Oil limits could make gas prices stay high
High gasoline prices are causing Hawaii motorists to change their driving habits.
Hawaii motorists are changing their driving habits because of the high price of gasoline. They should get used to it. Prices at the pump are likely to keep rising for decades because of dwindling production from the world's oil fields.
A survey of AAA members in Hawaii indicates that nearly half are combining errands in one trip, checking tires for proper inflation, reducing speeds, carpooling, using TheBus and taking other measures to cut down on gasoline costs. For once, Hawaii's gas prices at $4 a gallon are about average for the country.
The high prices are anything but temporary. The 250 oil fields that produce most of the world's crude are becoming depleted. Output leveled out four years ago. The plateau is expected to last 15 years and then begin "a gradual but irreversible decline," Saudi oil geologist Sadad al-Husseini told Paul Roberts, author of the 2004 book, "The End of Oil," in the current issue of National Geographic.
Roberts points out that a price surge following the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s was followed by oil companies investing in new exploration technologies and tapping oil fields that had been difficult to reach, glutting the market. However, output from the world's existing fields is falling by as much as 8 percent a year.
By 2030, nearly all the oil will come from fields that are not yet in operation, said James Mulva, chief executive of ConocoPhillips. Oil companies will have turned to smaller fields, which cost more to tap.
Alternatives include coal to oil, which is expensive and polluting, Canada's tar sands, which need huge amounts of energy and water to process, and biofuels, the desired substitute. Optimists are hoping for a new oil-field discovery or oil-extraction technology, but that might be wishful thinking.
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