Too Precious to Burn?

The then-Shah of Iran reportedly said that oil is too precious to burn. If true in the 1970s, it’s more so today. More recently someone compared burning oil to burning Picassos for heat.

The current oil glut and accompanying price tumble seems like a good deal for consumers in the short run. But the run will be short. A few months, a few years. Then we’ll be back to worrying whether we’ve passed “peak oil,” the peak production of oil no matter what the demand.

The Great Experts were wrong about when it would happen, but it will happen. Maybe it already has. That we’re producing more oil now, doesn’t mean there’s more oil. It means we’re extracting more of the marginally available oil. Fracking is in many ways a desperation method of oil recovery.

In fact, the current glut may be a mixed blessing. (see Wall Street Journal article.) But the blessing part is dependent on politicians and investors making good long-term decisions: something both are loath to do. The former can’t seem to see beyond the next election; the latter beyond the next quarterly earnings report. More often they are swayed by the poll results of market data of yesterday. Hardly long term.

Oil and natural gas are used in myriad way in daily life with more being developed almost daily. Ways which do not involve burning them.

Some day soon (maybe recently past) will be peak oil. If not in our lifetime then certainly during our grandchildren’s. Do you care?