Poor peak oil. Interest in this theory peaked around two years ago; since then, peak oil has been relegated to a kind of alarmist understudy role, available if ever global warming got a toothache or twisted an ankle. Now even the New York Times is talking peak oil down:

Within the last decade, technology advances have made it possible to unlock more oil from old fields, and, at the same time, higher oil prices have made it economical for companies to go after reserves that are harder to reach. With plenty of oil still left in familiar locations, forecasts that the world’s reserves are drying out have given way to predictions that more oil can be found than ever before …

“It’s the fifth time to my count that we’ve gone through a period when it seemed the end of oil was near and people were talking about the exhaustion of resources,” said Daniel Yergin, the chairman of Cambridge Energy and author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning history of oil, who cited similar concerns in the 1880s, after both world wars and in the 1970s. “Back then we were going to fly off the oil mountain. Instead we had a boom and oil went to $10 instead of $100.”

Incredibly, abundance denialists simply won’t accept the oil consensus:

There is still a minority view, held largely by a small band of retired petroleum geologists and some members of Congress, that oil production has peaked, but the theory has been fading.

UPDATE. DISSENT! Jim Rooney emails:

Dear Mr. Blair,

I read your blog with some frequency and enjoy it. As an independent oil and gas producer in the Rocky Mountains (and an ABD in economics from Columbia) I have to say that I’m nonplussed by your entry “Peak Passed”.

Two problems.

The question of peak oil (Hubbert’s peak) relates to production rates rather than absolute supply. It’s not saying that we’re running out anytime soon or that there isn’t a lot of it around. In fact it occurs by definition when 50% of the ultimate reserves remain. The issue isn’t some sort of short-term “exhaustion of resources”, to quote Daniel Yergin, a man who was projecting $100 per barrel back in the early 80’s right up until prices fell off a cliff.

Even the New York Times is talking peak oil down?! The tenor of your comment and that of the comments section was that Peak Oil is some sort of lefty fetish similar to global warming. My fellow right wingers and enemies of the planet in the oil business tend to think the Peak is not that far off. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but I could offer many reasons why I think it’s true. For instance, the NYT isn’t worried about it ... Seriously, if you’re interested I could go on and on.

The market will create a solution to the problem of rapidly rising demand and relatively stagnant increases (or declines) in the rate of production. But dismissing the potential problem as hype makes it more likely that the solution will resemble a train wreck, economically and politically.

The High Prophet of Hubbert’s Peak is probably Matt Simmons. He recently gave a speech on the topic in London; the text is on his web site.

Best regards,
Jim Rooney

Posted by Tim B. on 03/07/2007 at 03:09 AM
  1. There are huge oil reserves in Canada; it’s just expensive to extract it.  If the price of oil stays where it is now, though, it’s profitable.

    We’ll run out of oil eventually (or at least, run out of cheap oil), but the doomsday scenarios are written by economic illiterates.

    Posted by Pixy Misa on 2007 03 07 at 03:18 AM • permalink

  2. Our elbow grease reserves are alarminlgly low.

    Posted by Infidel Tiger on 2007 03 07 at 03:19 AM • permalink

  3. Why do you worry?

    Fear not, humanity will find an alternate solution in solving this “crisis” if it has to.

    Posted by 1.618 on 2007 03 07 at 03:24 AM • permalink

  4. These inevitable apocalypses come and go too fast for me to keep up. I can’t be scared of Global Warming or Peak Oil yet - I’m still waiting for the all clear on Asian Bird Flu.

    Posted by SteveGW on 2007 03 07 at 03:36 AM • permalink

  5. Peak Oil? Oh that’s right I remember now. I forgot all about it when I learned Avian flu was going to kill us all. You remember, that catastrophic threat just before global warming stole all the headlines?

    Posted by Dan Lewis on 2007 03 07 at 03:38 AM • permalink

  6. Funnily enough, recently all of the goebbels warming cultists over at Bolt’s blog (including our old friend Ender) revealed themselves to be firm believers in Peak Oil also.

    Posted by Art Vandelay on 2007 03 07 at 03:39 AM • permalink

  7. OK, that settles it—new Mazda CX-7 it is for me ...

    Posted by BIWOZ on 2007 03 07 at 03:46 AM • permalink

  8. There’s money beyond the dreams of avarice for the inventors of these scares. I"m terrified that I may not be in on the ground floor for the next big panic.

    Posted by Infidel Tiger on 2007 03 07 at 03:51 AM • permalink

  9. Boy is my face red (and my bowels loose), when I first heard that oil production had peaked, I ran into my kitchen and sculled all the olive oil I had.

    Posted by Penguin on 2007 03 07 at 03:54 AM • permalink

  10. ...peak oil has been relegated to a kind of alarmist understudy role,

    Wither the smug? And the ever-so-wise tut-tutting at us skeptics?


    Posted by Spiny Norman on 2007 03 07 at 03:55 AM • permalink

  11. #10. Hey Spiny, you can’t register ‘Heh’.  Everyone’s been using ‘heh’ since forever, and to suggest that’s it’s now proprietary is as implausible as charging for air, or carbon emissions or something.  I for one scoff at your presumption.  Indeed, HEH!

    Posted by Olrence on 2007 03 07 at 04:05 AM • permalink

  12. Where’s there a will, there’s a way, that’s why capitalism will survive

    Posted by regional on 2007 03 07 at 04:05 AM • permalink

  13. Sheikh Yamani once said something like “The Stone Age didn’t end because they ran out of stones”. Likewise, the oil age won’t end because we have run out of oil. Us Homo sapiens are creative buggers. Our future will feature alternative fuels such as alcohol, electric cars powered from renewables when they become economic (I’m not holding my breath), and currently unthought-of technology. Anyone for a nuclear car?

    Apart from that, there is more oil in the ground than you can poke a stick at. All you need to do is pay for it. You pay more - more becomes available. You pay less - well, bugger me, we’ve just ran out. That’s the market for you.

    Posted by geojoe on 2007 03 07 at 04:13 AM • permalink

  14. Actually #1 is correct.  Oil is not going to run out, it will just become more expensive to extract.  Peak oil means an end to cheap (sweet light crude) oil.  There is plenty of heavy sour around, but few refineries in the world are able to process it, due to it’s high sulfur content.

    Posted by darrinhV2 on 2007 03 07 at 04:17 AM • permalink

  15. #10 Olrence

    It’s an Instapundit joke. ;^)

    Posted by Spiny Norman on 2007 03 07 at 04:23 AM • permalink

  16. #13.  And don’t forget urea.  You may think this a pisstake, but it’s a proven goer as a clean-burning fuel.  And can be readily manufactured in any amount.  And doesn’t come from the middle east. 

    I remain perplexed that it simply doesn’t rate a mention amongst all the squealing about greenhouse gases, gorbal worming etc.

    Posted by Olrence on 2007 03 07 at 04:23 AM • permalink

  17. #11, rather.


    Posted by Spiny Norman on 2007 03 07 at 04:23 AM • permalink

  18. No longer possible to scare women! News biz folding!  Can it happen here?  More at 11.

    Posted by rhhardin on 2007 03 07 at 04:26 AM • permalink

  19. Peak Oil is nothing like the problem the doom-mongers would have you believe, because in the medium to long term all energy sources are more or less fungible. That is you can substitute one energy source for another.

    But there is a problem. It’s the lack of transparency and instability of our main oil (and to a lesser extent gas) sources. This makes us vulnerable to supply surprises and we will not have time to make the necessary changes.

    There is a lot of talk in the Peak Oil forums that Saudia Arabia is lying through its teeth about its reserves and its production will crash in the not too distant future. Were this a normal commercial enterprise in a normal country we would know the real situation and the market would react appropriately and in timely manner.

    Posted by phil_b on 2007 03 07 at 04:27 AM • permalink

  20. #15.  Orright, I’ll dismount the horse of high dudgeon for now.  But I’ll be watching for any unseemly grabs at our common linguistic patrimony.  As you were, then.

    Posted by Olrence on 2007 03 07 at 04:28 AM • permalink

  21. #18 rhhardin

    “Peak Oil fizzles, women and children hardest hit”—New York Times

    Posted by Spiny Norman on 2007 03 07 at 04:28 AM • permalink

  22. These inevitable apocalypses come and go too fast for me to keep up.

    No shit. I’ve still got a thousand rounds of 7.62x39 left over from Y2K. And I’ll never get through all these MRE’s.

    Posted by Dave S. on 2007 03 07 at 04:34 AM • permalink

  23. Tenuously related, but prob’ly OT.  Toyota recalling 140,000 vehicles across Australia.Linky

    Posted by Olrence on 2007 03 07 at 04:39 AM • permalink

  24. #22 Dave S.

    LMAO! I imagine the MREs will outlast you. ;^)

    Posted by Spiny Norman on 2007 03 07 at 04:43 AM • permalink

  25. One of my favorite cartoons from the old New Yorker (as opposed to the utter piece of crap they palm off on the modern day smugs) was one with a picture of the standard berobed Jesus look-alike standing on a street corner with a sign that said:  “Unfortunately the world is going to drag on.”

    Those who wring their hands into little stubs are those with no imagination and a terrible fear of everything beyond their ken buried deep in their depraved little souls.

    Posted by saltydog on 2007 03 07 at 04:55 AM • permalink

  26. “Unfortunately the world is going to drag on.”

    Oh, that’s classic. I wonder if that cartoon is online somewhere?

    Posted by Spiny Norman on 2007 03 07 at 04:58 AM • permalink

  27. Too bad refinery capacity seems to have peaked, at least here in the US. That black gooey stuff doesn’t do me or my truck any good when it’s in the ground.

    Posted by dean martin on 2007 03 07 at 05:06 AM • permalink

  28. OT- talking bout denialists -tenuous link to thread- The left talks to itself (as we call Australia talks back in our house)on Ruddio National is running the following talkback topic tomorrow:

    ‘A group of 120 Jewish Australians has issued a joint statement and raised an online petition to challenge what it characterises as the ‘Jewish establishment’s uncritical allegiance to Israeli Government policy and the stifling of dissenting voices within the Jewish community’

    Representing ‘Independent Australian Jewish Voices’ is the appropriately named Dr Peter Slezak- no mention of the Lowest-one but he’s bound to pop up.

    would be funny if the show was overrun with Blairites giving the Dhimmiwits what for, but we’d never stoop to such leftwing tactics would we? (even if more than one or two could get past the switchboard nazis)

    Posted by eeniemeenie on 2007 03 07 at 05:15 AM • permalink

  29. #28 the stifling of dissenting voices within the Jewish community

    Yeah. That’s what it’s called when you’re outvoted a million to one. It’s called stifling.

    Posted by JonathanH on 2007 03 07 at 05:39 AM • permalink

  30. The “oil crisis” once had a life like “climate change”. Bought a new car in 1978 thinking it would be my last. For about four years leading up to my purchase, there were almost daily reports that all the oil would be gone in a decade. It caused a rush to replace domestic oil heaters with gas heaters, led TV shows such as the Inventors to give huge coverage to the orbital engine because it could run on vegetable oils and much talk of growing some noxious weed over all our dams from which some wonder fuel could be extracted. The scams that flowed from the oil crisis made many a new millionaire.

    Also lived through the era of nuclear destruction in the late 50s/early 60s. That didn’t happen either but plenty of people built bomb shelters or took other, more extreme, measures to ensure their survival. It made other people rich selling “protection”.

    And now the climate alarmists can’t understand cynicism about their predictions.

    Seen it all before ....

    Posted by Contrail on 2007 03 07 at 05:55 AM • permalink

  31. ...I’m more concerned about ‘peak beer’ myself.

    Posted by Repihsrow on 2007 03 07 at 06:07 AM • permalink

  32. #3 #12
    Recall an article in Reader’s Digest from the 90s in which a US economist always won bets against a colleague re commodity shortages vs alternatives, e.g. perceived shortages in silver and copper (optical fibre supplanted copper for Telcos, etc).

    Posted by egg_ on 2007 03 07 at 06:18 AM • permalink

  33. #31 I’m more concerned about ‘peak beer’ myself.

    You just need to go after the reserves that are harder to reach. Like in your neighbour’s fridge.

    Posted by JonathanH on 2007 03 07 at 06:19 AM • permalink

  34. gnitseretni eman, repihsrow.

    Posted by SwinishCapitalist on 2007 03 07 at 06:22 AM • permalink

  35. Whether the oil supply is diminishing or not, I want it replaced with something cheap and renewable.  Then we can turn to the Middle East and give them the middle finger. 

    Oh, that might disrupt their fragile economies?  Well, let them rely on their broad base manufacturing industry and their ascending industries in the technology and service areas.  Like India, Israel, and Turkey.

    What?  The Middle East doesn’t have any other industry other than oil production?  Oh, that’s too bad. 




    Posted by wronwright on 2007 03 07 at 06:24 AM • permalink

  36. Not to mention the terrible Sex Crisis of 1981-82 when I didn’t get any for almost a year. Looked like I was going to fly off the sex mountain. Or into the sex mountain. Or something.

    Posted by JonathanH on 2007 03 07 at 06:25 AM • permalink

  37. JonathanH

    ...I don’t want to be seen as alarmist as I have some light sweet - Corona - in my fridge but I don’t want to be dependant on imported beer supplies and prefer Coopers Red… but none of my neighbours have any that I know of… what to do?  Should hop in the 4WD and drive around pointlessly seeking an open bottle shop - after all petrol is so cheap.

    Posted by Repihsrow on 2007 03 07 at 06:32 AM • permalink

  38. Look out for Pique Oil: where greenists are mightily pissed off when they are forced to realise oil has not run out and the predictions of Beyond Thunderdome aren’t playing out.

    Posted by anthony_r on 2007 03 07 at 06:35 AM • permalink

  39. #38
    Methane: Beyond Thunderbox?

    Posted by egg_ on 2007 03 07 at 06:44 AM • permalink

  40. #38
    Solero Energy: have a couple of dry sherrys and the world looks more bearable.
    Wind Power: curry makes the world go round.
    Renewable Energy: get a good night’s sleep!

    Posted by blogstrop on 2007 03 07 at 06:44 AM • permalink

  41. #32, are you referring to the famous bet between Julian Simon and crazy doomsayer Ehrlich?

    This article about Simon is great. A lot of it will sound familiar:

    Julian Simon Remembered
    Almost daily the media were reporting some new imminent eco-catastrophe: nuclear winter, ozone depletion, acid rain, species extinction, and the death of the forests and oceans.

    The Club of Rome had just released its primal scream, Limits to Growth, which reported that the earth was rapidly running out of everything. The most famous declinist of the era, biologist Paul Ehrlich, had appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to fill Americans with fear of impending world famine and make gloomy prognostications, such as, “If I were a gambler, I would bet even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”

    The Carter administration published in 1980 its multiagency assessment of the earth’s future, titled Global 2000. Its famous doom-and-gloom forecast that “the world in 2000 will be more crowded, more polluted, less stable ecologically. . . . and the world’s people will be poorer in many ways than they are today” received headlines across the nation. Malthusianism was now the official position of the U.S. government.

    It was all so damned depressing. And, thanks to iconoclast Julian Simon, we now know that it was all so wrong.

    Posted by Art Vandelay on 2007 03 07 at 06:48 AM • permalink

  42. The Oil Market is like any other market, it fluctuates depending on what’s going on in the world.

    There won’t be a “run out” of oil, ever, there will simply be a long term increase in prices as the market responds to greater difficulty in extraction and greater difficulty in refining.

    Similarly refining capacity generally lags what the market needs at any one instant.  Refinery projects are years in the making and they’re difficult to get on the board unless refining margins are good and they always represent a step-change in production capacity. 

    Refinery capacity as a consequence will NEVER match demand in its immediate locality and that will always be made up for by either imports or exports with corresponding adjustments in price.

    Whilst the ME will always be a significant contributor to oil production there are significant other sources.  Russia has massive reserves yet its production has been dropping due to worn out Soviet era production and processing equipment.  If the price goes high enough then that will get corrected.

    On the back of high oil prices most Oil Companies subsequently spent more on exploration and proving and subsequently managed to increase their proven reserves by as much as 15% over replacement rate.

    In anycase if Oil pushes much past its recent peak then sythetic production using variations of the Fischer Tropsch process becomes economically viable effectively turning coal, shale, vegetable matter and pretty much anything else into potential sources of refined products.

    So, sorry scaremongers, no disaster in sight….

    Posted by rickw on 2007 03 07 at 06:52 AM • permalink

  43. #41
    That’s it, thanks for the memory jog.
    Great to see one of these ‘futurists’ having to contront reality with their wallet as well as their ego!

    There was also a controversial (3-part? BBC-TV?) documentary from the late 90’s demonstrating that our quality of life is improving with time rather than declining. Can’t seem to Google anything as yet.

    Posted by egg_ on 2007 03 07 at 07:00 AM • permalink

  44. Fear not. There is always the gas producer for when the oil runs out.
    These were widely used in Australia during WWII when everything was rationed and petrol almost non-existent for civilians.
    For the fuel you can use anything that will burn,  but charcoal seemed to produce the best speeds and miles per pound.

    Posted by Skeeter on 2007 03 07 at 07:07 AM • permalink

  45. And for all the new (1980s) Aussie gas producer know-how, see complete plans and specifications here.

    Posted by Skeeter on 2007 03 07 at 07:22 AM • permalink

  46. Depressing, just chatting to a mate whos brain has turned to mush an is almost evangelical in his “Have you seen it yet” speil on GW.
    He believes there is NO opposing view to GW apart from “one or two fruitloops” because Gores movie said so.
    I asked if he had switched to fluro globes yet or done anything else, “No”. So his missus jumps on the phone and wails away about how “I should stop being a right wing nut and get with it”.
    I remain somewhat unconvinced. Does anyone have a good hard science site debunking GW, prefferably with a number of members in the field in it?

    Posted by thefrollickingmole on 2007 03 07 at 07:37 AM • permalink

  47. #46 tfm, would you dare pit facts against the prophesies? Do you not know the terrible punishment reserved for the infidel? glowball worming is the will of Gaia, pbuh. Your science is but satanic verses.

    Posted by hooligan on 2007 03 07 at 08:04 AM • permalink

  48. #41

    Thanks for the link. Looks like Mr. Simon was onto the Goremonger a long time ago:

    He routed nearly every prominent environmental scaremonger of our time: from the Club of Rome, to Paul Ehrlich, to Lester Brown, to Al Gore. (After reading Earth in the Balance, Julian was convinced that Gore was one of the most dangerous men and one of the shallowest thinkers in all of American politics.)

    This was written after Julian Simon’s death in 1998!

    Posted by CO² max on 2007 03 07 at 08:12 AM • permalink

  49. When my Dad was in college, his professors told him oil would run out around 1983.  Mine told me it would all be gone by 2004.

    Posted by blogagog on 2007 03 07 at 08:22 AM • permalink

  50. I always knew that peak oil was really peak bullshit

    Posted by pick-your-pun on 2007 03 07 at 08:27 AM • permalink

  51. thefrollickingmole, they’re a lost cause it sounds like. People with closed minds are a lost cause.

    Posted by Srekwah on 2007 03 07 at 09:16 AM • permalink

  52. Tim, the Google Trends data tells one story but it seems a little different in Australia. I searched in Newsbank for references to peak oil and “peak oil” (in quotes) and we seem to be trending upwards in terms of mentions in recent years. Excuse the self promotion but graphs are in my post here.

    Are we just slow to catch on to the wider global trend?

    Posted by Villeurbanne on 2007 03 07 at 09:23 AM • permalink

  53. You might be interested to know that there are two giant red spots on Jupiter.

    They use to only have one.
    I am a backyard astronomer. You can look at things out there for years and never see a change like this. It is huge.

    Climate change on Jupiter is observable in real time for anyone who owns a six inch neutonian telescope.
    Much better then ice caps on Mars for illustration of how there is no such thing as AGW. Just so you know I’m not full of crap.

    Here’s the link.

    Posted by papertiger on 2007 03 07 at 09:24 AM • permalink

  54. There is still a minority view, held largely by a small band of retired petroleum geologists and some members of Congress, that oil production has peaked, but the theory has been fading.

    Fading? You don’t say. When all you’ve got left is the out-oftouch geezers and some politicians your theory is well-nigh faded.

    Now, if they’d said “largely held by a small band of Hollywood elites and Al Gore,” well, that would be an unfaded theory.

    Posted by Matt Moore on 2007 03 07 at 09:32 AM • permalink

  55. Does anyone here subscribe at all to the theory of abiotic petroleum?

    Posted by Srekwah on 2007 03 07 at 09:33 AM • permalink

  56. #13

    Sheikh Yamani once said something like “The Stone Age didn’t end because they ran out of stones”. Likewise, the oil age won’t end because we have run out of oil

    The Arabs will be totally stuffed. Oil is the only thing they have that anybody else wants (and its not even an Arab innovation). They have no science, no technology and no future once the oil dries up.

    That’s why a couple of the emirates are trying to become tourist playgrounds, to have some form of post-oil industry. I don’t think many people will have Arab countries high on their list of places to visit in the next few years.

    Posted by Dan Lewis on 2007 03 07 at 09:50 AM • permalink

  57. #55 No, it’s been pretty well debunked. The boffins can even examine the oil and tell you what kind of bacteria, etc. it was made from. (No dinosaurs, thick mats of bacteria).

    It’s plausible enough to make the average warmist who doesn’t keep up take pause, and of course the carbon is abiotic by definition, so you’re welcome to have fun with it—I do, once in a while.


    Posted by Ric Locke on 2007 03 07 at 09:53 AM • permalink

  58. Thanks Ric.

    Posted by Srekwah on 2007 03 07 at 10:04 AM • permalink

  59. #25 ...the standard berobed Jesus look-alike standing on a street corner with a sign that said:  “Unfortunately the world is going to drag on.”

    Now that’s funny!

    Personally, I can’t wait for the Middle East to run out of oil.  Without oil, their dole-addicted populations will be forced to put all that fanatical religious nonsense on the back burner and get actual jobs, producing things that are useful and saleable.  They’ll actually be forced to join the 21st century, or turn into a worse suckhole than Africa ever was, and won’t that be humiliating!

    Posted by RebeccaH on 2007 03 07 at 10:42 AM • permalink

  60. All these scares are so much fun.


    I still have my atomic bomb-proof desk from school in the late ‘50’s.  It’s the one the teacher used to make me crawl under when we had our a-bomb drills.  Still haven’t figured out how it works.

    (Looks out window at 5 cm of freshly fallen global warmening.)

    Posted by SSG Pooh on 2007 03 07 at 10:45 AM • permalink

  61. #56 Dan Lewis

    The Arabs will be totally stuffed. Oil is the only thing they have that anybody else wants (and its not even an Arab innovation). They have no science, no technology and no future once the oil dries up.

    Don’t start laughing yet.  For all we know, scientists may discover a way to make fuel out of ordinary sand - and then the Middle East will still have us by the balls! ;-)

    Posted by ekb87 on 2007 03 07 at 10:51 AM • permalink

  62. I don’t know Tim, that link to The Oil Drum that Insty put up the other day was pretty convincing, at least in regards to Saudi production.

    They either have 2mpd they’re just not using, or they’re lying.  I’m betting on lying.

    Posted by TallDave on 2007 03 07 at 12:33 PM • permalink

  63. Oddly enough, I’ve been stuck with reviewing a film for my paper that’s coming out this week - something called A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash.

    Here’s its imdb page.

    A Swiss production, it’s described as “an enlightening, intelligent and profoundly shocking documentary feature film about how the citizens of planet earth are sucking dry our most valuable and non-renewable natural resource: oil.”

    The Melbourne Age called it “incisive and terrifying.”

    I’ll post a link to my review when it’s online.

    Posted by rick mcginnis on 2007 03 07 at 12:36 PM • permalink

  64. #61 There’s a science fiction novel (though I can’t recall the title or author at the moment) in which the worlds energy comes from satellites (solar power) and is beamed to earth as microwaves.

    Which means they need large reception areas, away from people and animals people care about (for the times the beam “misses” a bit). Oh and you want clear skies…

    So the world freed itself from oil sourced from the Middle East, only to find the deserts in the middle east became the source of all power from the microwave receivers.

    Posted by sam on 2007 03 07 at 12:38 PM • permalink

  65. So Mecca and Medina become big, unpopulated satellite dishes?

    Interesting theory.

    Posted by rick mcginnis on 2007 03 07 at 12:42 PM • permalink

  66. I have a hunch, just a hunch mind, that most of you will be rather taken by a particular cardinal…he really doesn’t see eye to eye with the gaia-worshippers.

    Here is a post about the prelate: http://gardjola2.blogspot.com/2007/03/biffi-hits-headlines.html  NOTE. Links to my site, so it is really a shameless plug. You are free to ignore it, but it’s worth a laugh.

    Posted by Deepdiver on 2007 03 07 at 12:52 PM • permalink

  67. The fact of the matter is that yes, we’re going to run out of oil. It is, after all, a finite resource. If you assume that the entire oil-bearing stratum (call it 5000-7500 feet deep) was made entirely out of oil, and apply a reasonable (i.e. exponential) extrapolation of usage, the time-remaining number is absurdly small, on the order of a few centuries. Since the assumption is clearly in error, that is, the amount of remaining oil is less than that, the time we have is also less.

    The question is how long we have and whether or not it’s an emergency justifying establishment of a tyranny to manage it. I rather think not. We will be fine for the foreseeable future, and so will the planet. We should be researching alternatives, though, and are.


    Posted by Ric Locke on 2007 03 07 at 01:04 PM • permalink

  68. Of all the scares perpetrated on us through the years, peak oil was one of the silliest. From my comment in a peak oil thread some time ago at Belmont Club (at the time I suggested the Gorebal Worming hysteria would fade and peak oil hysteria would take its place—boy, was I wrong—obviously the peak oil hysterics could use a Gorebot):

    Thomas Gold, crackpot or visionary?

    Hardly a new idea:

    “The overwhelming preponderance of geological evidence compels the conclusion that crude oil and natural petroleum gas have no intrinsic connection with biological matter originating near the surface of the Earth. They are prim ordial materials which have been erupted from great depths.”

    Academician Professor Vladimir B. Porfir’yev, senior petroleum exploration geologist for the U.S.S.R., at the All-Union Conference on Petroleum and Petroleum Geology, Moscow, 1956. CONSIDERATIONS ABOUT RECENT PREDICTIONS OF IMPENDING SHORTAGES OF PETROLEUM EVALUATED FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF MODERN PETROLEUM SCIENCE

    Oil Fields Are Refilling Naturally - Sometimes Rapidly

    The Smartest Man in the World, Noam Chompsky, says: “The basic [Peak Oil] theory is incontrovertible. The only questions have to do with timing and cost. ...” (sound familiar?)

    J. F. Kenny (linked above) begs to differ:

    “In view of these considerations, there stands no reason to worry about, and even less to plan for, any predicted demise of the petroleum industry based upon a vanishing of petroleum reserves. On the contrary, these considerations c ompel additional investment and development in the technology and skills of deep drilling, of deep seismic measurement and interpretation, of the reservoir properties of crystalline rock, and of the associated completion and production practices which sho uld be applied in such non-traditional reservoirs.

    Not only are any predictions that the world is “running out of oil” invalid, so also are suggestions that the petroleum exploration and production industry is a “mature” or “declining” one. This writer ’s experience, gained from working in the former U.S.S.R. during the past five years, has provided compelling evidence that the petroleum industry is only now entering its adolescence.”

    As we’ve learned, the “science” of global warming and climate change is replete with non-scientific agenda. Peak Oil looms on the horizon as The Next Big Thing. Are there not similar forces at work: (Link)

    “Many people are working on partial solutions at various different levels, but there is probably no cluster of solutions which do not involve some major changes in lifestyles, especially for the global affluent. Peak Oil presents the potential for quite catastrophic upheavals, but also some more hopeful possibilities, a chance to address many underlying societal problems, and the opportunity return to simpler, healthier and more community oriented lifestyles.”


    “Permaculture is a ‘design science’ which can allow us to live in relative abundance with minimal resource use. Permaculture principles can be used to functionally redesign social systems, built environments, ecological and agricultural practices for energy descent. David Holmgren’s recent book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, deals explicitly with the global oil peak and proposes permaculture as the best set of strategies for dealing with ‘energy descent’.


    “The Depletion Protocol: (previously refered to as the Uppsala or Rimini Protocol) is an ethical global political framework for sharing the world’s remaining oil reserves more equitably than free market forces would allow, to avoid resource wars and profiteering. Help promote it: Introduction to the Depletion Protocol by Colin Campbell (Word .doc format)
    How to avoid oil wars, terrorism, and economic collapse by Richard Heinberg” [links available at Energy Bulletin]

    Lefty elitist jerks who want to dictate how we live don’t care what they use to skin that cat, as long as the cat gets skinned.

    Posted by Kyda Sylvester on 2007 03 07 at 01:21 PM • permalink

  69. Colony by Ben Bova is the book I was thinking of in #64 - not that anyone cares.

    Posted by sam on 2007 03 07 at 01:35 PM • permalink

  70. When I was in high school in the 70’s (Yup, I’m a fossil), the laftard alarmists said the world would run out of oil in twenty years.  I recon, that should have happened during the 90’s… over ten years ago now.

    Of course, my mom’s fuel injected Lincoln Town Car gets better mileage now than a carborated Ford Pinto did back in the 70’s, and lateral drilling tech has opened up tons more sites to drilling, so this could have been predicted, IF those dolts could just wrap their brains around the concept of technological progress.

    Posted by Hucbald on 2007 03 07 at 01:47 PM • permalink

  71. #57 Dang it Ric - I was going to make a comment about not subscribing but I pick up an issue now and then at the newstand, and you had to get all serious.

    Posted by triticale on 2007 03 07 at 01:55 PM • permalink

  72. #69, I care.  I’m glad you remembered the title, because I’m always looking for new books to read, and I love science fiction (and Ben Bova has contributed mightily to the genre).

    Posted by RebeccaH on 2007 03 07 at 02:04 PM • permalink

  73. #71 It’s an oldie, as some indication it’s science fiction set the then distant year of 2008 :)

    Posted by sam on 2007 03 07 at 02:15 PM • permalink

  74. To a point, there is Something to “peak oil”.

    By which I mean, the Hubbert peak graph does seem to accurately describe the output of a given oilfield, with given technology.

    The problem is the “peak oil” cultists ascribe that graph to world production; as the world consists of many oilfields at different places on the graph, and as technology and willingness to spend change the extraction rates and abilities, the graph’s shape changes.

    At some point in the future, oil production will eventually be lower than whatever its peak ends up being; but I don’t think we can make any decent guesses as to what the peak will be or when it’ll be hit or what the underlying fuel price will be at that time.

    (And likewise, the cost/production interaction means that the dropoff post whatever peak we eventually hit won’t be as rapid as the Hubbert graph suggests, which is what causes the real panic among the cultists.

    A slow drop in oil production - and the attendant change in prices - gives the world plenty of time to adapt, after all, and thus no collapses or shocks.)

    Posted by Sigivald on 2007 03 07 at 03:18 PM • permalink

  75. Technology brought us petroleum products, which replaced whale oil, which replaced tallow and bees wax.  With each replacement there was progress that furthered the use of the product beyond that first use.  Thus were people dragged kicking and screaming into the world we live in today.  There will be something, or many somethings replacing petroleum one day, but the progress won’t be made by those who want to take us back to candles lighting our way.

    Posted by saltydog on 2007 03 07 at 03:55 PM • permalink

  76. You mean another example of Chicken Little liberal hysterics is wrong? Fancy that. Back when I was an undergrad in the 70s and Earth Day had just started, all these scientists were saying by 2000, overpopulation would have gotten so bad we’d all be starving to death. That didn’t happen either.

    I wonder why?

    Posted by rightwingprof on 2007 03 07 at 04:04 PM • permalink

  77. This thread has been Instalanched, so watch your language.

    Posted by Kyda Sylvester on 2007 03 07 at 04:12 PM • permalink

  78. Because, rightwingprof, they moved on to the next scare when they stopped making money. 

    Hardened cynic?  Yes, I am.  And I state here emphatically that Al Bore and the other gloom n’ doom prophets are going to get none of my hard-earned money. 

    Imperial Keeper

    Posted by Elizabeth Imperial Keeper on 2007 03 07 at 04:50 PM • permalink

  79. Well, SOMEthing’s bound to happen, and I’m not leaving my fallout shelter until it’s over.

    Posted by Mister Snitch on 2007 03 07 at 05:00 PM • permalink

  80. #73, I realize, as it’s Bova, but it will be new to me.  And I can always pretend it was a misprint and he meant 2018.

    Posted by RebeccaH on 2007 03 07 at 05:24 PM • permalink

  81. Oh, and to get back on topic, I have faith that technology will advance, and the energy problem will be solved.  As long as there’s a buck in it, and an army of bright, young engineers chomping at the bit (western society, that is), we’ll all be fine.

    Posted by RebeccaH on 2007 03 07 at 05:27 PM • permalink

  82. Well, to some extent peak oil is a reality, just as with other natural resources its become more difficult to extract in an absolute sense.

    But free market societies adapt.  And our ever-increasing productivity means in the long run almost everything is becoming cheaper and more abundant.

    As drillable oil supplies run lower, tar sands, shale oil, and renewable biofuels will become viable.  Because the demand for liquid fuels remains high, sometime in the next 20 - 50 years genetically engineered biofuel crops will probably become so efficient that gas from them is cheaper than it is today. 

    There’s a lot of arable land not being used, and only free sunlight is going to provide enough power.

    And guess where all those crops can be grown?  Hint: deserts suck for growing.  Iowa doesn’t.

    It’ll be amusing watching gas prices move according to the crop reports.

    Posted by TallDave on 2007 03 07 at 05:32 PM • permalink

  83. You ‘wanta’ a bigger ‘laff’ North Sea oil is estimated to run out in 10-15 years. Krauts will invade Russia and the really cold weather will settle in.
    Keep on laughing

    Posted by regional on 2007 03 07 at 05:45 PM • permalink

  84. #79, whatabout to restock the beer fridge?

    Posted by regional on 2007 03 07 at 05:50 PM • permalink

  85. As biofuels boom, will more go hungry?

    Posted by Kyda Sylvester on 2007 03 07 at 06:01 PM • permalink

  86. Krauts will invade Russia

    Yep, they’re way overdue.

    PW’s been pretty quiet lately… hmmmm…

    Posted by Dave S. on 2007 03 07 at 06:04 PM • permalink

  87. So much for my trying to give you a fighting chance to reclaim the #5 spot on the Most Comments rankings, Dave…

    Posted by PW on 2007 03 07 at 06:23 PM • permalink

  88. #67

    Rik, you are fundamentally wrong.  The oil sands of Alberta contain twice the reserves of Saudi Arabia.  At $100/bbl the oil sands o Queensland come into play.  Etc., etc.

    As the price goes up, other technologies will replace oil for mass consumption.

    We will never run out of oil.


    Posted by Jack from Montreal on 2007 03 07 at 09:11 PM • permalink

  89. Mole - check out, eg, Tim Ball.

    The people who really know about climate (I humbly count myself as one of them) are unanimous.

    They all say that the jury is out.

    I would tend to go a little bit further and say that in 10 years time, this decade’s GW hysteria will be a little talked-about embarrassment.


    Posted by Jack from Montreal on 2007 03 07 at 09:34 PM • permalink

  90. Press Release 8 March 2012:

    The CEO of Geo Ground Dust Energy LLP, Al Gore and his CFO, Dave “fruit fly” Suzuki, emphatically denied today that they had ever claimed that “globl warming” was a serious problem confronting the planet.

    As temperatures outside their Des Moines headquarters plummeted to -44°C (-1136°F), both insisted that GW was just one of the options that might eventuate.

    Al laughed off his 2006 “movie”, an inpcomprehensible truth,as it was renamed on it’s 2011 rerelease as a comedy.

    “It wuz jist a bit of fun”:, says Al.

    Posted by Jack from Montreal on 2007 03 07 at 09:53 PM • permalink

  91. #46, thefrollickingmole, condolences for losing your friend to the Cult. ForNow compiled a good list of global warming sceptic links here.

    The series of articles in Canada’s National Post (starting here) are also an excellent resource.

    Posted by Art Vandelay on 2007 03 07 at 10:25 PM • permalink

  92. I think oil-abundance denial should be treated like holocaust denial, and should be illegal in France and Germany.

    Posted by Shaky Barnes on 2007 03 07 at 10:29 PM • permalink

  93. #88 You miss my point. Suppose the entire crust of the earth below a thin shell for us to walk on consisted of petroleum reserves. If you divide that by a reasonable—i.e., exponentially growing—estimate of consumption, the time to run out would be finite and surprisingly short.

    That’s not the same as joining peak-oil hysteria or any other Club of Rome insanity, and I agree with you that energy resources will come on-line pretty much as they are needed. But in the end the planet is finite, and resources will get used up.


    Posted by Ric Locke on 2007 03 07 at 10:36 PM • permalink

  94. #93, A good reason, then, to expand manned space exploration and colonization.  So we can start using up the resources of other worlds.  Hey, why not, nobody else is using them, and the robots are going to take over here anyway.

    Posted by RebeccaH on 2007 03 07 at 10:49 PM • permalink

  95. I’m kidding about the robots, but not about the exploration, btw.

    Posted by RebeccaH on 2007 03 07 at 11:04 PM • permalink

  96. ArtVandelay

    Jack from Montreal
    And any others I missed, thanks for the links, will have a read through them, might be a bit late for him though.

    Posted by thefrollickingmole on 2007 03 07 at 11:30 PM • permalink

  97. #93, Ric, it looks like you miss Jack’s point.

    The oil reserves are effectively infinite because the demand will fall off as the price goes up.  There will always be some oil left.

    Posted by Waster on 2007 03 08 at 12:36 AM • permalink

  98. #70 Hucbald
    Nothing wrong with us fossils.

    Posted by kae on 2007 03 08 at 12:37 AM • permalink

  99. #75 salty, I don’t think they have evolved to using candles, I think they still use reed torches…

    Posted by kae on 2007 03 08 at 12:41 AM • permalink

  100. Coupla years back when I was finishing off my MBA (Deakin, FWIW) I took a core unit in strategic management. The lecturer, Dr Julian Mote, was an American engineer/manager previously at the top echelons of Mobil. He mentioned in passing that for practical purposes future supplies of oil were limitless.

    Similar to Peak Oil is Peak Coal. The end of coal has been imminent from around 1880 onwards, yet we now have greater reserves than ever.

    Here in Victoria, despite nuclear energy getting a look-in, we have enough easily-winnable supplies of coal to last 700 years at predicted rates of consumption, albeit low grade (peat-like). Why bother with nuclear when we have such vast supplies, accessible via open cut?

    Posted by walterplinge on 2007 03 08 at 01:09 AM • permalink

  101. When are we going to hit peak stupid?

    Posted by Habib on 2007 03 08 at 02:14 AM • permalink

  102. #100 - The only nuclear power Australia needs comes with a red button that says “COP THIS”.

    Posted by Infidel Tiger on 2007 03 08 at 02:41 AM • permalink

  103. I’m kidding about the robots…

    Where d’ya think Algore came from?  His mother’s womb?  I don’t think so! 

    There’s a reason he’s known as The Gorebot.

    Posted by The_Real_JeffS on 2007 03 08 at 02:59 AM • permalink

  104. Speaking of oil ... Wolves Evolve bangs on about the AWB and UN resolutions on Iraq.

    Remember the oil for Koffi (family) scandal ...

    Posted by egg_ on 2007 03 08 at 05:07 AM • permalink

  105. #100 #102

    C’mon guys, we might not need nuke power for electricity, but wouldn’t it be fun?

    Posted by Margos Maid on 2007 03 08 at 05:15 AM • permalink

  106. Re: An abiotic source for oil and gas.

    I’ve read the Russian arguments and I’ve been intrigued by the fact that if you drill into sedimentary rocks pretty much anywhere in the world you find natural gas under pressure.

    A basic understanding of physics and geological timescales tells me that gas under pressure will escape through any route and a gap the size of a pinhead would drain the largest reservoir.

    So why is there so much gas?

    I’ve never found a satisfactory answer to this question and an abiotic source goes a long way to answering it.

    Having said that, a few years ago the Swedes drilled down into a deep area of fractured granite (the abiotic theory says the reason we find oil/gas in sedimentary rocks is because they have spaces between the rock particles unlike igneous rocks) and found no oil or gas, which pretty much knocked the abiotic theory on the head for me.

    Posted by phil_b on 2007 03 08 at 05:39 AM • permalink

  107. Thanks, rhhardin and Spiny Norman, for two comments above which are short but gem-like in their perfection. (Scroll waaay up to #18 and #21, folks.)

    Posted by Chris Chittleborough on 2007 03 08 at 07:49 AM • permalink

  108. #103. The “Gorebot” tag is not just a joke. In fact, it reflects a something quite sad about Al Gore. His father, Senator Al Gore Senior, married late and raised Al Jr to be a future President. It was not a happy childhood. Jr really was programmed, which is why he shows a “robotic” lack of affect on some occasions.

    Remember Al Jr’s tendency to tell silly lies? For instance, in a presidential debate in 2000 he claimed he flew down to Texas after a hurricane. His staff had discussed the tendency during preparation, and he had said he wouldn’t do that. But when the chance arose, his programming took over — he simply could not help himself. Of course, what was good politics in Al Sr’s day was unwise in 2000 (and would be flat-out stupid in 2007), and Al Jr knew that, but he still couldn’t stop himself.

    IMO, this is why Al Jr never looked better in his 2000 campaign than in his second concession speech: he was free of his childhood programming, at least briefly.

    Posted by Chris Chittleborough on 2007 03 08 at 07:50 AM • permalink

  109. Phil,

    I don’t know, fractured igneous rock might still not have the overall porosity necessary to allow gas through.

    Abiotic theory is certainly intriguing, though most scientists agree it is probably mostly wrong.

    Posted by TallDave on 2007 03 08 at 01:57 PM • permalink

  110. But in the end the planet is finite, and resources will get used up.

    Exactly, which is why biofuels will eventually be answer.

    Another 10-20 years, and computers will be powerful enough to model protein folding on a desktop while nanotech is advanced enough to custom-design genes.  With that combination we should be able to engineer entirely artificial life, not bound by the tradtional rules of eukaryotes.

    Posted by TallDave on 2007 03 08 at 02:08 PM • permalink

  111. The market will create a solution to the problem of rapidly rising demand and relatively stagnant increases (or declines) in the rate of production. But dismissing the potential problem as hype makes it more likely that the solution will resemble a train wreck, economically and politically.

    The market will create a solution to the problem, so where’s the problem?  As I mentioned in a previous post at $100/bbl synthetic manufacture easily becomes economically viable (Fischer Tropsch process developed in Germany in the 1940’s because of crude oil shortages).  In fact if you fly out of Sth Africa right now then 50% of the Jet A1 your flight will use is synthetic, manufactured right here and now by SASSOL.

    Posted by rickw on 2007 03 08 at 06:04 PM • permalink

  112. IMO, this is why Al Jr never looked better in his 2000 campaign than in his second concession speech: he was free of his childhood programming, at least briefly.

    An interesting perspective, Chris.  Thanks for the post—I always wondered why he looked so wooden.  And I am not joking about “wooden”....he shows so little emotions that I once wondered if he was a Vulcan of Star Trek lore.

    Posted by The_Real_JeffS on 2007 03 09 at 01:21 AM • permalink

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