New, advanced techniques for drilling oil have revolutionized the domestic oil industry in North Dakota in ways that couldn\’t have even been predicted just a few years ago, and will likely also open up new oil production in other parts of the world in the near future (like the Alberta Bakken in Canada) that also would have been unimaginable before this year. That\’s one reason that \”peak oil\” is peak idiocy: it always underestimates the ultimate resource – human capital (i.e. human ingenuity and the resulting innovation, advances, new technology) – which is endless and boundless, and will never peak.
OK, that might be just a tad Panglossian, but there\’s an interesting little point underlying it.
When we work out some new technology, allowing us to exploit something like this Bakken field, this doesn\’t mean that we can now simply and only exploit this one Bakken field.
We can now explore the entire world for similar fields: in effect, the new technology opens up half a trillion square kilometers for resource extraction again. We\’ve, in one rather specialised meaning of the the phrase, opened up a new and entire Earth to exploration.
The same is true of the frakking process for natural gas.
The same is true of the (although of course this isn\’t a great example to use) of the drilling of the Macondo field. By, for the first time, drilling to 5 miles below the crust, we\’ve opened up that entire half a trillion km2 again to drilling 5 miles down.
We haven\’t, in any of these three technological advances, found just one more field of oil or gas. We\’ve created new Earths to explore for deposits that can be accessed using these technologies.
Yes, sure, there really are physical limits to the resources we can dig out of the ground. But the limitations, at least in any relevant sense, aren\’t the limits to such resources that exist: it\’s the technologies we have to get at them.