Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Tech Gains Outpace Peak Oil

By Simon Grose

Technological breakthroughs are setting the scene for the fossil fuel era to last longer and stronger.

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Some of my best friends are peak oilsters. I was of their mind for quite a while, but for about the last decade I have annoyed them by becoming condescending whenever they warned that the end of petrol was nigh on nigh.

Three mainstays of my uncool view: the inexorable march of extraction technologies ever deeper into the oceans, huge deposits of oil shale and oil sands around the world, and the atavistic demand humans display for fuel to power their cars and trucks.

This demand could only grow as people in poorer countries get richer, making deeper wells and expensive shale oil commercially viable. Despite concerns over local environmental damage and global warming, governments would find ways to accede to their citizens’ desires.

How wrong I was, not to mention my friends. A whole new underworld of bountiful fossil fuel is opening up. Why?

More advances in technology. But not an inexorable march – this was a leap. Fracking of hydrocarbon-rich geological structures has changed the landscape.

The most dramatic change is in the US. Not so long ago peak oilsters were foretelling an end to life as American gas guzzlers knew it as sources of oil were exhausted. Now we hear forecasts that the US will be a net exporter of gas and oil by the end of this decade.

This is just the beginning of a global revolution in fossil-fuel...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.