Saturday, November 17, 2007

Why Oil will be $30 a barrel in 30 years

Ok, Ok, I know you don't believe me and it's heresy to say such things, but please read on.

In the US we use two-thirds of our 21 million barrels of oil a day for transportation.
If you believe the CIA factbook we import 58 percent of our oil. Let's see, if we do the math, that's 66 percent imported - 58 percent used in transportation, uhm, that gives us 6 percent left over.
The US would be self-sufficient in oil if we replaced the energy in our transportation sector with something else. If the US were self-sufficient in oil production, the price of world crude would collapse.

Any of the following, or more likely combinations of these, will make this happen:
electric car
1. Electric Cars. Electricity is much cheaper than gasoline to power cars. Electricity can be produced domestically in the US from solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, wave, coal, or nuclear. The problem with electric cars is the battery. Batteries today are too expensive, too heavy, and have too short of a life span. That is changing. If any of many competing successors to our current battery technology pan out, the electric car will replace a majority, but not all, of our petroleum-based vehicles. Things like supercapacitors from technology by MIT, GT, RPI, EEStor, or EPod, could easily make the electric car viable. Incremental improvements to our lead or Lithium batteries may work.

shale oil
2. Shale Oil. Colorado has three times the energy of Saudi Arabia, but it's locked up in rock. Shell oil thinks it has a way to produce the oil for $30 a barrel.

3. Coal. Coal can be converted into liquid fuels for about $35 dollars a barrel. Germany, Japan, and South Africa have all done this. These technologies have not been pursued in the past because oil was so cheap. Who wants to invest billions in a refinery to make $35 oil when it may drop to $20?.

Many other technologies like cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, methane hydrates may also work.

If OPEC will just keep prices high for the next decade, people will invest in these alternate technologies and eventually the price of crude oil will collapse.
Despite what all the "peak oil" supporters claim, these alternate technologies will force the cost of oil to be only $30 a barrel in 30 years.


Anonymous said...

I think you're right. It will be a combination of things. Also, the way things are trending we may even have social pressure be a factor. Fossil fuels may come to be seen more and more as "dirty" sources of energy. The price of oil could eventually come down because fewer and fewer people want it or need it any more.
- Steve

Mitch Fincher said...

The $30 a barrel I predict here should be adjusted for inflation.