Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak

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Overview

"Kenneth S. Deffeyes, a geologist who was among the first to warn of the coming oil crists, new takes the next logical step and turns his attention to the earth's supply of potential replacement fuels. In Beyond Oil, he traces out their likely production futures, with special reference to that of oil, using the same analytic tools developed by his former colleague, the pioneering petroleum-supply authority M. King Hubbert." The book includes chapters on natural gas, coal, tar sands and heavy oil, oil shale, uranium, and (although not strictly an
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Overview

"Kenneth S. Deffeyes, a geologist who was among the first to warn of the coming oil crists, new takes the next logical step and turns his attention to the earth's supply of potential replacement fuels. In Beyond Oil, he traces out their likely production futures, with special reference to that of oil, using the same analytic tools developed by his former colleague, the pioneering petroleum-supply authority M. King Hubbert." The book includes chapters on natural gas, coal, tar sands and heavy oil, oil shale, uranium, and (although not strictly an energy resource itself) hydrogen. A concluding chapter on the overall energy picture covers the likely mix of energy sources the world can rely on for the near-term future, and the special roles that will need to be played by conservation, high-mileage diesel automobiles, nuclear power plants, and wind-generated electricity.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
World oil production will soon peak and then begin a steep, irreversible decline. What happens then? In Beyond Oil, Princeton University geology professor emeritus Kenneth Deffeyes traces the production futures of replacement fuel sources, including natural gas; coal; tar sands and heavy oils; oil shale; and hydrogen. He offers realistic assessments of the future roles of conversation, high-mileage diesel automobiles, nuclear power plants, and wind-generated electricity. An optimistic approach to an inevitable crisis by a recognized authority in the field.
Kirkus Reviews
The world is running on empty, warns petroleum geologist Deffeyes (Hubbert's Peak, 2001), and yet Humvees continue to roll down the assembly lines, roads to be built, and economic models to be churned out. Hubbert's Peak refers not to an oil-implicated place along the lines of Kuwait or Teapot Dome, but to a statistical concept hatched in the 1950s by another geologist, M. King Hubbert: it posits that world oil production over time will follow the classic bell curve, the apex of which took place in the past. Tinkering with Hubbert's math just a little, Deffeyes projects that the end of 2005 will see total oil production at 2.013 trillion barrels, adding, "Wherever the peak, the view is not good." He adds, provocatively, that Thanksgiving of that year ought to be designated World Oil Peak Day and that we use the occasion to give thanks to the years 1901 to 2004, when oil was abundant and cheap. Stopgap measures will not help, he offers: drilling the five billion barrels locked up in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as the Bush administration has been thirsting to do for years, will only "postpone the world decline for two or three months." What, then, is to be done? Well, Deffeyes suggests, we can always try to capitalize by buying into an oil royalty trust. More to the point, governments can develop coal and nuclear energy generators in the short term, polluting and potentially hazardous though they may be, while looking for longer-term solutions with a sense of urgency behind them. And ordinary consumers can learn to turn off lights, eat foods that don't require tons of pesticides and shipping far distances out of season, and stop buying gas-guzzlers-or, as Deffeyes growls, departingfrom his friendly college-lecture style, "find some other way of publicizing your testosterone."A timely, compelling argument that should make owners of hybrid cars just a little bit happier, and everyone else very glum indeed.
From the Publisher
"We are all hooked on oil, and oil is getting scarcer. Like it or not, changes are coming. But do we understand our choices, or even the variables that control our choices? Using aggressive analysis, common sense, and a liberal dash of humor, Deffeyes lays out our options. It's your life, your choices, your future; you can't afford to miss this book" —Brian J. Skinner, Eugene Higgins Professor of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University

"With his folksy style and penetrating vision, Deffeyes tells it like it is. This book is another nail in the coffin of the age of oil." —David Goodstein, Vice Provost, California Institute of Technology, and author of Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil

"Worldwide oil production is now in the process of peaking and will soon begin an irreversible decline. With compelling, down-to-earth reasoning, this book explains both why the decline of our most precious fuel is inevitable, and how challenging it will be to cope with what comes next." —Richard E. Smalley, University Professor, Rice University, and Nobel laureate in chemistry, 1996

"A valuable encore to Hubbert's Peak, this new book by Professor Deffeyes offers a wide-ranging overview of the world’s energy alternatives 'beyond oil.' Its crystal-clear prose, easily understood by the layman, is peppered with anecdotes, memories, and scientific insights, mirroring the author's half century of first-hand experience in the industry." —A.M. Samsam Bakhtiari, senior expert, National Iranian Oil Company

"In his new book, Professor Deffeyes stands on the world's peak oil output, like Moses peering from the mountaintop to the Promised Land. Beyond Oil is a must read for anyone who wants to learn more about one of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced." —Matthew R. Simmons, chairman, Simmons & Company International

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809029570
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 6/13/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 945,561
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 7.89 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth S. Deffeyes is Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. His previous book, Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage, was published in 2001 by Princeton University Press.

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Beyond Oil: The View From Hubbert's Peak by Kenneth S. Deffeyes. Copyright © 2005 by Kenneth S. Deffeyes. To be published March 2005 by Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

Preface

We are facing an unprecedented problem. World oil production has stopped growing; declines in production are about to begin. For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, the geological supply of an essential resource will not meet the demand.

There has been plenty of warning. In 1969, M. King Hubbert, an American geologist, published predictions of future world oil production. Hubbert predicted that annual oil production would follow a bell-shaped curve; the curve became known as "Hubbert's peak." The more optimistic of his two estimates in 1969 placed the world's total oil endowment at 2.1 trillion barrels and peak production in the year 2000. My best current estimate (detailed at the end of Chapter 3) puts the total oil at 2.013 trillion barrels, peaking in 2005. Whichever of us is correct, or even if we are both wrong, we are not very wrong. Wherever the peak, the view is not good.

My own interest in the oil supply problem began in 1958, when I started work at the Shell research lab in Houston. Hubbert enjoyed superstar status at the Shell lab, for many reasons in addition to his oil predictions. I enjoyed working at the lab, and I enjoyed getting to know Hubbert. By 1963 it was clear that the oil business (in Houston, it's the "awl bidness") would change enormously by the year 2000, when I was supposed to retire. My own analysis of Hubbert's numbers caused me to leave the petroleum industry prematurely.

Emotionally, it was not easy to leave. I grew up in the oil patch; my father was a first-generation petroleum engineer. I was born in Oklahoma, am part Chickasaw, and can remember the Dust Bowl. When I was about ten years old, I decided to become a petroleum geologist. While I was in high school, a nice piece of help came along: Two geologists, Jack Fanshawe and Paul Walton, took the time to help me learn mineralogy. My undergraduate education (Colorado School of Mines) and graduate education (Princeton) were focused on methods useful in oil exploration and production. I held a sequence of summer jobs that taught me the dirty-fingernail side of the oil industry. For a while, I had a bumper sticker that said, "Oilfield trash, and proud of it."

After I left Shell, I taught for a couple of years each at Minnesota and Oregon State, and then joined the faculty at Princeton. Teaching and research were rewarding, and I could continue consulting part time on oil and mining. My course titled "Sedimentology" was a camouflaged course in petroleum geology.

This book is about the fuels that come from the earth. A lot of questions about public policy naturally follow. However, my expertise ends where the geology stops. Any opinions I have about the wisdom of increased gasoline taxes or a U.S. oil import tax have the same standing as the opinions of J. Random Citizen. In this book, I try to explain the advantages and constraints on the various fuels from the earth. Deciding on policy is a task for all of us as citizens.

Chapters 1 and 2 are brief statements of the oil supply problem. Chapter 3 is the result of a happy accident: I found an alternative to Hubbert's complicated mathematics. Hubbert's analysis requires pages of differential equations to go from A to B. Going from B to A reaches the same results but requires only three lines of high-school algebra. Chapters 4 through 8 cover natural gas, coal, tar sand, oil shale, and uranium. Chapter 9 is an oddity: Hydrogen is not a fuel that comes from the earth, but there is so much misinformation floating around about hydrogen that I felt compelled to explain further about it. Chapter 10 is an essay about seeing the world through a geologist's eyes; it is what William Safire calls a "thumbsucker."

There was a tremendous flap during 2004 over Shell's downgrading of oil reserves. Those of us who used to work for Shell were particularly surprised; typically Shell was overly cautious about almost everything. I have no private sources of information from inside the major oil companies. Mostly, I try to evaluate what they do, not what they say. For instance, an editorial in the June 21, 2004, issue of Business Week complained that the 30 percent increase in oil prices induced only a tiny increase in company exploration budgets. Similarly, U.S. refineries are running close to capacity, but no new refineries have been built since 1976. Oil tanker ships are fully booked, but outdated tankers are being retired faster than new ones are being built. Instead, the industry seems to be hoarding cash, buying back stock, and paying out dividends. What is going on? Why don't higher prices and increasing demand encourage investment? Suppose, for a moment, that the premise of this book is correct: We have already found most of the oil. Drilling for the few leftovers yields neither fun nor profit. Should the major oil companies drill a string of dry holes just to keep the editors of Business Week happy? If, as I claim, world oil production is about to decline, then there is no point in adding refineries or increasing the size of the tanker fleet.

The major oil companies are not saying publicly that the oil game is over. If there were attractive prospects available, companies would be clawing their way over one another to get the drilling rights. There is important exploration to be done in a number of countries. Even if an oil company signs a contract with either the national oil company or the government itself, in many countries the contracts are unenforceable. Drill a dry hole and nothing happens. Hit a major discovery and suddenly the contract is up for renegotiation.

During the last four years, there has been considerable interest in the financial community about the oil supply problem. Elsewhere, a few conservation-minded people have paid attention. How can you reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Run out of oil. Politicians and the general public have paid little attention. Here is part of the reason: Some professional petroleum observers state that world oil production will continue to increase until the year 2030. Any publication that pretends to be "fair" feels compelled to present both sides of the story. When the professionals disagree, does that mean there is no real knowledge available? Is it safe to ignore the problem until the professionals agree?

Here's my reply: Doing nothing today is simply betting that Hubbert is wrong. Hubbert's 1956 prediction that U.S. oil production would peak in the early 1970s was essentially correct. Hubbert's 1969 prediction that world oil production would peak around the year 2000 is coming true right now (details are in Chapter 3). Fifteen years ago, we should have started investing heavily in alternative energy strategies. That opportunity is now lost. There is no time left for scholarly research. There is no time left for engineers to develop new machinery.

We have to face the next five years with the equipment designs that are already in production. It's not going to be easy.

Acknowledgments

For detailed comments on the first draft, I want to thank Bill Bonini, Larry Cathles, Robert Deffeyes, Suzy Deffeyes, Sarah Domingo, Immanuel Lichtenstein, Peter Lu, Eldridge Moores, Jason Phipps Morgan, and W. Jason Morgan. Joe Wisnovsky and Thomas LeBien gave close readings to later drafts. However, I am responsible for any errors or omissions. (I didn't always take their advice.)

Disclaimer

Much of the material in this book is relevant to the future course of national and world economies, but the book is not intended as an investment guide. I have no expertise in "the dismal science" of economics; my only training in economics was a single undergraduate course fifty-two years ago. To put it more bluntly, my track record with my own investments is best described as spotty.

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Table of Contents

1 Why look beyond oil? 3
2 Where oil came from 13
3 The Hubbert method 35
4 Mostly gas 52
5 Consider coal 82
6 Tar sands, heavy oil 99
7 Oil shale 109
8 Uranium 124
9 Hydrogen 152
10 The big picture 167
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First Chapter

Excerpt from Beyond Oil: The View From Hubbert's Peak by Kenneth S. Deffeyes. Copyright © 2005 by Kenneth S. Deffeyes. To be published March 2005 by Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.


Preface


We are facing an unprecedented problem. World oil production has stopped growing; declines in production are about to begin. For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, the geological supply of an essential resource will not meet the demand.

There has been plenty of warning. In 1969, M. King Hubbert, an American geologist, published predictions of future world oil production. Hubbert predicted that annual oil production would follow a bell-shaped curve; the curve became known as "Hubbert's peak." The more optimistic of his two estimates in 1969 placed the world's total oil endowment at 2.1 trillion barrels and peak production in the year 2000. My best current estimate (detailed at the end of Chapter 3) puts the total oil at 2.013 trillion barrels, peaking in 2005. Whichever of us is correct, or even if we are both wrong, we are not very wrong. Wherever the peak, the view is not good.

My own interest in the oil supply problem began in 1958, when I started work at the Shell research lab in Houston. Hubbert enjoyed superstar status at the Shell lab, for many reasons in addition to his oil predictions. I enjoyed working at the lab, and I enjoyed getting to know Hubbert. By 1963 it was clear that the oil business (in Houston, it's the "awl bidness") would change enormously by the year 2000, when I was supposed to retire. My own analysis of Hubbert's numbers caused me to leave the petroleumindustry prematurely.

Emotionally, it was not easy to leave. I grew up in the oil patch; my father was a first-generation petroleum engineer. I was born in Oklahoma, am part Chickasaw, and can remember the Dust Bowl. When I was about ten years old, I decided to become a petroleum geologist. While I was in high school, a nice piece of help came along: Two geologists, Jack Fanshawe and Paul Walton, took the time to help me learn mineralogy. My undergraduate education (Colorado School of Mines) and graduate education (Princeton) were focused on methods useful in oil exploration and production. I held a sequence of summer jobs that taught me the dirty-fingernail side of the oil industry. For a while, I had a bumper sticker that said, "Oilfield trash, and proud of it."

After I left Shell, I taught for a couple of years each at Minnesota and Oregon State, and then joined the faculty at Princeton. Teaching and research were rewarding, and I could continue consulting part time on oil and mining. My course titled "Sedimentology" was a camouflaged course in petroleum geology.

This book is about the fuels that come from the earth. A lot of questions about public policy naturally follow. However, my expertise ends where the geology stops. Any opinions I have about the wisdom of increased gasoline taxes or a U.S. oil import tax have the same standing as the opinions of J. Random Citizen. In this book, I try to explain the advantages and constraints on the various fuels from the earth. Deciding on policy is a task for all of us as citizens.

Chapters 1 and 2 are brief statements of the oil supply problem. Chapter 3 is the result of a happy accident: I found an alternative to Hubbert's complicated mathematics. Hubbert's analysis requires pages of differential equations to go from A to B. Going from B to A reaches the same results but requires only three lines of high-school algebra. Chapters 4 through 8 cover natural gas, coal, tar sand, oil shale, and uranium. Chapter 9 is an oddity: Hydrogen is not a fuel that comes from the earth, but there is so much misinformation floating around about hydrogen that I felt compelled to explain further about it. Chapter 10 is an essay about seeing the world through a geologist's eyes; it is what William Safire calls a "thumbsucker."

There was a tremendous flap during 2004 over Shell's downgrading of oil reserves. Those of us who used to work for Shell were particularly surprised; typically Shell was overly cautious about almost everything. I have no private sources of information from inside the major oil companies. Mostly, I try to evaluate what they do, not what they say. For instance, an editorial in the June 21, 2004, issue of Business Week complained that the 30 percent increase in oil prices induced only a tiny increase in company exploration budgets. Similarly, U.S. refineries are running close to capacity, but no new refineries have been built since 1976. Oil tanker ships are fully booked, but outdated tankers are being retired faster than new ones are being built. Instead, the industry seems to be hoarding cash, buying back stock, and paying out dividends. What is going on? Why don't higher prices and increasing demand encourage investment? Suppose, for a moment, that the premise of this book is correct: We have already found most of the oil. Drilling for the few leftovers yields neither fun nor profit. Should the major oil companies drill a string of dry holes just to keep the editors of Business Week happy? If, as I claim, world oil production is about to decline, then there is no point in adding refineries or increasing the size of the tanker fleet.

The major oil companies are not saying publicly that the oil game is over. If there were attractive prospects available, companies would be clawing their way over one another to get the drilling rights. There is important exploration to be done in a number of countries. Even if an oil company signs a contract with either the national oil company or the government itself, in many countries the contracts are unenforceable. Drill a dry hole and nothing happens. Hit a major discovery and suddenly the contract is up for renegotiation.

During the last four years, there has been considerable interest in the financial community about the oil supply problem. Elsewhere, a few conservation-minded people have paid attention. How can you reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Run out of oil. Politicians and the general public have paid little attention. Here is part of the reason: Some professional petroleum observers state that world oil production will continue to increase until the year 2030. Any publication that pretends to be "fair" feels compelled to present both sides of the story. When the professionals disagree, does that mean there is no real knowledge available? Is it safe to ignore the problem until the professionals agree?

Here's my reply: Doing nothing today is simply betting that Hubbert is wrong. Hubbert's 1956 prediction that U.S. oil production would peak in the early 1970s was essentially correct. Hubbert's 1969 prediction that world oil production would peak around the year 2000 is coming true right now (details are in Chapter 3). Fifteen years ago, we should have started investing heavily in alternative energy strategies. That opportunity is now lost. There is no time left for scholarly research. There is no time left for engineers to develop new machinery.

We have to face the next five years with the equipment designs that are already in production. It's not going to be easy.


Acknowledgments

For detailed comments on the first draft, I want to thank Bill Bonini, Larry Cathles, Robert Deffeyes, Suzy Deffeyes, Sarah Domingo, Immanuel Lichtenstein, Peter Lu, Eldridge Moores, Jason Phipps Morgan, and W. Jason Morgan. Joe Wisnovsky and Thomas LeBien gave close readings to later drafts. However, I am responsible for any errors or omissions. (I didn't always take their advice.)


Disclaimer

Much of the material in this book is relevant to the future course of national and world economies, but the book is not intended as an investment guide. I have no expertise in "the dismal science" of economics; my only training in economics was a single undergraduate course fifty-two years ago. To put it more bluntly, my track record with my own investments is best described as spotty.
Read More Show Less

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2006

    Conversational examination of what happens as the oil runs out

    Geologist M. King Hubbert gained renown by predicting an end to the era of abundant energy. His 1956 projection that U.S. petroleum production would peak in the early 1970s and then decline has come true. Production leveled off and has never gone up again. So, if you are betting against global projections based on Hubbert¿s metrics, you are, in a very real sense, betting against history. Author, professor and geologist Kenneth S. Deffeyes is a leading proponent of Hubbert¿s theories. His pleasant, very conversational book thoroughly examines why Hubbert appears correct: He explains how and why ¿ unless public and private powers begin to react and plan ¿ the energy shortage will change everyone¿s life, and could lead to famine and beyond. This book is similar in tone to Deffeyes¿ earlier work, ¿Hubbert¿s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage.¿ Some messages bear repeating and ¿ particularly since this iteration is so clearly presented and rich in updated information ¿ we believe that this is one of them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2005

    Beyond Oil - energy for the 21st century

    Beyond Oil by Dr. Kenneth Deffeyes is a sequel to his first book 'Hubbert's Peak'. Dr. Deffeyes is a retired professor of geology from Princeton University, so he focuses on technical, as opposed to political or economic issues. He begins by briefly reiterating the arguments for an eventual peak in crude oil production, then spends most of the book on possible replacements for oil in the next century. One chapter is about natural gas, including LNG and gas-to-liquids technologies. Then he considers coal, including Fischer-Tropsch reactions for producing liquid fuels. There is a chapter on the extraction and processing of tar sands and heavy oils, and a separate chapter for oil shale. Finally he concludes with nuclear power and hydrogen. Dr. Deffeyes recommendations are pretty straight forward: 1) double automotive efficiency, 2) use nuclear and renewables to generate electricity, 3) use the natural gas that is saved by step 2 to process tar sands and heavy oils, 4) use coal, combined with carbon sequestration, to produce additional liquid fuels. For example, one of his clever ideas was to build a coal-burning power plant over an oil field, and use the captured CO2 to enhance oil recovery.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2011

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