California Roiled by high gas prices

From the Huffington Post, news that California governor Jerry Brown has tried to provide a break to California drivers by letting them go to winter-blend gas a few weeks early. Summer-blend gas is less polluting, but is in extremely short supply after a refinery fire and other problems reduced supply. Sunday’s price ($4.655), like Saturday’s, was the highest in the nation, with the Golden State overtaking Hawaii as the state with the most expensive fuel due to a temporary reduction in supply.

As per usual with the Huffington Post, the post engenders lots of responses that are in the conspiracy mode. “It’s Obama–he wants us to pay high prices for gas!” “We have Plenty of oil here if the liberals would let us use it!” Etc.

Here’s the sad reality. Oil is never going to be cheap again. Even if we could drill it all out, what’s left of the world’s oil is in inaccessible places (or places that require military intervention to get it out). The Chevron ‘Jack II’ field (touted as a solution to our oil supply problems) is under several miles of rock that is under several miles of ocean. By the time that oil get to the surface, it will be orders of magnitude more expensive than the oil we used to get out of the surface in now-depleted above-ground oilfields in Texas and Oklahoma.

There’s an algorithm term used in the energy biz that governs the cost of getting oil or gas or coal out of the ground–Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI, or sometimes EROI). In the salad days of Texas and Saudi Arabia, Oil had an EROEI of around 100×1. Deep-water oil and oil from shale are 11×1 or less. That’s actually a smaller return than we get from wind turbines, and within striking distance of photovoltaic solar.

It’s long past time to figure out a plan B before we’re all sitting in cars that we can’t afford to fill with gas.

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