The end of Aviation?

2009/03/27 § 3 Comments

Recently I read that there is reason to think that flying is going to be difficult in the future. At the very least it is going to be incredibly expensive. So much, that few of us are going to be able to afford it. But also think of all the implications for transportation of goods and the like! What am I talking about? Peak oil is the key word.

When it comes to peak oil not much is being reported yet. And especially right now, with oil prices being very low due to the global financial and economic crisis not many talk of oil anymore. However, the fact has not changed that oil is a limited resource.

You, ladies and gentleman have the honor and pleasure to be amongst the chosen individuals who will see the beginning of the end of the oil era! I know, if you have not heard something about it before you surely think it is a hoax, some kind of conspiracy theory maybe. But then you just sit back, enjoy and listen to the media which will certainly report more about the topic within the next five years.

I am certain that within ten years from now every child will know what “peak oil” means. A seemingly bold prediction, but if you look at the geological facts not at all that bold. In fact the situation is so clear cut, that it is thanks to the oil industry itself that we are not hearing more about it right now.

As shown on a page that I found today [1] the “peak” is predicted to occur around 2015. Not in accordance to the oil industry of course, but in accordance to oil experts, I.e. geologists and even in accordance to economists.

Now, if it is so clear, what is it that is going to happen? Oil is going to be far more expensive, because we are not going to be able to produce enough for the whole planet. Now this may seem strange to you. How do we know oil is running out? Since 1964 the new found oilfields have steadily decreased in size. No large fields are found anymore today.

Maybe you have heard of huge fields being found recently? If you look at the facts you will find that they are realy small in comparison to our needs though. Since the late 80s we in fact find less oil each year than we are using! Logically if we have less than we need the market will regulate the price up. Now if oil really gets very expensive, the current crisis might in hindsight look like a fun party. In fact we might transition from the current crisis right into the oil price or peak oil crisis.

Why not just pump more oil so we cover our needs until we can come up with a smart solution to the problem? There are technical limits to the amount we can extract from the fields. These limits are well known to geologists and based on them they can predict what the maximum production capacity is going to be in 2015. And they have come up with the finding that this is probably the moment when we reach the maximum possible production volume of crude oil. In 2016 less than in 2015, in 2017 less than in 2016 and so on until we produce just fractions of what we would need.

Besides, if we find ways of increasing production we just run out extremely abruptly at some point. Probably that point in theory would be around or after 2050. Not so much time to come up with a real genius solution!

Troubling about all this this is the fact that you, honored reader, probably have not heard much about it yet, if anything. Many believe that we will find substitutes, but that would require that we start looking for them. And pronto! But we are not even yet addressing the issue. Politicians the world over are in a deeply ignorant state about peak oil it seems.

This is where the other article [2] I found comes in and makes matters even worse. Because when it comes to fuel for airplanes then there simply is no substitute even in sight, and we desperately need the aeronautics in order to maintain our economies. Read the article, it is very interesting. This is not in any way indicating though that this would be our biggest problem. Color, medication, fabrics, plastics and many more things are made from oil.

One word to you if you decide to be skeptical about what I just told you; go and check the information available. I know that we are bombarded by info each day that makes it hard to distinguish fact from fiction. This is why you have me. 😉

As a skeptic myself but at the same time curious and furthermore as an individual highly trained in dissecting facts from fiction (one of the few very good things I can say about my scientific education) I have done the job for you. This is no fiction, and you do yourself and your family, friends, maybe kids a favor if you do not ignore it.

Start with something simple like [1] if you like, or watch a documentary to the topic which I recommended in previous posts [3-5].

5) in German but with great links in English!


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