ground- water, geo- statistics, environmental- engineering, earth- science

How Much Does a Barrel of Oil (or Water) Cost?

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There is an excellent piece at the Walrus about the end of the fossil fuel age. The author, Chris Turner, talks about a geologist, Dave Hughes, who although retired, continues to give a talk about the looming end of the hydrocarbon age, how global warming currently is the hot topic on everybody’s mind, and how other environmental topics, although equally hot, are not on everybody’s plate.

These are the three things that struck me most reading this paper:

  • Chris Turner talks about a Caltech professor, David Rutledge, discovered “a paucity of [hydrocarbon] supply so great that he now argues it will be impossible to create the worst-case scenarios in the IPCC reports, because there are simply not enough economically viable coal reserves left on earth to cloud the atmosphere with more than 460ppm CO2.” — Does that mean that IPCC used old models with old data?

  • Dave Hughes thinks that “people take it for granted that they can go to the gas station and fill it up. I don’t think in two or three years that’s something you’ll be able to take for granted. I really don’t.” — rising gas prices will be normal.

  • rising gas prices… what’s the price of a barrel of hydrocarbons (oil)? That’s the equivalent of six gigajoules. An average human on the treadmill can do about 100 Watts in an hour on a treadmill. That’s 360,000 joules. “Pay the guy minimum wage, give him breaks and weekends and statutory holidays off, and it would take 8.6 years for him to produce one barrel of oil equivalent. And you owe him $138,363 in wages.” That’s what Dave Hughes thinks is what a barrel of oil is worth.

What does that mean for water? How much energy does a reverse osmosis plant need for a cubic meter of water? I’m scared just by the thought!

Written by Claus

July 27th, 2009 at 5:20 pm

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