Monday 29 March 2010

30 Billion Barrels

I'm taking cues from Charlotte and Jon here and starting my three-day week with birch sap.

I'd been reading about how to tap the tree for it last week and lo and behold! Nigel brought some he'd collected to the Greener Fram World Beyond Oil event on Saturday.

Here is David Strahan asking Nigel about the sap, which by the way tastes unexpectedly mild, like slightly sweetened water. I'd had some idea of it tasting more resinous.

During his talk on Peak Oil David passed around a couple of lumps of solid matter (oil-soaked sandstone) from an oil field, which we all sniffed gingerly out of the plastic bag. Most of us in the room admitted we'd thought of oil only in terms of the black stuff we'd seen shoot up in the air in old Texas movies like Giant and imagined it came from underground liquid reservoirs. I realised I'd been intensely involved for two years in Transition and hadn't yet been close to the raw material!

Then there was the magic figure of 30 billion. 30 billion is the number of barrels of oil the world consumes each year (between 80 and 85 million barrels per day). Strahan was telling us to remember this number of 30 billion so that when we come across reports of huge oil finds in the media e.g. here we can work out what that actually amounts to, also bearing in mind that only 30-50% of the oil discovered can actually be extracted. At present the world uses three barrels of oil for every one that's discovered.

Someone in the audience asked a really interesting question. Why, when the price of crude oil is now around 80 dollars a barrel, are the petrol prices as high as they were in July 2008 when the oil price spiked at 147 dollars a barrel? Even David was stumped for an answer to that one.


  1. I'm not an expert but I believe the apparent disparity between oil and petrol prices is because companies don't buy the stuff itself as they need it but buy it as futures (ie they predict that they'll need x-number of barrells six months down the line and offer to pay x-pounds per barrell. The hope is that the future price will be less than the market rate at the time it arrives and the difference is pure profit.) I think, anyway. Very complicated and a symptom of the way in which so much of the economy Is predicated on systems and transactions beyond the understanding of those not involved in them. Scary!

    On another note, what can you use birch sap for? Is it like maple syrup?

  2. Thanks, Jon. And then there's the petrol tax, which is higher here than anywhere else in Europe.

    The birch sap is like a sweet water, very refreshing but not at all syrupy. A good spring tonic! (You only tap the tree at this time of year).