“The truth is that, just as so many did in the 1970s, a commodity cycle has been confused with a ‘new paradigm’ and (neo)Malthusian biases have cherry-picked data and made vague pronouncement (“the easy oil is gone”) with little more than some curve-fitting to support their conclusions.”
“We now have an elephant in the room, and its name is peak oil,” states Kjell Aleklett in an interview with James Morgan in ScienceOmega (June 10, 2013). Interviewer James Morgan adds: “Of course, it is possible to argue over the exact point at which global peak oil will arrive, but at some time in the not too distant future, we are going to have deal with this problem.”
And so here we go again on the trial of exhaustion theory, one step removed from the scientism of central planning where decline rates are projected and a social cost of depletion is calculated for an extraction tax. But it is all bad science.
One reason that bad science persists is that too many non-experts trust scientists to produce valid, reliable work, and the article in ScienceOmega, an interview with Professor Aleklett, the director of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, is an excellent example.
Of course, being an interview, it represents the opinions of Prof. Aleklett, but even the mildest of scrutiny would probably have prevented the publication.
Aside from factual mistakes (such as his claim to have written the first peer-reviewed peak oil article), the interpretation of many issues is, at best, confused. Most important, the death of peak oil was due to an examination of the research, not the recent surge in shale oil production.
The expert community never paid more than passing interest in what was a debate, not between geologists (or scientists) and economists, as peak oil advocates argue, but between optimists and pessimists, with the former usually being knowledgeable and experienced, and the latter novices.
The original methods used to predict the peak of world oil production proved to be deficient: the theories were not based on science, but statistical analysis and curve-fitting, and the predictions repeatedly failed, rarely mentioned by Aleklett and his colleagues.
More recent claims that ‘natural science’ is now being used (which was supposedly the case in the 1990s research) are similarly flawed. The fact that a physicist is supervising the work doesn’t make it scientific: in fact, there work is roughly the same as mathematical models of stock market behavior.
New Peak Fallacies
The claim that oil production has peaked is also fallacious. In the past decade, petroleum production has risen by over ten million barrels per day (mb/d); it rose 2.5 mb/d last year despite a variety of political problems (Sudan, Syria, Nigeria, Libya, Iran)….
And Prof. Aleklett confuses the issue of differentiating production and consumption, describing it as double-counting. What is occurring is that the global recession and price-induced conservation have caused global consumption to slow; peak oil advocates mistakenly assume that this is because of production constraints.
Prof. Aleklett was not “right” in predicting the peak between 2009 and 2013, any more than his colleague was right in predicting the peak in 1989, 2002, 2008, or that global resources had peaked at 2 trillion barrels.
The deficiency caused by the lack of independent variables becomes obvious when examining his point about the EIA and IEA dropping their forecasts for oil production in 2030 by 25 mb/d, to 95, which he claims shows how attitudes have changed since “you first made your predictions.” In fact, they both show near-linear increases in production throughout the time horizon, which hardly suggests that they have been influenced by the prediction of a roughly 2010 peak.
The truth is that, just as so many did in the 1970s, a commodity cycle has been confused with a ‘new paradigm’ and Malthusian (or neo-Malthusian) biases have cherry-picked data and made vague pronouncement (“the easy oil is gone”) with little more than some curve-fitting to support their conclusions.