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Oil System Collapsing so Fast It May Derail Renewables Warn French Government Scientists

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A team of French government energy scientists are warning that the collapse of the global oil system is coming so rapidly it could derail the transition to a renewable energy system if it doesn’t happen fast enough. In just 13 years, global oil production could enter into a terminal and exponential decline, accompanied by the overall collapse of the global oil and gas industries over the next three decades.

But this is not because the earth is running out of oil and gas. Rather, it’s because they are increasingly eating themselves to stay alive. The oil and gas industries are consuming exponentially more and more energy just to keep extracting oil and gas. That’s why they’ve entered a downwards spiral of increasing costs of production, diminishing profits, rising debt and irreversible economic decline.

Hanging on for dear life to the old, dying fossil fuel paradigm is a recipe for civilisational suicide.

The implication is that global energy shortages and price spikes will be a taste of things to come if we stay dependent on fossil fuels. Yet a growing narrative has instead wrongly pinpointed the ‘clean energy transition’ as the culprit.

The Economist, for instance, describes the global gas price spikes as “the first big energy shock of the green era”, blaming inadequate investment in renewables and “some transition fossil fuels” (like gas). This could lead to “a popular revolt against climate policies.”

This implies that the fundamental driver of global energy volatility is the transition away from fossil fuels: but this flawed narrative has it exactly backwards.

Energy Return On Investment (EROI)

The key to understanding all this is in how the new study, published in Elsevier’s Applied Energy journal, applies the concept of ‘Energy Return On Investment’ (EROI).

Pioneered by systems ecologist Professor Charles Hall (whom I worked with on my book Failing States, Collapsing Systems) EROI measures how much energy you must use to extract energy for a given resource or technology. The metric works as a simple ratio that estimates the quantity of energy you can get out for every single unit of energy that’s put in. So obviously, the higher the ratio the better, because it means you can get more bang for your buck.

The new study is authored by three French government scientists – Louis Delannoy, Pierre-Yves Longaretti and Emmanuel Prados of the National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology (INRIA) which operates under France’s Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry – along with David J. Murphy, an environmental scientist and energy expert at St. Lawrence University in New York.

Their research found that 15.5% – more than a tenth – of the energy produced from oil worldwide is already necessary to keep producing all the oil.

Yet this is getting worse, not better. Since the production of the easiest-to-get conventional oil slowed down and plateaued around fifteen years ago, we’re increasingly relying on forms of difficult-to-extract unconventional oil that uses greater amounts of energy for more complex techniques like fracking.

The Downwards Spiral

In 1950, the EROI of global oil production was really high, at about 44:1 (meaning, for every unit of energy we put in, we were getting a whopping 44 out). Yet as the graph below from the new study illustrates, this value has undergone a shockingly steep decline.

By 2020, it reached around 8:1, and is projected to decline and plateau to around 6.7 from 2040 onwards.


By 2024 – within the next four years – the amount of energy we are using for global oil production is going to increase to 25% of energy production. In other words, the world will be using a quarter of the energy produced from oil just to keep producing that oil.

But instead of getting more efficient, fossil fuel technologies are getting less efficient – which is why the quantity of energy we need to keep producing oil is exponentially increasing.

By 2050, fully half of the energy extracted from global oil reserves will need to be put back into new extraction to keep producing oil. The authors have an interesting name for this self-defeating phenomenon: they call it, “energy cannibalism.”


This tendency is having massive consequences on long-term economic growth that few mainstream economists acknowledge today. The key issue is that the more energy we need to extract energy itself, the less energy is available for other areas of the economy and society.

As economists Professor Tim Jackson and Dr Andrew Jackson of the University of Surrey have shown, there is now abundant scientific evidence that the decline in EROI is an underlying driver of the decline in economic growth.

This suggests that the last two decades of global economic turbulence are closely related to the global economy’s continued structural dependence on fossil fuels: a dependence that, if it goes on, will guarantee a grim future of energy and economic decline amidst mounting environmental crisis.

Yes, the Age of Fossil Fuels is Ending 

What does this mean for the idea of ‘peak oil’?

Previous discussions about peak oil, the scientists say, were too polarised to be helpful. So they call for a re-opening of the debate based on these new findings, not because we are running out of oil (the authors point out that “we clearly have too much fossil fuels stock to respect ambitious climate targets”), but because our economic ability to access the oil affordably is declining at an exponential rate that decision-makers aren’t talking about.

“If the shale tight oil has been able to compensate for the production plateau of conventional oils since the mid-2000s,” they portend, “no other liquid is expected to take off and become the next backstop energy source.”

This, they argue, will define the point at which all global oil production will probably peak and decline – a date they suggest lies somewhere around 2034: that is, just 13 years from now.

“A contracting window exists between oil prices high enough so that extraction and development are viable and low enough to let consumers have access to it,” they conclude. “From this perspective, peak oil will never be either totally peak supply or peak demand, but a mix of both in proportions that are difficult to measure and project.”

Gas Crisis Reveals the Imminent End of Europe’s Fossil Fuel Age

Other analysts have pointed out that technology disruptions like solar photovoltaics, wind turbines, batteries for storage and electric vehicles (EVs) are on track to eliminate demand for oil and gas over the next decade. Oil, therefore, faces a perfect storm from both above and below.

In a separate new study, the same team looked at global gas data, finding similarly that while we’re currently using 6.7% of global energy to produce gas, that quantity is growing at an exponential rate and will reach nearly a quarter by 2050.

Over the next decades, then, oil and gas investments will become ‘stranded’ due to three converging pressures: climate policies demanding that fossil fuels stay in the ground; plummeting demand as fossil fuels and combustion engines are increasingly disrupted by solar, wind, batteries and EVs; and accelerating “energy cannibalism” as the oil and gas industries, ironically, consume themselves into oblivion in the process of trying to keep going.

Aborting the Alternative

Perhaps the most alarming implication of the new research concerns renewable energy technologies. The authors conclude:

“… either the global energy transition takes place quickly enough, or we risk a worsening of climate change, a historical and long-term recession due to energy deficits (at least for some regions of the globe), or a combination of several of these problems.”

So if we delay the clean energy transformation for too long, there might not be enough energy to sustain the transition in the first place – leading to a ‘worst of all worlds’ scenario: the collapse of both the fossil fuel system and the ability to create a viable alternative.

The good news is that according to more and more research, the alternative could open up a vast new possibility space for human civilisation. According to financial think-tank Carbon Tracker, renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind and batteries are becoming more efficient, rolled out with increasing speed, and generating greater returns.

As I’ve argued for the technology forecasting group RethinkX, there’s also mounting evidence that renewable energy technologies have a higher and increasing EROI compared to fossil fuels, and if optimally deployed can avoid bottlenecks in minerals and materials supplies.

There’s no time to lose. The new research led by the French team confirms that whether we like it or not, human civilisation is in the midst of the most rapid transformation of the global energy system we’ve ever experienced. And hanging on for dear life to the old, dying fossil fuel paradigm is a recipe for civilisational suicide.


14 Comments on "Oil System Collapsing so Fast It May Derail Renewables Warn French Government Scientists"

  1. Cloggie on Sat, 23rd Oct 2021 8:59 pm 

    Not difficult to imagine a world without mass driving and flying within a handful of years. Just look at Brexit-Britain for a sneak preview of things to come for you as well.

    Coal miner could be a job with prospects in a world where social handouts and pensions will gradually evaporate.

    One way out: eliminate private car ownership and replace it with this:

    “By 2030 You Won’t Own a Car”

    Same solution for truck driver shortage problem.

    “You are entering this highway on your own risk”.lol

  2. Cloggie on Sun, 24th Oct 2021 3:18 am 

    The consequences of the article worked out here:

    “The Return of EROI – Fossil Fuel Industry Cannibalizing Itself”

  3. Theedrich on Sun, 24th Oct 2021 5:08 am 

    The New Testament is a pack of lies. It is is largely a placebo-like series of writings (partly based on Old Testament references and repeatedly described as the “truth”) designed to encourage confidence in the new cult.  Its psychosomatic effects in healing and its encouragement of group solidarity were extremely effective in building the early Christian movement.

    International scholars who know intimately the ancient Aramaic, Greek and Latin source languages, the cultures of the ancient East, and the entire socio-political environment of the time as well as the entire Bible itself, have shown that the miracle stories and the deification and glorification of Jesus and his entourage were invented by the evangelists and other propagandists for religio-political purposes.  The Jesus Seminar and other researchers of the texts and sources of the New Testament have found that it is a web of fantasy and false sermonizing, combined with many other legends, myths and lies, that has been taken as absolute truth for two millennia.  This is, incidentally, not to say that the paranormal is not unquestionably real, but that it has been exaggerated and perverted in order to support the myth (one of many in the ancient world) of a god-man who rose physically from the dead.  That narrative, with its “original-sin” propaganda of permanent guilt for all Whites, is false.

    One could start with the Jesus Seminar’s The Five Gospels:  What Did Jesus Really Say?  The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus and Robert Walter Funk’s The Acts of Jesus:  What Did Jesus Really Do?, then proceed to the “charter myth” of the Acts of the Apostles, a pious lie invented out of whole cloth, and to the facts about Marcion, the author of the first New Testament (around A.D. 144) composed of an early (gentilized) version of Luke and ten letters of Paul, never mind the four centuries it took to establish something resembling a “canon.” (See The First New Testament:  Marcion’s Scriptural Canon by Jason D. BeDuhn.  Also Dennis E. Smith and Joseph B. Tyson, Acts and Christian Beginnings:  The Acts Seminar Report, plus Bernard Brandon Scott’s The Real Paul:  Recovering His Radical Challenge.)

    Starting with a bizarre tale about humanity’s first parents — with the female fashioned from the man’s rib — and a talking snake, Christianity proclaimed all people forever guilty of that couple’s “original sin” of having gained knowledge by eating the fruit of a knowledge tree, contrary to a talking creator god’s express verbal instructions.  To this fiction the storytellers added all kinds of other sins with associated guilt, putting much emphasis on the evils of sex.  This imagined guilt was then projected onto every human, who had to subject himself to the sermonizers for confession and absolution, with a god-man, Jesus Christ, as the main hero who “paid for your sins” by having himself crucified, then rising from the dead.

    This fantastical narrative and its supposed guilt became the unconscious basis of European religiosity and hypocrisy ever after.  Today it helps to serve governments and “opinion leaders” with their psyops as the unspoken ideological guarantor and justification for their legitimacy.  Guilt can be manufactured out of any accusation whatsoever.

    But it is all false.

    Throughout the nineteen centuries since the Jesus myth was invented, countless people have died in religious wars, or being burned at the stake, not to mention the innumerable women and some men executed as “witches” because of it.  All for a concoction of power-supporting lies.  Today that concoction, with its insane guilt-mongering, is being used to destroy Western civilization, a civilization which has somehow risen above the veil of mendacity covering Europe during all that time.  The current U.S. president is a “devout Catholic” who subtly encourages cop-killing and is importing murderers, narco-traffickers, human parasites of every description and debasing the currency to boot, all in the name of “saving” the populace.

    The entire upper echelon of the U.S. federal government is corrupt, as is the army of media operatives, IT manipulators and economic and financial criminals who depend for support on the naïve belief of the gullible masses in the suicidal Christian myth, the same one that mass murderer Ahab Lincoln believed in.

    The genocidal machine called America cannot live much longer, now that it is consuming itself.

  4. makati1 on Sun, 24th Oct 2021 5:58 pm 

    Cloggie, you live in a postage stamp country where you could walk everywhere. Do you realize that in the US, it may be 10, or more, miles just to the next small town.? Much of the US is that way. No car, no live. Ignorance is just plain stupid in the year 2021, but you seem to be the poster boy for lack of education.

  5. makati1 on Sun, 24th Oct 2021 6:02 pm 

    “The New Testament is a pack of lies.” I agree Theedrich. The Old Testament is, at most, a biased history of the Jews. The New Testament is propaganda to promote control and profits. (Pun intended ^_^)

  6. Outcast_Searcher on Mon, 25th Oct 2021 10:33 am 

    makati1: You, whining about a lack of education for Cloggie. Given the history of the nonsense you spew, that’s rich.

    If you weren’t so poorly educated, perhaps you’d know what “irony” means. LOL

  7. Cloggie on Mon, 25th Oct 2021 11:10 am 

    From this article:

    “A team of French government energy scientists are warning that the collapse of the global oil system is coming so rapidly it could derail the transition to a renewable energy system if it doesn’t happen fast enough. In just 13 years, global oil production could enter into a terminal and exponential decline, accompanied by the overall collapse of the global oil and gas industries over the next three decades.”

    So these French government scientists predict a peak-oil supply of around 2034, but after that a rapid collapse of oil supply and infrastructure. We have 13 years left to prepare for that.

  8. Cloggie on Mon, 25th Oct 2021 3:52 pm 

    Dutch national weather institute KNMI increases its sea level rise expectation for 2100 from 1.0 m towards 1.2 – 2.0 m.

    Message to Amsterdam and Rotterdam: it was to have known you!

    Sea level rise theme, Eurovision-2021-Netherlands interval acts, both videos American commenter, discovering the Dutch music scene (until today, see his channel HxC):

    (Rotterdam, Eurovision)

  9. makati1 on Mon, 25th Oct 2021 4:17 pm 

    Outcast, you are right up there with Cloggie in the running for village idiot. Get educated about the real world, not the USMSM propaganda world. Turn off the TV and join us in the real one.

    “In order to maintain the perception that China is a villain in the minds of credulous consumers of most conservative media, it is asserted that China is an atheistic monstrosity committed to crushing religion. If one wishes to practice religion in China, we are told the consequences are jail, draconian social credit scores or even the loss of one’s life.

    Although popular, this perception is entirely bogus.

    As far as freedom of religion is concerned, China is a land which is home to over 50 million Christians and has over 65,000 churches of protestant and catholic denominations. Muslims make up the majority of the population in Xinjiang which hosts over 24,000 Mosques which is a far greater per capita number than anything found in the USA. Buddhist and Daoist temples abound across China as well.

    Even China’s constitution protects freedom of religion (article 36), with the simple caveat that “No state organ, social organization or individual shall coerce citizens to believe in or not to believe in any religion, nor shall they discriminate against citizens who believe in or do not believe in any religion. The state shall protect normal religious activities. No one shall use religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the state’s education system.” And most importantly: “Religious groups and religious affairs shall not be subject to control by foreign forces.”

    So basically, freedom of worship is constitutionally protected as long as your religious group doesn’t have the smell of color revolution on it.”

    Amerikans are so under educated and over brainwashed. But then, Amerika is dying by a thousands self-induced wounds. So be it.

  10. Biden's hairplug on Tue, 26th Oct 2021 12:06 am 

    US media master Bill Maher discussing the possibility of a “national divorce”:

    He exposes what many outside the US already suspect, namely that the diversity experiment (ethnic communism) could end up badly, like it does everywhere else on the planet. The US one XXL Lebanon of competing ethnic and religious factions.

    Maher predictably and understandably ends with a pious call to “tone done”, which of course is not going to happen. Humans are tribal and if you put 2 or more tribes next to each other on the same territory, they are going to compete and eventually they go at each other’s throat. Remember what happened to the “Indians”? Yugoslavia? Palestine? Iraq? Syria? USSR? The US is next on the line, with France not that far behind; retired generals of both the US and France have warned against civil war in their respective countries. As we speak, the Netherlands is facing a direct threat to its social and judicial order by the “Mocromafia”, an ethnic drug-cartel of Moroccans, that has started a wave of assassinations against journalists and newspapers, who dare to report about the cartel.

    Ah well, Africa has thrown out whites from Africa in the seventies, good for them (is it?). Now it is our turn. But for that to happen, we first need to get rid of America and its One World Integration Scheme. Leave it to the Chinese to ram them out of Asia.

  11. Dredd on Wed, 27th Oct 2021 9:12 am 

    Without sufficient ports, Oil-Qaeda is history … bitter/sweet (Seaports With Sea Level Change – 19).

  12. The Shropshire Slasher on Fri, 29th Oct 2021 6:14 am 

    The international jew blinds the worker races to this madness. We are committing suicide by default.

  13. Cloggie on Fri, 29th Oct 2021 11:54 am 

    Airbus succeeds in flying a plane for 100% on Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF or cooking oil):

    Airbus press release:

    “First A319neo flight with 100% sustainable aviation fuel”

  14. Killian Boyle on Sat, 13th Nov 2021 12:56 pm 

    So Euan and the guys at the oildrum are being proven correct, even if they were off by 10 years

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