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Category — Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

The Undulating Oil Plateau: Peak without Decline

For some peak oil advocates who are nervous about the idea of a post-apocalyptic vision of society, it has become popular to argue for a peak and plateau rather than a peak and decline of 3–5% per year, as some of the original work postulates. This seems more palatable than calling for a global upheaval, Hollywood notwithstanding.

The original peak and decline scenario was based on the bell curve popularized by M. King Hubbert. A number have disputed the shape of the curve, arguing for a Gaussian curve instead, for example. But they are avoiding the basic question of causality. The appearance of a bell curve appears to be more coincidence than anything else, since it is not often replicated in reality. The 1998 Scientific American article, “The End of Cheap Oil,” by Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrere, contained the laughable figure of several stylized oil fields’ production curves surmounted by a bell curve and the assertion that the one aggregated to the other.

More recently, some peak oil advocates have ‘modeled’ national production as following a rise, plateau, decline shape that, in the most general sense, is accurate, but again assumes that all nations follow a fairly similar path, which implicitly assumes that geology determines that path. In fact, in many cases the level of the peak and subsequent production patterns are due more to fiscal terms than geology, as can be seen by several countries where changing government policies led to a reversal of the decline, such as in Argentina or Venezuela.

The CERA work does not fall into this pattern, however, not just because the author(s) are not in the peak oil camp in any form. [Read more →]

December 3, 2009   2 Comments