Peak Oil in Action: Prudhoe Bay

Via Green Car Congress, an article from the Washington Post that gives us a vivid picture of what peak oil looks like:

Oil keeps flowing through a maze of aging wells, pumps and pipelines that poke through the snow on this desolate North Slope tundra.

But this vast field is ailing: Output has fallen by nearly 75 percent from its peak in 1987 and is expected to continue dropping.

The Prudhoe Bay field sprawling over an area the size of Howard County still pumps more oil than any other site in the United States. But its shrinking production reflects a trend throughout the country: After years of pumping, fields in the U.S. are drawing less oil from the ground.

As the article goes on to point out, the implications of the decline of the Prudhoe Bay field are profound: just as Dubya and Congress are calling for more domestic production, we’re seeing these kinds of declines in many domestic oil fields. Demand keeps rising, so despite the calls for “energy security,” we’re becoming more dependent than ever on foriegn oil. And for those who insist a technological breakthrough is just around the corner:

Oil companies like BP are trying to extend the life of U.S. fields by using a variety of new technologies to wring more oil from the ground. But the technology and increased Gulf production are not enough to reverse the declines.

Nationally, daily production of oil and natural gas liquids dropped last year to an average of 7.2 million barrels a day — a 36 percent decrease since peaking in 1970. At Prudhoe Bay, average daily production last year was about 450,000 barrels a day, a 72 percent drop from its peak.

One would think that these numbers would provide ample evidence for the need for strong conservation measures, but, as usual, our leaders in Washington can’t seem to draw that connection. Rather, they’re debating energy proposals that provide fitting illustrations of the idea of “throwing good money after bad…”

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