A free-market energy blog
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Peak-Oil Puff on Huff (David Hughes of the Post-Carbon Institute Tees Off)

I am considered a leading critic of peak oil, the belief that oil production has peaked, is peaking, or will peak soon. I am a resource optimist in the Julian Simon tradition and believe that resourceship allows so-called depletable resources to expand, refuting the fixity/depletion mindset.

This said, I am empirically oriented. So let’s study and debate the facts, while remembering the record of peak-oil forecasts from the beginning to the present.

For my optimist/resourceship/expansionist position, I get slammed a good bit, such as by Joe Romm and by Gabriel Rotello at the Huffington Post (but also supported there by Raymond Learsay).  I mostly take the fuss, which is two parts emotionalism to one part intellectual argument.

But when David Hughes of the Post Carbon Institute published a piece calling a New York Times story “inaccurate, misleading and unhelpful ‘journalism’” I thought to add a comment. However, the post was not approved for some reason. While I don’t have the precise wording (it’s lost on the Internet), I will reproduce the comments here as best I’m able in the next several paragraphs.

Hughes remarks that Chinese demand is growing, without explaining why that is different from the demand growth experienced throughout the past century and a half. He also criticized the citations to what he called the “uber-optimist” CERA and a failure to mention other “credible” reports that are more pessimistic (one added comment cited the Hirsch report), but doesn’t note that the National Petroleum Council, the definitive industry voice (though hardly infallible) in its report “The Hard Truth,” examined the peak oil arguments and found them without merit.

The IEA has certainly lowered its long-term oil production forecast, but could this be evidence for a demand response to high prices (which they also predict), rather than an indication that they are more concerned than before about supply? There is also a political element on what oil exploration will be permitted by government.

Finally, Hughes attacks the article’s optimism about shale gas, citing a variety of problems facing the industry, without acknowledging that production is booming, which seems pretty clear evidence that these problems are being overcome.

Other criticisms could have been made, but for a comment on a website, brevity seemed of value. However, no intemperate language was used in my attempted comment and only statements of fact were made, unlike the original piece by David Hughes, who didn’t give any indication of what, precisely, was “inaccurate”.

This is a perfect example of both the shortcomings of the Internet and peak oil theorists: throw out facts (Chinese oil demand will grow! A lot!), which is implied to be important, but meaningless without knowing the historical context or relation to, say, resource estimates.

And of course my favorite tactic: Hughes makes reference to ‘studies’ (without specific citation) as supporting his views. In a talk at the 2010 Degrowth Institute Vancouver, for example, he makes reference to various forecasts, and mentions the median prediction of the peak is 2012 (excluding the two high ones). One wonders if Hughes also judges the age of the Earth by the average estimate of American citizens, which comes to about 7,000 years.

And Hughes makes the claim that resource optimism is based in Washington, which is clearly untrue. As in so many cases of peak oil advocates (and hardly unique to the peak oil debate), he appears to be largely unaware of the breadth of studies on this issue, or perhaps is cherry-picking the ones he prefers. He mentions, for example, the late 1990s “watershed study” by Colin Campbell in New Scientist which I was unable to locate, except for a 1999 news story noting that Campbell thought the peak would be in two years, but there is no reference to his many other predictions that have failed, beginning with his 1989 article in Noroil, which argued that the peak had been reached in that year.

Hope about despair springs eternal.


For other MasterResource posts on Peak Oil, see:

Dear Peak Oilers: Please Consider Erich Zimmermann’s ‘Functional Theory’ of Mineral Resources (Robert Bradley)

Joe (Romm), Where Art Thou? (my peak oil bet deserves an up or down) (Michael Lynch)

The Undulating Oil Plateau: Peak without Decline (Michael Lynch)

The Peak Oil Secret is Revealed! (Michael Lynch)

More on Peak Oil (Michael Lynch)

Okay, Joe Romm: How about a Wager on $65 Oil? (‘peak-oil’ bull or closet bear?) (Michael Lynch)

Response to ‘Peak Oil’ Critics (the hydrocarbon age is still young: plan accordingly) (Michael Lynch)

33 comments

1 Kermit { 12.16.10 at 10:31 am }

While I have very little background in “energy” the constant hype of “Peak Oil” has always resulted in an immediate heightened security of my wallet.

BP’s gobbling up land for its nature migration highway, over a decade ago, seemed all so nonsensical to me at first thought. Immediately, I had to speculate that there was a lot of potential underground, of which they were attempting to cover.

2 Steve C. { 12.16.10 at 12:03 pm }

As an idea, peak oil doesn’t tell me much.

Prices are odd things. If you buy a bottle of water at 7-Eleven, the equivalent price is $6 per gallon. The gas is only $3. At Kroger you can get spring water for $2.50 a gallon if you bring your own container. Coke has ingredients which cost money, but it’s mostly water. You can buy a 24 pack of Coke for slightly more than $5 a gallon. Considering one product (gasoline) is depleting and one is not (water) there’s got to be much more going on behind those prices than just the base cost of the ingredients.

Peak oil folks don’t have much confidence in market prices. Unfortunately, prices are the only common information we share. I may or may not believe Saudi guesstimates about their future potential. But market prices today are telling me they won’t run out soon. And if I don’t believe them, there are ways to bet they are lying.

Oil is no different from any other commodity. Prices follow the rules of supply and demand. Higher prices provide an incentive for all of us to conserve and develop alternatives. That’s the way a free market functions.

It’s an interesting theory, and it might even happen. Until then all we can do is let the price dictate our choices.

3 Charles Battig { 12.16.10 at 3:13 pm }

Michael,

I suggest the shortened “despair springs eternal” label for the peak oilers.

4 Pete May { 12.16.10 at 6:37 pm }

This article strains credulity, to say the least. If you believe a finite resource like oil is just like any other commodity, then I have some tulips to sell you…

5 David Hughes { 12.16.10 at 7:42 pm }

One could just dismiss this post as yet another biased piece of peak oil denial by Michael Lynch, who, as he states, is widely regarded as “a leading critic of peak oil”. But considering he states he wants “to debate the facts” let’s have a look at the facts in his post – focusing on the article of mine he criticises, which was a rebuttal of a New York Times piece, and was posted on the Huffington Post:

Mr. Lynch states “a failure to mention other “credible” reports that are more pessimistic”. This statement is false. Mr. Lynch perhaps failed to notice that a sentence later in the same paragraph was a link to the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security report “The Oil Crunch” http://peakoiltaskforce.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/final-report-uk-itpoes_report_the-oil-crunch_feb20101.pdf released in February, 2010.

Other recent reports which I alluded to outlining the importance of peak oil include the US Army report released in March, 2010, http://www.jfcom.mil/newslink/storyarchive/2010/JOE_2010_o.pdf which states “By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day”; a German military study leaked in September, 2010, http://www.consumerenergyreport.com/2010/09/02/leaked-study-peak-oil-warns-severe-global-energy-crisis/ ; the UK Energy Research Centre report released in October, 2009, “Global Oil Depletion – An assessment of the evidence” http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/support/tiki-download_file.php?fileId=283 ; and many others.

Mr. Lynch accuses me of “cherry-picking” the facts, yet in the Degrowth Symposium talk he refers to I cited more than 20 estimates of the timing of peak oil, including the IEA and EIA estimates. Mr. Lynch prefers to ignore most of these studies and focuses on the National Petroleum Council (an industry group to which I have been a contributor in the past) and CERA – if there is cherry-picking here Mr. Lynch is guilty of it.

Mr. Lynch states that “[David Hughes] makes reference to various forecasts, and mentions the median prediction of the peak is 2012 (excluding the two high ones)”. Mr. Lynch fails to mention that I enumerated more than 20 forecasts and also indicated the median peak was 2014 if all of the estimates are included. This is a distortion of what was actually said.

Mr. Lynch states “David Hughes, didn’t give any indication of what, precisely, was ‘inaccurate’ [in the New York Times piece he rebutted]”. This statement is again false. If Mr. Lynch had read my article carefully he would have seen that what I was stating was inaccurate was the opening quote in my piece from the conclusion of the New York Times article I was rebutting, which was “When you add it up,” Mr. Morse noted, “you get something that very closely approximates energy independence”

Mr. Lynch states “Hughes remarks that Chinese demand is growing”. Again this statement is not correct. I stated the fact that China’ total oil consumption is significantly less than American oil imports (the US is the largest oil importer in the world by nearly a factor of two), which proves that the US in anything but energy independent. Undoubtedly Chinese consumption will rise, but this doesn’t change the facts of what I said.

Mr. Lynch states “Hughes makes the claim that resource optimism is based in Washington, which is clearly untrue”. Yet again another false statement. No mention of this was made in my New York Times rebuttal and in the Degrowth Symposium talk he refers to the EIA was only one of a number of resource estimates I cited.

Mr. Lynch states “Hughes attacks the article’s optimism about shale gas, citing a variety of problems facing the industry, without acknowledging that production is booming”. Here again I simply stated the facts – US gas production in 2009 was 4% below the 1973 peak and there are well known obstacles which I mentioned to ever getting production to the levels suggested by people like McClendon (more than 50% above current levels). Without shale gas US production would be declining rapidly.

I could go on but I’ll leave it there. This post by Mr. Lynch is, if anything, even more inaccurate, misleading and unhelpful than the original New York Times piece I was rebutting.

6 Craig { 12.16.10 at 8:02 pm }

1) Proven reserves are numbers oil companies use, but they can’t get too far ahead of what they are about to drill or SEC gets on them, so it always looks like we are running out.
2) Much of the oil in the world is being drilled by despotic regimes who discourage proper investment by drillers, so Iran sits on huge reserves but their production continues to slide. Could easily be fixed. This happens any time the state owns the oil, some worse than others.

7 RDenner { 12.16.10 at 11:52 pm }

I have no idea who this Mr. Lynch is, but I cannot understand the mindset that says a finite resource is incapable of depletion, because of market forces?

We must start the argument on level terms. Is Oil/NG and all the other lower level(meaning much more energy intensive to produce and less energy returning, such as coal to liquids) fossil fuels FINITE?

Without agreeing on that question, all other debate is useless.

Unless I woke up in a world where the Abiotic Oil theory is now accepted fact, we must debate the reality that oil/ng and the rest are for all practical HUMAN LIFESPAN purposes, is without a doubt a finite resource.

The “uber-optimists” will claim that before oil there was coal and before coal there were trees. And history “doesn’t talk about peak trees”.. When in fact history is replete with lessons about societies cutting down trees at a rate that would not allow them to grow back in a sufficient amount of time to be useful.

But then they found coal. But as the easy to find coal(much like the abundant and easy to chop mature trees) was gobbled up. What they were left with was hard to get at and less energetic coal(yes there is a difference in coal), but they found Natural Gas deposits and Oil under pressure.

This was a quantum leap forward in energy as NG/Oil is so energy dense and WAS so easy to find/extract/refine that it was practically like finding free energy.

Now we are at a point, much like the time when trees were being over used, where the easy stuff is gone and we are now a good long ways into depleting even the harder to get to stuff. And we are going back and scrubbing out the old finds to get the stuff that was left behind. We will soon be going toward the REALLY hard to find/extract/refine stuff.

The Deep Water Horizon incident is a perfect example of what lengths we are going to, to find and extract the oil/NG we need to literally survive as a country. They were drilling in 5000 feet of water and a further 18000 feet of rock.

This is not a picture of abundant and easy to get oil. This is very reminiscent of societies that were willing to wait until the last stand of trees was in view before they decided to do something different.

And that is the CRUX of the peak oil argument. Not one Peak Oiler that I know would say “we are running out of oil!!”. They know better. The word PEAK is the opposite of what we are accused of saying. Peak Oil is an admission that like a mountain climber looking to reach the stars on the mountain he is climbing, he will at one point reach the peak and no matter how he tries, he will start walking back to earth.

We are AT or NEAR that point in worldwide oil production. And the “uber optomists” have yet to convince me that we have a plausible Plan B to fall back on. Where are the Coal Miners of this era? When the trees started to run low, they easily adapted life to coal use, and as coal became to hard to mine and transport, there came the oil gushers and natural gas wells.

Where is the next great thing coming from that will save us all? Trust me I AM LOOKING HARD. And I have yet to find anything that passes even a cursory sniff test. I won’t go through the laundry list of things that are supposed to save our collective asses(cough Cold Fusion cough….cough Hydrogen cough), and I will end on the one thing I’ve found that could be big enough to displace the dwindling supply of energy.

And that is Methane Hydrates. And yet there are no production platforms heading out to the gulf or off the coast of Washington/Alaska to harvest this energy source. They are still in the very early stages of test wells.

We are at a bare minimum 10 to 15 years away from retro-fitting our systems to work with methane hydrates.

And it is this knowledge that leads to arguments in and out of the Peak Oil community. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN. For some(read the Techno fixers) it means that we’ll just adjust and nothing will change all the way to the uber doomers who are planning for a complete disintegration of society.

But the argument MUST start with either an acceptance or a rejection of this question…

Are fossil fuels in all their forms(fracking/ng/coal to liquids/etc) finite? If the answer is YES, then we are arguing over when peak happens.

If no, then the argument ends as there is no common ground. I personally find someone who answers no to this question to be the mental equivalent of someone who failed to accept the round earth theory 50 years after it was a given fact for everyone else.

Robert

8 RDenner { 12.17.10 at 12:17 am }

Response to Craig;

I disagree on the part about dictatorial governments and oil production. I think Iraq is a perfect example of how sensitive oil wells are and how mismanagment cannot be undone.

Saddam Hussein was doing double damage to his country’s future oil production. He over produced in the years before the Gulf War(1991) and after the war he continued to over produce the wells he could keep pumping and failed to implement even the most rudimentary techniques that Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC nations were using to safely keep production levels growing.

The coalition authority and the new Iraqi government are just finally coming to grips with how bad the situation is in Iraq. They are at least a half a decade away from just getting production back up to pre 1991 levels. There is little hope that they will exceed 4 to 5 million barrels of production, EVER. 2010 numbers are at about 2.5 million and have pretty much flat lined.

Mexico is another example(as is Venezuala) of poor management leading to premature collapse of production. And once the damage is done, there is no going back. Much of Mexican production came from Cantarell and because they went to secondary extration methods(even before primary pressure was exhausted) too soon, they are now seeing a rapid decline in oil production. Combined with a collapse in exploration and infrastructure/proceedure upgrades, Mexico is in a free fall.

Which leads to the least understood, yet most CRUCIAL part of the Peak Oil theory and that is the highly fluid above ground factors.

Taking Mexico as an example you can follow the logic.

Mexico is blessed with a huge oil field, yet is a very corrupt country. It is in the best interest of the corrupt government to produce as much as possible to cement their place at the top of the Mexican hierarchy. They kick out foreign companies that could benefit them in the long run. But in the short run they are a huge liability as they breed doubt in the people. The dictators do not want foreigners meddling(we saw the same in Venezuala) in their affairs, especially American oil companies.

They over produce and damage the long term production value of the wells. This leads to an abrubt peak in production(even if like in Russia it is not a true Peak, but a technologic/political peak) and the money flows abrupty reverse.

This causes huge political instability and causes an even quicker reduction in upgrades/training/exploration. This leads to an increase in the likelyhood of internal violence, which would likely be aimed at the infrastructure(oil production, like in Nigeria).

So even if the US were to somehow overthrow the corrupt Mexican government and send our geologists in there(which there is a huge shortage of BTW), it would take years(as Iraq is proving) just to get them back to their pre collapse peak, let alone to get them above that level. Which is usually unlikely given the abuse the wells endured under bad management.

Just some food for thought.

Robert

9 Donald Hertzmark { 12.17.10 at 10:01 am }

Robert,
You do not have to travel far to see the possible effects of political mismanagement of hydrocarbons. Just look at the silly spectacle in NY State where ignorant politicians have stifled the development of one of the great gas resources of all time.

When heating oil goes through the roof and the shale gas stays in the ground what will the politicians say? Gee, nobody told us this was the real deal (and clean, to boot)!

In the meantime serious people are developing unconventional hydrocarbons. In fact, more than 50% of US natural gas output is “unconventional.” There is so much of it that it has ruined the (high priced) LNG party for the entire Atlantic Basin.

Just a look at what the Western Hemisphere has in unconventionals – gas, 2 Q cubic feet (>150 years of consumption); oil shales and tar sands (> 1 trillion barrels) – and the peak oil hysteria is revealed as a purely political ploy. It is not bad geology that causes peak oil it is bad ideas.

10 RDenner { 12.17.10 at 10:27 pm }

I understand Donald, but Fraking comes at a very high environmental cost. I am not a tree hugging liberal by any stretch, but the loss of aquifiers and ground water is a very bad thing for everyone.

But I also understand that it is far more damaging to the environment(just not in our own back yard) to have a huge military aparatus that consumes a huge amount of energy and leaves an environmental foot print all with the stated purpose of keeping the energy flowing from the East to the West. It is factors bigger than what we are seeing in NY and other places where Fraking is being used.

But also understand that this method is NOT a long term solution, it is a stop gap at best. These wells deplete fast and sometimes without warning. This is not Cantarell or Bergan or Guwaar in that they will continue to produce for generations.

Their lifespan is measured in single years at the very best, sometimes less than a year.

And EVEN WITH this repreive from 15 dollar NG costs(which is where I assumed it would be at this point), we are not using the time even a TINY bit wisely. We continue to burn Natural Gas for Electrical production like it was water, which is a riduculous and horribly wasteful operation.

Natural Gas is way to valuable to be burning for electricity. The waste is just phenominal. The Natural Gas repreive should be used as a stop gap to get as many Nuclear Power plants on line as possible to provide the steady base of electricity we need. This could be supplemented by spot NG production and spot Solar/Wind/Alternatives.

But understand that the NG repreive will not last and we will once again be talking about massive LNG tankers crossing the oceans from the M.E. to supply our growing need for electricity AND oil to supply us with gasoline and oil…

At some point the US is either going to wake up and do something radical to change the dynamic, or we are going to wake up and find out the doomiest of the Peak Oil doomers were correct and we’ll be living in Mad Max world.

Robert

11 RDenner { 12.17.10 at 10:47 pm }

And all the other “unconventionals” of which you speak are ridiculous ideas.

Mining COAL TO MAKE OIL are you kidding me? You would be better off just burning the freaking coal to make electricity and be done with it. Why the hell would you go through the absolute thermal gymnastics to turn coal into a liquid. Only in a world where MONEY and CREDIT and PROFIT are more important that thermaldynamics can you consider such a assinine idea.

The only reason the Canadian tar sands even exists, is because of the monetary factor. It has been shown that the net energy return on tar sands is barely better than solar when you factor in every part of the equation.

Serious, why the HELL would use all that energy to convert a solid into a liquid, then take that liquid and refine it further so that you can drive it all over the North American continent in fuel burning tanker trucks, to offload them into gas stations and pump them into tiny little metal boxes with wheels to burn it even further???

Put the coal on a fuel efficient rail system and take it to the nearest coal burning energy stations and be done with it and start buying electric cars and using electric heat…

Seriously only in a world of fractional reserve banking could such a stupid idea actually get funded and go into full production.

Robert

12 Jon Boone { 12.18.10 at 12:28 am }

RDenner:
Thanks for your comments here. They are both informed and sensible. And they articulate the feelings of many people, including my own. Given the history of the last 80,000 years, it seems more than reasonable–even probable–that future technological innovations will once again rescue humanity, though by no means is this certain. Your observation about the transition from wood, to oil (initially from whales), to coal and then other fossil fuels, then arriving at nuclear more than a half century ago, should be instructive.

All material resources are finite. However, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Finding new ways to convert that energy into power with the least environmental footprint should be our challenge–with every rational person aware that fossil fuels are (were) an important transitional force in making the world a better place for every living thing.

13 Kermit { 12.18.10 at 1:17 am }

And what about that immature “oil” kerogen? Shell Development Company in situ mining of kerogen is quite similar to its technology for ground remediation or hydrocarbons, including PCB’s. The problem with the remediation technology is that it can only remove 96% of the contaminants.

14 Donald Hertzmark { 12.18.10 at 7:01 am }

Robert,
Sorry, I missed the part of my comment where I proposed coal liquefaction. I think the point is that there is a continuum on the liquid and sort-of liquid side – natural gas drive, enhanced recovery, mining of tar sands, etc – and the same holds for gas – high pressure, tight gas, coalbed methane, shale gas.

As to hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, the problems that have occurred are all in the well casings and the water disposal. These are factors that are within our power to cure. Shale formations may not produce bonanza production levels from one tap, but, like tar sands, they resemble an industrial operation – same thing every day, next year, too, repeat for the next 100 years or so.

As to nukes and the transition, we will have to await saner heads in the government regulatory bureaucracy.

15 Kermit { 12.18.10 at 11:03 am }

My understanding of shale formation tight gas fracturing and production is that these fields may eventually require a well per square mile. Cannot the fracturing fluids be recycled from well to well?

16 Kermit { 12.18.10 at 11:04 am }

It would be nice to have an edit function for posting.

17 mlynch { 12.18.10 at 6:02 pm }

First, regarding the finite nature of oil:
Oil is not finite, but regenerates at the rate of about 3 million barrels a year. Of course, this is a trivial amount, which means that the ‘infinite’ nature of oil is not relevant, but rather the relative nature of consumption and resources. Solar fuel is finite, but you wouldn’t argue that we shouldn’t use photovoltaics because of the finite lifetime of the sun, would you?
More comments to follow.

18 David Hughes { 12.19.10 at 12:37 am }

Hmmm… we are burning 31000 million barrels per year and regenerating 3 million barrels per year. The math looks like we are burning it 10,000 times as fast as it is being created. Your comment that “oil is not finite” is a pretty pathetic point Mr. Lynch, unless of course we somehow throttle back our consumption by 10,000 times to 3 million barrels per day.

Your point about solar is nonsensical. There is no way we are going to stop using oil or solar for the forseeable future, finite or not.

19 mlynch { 12.19.10 at 6:06 am }

David Hughes ‘rebuttal’ of my charges is an excellent example of the kinds of writings and commentaries I have often faced when dealing with peak oil advocates, full of irrelevant remarks, inferences and mistakes. Because of the numerous points he made, and the nuances that need to be addressed, I will go paragraph by paragraph.

Paragraph 2&3: You charge me with ignoring your citation of ‘credible’ reports on peak oil, and cite four in particular. I would remark first, that it is hard to treat a report by either the US or German military as being ‘credible’ in the sense of being performed by groups with any record of research or forecasting oil supply. The UK Energy Research Centre has done little work on oil supply; the research leader on the energy supply theme, according to their website, is a specialist in renewable energy, in fact.

The UK Industry Task Force is an interesting choice by you, where the primary authors are weighted towards peak oil advocates, and yet, even so, they refute the main arguments of peak oil theorists such as the founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, Colin Campbell, whose work you praise.

Your definition of ‘credible’ appears to be “agrees with my views”. My citation of the NPC study was not cherry-picking, since the intent was to show an alternative to your citations.

Paragraph 4: That you cited 20 examples of oil forecasts hardly means that you aren’t cherry-picking your data. Are you relying on the report by Robert Hirsch (it’s hard to tell from audio, with the slides not visible)? Most of the predictions of peak that I’m aware of come from those with little or no experience in forecasting oil supply, and many in fact have no experience in the petroleum industry or mineral resources more generally. (Hirsch cites, for example, David Goodstein who is a provost at Cal Tech, a fine institution, but he is a plasma physicist by profession and makes the mistake of assuming that the work by peak oil authors is reliable.)

And do you really think that it is valid to rely on a survey of predictions of the date of the peak? Since most of those cited are peak oil advocates, and many have been refuted (Colin Campbell first predicted that oil production had peaked in 1989, and his various predictions of the peak have been missed again and again), including them to produce a ‘mean’ prediction of peak oil would seem to be a fallacious approach. (You also neglect to mention the peak oil advocates who thought the post-November 2000 decline represented the peak, or the many who thought the post-May 2005 decline similarly represented the peak, even though both have been surpassed.)

Those with expertise and experience in forecasting oil supply rarely give credence to the warnings of peak oil enthusiasts, nor do most professionals. If it were taken seriously, it would be the dominant issue at all meetings of groups like the Society of Petroleum Engineers and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, since it would represent a revolution in the outlook for the industry and the profession. Yet the issue is primarily conspicuous by its absence, with only the scattered panel or article.

Furthermore, aside from neglecting earlier forecasts of peak oil by the authors cited, you would appear to be unaware of the history of oil supply forecasting, which includes many predictions of peaks that did not occur. Indeed, in the late 1970s, there was a small crowd of what we would now call peak oil advocates, including those in the industry, making similar arguments to those now heard.

Perhaps you should broaden your survey of predictions, although it would move the peak into the historical past.

Paragraph 5: You are correct, I didn’t repeat your precise comments. Why would I? There is nothing magical about the fact that you cited 20 forecasts instead of 5 or 50, particularly when the quality of many of the forecasts is poor, at best. (see above remark)

Paragraph 6: Disagreeing with a prediction does not make it ‘inaccurate’. In the first place, the thrust of the article was concerned with the industry’s recent track record in discovering large amounts of oil and gas, implying future abundance. That the Morse quote comes at the end of the article does not make it “the conclusion” as you say. The article’s points about the many recent oil discoveries in places like Brazil and the boom in shale gas production were completely valid, and not, as you say, “inaccurate, misleading and unhelpful”.

Paragraph 7: An excellent point. You did not state that Chinese demand is growing; I inferred that from your comment. As I now understand, you were intending to compare US and Chinese energy demand levels to make the point that the US is not energy independent, is that right? Because the amount of Chinese energy demand is irrelevant to whether or not the US is energy independent, which is why I misinterpreted your comment.

Since the original Times article was about global supplies, I presumed you meant to compare future demand growth with potential supplies, and suggest that higher Chinese demand would create problems. Please elucidate.

Also if you read the paragraph before the Morse quote in the original article, you can see that he is talking about future developments, not the current situation. Taking his quote out of context to suggest that he meant that the US is now energy independent, I would, again, contend is misleading.

Paragraph 8: You accuse me of a ‘false statement’ for saying that you claimed resource optimism was based in Washington, because you used the EIA as only one of the forecasts you have made. Allow me to quote you from the audio at the Degrowth conference: “The real optimists on peak oil are located in Washington.” It occurs roughly ten minutes into the audio located at: Possibly this is an impostor, please let me know and I will not reference it again. Otherwise, I think you should reconsider your use of words like “false” and “inaccurate”.

[By the way, among other problems with your talk, you refer to a watershed study published in the late 1990s by Colin Campbell in New Scientist. I was unable to locate any such. Are you possibly referring to the Scientific American article (not study) he published in 1998?]

Paragraph 9: Yes, you stated some facts, but this falls into the category of throwing out a data out of context and leaving an inference. Shale gas (and US gas total) is booming, and the fact that it is now 4% below the peak in 1973 seems to have no relevance to anything. And while there are obstacles to increasing shale gas production to the levels McClendon cites, that in no way means it can’t be done. The practice of citing problems without any historical context and implying that they can’t be overcome serves as a substitute for actual analysis, and is used to infer a conclusion rather than produce it.

The comment that US natural gas production would be “declining rapidly” without shale gas has two problems with it. First, you can’t actually know that; it is conjecture. If companies were drilling conventional gas wells (or wells targeting other types of unconventional gas) instead of shale, the production trajectory would be different, possibly increasing. (Note that I said possibly, because it is almost impossible to be certain about a counter-historical case.)

And the relevance of this is hard to understand. Without offshore production, the world would have much less oil, without gas supply from the Rocky Mountains the market would be much tighter, and if the automobile industry wasn’t producing SUVs, light vehicle production would be much lower than it is. Your comment seems to be misleading to me, inasmuch as it suggests supplies should be declining, and the pessimists about natural gas supply are actually right, because shale gas has made them wrong and it doesn’t count. Is that a correct interpretation of your remarks?

Paragraph 10: I could go on also, especially if you had more of a published track record (audio references to data on slides are hard to address) and I had more spare time. However, it certainly seems as if the weight of evidence suggests that: a) you have misinterpreted or misrepresented the New York Times article, b) your criticisms of my remarks are essentially off-base.

It is one thing to disagree with someone about their predictions or beliefs, but to use words like “inaccurate” especially when commenting on a published article should be done with a lot more care.

20 mlynch { 12.19.10 at 6:54 am }

Regarding your complaint about my ‘pathetic’ comment on the finite nature of oil (or not), you ignore the point I’m making. Peak oil advocates often begin by noting that oil is finite and therefore must peak. You yourself referred to the finite nature of oil and gas in your Huffington piece. Yet this is in fact an error. Second, even if oil and gas were finite, that would not be relevant. Instead, as you yourself point out, it is the relative size of consumption and the resource base. So, you are refuting or discarding your previous point, while agreeing with mine, yet referring to my comments as pathetic and nonsensical.
You will also note that I did not suggest that solar energy could replace oil; you are again attacking the wrong target. I used that as an example of the absurdity of the emphasis placed on the supposed finite nature of oil and gas.

21 David Hughes { 12.19.10 at 2:45 pm }

Thank you for yet again exposing your predilections Mr. Lynch and taking the time to review the works of mine that you have, including my comments on your post here. Once again you have demonstrated why you are considered a leading critic of peak oil.

Your track record speaks for itself and there is little I or anyone else could do to dissuade you of your opinions. In regard to peak oil I hope you are right, but the risks of blindly denying the possibility as you do are dangerous, and a disservice to your fellow man should peak oil be a near term threat, as I am convinced it is. Your discourse both in your post and in your response to my comments provides little of substance to the debate. Your background as an economist, track record as an effusive peak oil denier, and nitpicker as demonstrated in your comments here, further denigrates any credibility you may have.

22 Jean Demesure { 12.20.10 at 3:23 am }

Why do you choose not to talk about the NPC report which qualifies peak oil as without merit ? I find your demonstrations flagrantly anecdotal but that one has been particularly damning.

As to your belief in the danger of imminent peak-oil and the need for mitigation, well, it’s a belief, and the fact it’s trumpeted by vocal activists like you who need it to get paid is a big hit to its credibility.

23 Jean Demesure { 12.20.10 at 3:24 am }

@David Hughes
Why do you choose not to talk about the NPC report which qualifies peak oil as without merit ? I find your demonstrations flagrantly anecdotal but that one has been particularly damning.
As to your belief in the danger of imminent peak-oil and the need for mitigation, well, it’s a belief, and the fact it’s trumpeted by people like you who need it to get paid is a big hit to its credibility.

24 mlynch { 12.20.10 at 5:39 am }

Thanks, David, your ad hominem attacks (on my person, rather than the substance) effectively represents a surrender. My reputation is not as a peak oil denier primarily, but an oil supply analyst, where I have easily outperformed peak oil forecasters. Perhaps you would care to ask the Huffington Post to withdraw your piece?

25 mlynch { 12.20.10 at 5:41 am }

RDenner, on shale gas, you are misinformed. There have been some environmental problems, but it is not clear that they represent a major threat to aquifers. And most shale gas wells decline quickly in the first year, then produce with a long tail. Your comment that there are no Cantarells etc. is off base as well, since the various deposits hold huge amounts of recoverable gas.

26 RDenner { 12.20.10 at 10:15 pm }

I have no idea who this Mr. Lynch is, but I cannot understand the mindset that says a finite resource is incapable of depletion, because of market forces?

We must start the argument on level terms. Is Oil/NG and all the other lower level(meaning much more energy intensive and net energy returning) fossil fuels FINITE?

Without agreeing on that question, all other debate is useless.

Unless I woke up in a world where the Abiotic Oil theory is now accepted fact, we must debate the reality that oil/ng and the rest are for all practical HUMAN LIFESPAN purposes, is without a doubt a finite resource.

The “uber-optimists” will claim that before oil there was coal and before coal there were trees. And history “doesn’t talk about peak trees”.. When in fact history is replete with lessons about societies cutting down trees at a rate that would not allow them to grow back in a sufficient amount of time to be useful.

But then they found coal. But as the easy to find coal(much like the abundant and easy to chop mature trees) was gobbled up. What they were left with was hard to get at and less energetic coal(yes there is a difference in coal), but they found Natural Gas deposits and Oil under pressure.

This was a quantum leap forward in energy as NG/Oil is so energy dense and WAS so easy to find/extract/refine that it was practically like finding free energy.

Now we are at a point, much like the time when trees were being over used, where the easy stuff is gone and we are now a good long ways into depleting even the harder to get to stuff. And we are going back and scrubbing out the old finds to get the stuff that was left behind. We will soon be going toward the REALLY hard to find/extract/refine stuff.

The Deep Water Horizon incident is a perfect example of what lengths we are going to, to find and extract the oil/NG we need to literally survive as a country. They were drilling in 5000 feet of water and a further 18000 feet of rock.

This is not a picture of abundant and easy to get oil. This is very reminiscent of societies that were willing to wait until the last stand of trees was in view before they decided to do something different.

And that is the CRUX of the peak oil argument. Not one Peak Oiler that I know would say “we are running out of oil!!”. They know better. The word PEAK is the opposite of what we are accused of saying. Peak Oil is an admission that like a mountain climber looking to reach the stars on the mountain he is climbing, he will at one point reach the peak and no matter how he tries, he will start walking back to earth.

We are AT or NEAR that point in worldwide oil production. And the “uber optomists” have yet to convince me that we have a plausible Plan B to fall back on. Where are the Coal Miners of this era? When the trees started to run low, they easily adapted life to coal use, and as coal became to hard to mine and transport, there came the oil gushers and natural gas wells.

Where is the next great thing coming from that will save us all? Trust me I AM LOOKING HARD. And I have yet to find anything that passes even a cursory sniff test. I won’t go through the laundry list of things that are supposed to save our collective asses(cough Cold Fusion cough….cough Hydrogen cough), and I will end on the one thing I’ve found that could be big enough to displace the dwindling supply of energy.

And that is Methane Hydrates. And yet there are no production platforms heading out to the gulf or off the coast of Washington/Alaska to harvest this energy source. They are still in the very early stages of test wells.

We are at a bare minimum 10 to 15 years away from retro-fitting our systems to work with methane hydrates.

And it is this knowledge that leads to arguments in and out of the Peak Oil community. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN. For some(read the Techno fixers) it means that we’ll just adjust and nothing will change all the way to the uber doomers who are planning for a complete disintegration of society.

But the argument MUST start with either an acceptance or a rejection of this question…

Are fossil fuels in all their forms(fracking/ng/coal to liquids/etc) finite? If the answer is YES, then we are arguing over when peak happens.

If no, then the argument ends as there is no common ground. I personally find someone who answers no to this question to be the mental equivalent of someone who failed to accept the round earth theory 50 years after it was a given fact for everyone else.

Robert

I am going to write something that might be taken the wrong way, so know that it is not coming from a place of malice but a desire for people to understand what is happening to them, or to understand what is coming their way very soon(yes my friends here in the US).

The first part to understand is that the government/Bank of England didn’t give the bankers any money. The trillions you here about, DO NOT AND DID NOT EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE.

I will try an analogy here and hope it doesn’t backfire.

Imagine you are playing a game of Monopoly (do they even play that in the UK?). In this game you have a finite number of spaces on the board. Imagine these “properties” are the real productive resources of your country. They are the trained workforce, the land, the crops, the trees, the oil, the steel, the mills, the assembly plants, the machinery.. ALL OF IT..

In the game of Monopoly each space on the board is represented by a card which names the resource (in this case they are the names of real properties in Atlantic City NJ). So you have one card named OIL, one card named FERTILE/PRODUCTIVE FARM LAND, LABOR FORCE, ETC… On the back of these cards is a fixed value of that real resource (in the game of Monopoly this is the Mortgage value of the property).

The above is the REAL VALUE OF YOUR SOCIETY. Those who are part of a valuable labor force, or someone who owns title to a productive farm, someone who owns a steel mill, the simple act of being a part of these groups HAS INTRINSIC VALUE regardless of anything else.

So you have a limited number of productive property squares in a game of monopoly and if you did not have money in the game of monopoly the only way you could get another valuable asset (property) was to directly trade. But in the game of monopoly you do have a bank and you do have money and this is where you can start to understand why things are happening the way they are, and you can understand why the money they are “giving to the banks” doesn’t really exist at all.

Now let’s imagine a much larger monopoly board, one with 500 squares. You start the game with only 20 of them revealed and you have no idea where or what the other squares contain. You introduce the concept of money to your game to allow players to expand the game and to find out what and where all the squares are located. Money allows people to get out of their squares entirely and into money with the hopes of being able to afford future and better squares. Others hold the old squares and improve them and save their money.

But at some point 499.999 of the squares are found and all over and under and in the pockets of the players is MONEY. And also in many of the game player’s possession are the ORIGINAL CARDS that signify the real intrinsic value of their asset. As the game was growing from 20 squares to 499.999 it SEEMED that money could cure a lot of problems. If one player fell on hard times and was hungry(I’m really going too far with this aren’t I :) ), other players or the bank(government/Fed) could hand the player paper money and with this paper money it SEEMED that it was the money that helped him. It wasn’t. It was the real things that the money got him that was important. And when the game was at 275 of 500 squares found, it was easy for the money to get him something of real intrinsic value (i.e. a real square).

But we are 99.999% done with the growth part of the game of Monopoly. For those that are ardent players of this game, they will understand what I mean. This is the part of the game of monopoly where the only thing that money is good for is to keep from losing your REAL VALUE CARDS!! A player with no cards and lots of money will lose the game at this point and here is the whole point of this post and I hope I haven’t lost you to this point.

So you have a player with no cards and lots of money. It is just a matter of time before this player loses as no matter how much money you give this player, his money will not buy him a piece of the real as there is no one willing to give up their real cards for the paper money the bank man is handing out. The money starts to become only a mechanism to lubricate the game and those that run out of lubrication (money) are forced to sell their cards on the market to be gobbled up by those with enough spare money to guarantee that they can hold the asset and not lose what they have.

That is where the global economy has been for some time now. We have reached the 99% done part of the game we’ve been playing for several hundred years. The money that was “given to the banks” didn’t buy the banks anything; it in fact removed assets from them. They held millions of property notes and in an attempt to keep themselves in the game a little longer they were given paper money in exchange for a large portion of their real asset cards. They transferred their asset cards to the Fed(or the Bank of England) and in return they just received a bunch of paper money from the Central Bank.(which is not even entirely true. They got a MARK on the books of the Fed for the “value” of the properties in the hope they could create new loans and get title to even more properties).

(I feel I have to break to make an aside comment here. If you own a home in our current system, you don’t really own it. That is important to understand. If you have a mortgage on your property, you are a renter with special privileges and nothing more. If you paid off the mortgage and you think you own your property, think again. The governments of the world have shown time and time again, that either they or their banker lackey’s, or vice versa(depending on how you see it), own ALL the property in their sphere of influence(their country’s borders). As a “land owner” you get to make all of the repairs, you pay all the taxes and take all the risk. And as recent events are proving, this buys you only a fractional amount more stability and protection versus someone who is knowingly renting his property. This is very important in understanding how our system works. At some point, even if it takes several generations, the average persons property will end up back in the hands of the state or the banking system)

(So back to the analogy.) Now the banks are at that point in the game of Monopoly where they have mortgaged all their properties to the Federal Reserve and in return they received marks on the Fed’s books for the supposed value of the property. This “money” value is really inconsequential as the Central Bank can just create the money out of thin air. What they got in return has REAL VALUE and that is property.

That was QE1 in the United States. The banks had LOT’S of property and found themselves in a cash crunch as the growth part of the game had ended. They landed on a space where they owed 1000 dollars and found they only had 10 bucks stuffed under the board. The real banker (the Central Bank, as the bank at the corner near your house is NOT THE SAME THING) just pulled money out of his register and gave it to the bank and in return they got the property cards that the banks held.

Now we are on QE2, and again there is a transfer of some property going on, but this time the money is truly just going into a black hole. The banks are again running out of money to keep themselves lubricated and again the Central Banks have deemed it necessary at this point and time to keep the banks going on life support. Why would they do that? I have some guesses, but that is all they are.

I think it could be, because trust between the average person and the banking system has yet to break down, so there is a huge incentive to keep up the appearance that things are still OK. In the Great Depression that wasn’t the case. Once public trust in the banking system collapsed, there was no need to continue propping them up with fake money. They were pseudo-nationalized and re-organized under FDR, some were opened up under a much stricter mandate and others were closed forever.

It will happen again, of that I am absolutely sure. The only question is timing. The Central Banks will continue to flood the banking sector with fake money for as long as public sentiment will hold. Given the recent actions of large numbers of people to try and break the bank, it could be that the collapse of confidence is getting very close. But also note how effective the protest really was (as in, it barely caused a ripple, but ripples can turn into tidal waves in the right conditions…you know what I mean). We could be another 1 or 2 years away from a complete breakdown in the banking system, which is the next domino to fall in my opinion. Until there is a major collapse of the consumer/commercial banking system, they will be able to keep up the appearance of BAU. That could end on Jan 18th 2011(my Fake Diary date) or it could continue for another half decade. No one knows.

But what I do know is that they will absolutely refrain from injecting any large amounts of money directly into the system via large scale payments to the people themselves. There is ABSOLUTELY NO MONETARY VELOCITY created. Once the mass payments go out to the masses, you will be able to count on a time scale of weeks or possibly a few months, how quick the system will fall apart.

For now they will just create NON INFLATIONARY money to lube the banks up until something stops them from doing going in that direction. They will soon come up with a way to do this without having the press and everyone else shouting to the world that they “PRINTED 10 TRILLION DOLLARS FOR QE4!!”…

What this means for the little guy is that he will get less and less as the game has now shifted into reverse and the system will start eating itself. Those people, who are the most dependent on the system, will be the first to feel its effects. This first part of the process has been going on for at least a decade in the United States. Pensioners, those on Social Security, the completely dependent poor, these parts of our society have known what the rest of us are going to find out (or have recently found out) and that is things are getting exponentially harder by the week. Making ends meet is pretty much impossible, and they are forced into doing very desperate things to just stay alive. Now the working poor all the way up to the lower middle/middle middle class is going to find out what those below them have been screaming about for years.

But the money the banks are getting is of no use to these people. Let’s say instead of the banks getting 800 Billion dollars every cent of it was diverted to those in most need and they all got 100k checks. Inside of 3 months the economy would be destroyed and we’d be in a complete anarchy as shortages would ravage the country and inflation would spiral completely out of control.

The Central Banks are buying time by pumping pseudo-money into the banking systems in an attempt to keep the majority of the people blind to how precarious the situation really has become. And they will continue down this path for as long as they are allowed. Something will force them to nationalized the banks again and call some form of a bank holiday. When and how it happens is anyone’s guess.

But for those that are not rich, you are going to be getting it from every conceivable angle over the next 6 to 18 months and your payoff for being patient with whatever Schmuck wins office in 2012, will be another 10 years of the same and worse. For those that are rich, you’ll be joining them at some point along the way. Only the uber-rich .5% of the population will sail unscathed as they always do. Though in this wired world, and with the rise of 4th generational warfare tactics, I wouldn’t be sleeping too soundly in your bed if you belong to the Uber-Rich class either…

Robert

“”””RDenner, on shale gas, you are misinformed. There have been some environmental problems, but it is not clear that they represent a major threat to aquifers. And most shale gas wells decline quickly in the first year, then produce with a long tail. Your comment that there are no Cantarells etc. is off base as well, since the various deposits hold huge amounts of recoverable gas.”””””
..

Thank you for taking the time to both read and respond to my posts. Kind of a little thrill to actually be able to talk with someone who is thought of enough to be printed in a national light PLUS who is a leading peak oil critic.

I have been peak oil aware for many years, and regardless of all these nit picking arguments that seem to break out on both sides of our lines, one thing has remained a constant for me.

Since I accepted that peak oil is real, my life has been exponentially easier. In 2004 I accepted it as a reality, having spent close to a year trying to disprove this “tree hugging liberal” idea(my thoughts at the time). I am an Austrian trained economist from as far back as 1991, and have read all the major works by Rothbard, Mises and the rest. So I come to this table with a very critical eye.

I(like so many in the Peak Oil movement) went through a very depressed period from 2004 to 2005 as I read so many of the doomier accounts of what Peak Oil meant. I feel this depression was both constructive and necessary to fundamentally change my entire paradigm. I have come out the other side more realistic about what America SHOULD BE about, and I was sickened month in and month out as the expected collapse of the world economy failed to materialize. The amount of abstract waste that inhabits the American way of life should not be supported.

When you actually look at what we do to prop up a our way of life(and I mean really open your eyes FULL and WIDE to the full extent of our wastefulness and arrogance in how we treat other people of the world in our quest for more), it cannot help but change you forever. I cannot go back to sleep and I cannot unlearn what I have learned these past 5 or 6 years. And to be honest I don’t want to go back.

I just thought I’d give you that little bit about me, so at least you have some idea of who I am and where I’m coming from before I jump into an argument with you. And this is your site and you have been very open and accommodating on this subject, so I am trying to be as respectful as possible.

On the subject of unconventional Natural Gas, I am not against it per se. I am just against the wonton waste that it represents. It is a very large amount of energy we are talking about for sure, but I feel that the way it is being used is just reprehensible.

We are just fueling more of the same Business as usual bull crap and this unconventional energy is yet ANOTHER God send that we are pissing down the drain. We have the ability to use home grown Natural Gas to fundamentally change our energy picture and we are choosing to use it for more electric production and home heating.

Where are the big ideas to wean ourselves at least a little bit off of our oil addiction to other countries? Using Natural Gas for transport is not a new idea, but it is an idea whose time has come. But it can’t happen in an environment of business as usual. People must look at how they live their lives and they must understand that these types of wells come with a much heavier environmental cost that traditional oil under pressure from Texas or Alaska, or conventional NG production. But domestically produced NG is factors better than extending our military across half the world trying to protect our oil supply lines from here to Nigeria/Mexico/Saudi Arabia and the rest.

But again, to make a dent in our energy import addiction, it is going to take a radical change in people’s mindset. And when people like you use phrases like “We have 100 years of unconventional Natural Gas production left”, it leads people to think that nothing must change.

I cannot believe that you believe that unconventionals(plus the conventionals we already produce) can even make a small dent in our energy importation addiction??(Can I?). We use in excess of 20 million barrels of oil (or unconventional energy sources) and at best we produce 6 to 7(maybe 8 with some of the really bad ideas like Corn Ethanol). The only way we can attack this problem in the US is on the demand side of the equation. And when I hear people such as yourself and others just blow off the fact that the US peaked in 1971 and that this has little bearing on anything, I cannot help but get very frustrated.

We as a country must start seeing energy for what it really is, and that is a very precious gift. For 20,000 years of human history we lived on an energy ratio of probably 1.1 to 1(meaning we lived hand to mouth at all times)… And before we burn through this “100 years of unconventional natural gas” with as much thought as we did the 100 years of oil we burned through this past century, I think we need to look at everything we are doing as a country and decide if it makes sense.

MONEY and CREDIT and FREE MARKETS do not trump thermodynamics. In a free market(especially Austrian style free markets), WASTE is the enemy and blind consumption is the enemy. So if we indeed live in a free market(which we really don’t anymore, but that’s another argument), we need to attack the consumption portion of our energy equation, before we blindly burn through another 20 years of energy without making the slightest dent in the problems we face as a country and a globe.

The way that we are going about implementing these unconventional is just typical of contemporary American thinking. JUST DO IT!! Who cares about the long term consequences and who cares about actually taking a long term view of this so-called “energy bonanza”…

I have serious doubts about the veracity of the claims concerning unconventional NG, but I have to keep an open mind. Because 5 years ago, I didn’t even know it was a possibility. But I have done my homework on the subject and I can say with ABSOLUTE certainty that the potential of unconventional NG is nowhere near the energy potential of a Guawaar or a Cantrell. These were massive stores of potential energy that lasted for decades and decades at pressure, without the need for massive environmental degradation(at least not on the scale the Fraking is causing and will cause). But I have given you the benefit of the doubt here and have accepted your claims and hope that you will take my thoughts into serious consideration when you talk about peak oil. We as a country/world must start viewing energy for what it really is, and that is precious and it should not be wasted. We should be looking carefully at the thermodynamic realities of energy BEFORE applying our economic/political realities.

Thanks if you actually read this far.

Robert

27 RDenner { 12.20.10 at 10:16 pm }

DAMNIT… I grabbed a whole bunch of other crap from my clip board.. Can you delete everything ABOVE the paragraph

“””””warfare tactics, I wouldn’t be sleeping too soundly in your bed if you belong to the Uber-Rich class either…

Robert”””””

Thanks.. You should get an edit feature here.. LOL…. Dang that sucks, I spent a lot of time on this too…

28 mlynch { 12.21.10 at 4:01 am }

RDenner, I can sympathize with software. WIll read and respond later.

29 mlynch { 12.22.10 at 2:40 pm }

RDenner, go back to the 1970s. (I have an article on this, if you want it.) Many impressive studies showed ever-increasing oil prices, scarcity, and the need for synthetic fuels like shale oil. What happened instead was that fuel-switching freed up a lot of residual fuel oil, which was cracked to lighter products, conservation saved oil, and conventional oil production increased, despite many experts insisting it couldn’t happen.
Same thing today: it’s bad models. You can’t see all the work going on involving redevelopment of old fields, new medium-sized fields coming on line, plus things like shale gas NGLs, biofuels, etc. None of it equals a Ghawar–but there’s only one Ghawar anyway, and it only makes up 6% of world oil production, meaning that nearly all oil comes from smaller fields. Most of these are still pretty large, because we have so many large ones, people don’t drill for smaller ones (usually, see my family’s holdings in West Virginia for an exception).
Hope this is informative, Mike

30 Dolly Serrano { 12.23.10 at 8:02 pm }

RDenner, I can sympathize with software. WIll read and respond later.

31 David Hughes { 12.29.10 at 10:20 pm }

Re MLynch’s request “Perhaps you would care to ask the Huffington Post to withdraw your piece?”

Not a chance Michael. If you could provide some credible evidence to support your views I might be more amenable. You have provided nothing of substance so far. Better to ask this site to delete your post.

32 mlynch { 12.30.10 at 8:03 am }

Given that my piece was addressing your charges against the New York Times, I think my point is well supported, David. Your attack was based on your taking a comment out of context and arguing that it was the article’s conclusion, plus complaining that they didn’t agree with your opinions.
You are making an extraordinary claim when you see oil production peaking soon, and that requires extraordinary evidence. What you provide is little or no evidence, just a datum or two, some anecdotes, misinterpretations of technical terms, and so forth.
It is, naturally, not enough to simply point out that the peak oil arguments are invalid or irrelevant. So I will add: the resource base remains abundant, the problems described by peak oil advocates are all transient, not physical. Production continues to rise and shows every sign of being abundant as far as can be seen. That we cannot see investment, discoveries and field developments beyond a decade does not mean that they won’t occur: that is rather like ancient maps saying “Here there be monsters.”

33 mlynch { 12.30.10 at 1:20 pm }

Responding to your longer comments, RDenner:
Peak oil has been predicted many times, and production has surpassed the predicted peak just as the tide failed to obey King Canute. The recent arguments (from Campbell and Laherrere in the 1990s) were that new methods and data proved that nearly half of the conventional oil resource had been produced, and that would cause production to peak. However, their methods were simplistic and flawed, and their claims for the data they were using proved to be false. Others made new estimates of the resource base, and produced much higher numbers (3.5 to 4 trillion barrels of recoverable oil, versus the peak oil estimate of 2 trillion barrels). And the claim that new technology did not increase the recoverable portion of the resource (now approximately 35% globally), or allow new supplies to be accessed, proved to be based on anecdotal data. Thus, the conventional resource base is approximately 10-12 trillion barrels of oil in place, and the vast majority of experts anticipate that the recoverable fraction will increase significantly over the long term.
In the past decade, many peak oil advocates have revised the argument to point to the difficulties in producing oil. On the industry side, this reflects nothing more than the standard complaint about how hard their job is. From the peak oil side, they are neglecting the fact that the new places/methods are as much an advance in ability as an increase in difficulty. The notion that, for one hundred and forty years, the difficulty producing oil did not increase, but then the past five it did, seems illogical in the extreme. More likely, this is just another cycle being misinterpreted as a ‘new paradigm’ as often happens in commodity markets (and stock markets, real estate, etc.)

Leave a Comment