Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Wired: "Why $5 Gas Is Good For America"

The optimist's spin (well, why would you be reading this otherwise?) on peak oil is, "it's about time!" Teaser:
At the climax of his book Twilight in the Desert, Houston investment banker and energy guru Matthew Simmons describes a visit to the world's most powerful oil company, Saudi Aramco, in Dhahran. Simmons listens in horror as a senior manager reveals the kingdom's darkest secret. The old ways no longer suffice. To keep their aging wells productive, the Saudis now rely upon one information age prop after another: advanced analysis of rock cores, 3-D seismic imagery, software for diagnosing underground oil flows - all integrated using something called fuzzy logic. Fuzzy logic? The Aramco man tries to explain the science of complex systems and partial information, but Simmons hears only tidings of a bleak future. Obviously, the end of energy as we know it is nigh.

Simmons' techno-cluelessness would be funny - calling Jed Clampett with his 12-gauge! - if he weren't the spearhead of a whole hand-wringing school of petro-pessimism. The oil fields are running dry, the gas gauge is on empty, the American way of life is doomed - these ideas bob like plastic shark fins on the storm surge of current oil prices. But the history of energy innovation suggests something very different - and a lot less dire.