Deep Water Spills: Peak Oil Under Sea

For years now I’ve been curious about the phenomenon/topic/fringe idea of Peak Oil, basically the warning that we will soon reach the peak of oil production: once it’s peaked, it’s only a matter of time before supplies start to dwindle, prices skyrocket, problems ensue. (My own hedge on the issue: But when? Some say the peak may be happening right now. A recent industry estimate put the peak at 2014 or so. Some industry “supply side” advocates say it’s all a myth. Who to believe? Common sense. The world uses some 80-odd million barrels of oil per day. It must run out some time.)
But the interesting way this ‘myth’ is unfolding in the headlines: The BP Gulf Coast oil spill. It’s a deep water project, the kind that is the Hope for the Future. Most of the bigger finds in the oil industry lately have been deep water projects. If these prove too costly, the Peak Oil people become “righter.” And when BP says it will clean up the spill, realize all the cost will ultimately be passed on to the consumer. Somehow, someway. They’re going to add it to the production costs, naturally.
For good reading on the issue, I always recommend Matthew Simmons’s Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock (2006). Simmons is not in my political camp, but he writes well about the issue. No histrionics, little fear-mongering, just a heavy dose of logic. James Howard Kunstler makes a living off the idea, and I find him more questionable, and far-fetched. The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century (2005) is probably his most famous book, and presents a vision of civilization by the end of this century as a matter of salvaging the leftovers, with barbarians at the gate.
But deep water projects are the rage, and as this one is showing us, fraught with inherent problems. If something goes wrong at 5,000 feet deep, with pipes going down another 25,000 feet, there’s no easy fix.

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