With oil prices falling precipitously, this seems like a good time to reassess the widely anticipated phenomenon known as peak oil. How much of a threat is it as we look into the future?
There are basically two camps about the peak of global oil production.
• Cornucopians — Not only is the glass half-full, it is brimming over. There is no threat whatsoever to industrial civilizations. The Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of stones.
• Doomers — The glass is half-empty and we're draining it fast. Industrial civilizations are going to collapse soon because there won't be enough oil to go around. A new Stone Age is right around the corner.
Both these "schools of thought" are wildly incorrect. It's not an accident that this kind of dichotomy exists. It's not an accident that these opposed views closely resemble the political squabbles so prevalent in the United States today. You know, Progressives versus Conservatives ... blah, blah, blah. These are emotionally-based positions which have little to do with Reality. Naturally there are many more Cornucopians than there are Doomers because mindless optimism is the default human position (mistake) in all matters, not just oil.
I can demolish both positions in two sentences.
• Cornucopians do not know how to subtract.
• Doomers do not know how to add.
Of course when I say these people don't know how to add or subtract, I am describing the psychological requirements of these groups. Cornucopians cannot acknowledge that oil fields peak and decline, and that global oil production might do the same. Doomers cannot acknowledge that technology, exploration and wars in Iraq bring new resources on-stream. By and large, members of both groups know bugger all about the global oil industry.