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Science: “Peak oil production may already be here”

HSBC Bank: Oil will be gone in 50 years

Perhaps the most sobering outcome of a non-OPEC plateau might be reminding everyone that even planet-scale resources have their limits. And that when you are consuming them at close to 1000 gallons a second, the limits can catch you unaware. The next 5 years, assuming oil prices remain on the high side, should show who the realists are.

That’s from the 3/25 issue of Science magazine, which has long been warning of peak oil (see “Science/IEA: World oil crunch looming? Not if we can find six Saudi Arabias!”). None of this is a surprise to CP readers (see “Peak oil production coming sooner than expected”).

More and more serious analysts are warning that conventional oil is at or near peak production levels (see “WikiLeaks bombshell: Saudi reserves overstated by 40%, global production plateau immiment” and “German military study warns of peak oil crisis” and World’s top energy economist warns: “We have to leave oil before oil leaves us”).

Now the British bank HSBC, the world’s second largest in assets, joins those who warn we’ve run out of time, as CNBC reported (with video):

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There could be less than 49 years of oil supplies left, even if demand were to remain flat according to HSBC’s senior global economist Karen Ward.

Key strategies for dealing with peak oil remain fuel efficiency, mass transit, and plug-in hybrids, as I’ve said for many years (see Peak Oil? Consider it solved! and Plug-in hybrids and electric cars “” a core climate solution, nationally and globally)

Now McClatchy takes the opportunity to ask, “Is the moment for electric cars finally driving up?

Interest in electric vehicles has ebbed and flowed with the price of oil over the last three decades, but something new is clearly afoot. General Motors and Nissan already have electric cars on the streets of major U.S. cities, and intensified battery research is bringing down costs.

In 2005, there were no makers of lithium-ion batteries in the United States. Now, more than half a dozen battery plants are open or near completion, thanks in part to $2.4 billion in co-investment from the federal government.

Chevy’s Volt battery costs about $8,000 now, down from $12,000 or more a few years ago.

“The question is: Can these guys make a battery that is five times cheaper? I think yes. I think we can do it,” Eric Isaacs, the director of the Argonne National Laboratory, said in an interview. Argonne, outside Chicago, is the Department of Energy’s lead lab for advanced battery research and development. Its 15 years of research into lithium ion batteries resulted in the one that’s now being used in GM’s Chevy Volt.

The Energy Department estimates that there’ll be enough manufacturing capacity for 50,000 electric vehicle batteries by the end of 2011 and 500,000 by the end of 2014.

The bottom line is that electricity is the only alternative fuel that can lead to energy independence.

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