vendredi 15 mars 2013

Pétrole à volonté

Une chose est certaine, malgré les prophéties catastrophistes, nous ne sommes pas prêt de manquer de pétrole, le problème est son prix, le coût de son extraction et la technologie pour aller le chercher toujours plus loin, toujours plus profond.

Oil is perhaps the only commodity used, in one way or another, by almost everyone on earth. We depend on it for much more than just gasoline. Oil and natural gas provide the raw materials for asphalt, plastics, and chemicals and fertilizers without which modern agriculture would collapse. To say that we’re “addicted” to oil, as though it were a bad habit we could kick through force of will, is to drastically understate the degree of our dependence. In short: no petroleum, no modern civilization. Little surprise, then, that practically since we started using the stuff, we have fretted that we were running out of it. In 1922, a federal commission predicted that “production of oil cannot long maintain its present rate.” In 1977, President Jimmy Carter declared that world oil production would peak by 1985.

It turns out, though, that the problem has never been exactly about supply; it’s always been about our ability to profitably tap that supply. We human beings have consumed, over our entire history, about a trillion barrels of oil. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates there is still seven to eight times that much left in the ground. The oil that’s left is just more difficult, and therefore more expensive, to get to. But that sets the invisible hand of the market into motion. Every time known reserves start looking tight, the price goes up, which incentivizes investment in research and development, which yields more sophisticated technologies, which unearth new supplies—often in places we’d scarcely even thought to look before.

[The Deluge. Pacific Standard]