Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Arctic, its reserve and of US and Malaysia Oil Consumption

The Arctis was reported to have an estimated 90B barrels of crude and 1,670TCF of Gas. It's categorized as probably the 5th largest reserve in the world now and regarded as Big Oil's final frontier. The problem is that adding crude to our inventory will not solve the problem that peak oil is real and the production of crude will one day be less than demand. The idea to wire up electric cars to the national grid in the US is commendable. However, it is not spared with challenges such as battery size, weight and cost effectiveness. Lithium is probably the best solution for it due to its efficiency to store energy compared to other elements. Scientists and venture capitalists are betting on this as the next Internet, so to speak. As long as politicians are not willing to venture into this and continue to open up area for development especially in sensitive areas such as the Arctic, we're slowly hammering the nails on our coffins.

The US Department of Defense by far is the largest consumer of petrol at 300kbd. There is little public knowledge about the heavy usage of petrol by the men in green to run the huge Naval fleets worldwide, plane runs, etc. To my surprise, I also found out that 70% of total logistics in the military is for fuel deployment! Every $10/bbl increment would make Pentagon take US1.3B from tax payers pocket.

On a different note, despite the apparent addiction to oil by the US, USMC General Zilmer is a proponent for renewable energy technology to be incorporated in military gear and several US bases have utilized solar and geothermal. This should be extended to the public, just like the Internet. British converted from coal to oil before WW1 to increase the quickness of troops deployment. However, that was an era of US3/bbl crude.

The next big user is obviously transportation in the US. There are more than 240 million cars and trucks on the road. There's an average increase of 7% every year in the US from car sales. In other words, Americans (who are the biggest consumer of cheap and imported oil) really don't care whether we're plunging into global warming with excessive carbon emission. The next presidential hopeful is supposedly heavily geared to make this an urgent agenda for the American people and the world by signing the Kyoto protocol and setting a good example as the only superpower left on Earth (whatever that means).

Malaysia has similar problems. Although it is now a net exporter, it's predicted that Malaysia will be a net importer in a few years time. Opening up new blocks in the East would not help keep the consumption level lower than production. How do we curb oil consumption? Obviously, there has to be options for consumers. The alternative fuel has to be easy to be transported and distributed at stations. E85 could be a good bet although it might add pressure to food price. Public transportation has been a buzz word for the last few months following the general election this year. The extension of LRT will take time and before that happens, there is not much that we could do. The challenge is to expand the network in congested KL. Should not be an issue for other cities like JB and Penang. The purchase of buses could help a bit but I reckon it won't be enough. The other answer is to make it expensive for people to drive in the city center and make certain areas exclusive for pedestrians and public transportations only. The rise of 70 cents to the Liter has actually reduced traffic by 30% as reported by Star recently. Adding highways would not help reduce traffic, it merely diverts traffic. Our next bet is also hybrid or electric cars. However, because of the nature of the AP system and the grip by the elite few, the cost of the cars on the road might not be worth it for the regular joe.

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