[ExI] Whatever happened to peak oil by 2020?

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Thu May 9 00:10:31 UTC 2013

On Wed, May 8, 2013 at 2:33 PM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:

> On Wed, May 08, 2013 at 08:45:33AM -0700, Adrian Tymes wrote:
> > Not quite the numbers I was looking for - but it does suggest the
> > technology is not well developed enough yet that the numbers
> > are understood.  Thanks.
> I'm sorry you dislike the numbers, or the conclusion one has to
> draw from them.
> But I can assure you that the core technology is almost a
> century old, and you will not be able to make it jump through
> hoops by throwing money at it (which you don't have) overnight.

Just because a technology's been around for a while, does not
necessarily mean there's no way to make it substantially better.
Among the examples:

* Electric cars.  They existed before internal combustion, but
there wasn't sufficient energy density for them to be more than
a novelty back then.  Internal combustion delivered far more
useful energy densities, such that that's what people remember
as introducing cars to the world.  Nowadays, batteries are
starting to have useful enough energy densities that electric
cars are once again viable.

* Gunpowder.  Famously invented by the Chinese, centuries
before being married to European metallurgy to make guns.
At first it was merely another tool in warfare (if even that), but
by the mid 19th century, it was the dominant weapon of war.

* Aluminum.  More precious and cherished than gold, until
cheap electricity and new methods made it economically
practical for many industrial uses.

Our modern era seems defined by, if any one thing, a
significant increase in the rate at which such technological
developments are being realized.  (Kind of like what one
would see in the decades leading up to a Singularity.)

This is not to say there necessarily is a way to improve
synthetic fuels, merely that "it's an old technology" is not
sufficient proof by itself.

Separately, the impression I got from the article is of an
industry where all the corners have not been explored,
where there aren't years-old, let alone decades-old,
templates that haven't been substantially improved on
since, and otherwise that there's probably much room for
improvement - at least evolutionarily, if not revolutionarily,
but even small little increments can drive something from
"not profitable" to "sometimes profitable", and thence to
"reliably profitable".
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