Here we are a year and four months away from Sammy Hardy's birth in March, 2015, as told in my novel Was A Time When. The world I described in the book was poorer than the one in which we now live and expect to live in the future. Where will we be in sixteen months, and what is making the difference?
The world of finance, our economy, and the politics are still about what I expected them to be -- a continuing mess heading downhill. But now there is a new player in the game. The North American oil/gas exploration and drilling industry has rediscovered horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing of tight geological formations to extract hydrocarbons from the source rocks as well as from the reservoir rocks. The USA suddenly finds itself with a wealth of gas and oil that had not been expected, except by some dreamers who believe in tooth-fairies and the grace of God. Most are using this fact as the reason Peak Oil is no longer a fact or problem.
Surprise, I now have a personal involvement with this movement. I grew up on a farm originally settled by my grandfather in Oklahoma, and we were told they would never harvest oil or gas from under where we lived. But Dad received 13.2 acres of mineral rights from his father, and when the ancestors had passed on, my sisters and I each had 4.4 acres. Then Jackford leased our rights for five years, and just before the lease extension expired, Continental Oil Resources decided to spud a well (named "Lucky Penny") on the section. That well was completed in July and first production was 215 barrells of oil per day plus 3MCUFT or gas per day, all because they drilled nearly 5,000 feet of horizontal hole through the Woodford formation and then fractured it, big time. Happy Days for us.
But as I checked into this I found that the production rate from Lucky Penny would drop more than 50% in the first year and the hole would be nearly drained within three or four years. My great lease will quit paying, and the US consumer will no longer have this great bonanza. Then I learned they can drill another five or eight wells into the same section (at about $8M each) and get the same result, but ultimately, the oil and gas will be gone. It just takes a little longer. They will reach the point where they ,cannot drill new wells fast enough to keep up with consumption, and/or the cost of drilling and fracking so expensive no one can affored the product they can produce.
The good news is that for a few years the Lucky Penny and its brethren will provide my sisters and me with some nice income. It will provide our country with some oil and gas to keep the motors running and the houses heated. But in time, it will no longer contribute. We will still be out of fossil fuels.
Sammy Hardy's fate may not be so bad in the beginning as I wrote in the book. But all in all, his fate has not changed a great deal. It is just delayed. Fracking will make a difference, but only in timing.