Arctic and elswhere. On this view, peak oil means the point at which oil acts as a ceiling on growth.

In Harvard Business Review, Chris Nelder and Gregor Macdonald argue that we’ve quite possibly hit that point already. Production of “conventional” crude, the easy-to-drill-stuff, seems to have hit its peak in 2004, maxing out at about 74 million barrels per day. And, since oil demand — fed by growing countries like China and India — isn’t letting up, that means the slack has been taken up by unconventional sources like natural gas, heavy oil and tar sands in Canada.

And the problem with these new sources is that they’re expensive, possibly too expensive. “We have ample historical evidence that when petroleum expenditures reach 5% of GDP, recession typically follows,” Nelder and Macdonald write. “Annual energy expenditures rose from 6.2% of U.S. GDP in 2002 to a painful 9.8% in 2008, which was immediately followed by an economic crash. And now oil is sending energy expenditures back above 9% of GDP, just as we see fresh indications that the recession persists. This is not a coincidence.”

Does that mean we’ve finally hit the point where oil is seriously constraining our ability to grow? Quite possibly. Though here’s a caveat: the Council on Foreign Affairs’ Michael Levi counters that expensive oil, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily a hindrance to growth. After all, the United States has had quite a few years where petroleum expenditures exceeded 5 percent without going into recession (in the early 1980s, for instance). The real killer, Levi argues, is volatility. “What does appear to play a large role, particularly in the 1970s cases, is a rapid increase in oil costs that temporarily overwhelms the economy’s ability to adjust.”

And it appears we’ve reached the point where volatility is a real problem. In the old days, Saudi Arabia had plenty of spare capacity and could always flood the market with extra oil if prices rose too quickly. But that’s no longer the case. Global demand is growing too fast, and the Saudis don’t appear to have much spare capacity left. Nor will new, unconventional sources alleviate the problem entirely. That’s why, as Levi and Robert McNally recently argued in Foreign Affairs, “Wild fluctuations in global oil prices are here to stay.” However you want to define peak oil, it looks like that’s something we’ll have to prepare for.

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