While there is enough oil on this planet to sustain current consumption for about another century, much of it while being technically accessible, is economically not worth bringing to the surface – it would be a dreadful return on investment. On Saturday, after telling us about earlier methods employed in drilling for oil, Dr. Martin Cobern told us of the state-of-the-art technology used for locating and drilling oil wells. Some of this technology was developed right here in Connecticut, and has not only made the process a lot more efficient, but also increased the turnaround time from locating the oil to getting it to the surface. Turns out that back in 1956, geophysicist M. King Hubbert proposed that over the course of time, fossil fuel production in any region would follow a bell-shaped curve. The Hubert curve predicted that oil production would peak in the US in the 1970s. In fact, we see that is exactly what happened; we are now on the downward slope of the curve. And we are definitely not coasting with a price of >$100 per barrel of crude oil!Despite advances in technology for drilling, it has become increasingly less economically prudent to drill in extant regions. This is primarily because of the tremendously reduced pressure that results after continual (repeated) accession of oil from these wells. So, although there is oil, the energy required to get that oil to the surface under the diminished pressures far outweighs the benefits of accessing the oil. Consequently, exploring other sources of energy is essential. In this context, back in September 2010, Professor Gary Brudvig had led a Tilde Cafe discussion entitled “Learning from Nature: how to use solar energy for renewable fuel production”. Thank you, Marty for rounding off a very informative afternoon with a splendid show and tell, of equipment used in drilling as well as specimens from a few oil rich regions in the US. Thank you also to NOVA, for once again providing a DVD that went to a lucky cafe attendee. For those who were unable to attend, you can catch the video of Dr. Martin Cobern’s cafe discussion later this week on the Tilde Cafe youtube channel.