Art Berman: Houston, We Have A Problem

Every week in our Off The Cuff Series, we interview expert minds on the premium side of PeakProsperity.com. These discussions are unscripted and informal, where my partner Chris Martenson and his guest react to recent macro developments and predict the likeliest repercussions.

Every once in while, when we have an exceptionally timely conversation, we’ll make it available to the public. And we’re doing that this week.

Chris caught petroleum geologist Art Berman right before he went on stage to deliver a presentation on the limitations of shale oil (his excellent slides can be found here). The world is finally starting to realize that the profit-making potential of this space was drastically over-hyped.

But more important, warns Art, is that the souring sentiment on shale oil is a reflection on the bigger challenge ahead of us: How we will power the world in a future of declining net energy?

When we reflect upon the material progress of humankind over the hundred and fifty years, it seems very clear to me that much, if not most, of it happened because humankind moved basically from wood to coal to oil/natural gas. To increasingly more dense sources of energy.

And the result is that we get a whole lot more work out of whatever energy we expend. Less and less of that is done by manual labor.

Everything works to live. Look at the African savanna: it’s all about energy. The animals spend all day long getting food one way or another.  That’s the way life on earth works.

But not so much for us,because we’re fortunate — we humans have all this fossil energy at our disposal. You and I can sit and chat on Skype here without having to do very much.

But underneath it all is surplus energy — which, unfortunately, we’re running out of. That’s why we’re scraping the barrel with tight oil and shale gas, and oil sands, and heavy oil. And we’re fortunate to still have those options.

But our grandchildren, what are they going to do? I mean, this surplus energy isn’t going to last until they’re our age, I promise you that. I hope I’m wrong. But when I say ‘I promise’, I’m pretty sure I’m right.

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