Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Marie Antoinette and Peak Oil

History has witnessed plenty of predictions about technology. Many of those predictions had been made by famous people who were recognized as the most knowledgeable in their field.

Funny enough, most of those predictions turned out to be false and hence are termed as Famous False Predictions.

Meanwhile, there had also been many absurd predictions which became true. As Albert Einstein once said "If at first, the idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it." He also added "Problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which the problems were created."

Below I give some famous predictions which I had collected (mostly) a long time ago. Most of them can be found on internet.

History has witnessed plenty of predictions about technology. Many of those predictions had been made by famous people who were recognized as the most knowledgeable in their field.

Funny enough, most of those predictions turned out to be false and hence are termed as Famous False Predictions.

Meanwhile, there had also been many absurd predictions which became true. As Albert Einstein once said "If at first, the idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it." He also added "Problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which the problems were created."

Below I give some famous predictions which I had collected (mostly) a long time ago. Most of them can be found on internet.

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“I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea.”
HG Wells, British novelist 1901.

Shortly after their historic first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in December, 1903, the Wright brothers patriotically offered their plane (Flyer) to the United States Army. The result? The army was so skeptical of the brothers' claims that they refused to see a flight demonstration until 1908.
By 1909, the army was using Wright brothers’ machinery for military use. (
source)

"Airplanes are interesting toys, but of no military value."
French Marshal Ferdinand Foch Professor of Strategy. Ecole Superieure De Guerre. 1912.

"That Professor Goddar…does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react--to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in highschools.”
1921 New York Times Editorial about Robert Goddard's Revolutionary Rocket Work.

“Nobody now fears that a Japanese fleet could deal an unexpected blow on our Pacific possessions…radio makes surprise impossible.”
Josephus Daniels, former US Secretary of the Navy, 16 October 1922.

"No matter what happens, the U.S. Navy is not going to be caught napping."
U.S. Secretary of Navy, 4 December 1941.

"The [atomic] bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives.”
Admiral William Leahy to President Truman in 1945, on US Atomic Bomb Project.

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?”
David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920's.

“Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”
Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox, 1946.

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."
Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

"Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances."
Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the vacuum tube.

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
Lord Kelvin, President, Royal Society, 1895.

“That the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced.”
Scientific American, 2 January 1909.

Rail travel at high speeds is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia”
British scientist Dionysius Lardner, 1923.

"With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big slice of the US market."
Business Week, 2 August 1968.

"My personal desire would be to prohibit entirely the use of alternating current [the basis of today's electrical systems]. They are [as] un-necessary as they are dangerous.”
Thomas A. Edison, North American Review, 1889.

“In fifteen years more electricity will be sold for electric vehicles than for light”
Thomas Edison, 1902.

“There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.”
Albert Einstein, 1974.

"Drill for oil ? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil ? You're crazy.”
Drillers Edwin Drake tried to recruit to drill for oil in 1859.

Soon after oil was discovered there have been several crying wolves warning about running out of oil. For example, as early as 1919, the head of USGS forecasted that the end would come in 9 years. (Newsweek, 16 February 2004)
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Many of those false predictions are used by Marie-Antoinette[1] like minded people to dismiss or debunk Peak Oil. They claim that sufficient investment and technological advancement (Marie-Antoinette’s cake) will bring the required amount of oil into the market.

Ultra deep Jack #2 in Gulf of Mexico, ethanol, tar-sands, extra heavy oil, coal-to-liquids, gas-to-liquids, hydrogen etc are shown as different types of cakes.

What those people do not understand is that crude oil is a non-renewable natural resource. It cannot be invented. Unlike technologies once it is discovered, and later on extracted, it is depleted. Once Peak is reached exctraction rate declines.
Marie-Antoinette like minded people or daylight dreamers believe that money and technology are the Angles which will help in avoiding the Peak.
However, in the real world money and technology can only delay the Peak but cannot avoid it.
Money and technology cannot find oil which is not there.

They can surely help recover more oil from fields but production from new discoveries and from extended recovery will not be able to add 35 Mb/d extra more oil on top of today’s 85 Mb/d by 2030 (to reach 120 Mb/d forecasted by respected institutions).

Ignoring depletion and believing blindly in money and technology is like saying “Amen” to a pray which does not exist!

Many analysts have long been warning about the probable consequences of Peak Oil and have been calling for an early action for mitigation. But as Chinese proverb correctly states "When a finger points to the moon the imbecile looks at the finger."


Notes:
[1] Marie-Antoinette was a naive, 14-year-old Austrian who married Louis-Auguste (Louis XVI of France) is famous with her saying "If they have no bread, then let them eat cake!" while the peasants starved during a shortage of bread in the country. Some people argue that she is incorrectly quoted. Well, well…

1 Comments:

At 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peak Oil?

How's that working out?

 

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