2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (912 October 2011)
Paper No. 141-1
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-1:45 PM


CHENEY, Eric S., Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, Box 35130 University of Wshington, Seattle, WA 98195-1310, vaalbara@u.washington.edu

1) Natural resources (NR) are no longer important. This probably is caused by historically low prices (until very recently) and the rise of environmental NGOs. Nonetheless, our industrial and agricultural society is totally dependent on NR.

2) NR are finite. NR are economically elastic and fungible (interchangeable). Hubbert’s (1956) peak of oil in the US (1970) was caused by the declining uninflated price of oil from 1931 to1973 (Cheney and Hawkes, 2007). Almost all “peak” scenarios assume that the endowment of a NR is fixed; although true for small areas, economics, science, technology, recycling, and substitution make global NR virtually infinite. Gasoline will always be available (at some higher price), but eventually much may be manufactured from natural gas, tar, cellulose, coal, algae, and/or oil shale.

3) Only the cost of extraction is important. Total costs include capital, exploration/acquisition, taxes, reclamation, and social, environmental, and post-closure programs.

4) Production is environmentally devastating. Oil gushers, drainage of acid mine water, unreclaimed mines, etc. are increasingly rare in first-world countries. Total reclamation may preclude subsequent uses that the infrastructure would otherwise support.

5) Extraction is excessively profitable. In 2006 and 2010, many producers had unusually high profits and became political scapegoats. Other corporations in other industries made similar or greater profits. Typically, a few highly profitable deposits offset the operations of marginal ones and the exploration for and development of new deposits.

6) Transportation costs are trivial. Low-value commodities, such as building materials, are only economic near customers (except where they can be transported by barge or ship).

7) Deposits are uniformly mineralized. Petroleum and mine geologists expend much effort determining what is currently economic. Adverse economics make deposits, smaller, less continuous, and, in some cases, more difficult to recover. Total reclamation of deposits with gradational boundaries (especially open pits) can be an economic crime.

8) NR are randomly and evenly distributed. The Earth’s crust is heterogeneous; a corollary is that not all deposits are equally economic. Importantly, a NIMBY cannot be easily relocated.

2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (912 October 2011)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 141
A Healthy Society, Geosciences, and Natural Resources II
Minneapolis Convention Center: Room M100BC
1:30 PM-5:30 PM, Monday, 10 October 2011

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 43, No. 5, p. 354

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