Fracking and peak oil

2017-07-07

in Economics, Politics, The environment

The sudden abundance of oil in the United States in fact reflects a global scarcity. The shale boom bas been used to dismiss evidence of peak oil; in fact, the boom is its latest symptom. The era of easily accessible, cheaply produced, and ever increasing supplies of conventional oil that shaped the politics of the twentieth century is passing away. ExxonMobil, the world’s largest corporation, publishes an annual scenario, The Outlook for Energy, which lays out a picture each year of expanding populations, growing consumption, and the continually increasing demand for energy on which its own share value depends. But even ExxonMobil now acknowledges, toward the end of the 2013 report, that the supply of conventional oil has reached a peak and will gradually decline. [p. 38] The peak reflects the fact that oil firms have already pumped from the ground roughly half the world’s recoverable stores of conventional oil, and will produce the remainder at slower rates and with increasing difficulty.

Humankind has now consumed about two trillion barrels of oil since the rise of the modern petroleum industry in the 1860s. It is worth repeating that burning the first trillion took about 130 years, but we went through the second trillion in only twenty-two years. Estimates differ on how soon the peak in the supply of unconventional oil or other fossil fuels will arrive. But under any scenario, the rate of their depletion is astonishing.

Mitchell, Timothy. Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil. Verso; London. 2013. p. 259-60

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. July 10, 2017 at 4:27 pm

Peak Oil and the New Carbon Boom
Timothy Mitchell ▪ June 25, 2013

This essay is adapted from the afterword to the paperback edition of Timothy Mitchell’s Carbon Democracy, out next month from Verso Books.

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