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Is The World Facing An Energy Crisis?

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Is the World Facing an Energy Crisis?

Energy provides the necessary power to do work. We obtain energy by eating food. We use energy to push a shopping cart around. We use energy to walk. We use energy to perform all daily work. We use energy to maintain our biological function inside our body. Without any energy in our body, we would be literally dead. Energy stores inside our body allow us to carry out work. But humans have long been utilizing energy from the environment. Fire, for example, is one great evolutionary step that separates us from the animals in this planet. Our ancestors were able to cook meat with fire. They warded off beasts in the primitive world with fire. The manipulation of fire allows human to dominate the food chain. Wood has been the primary reagent for lighting fire prior to the Industrial Revolution. We learned to exploit other energy sources as technology progresses. Coal became the principal energy source until oil took over. Our usage of energy has increased with the growth of population. In recent years, experts analyze the amount of oil left for us to exploit. Their conclusions vary. Some of them claim the world is facing an energy crisis while some point out we can still last for at least another century with the current consumption rate on oil.

There are other sources of energy available besides oil. Renewable energy has gained popularity as pollution becomes problematic when using oil and coal. Renewable energy is the energy that can be replenished by natural processes on a human timescale. Renewable energy includes wind, solar, water, or biomass (wood). Non-renewable energy means energy that can not be regenerated within a human timescale. This usually indicates the energy source needs billions of years in order to restock to the current amount. Oil, coal, natural gas and uranium (nuclear) are the leading examples. Non-renewable energy sources are often associated with pollution. This problem arises primarily due to the exploitation of humongous amount of energy in such a short time span. Carbon, which is the backbone structure of the fossil fuel we use today, is being released drastically due to consumption. This disrupt the natural cycle of carbon. With the release of huge amount of carbon, it creates a debatable greenhouse effect that traps sunlight inside our atmosphere and thus increases the overall temperature on this planet.

Oil has been the major source of energy since the 60s. It is a cheap and convenient form of energy. With its high energy content and ease of transport, oil has become the world's necessity. However, oil is finite. It is formed by dead organisms billions of years ago. The remains of dead organisms were highly compressed by layers of earth crust. Once used, oil will not be able to regenerate within the recorded history of mankind. This limited amount has led to predictions on when we are going to run out of oil. Predictions vary base on the different assumptions each authors made. Though, they all concluded that oil will run out eventually. The argument hovers; when is oil going to exhaust?

Matthew Simmons is a strong proponent of the "doomsday" model. He claims the world's oil is running out. We are facing an energy crisis and "the unforeseen consequences are devastating" (19). There are several assumptions in his argument. He assumes a bell-shaped curve model in his prediction on oil supply. He states that the world's oil supply is peaking. He assumes the oil industry produces the maximum barrels of oil per day. He believes the discovery of a new oil reserve is highly improbable. All of these assertions fit into his postulation. He selects Samoltor, the Russia oil field and Prudhoe Bay as his major supporting evidences for his bell-curve analysis. Both fields assimilate to his mathematic model. Samotlor "produced peak production at about three and a half million barrels a day... Then it came off like waterfall and is again down to 325,000 to 350,000 barrels a day" (14). His most urgent message is that an oil peaking production will follow by a decline. And yet he theorizes the maximum oil production by the oil industry. A drop in production might merely be a company's strategic market policy. Limiting the supply allows the industry to

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profit by selling oil at a higher price. This can be done because the demand for oil is inelastic, meaning the demand stays constant. Although Simmons fails to convey the advantages gained by oil industry, he has a compelling observation to support his supposition. The global oil demand is surging over time. It has been growing from "54 million barrels a day, to 2002, when we crossed 73 million barrels a day... a 21 million barrels a day change during an era [when people thought... that demand growth was over" (10). The growing demand has caused a new high in the consumption of oil. He reasons that "in Saudi Arabia there have been no major exploration successes since the late sixties. Almost all of Saudi's production comes from a handful of very old fields" (18). Drawing from Simmons's quotation, without any growth in oil supply, the surging demand will cause the oil reserves to run low

David Deming contrasts Simmons's idea. Deming predicts the world's oil can last at least for another century. He assumes all the predictions are wrong. He uses past predictions for oil as evidence. Indeed, large quantities of predictions are off. That does not mean all future projections are fallacious. He proposes that the discovery of new petroleum fields is probable: "Similarly, if oil reserves are divided by current production rates, exhaustion appears imminent. However, petroleum reserves are continually increased by ongoing exploration and development of resources" (24). His sentences mean we can replenish our current oil stock by finding new reserves. This is true to some extent. The amount of oil in unidentified reserves is only estimates. Deming also includes unconventional oil into his calculation. He notes that unconventional oil, because it consists largely of tar sands and oil shales, requires a process for extraction. Unlike conventional oil, the refining process requires high energy expenses. This reduces the usability of unconventional oil. However, Deming expects the production costs to drop as technology advances.

Deming uses estimated figures by U.S. Geological Survey to prove that "the world's total oil endowment have grown faster than humanity can pump petroleum out of the ground" (25). The estimates are increasing throughout

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