Sunday, July 20, 2008

We Can't Drill Our Way Out

A blog about US politics has this comment:

The time for talk is over. We can't drill our way out of this and both his and Gore's plan point us in the right direction. We need to just do it.
I got news for him. If we can't drill our way out of our immediate problems, there is no immediate solution. Why? It is a matter of logistics and infrastructure. Our experience with the transition from wood to coal and coal to oil is instructive. Those transitions took about 75 to 100 years. Why? Whole new methods of production and infrastructure had to be developed. It is a problem of capital and logistics. Take our automotive fleet. It turns over at the rate of about 6% a year. That means a 15 or so year transition period if ALL the new vehicles embody the new energy technology. Add in another 4 to 10 years for the design of the new vehicles and the development of the support infrastructure. Say the new technology is electric of some sort. We need to be able to produce 15 million automotive qualified electric motors a year. So before we can even get up to full scale production of the transition vehicle we need quite a few new electric motor factories. How about power electronics to control the motors? Say the typical motor had a peak rating of 50 KW. That would require 750 megawatts of control electronics a year. Which is no small amount. We don't have the capacity for it. It takes 3 to 5 years to raise the capital and build a new semiconductor plant. Just to get a 15 year transition we would have to build all the support industry all at once. That will take around 5 years provided we know exactly what we want.

Which just goes to show that nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it.

And this all assumes we know what supporting industries we should invest in. Now what happens if during this all out production effort some one comes up with something new that completely changes the direction we ought to head in? A lot of the capital invested in the ramp up will have been wasted.

Sadly we have gone from Scientific Socialism to Hope and Change Socialism. The original Scientific Socialism was bad enough. Hope and Change Socialism is definitely not an improvement.

There is no magic bullet. We are going to have to muddle our way through. Slowly. For as long as it takes.

There are a couple of things to do while working towards change:

1. Do not panic
2. Drill for more oil

Cross Posted at Classical Values


LifeTrek said...

Great post!

There is nothing as transportable, controllable, reliable, quickly refillable, or affordable!

Until there is we have to unleash America in all her glory to drill, innovate, conserve, and complain!

Anonymous said...


1. We don't generate enough excess electricity to recharge 60+ million electric cars. Particularly since the vast majority of them would be recharging at night and thus all at the same time.

2. There are actually many oil wells drilled and capped off the coast of Southern California. They were the impetus for banning offshore drilling but the ban took place after they'd been drilled and oil found.

So all that's needed for those oil wells to come online is permission by Congress.

Headless Blogger said...

Simon - You didn't even touch on resources, which may not be readily available or may be in demand for other uses by the Chinese, and WILL HAVE negative environmental consequences of their own.

As you say, anything is easy if you don't have to do it. A corollary to this is that the environmental impact of any energy alternative shall be ignored until that alternative can be commercially implemented.

linearthinker said...

memomachine's #2 was what I wanted to comment on, but he beat me. I'll add only that those same wells put the lie to Pelosi's crap about no drill-no spill. The raw crude oozes out naturally along the Santa Barbara Channel. Pumping reduces pressure, reduces seepage.

The #1 item is also good, but almost never addressed. In fact memo's note and my own comments elsewhere are the only instances I can remember. Where in the hell do people think we're going to get the energy to charge up the electrics?

Neil said...

Most pointed comment of the year is to the PopSci article claiming that a volcano created today's oil. See

"We can't erupt our way out of this problem."