Sandwichman got here throughout a captivating and disconcerting new dissertation, titled “Carbon Purgatory: The Dysfunctional Political Financial system of Oil Through the Renewable Power Transition” by Gabe Eckhouse. An adaptation of one of many chapters, coping with fracking, was printed in Geoforum in 2021

As a few of you could know, the specter of Peak Oil was allegedly “vanquished” by the invention of strategies for extracting “unconventional oil” from shale formations (or “tight oil”), bitumen sands, and deep ocean drilling. A big a part of that story was artificially low rates of interest in response to the inventory market crash of 2008 and subsequent recession. 

What Eckhouse’s dissertation and article clarify is the pliability benefit that fracking gives as a result of the funding required for a properly is 2 orders of magnitude lower than for exploiting a traditional area and the payback time is way shorter. The draw back is that the fee per barrel of the oil is way larger. Till now free financial coverage has buffered that price differential.

The strategic benefit of fracking, mixed with the volatility of oil costs over the previous twenty years and uncertainty about doable future authorities decarbonization insurance policies (what oil business figures are mockingly calling “peak oil demand”) are making giant, long-term investments in typical oil extraction — investments of the order of, say, $20 trillion over the subsequent quarter century — much less enticing. 

Though the latter may sound like a superb factor, what it implies is a full-blown power disaster occurring a lot sooner than any purported transition to renewable non-carbon power sources. I would not be stunned to see reactionary politicians and media agitate a “populist” motion to scapegoat “climate-woke” activists and scientists as saboteurs accountable for “cancelling” long-term funding in an inexpensive oil economic system.

I had forgotten the oil worth rise of 2007-08 when a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude rose from $85 in January 2007 to $125 in November to $156 in April 2008 to $190 in June. Now I keep in mind my sense of awe on the time and dread that one thing actually, actually unhealthy was quickly going to occur to “the economic system.” However then nothing occurred. Nothing, that’s, however the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, a inventory market crash, emergency financial institution bailouts, and subsequent central financial institution financial coverage of low, low rates of interest. However “the basics have been sound.”

It scrambles my mind attempting to differentiate trigger from impact. Did the ultra-low publish 2008 crash low rates of interest by the way drive the following fracking increase? Or was particularly a fracking increase one of many core goals of the low rate of interest regime?

Whither “peak oil”? Based on Laherrère, Corridor, and Bentley in How a lot oil stays for the world to provide? (2022) “the tip of low-cost oil” didn’t go away when the oil can was kicked down the highway:

Our outcomes recommend that international manufacturing of typical oil, which has been at a resource-limited plateau since 2005, is now in decline, or will decline quickly. This change from manufacturing plateau to say no is anticipated to put rising strains on the worldwide economic system, exacerbated by the commonly decrease power returns of the non-conventional oils and different liquids on which the worldwide economic system is more and more dependent.

If we add to traditional oil manufacturing that of light-tight (‘fracked’) oil, our evaluation means that the corresponding resource-limited manufacturing peak will happen quickly, between maybe 2022 to 2025.

Together with “all liquids” pushes that horizon out to 2040. Briefly, we overshot peak oil by a pair a long time with the help of free cash and tight oil, with a bit of extra assist from the Covid pandemic. These of us with a reminiscence longer than the information cycle could recall that the present spherical of rate of interest hikes by the Fed was initiated in response to inflation, which reached a 40-year excessive in June of final yr attributable to file gasoline costs. Decrease demand for gasoline brings down gasoline costs whereas larger rates of interest could discourage new funding in fracking posing the specter of an oil provide crunch a few years down the highway.

The cartoon under illustrates the free cash/tight oil — tight cash/peak oil dilemma:

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