This is bound to stir up some controversy. A professor at the University of Washington, Eric Cheney, claims the idea that we are running out of oil is one of the seven myths concerning resource geology. Why?
Changing economics, technological advances and efforts such as recycling and substitution make the world's mineral resources virtually infinite, said Cheney, a UW professor emeritus of Earth and space sciences. For instance, oil deposits unreachable 40 years ago can be tapped today using improved technology, and oil once too costly to extract from tar sands, organic matter or coal is now worth manufacturing.The article goes on to explain some of his other thoughts on the matter. Included are the other six myths:
- Only basic extraction and processing costs affect economic geology. That fails to account for such costs as exploration, transportation, taxes and societal and environmental programs.
- Production always damages the environment. Accidents do happen, Cheney said, but much of the perception is based on problems of the past and don't reflect current reality. "It's inevitable that there are going to be oil spills, just like tere are traffic accidents on the freeway," he said. "We hope we can manage them, but nothing is risk free."
- Mineral deposits are excessively profitable. Despite widely reported huge oil company profits in the last year, Cheney notes that as a percentage of company revenues oil profits lag far behind those of some major software and banking companies.
- Transportation costs are trivial. In fact, the retail cost of building materials such as sand and gravel are largely driven by the cost of moving them from one place to another, particularly in crowded urban areas. Moving quarries and pits farther away from where people live only increases those costs.
- Ore deposits are uniform. While a valued ore can be found in a large continuous deposit, often it is mixed with other kinds of minerals and extraction becomes more expensive.
- Resources are randomly distributed and so, if human population encroaches, a mine or quarry should simply be able to relocate.