It is the flow, stupid!

  • Roger BoydEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Energy book series (BRIEFSENERGY)


Imagine that you had two wealthy aunts and a wealthy uncle who all adored you and all suddenly died. Being wealthy they all decided to leave you substantial amounts of money, let us say US$ 500,000 each. Each one had a different view of your ability to manage money though and put different conditions on when you could withdraw the money and how much. Aunt 1 decides that you should get US$ 100,000 each year until the money runs out. Your uncle is a bit more careful with money and not very impressed with your money management capabilities. So, he decides that you can only withdraw US$ 25,000 per year. Aunt 2 makes your uncle look positively spendthrift, she decides you are just not old enough yet so you will have to wait 5 years before you can withdraw any money and then withdraw only US$ 25,000 per year. Overall the amount of money is the same, but the conditions on the rate at which you can withdraw it will have a real impact on your lifestyle. Energy sources vary in the level and timing of possible flow, very much like the money gifts from your aunts and uncle. Even though the amount in various reservoirs may be exactly the same, our society relies upon the flow of energy that can be provided in a given year, not the overall amount in the ground. Unfortunately for us, the easy fossil fuel deposits that we drilled first are also the ones that provided the biggest flow. The Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia, the monster of all oil deposits, is like the first aunt on steroids. Discovered in 1948 and starting production in 1951, Ghawar has been providing 5 million barrels per day, year after year ever since. No other oil field comes close.


Coal Production Corn Ethanol Concentrate Solar Power Hydro Plant British Thermal Unit 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Roger Boyd 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vice President (Retired), Bank of MontrealTorontoCanada

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