Peak Oil is You

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Page added on March 30, 2013

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Have Concerns Over Peak Oil Peaked?

Have Concerns Over Peak Oil Peaked? thumbnail

It wasn’t that long ago that peak oil was on everybody’s minds. The basic scenario: Global energy demand would soon outstrip the world’s oil supply. Some of the more feverish types believe this will lead to a civilizational breakdown and a post-apocalyptic Mad Max landscape.

Peak oil anxieties first penetrated mainstream media in the mid-2000s, with concerns about Mideast oil running out.


A 2004 National Geographic cover story pronounced:

Humanity’s way of life is on a collision course with geology—with the stark fact that the Earth holds a finite supply of oil. The flood of crude from fields around the world will ultimately top out, then dwindle. It could be 5 years from now or 30: No one knows for sure, and geologists and economists are embroiled in debate about just when the “oil peak” will be upon us. But few doubt that it is coming.

In the New York Times magazine, Peter Maass wrote in 2005:

Few people imagined a time when supply would dry up because of demand alone. But a steady surge in demand in recent years — led by China’s emergence as a voracious importer of oil — has changed that.

This demand-driven scarcity has prompted the emergence of a cottage industry of experts who predict an impending crisis that will dwarf anything seen before. Their point is not that we are running out of oil, per se; although as much as half of the world’s recoverable reserves are estimated to have been consumed, about a trillion barrels remain underground. Rather, they are concerned with what is called ”capacity” — the amount of oil that can be pumped to the surface on a daily basis. These experts — still a minority in the oil world — contend that because of the peculiarities of geology and the limits of modern technology, it will soon be impossible for the world’s reservoirs to surrender enough oil to meet daily demand.

That same year, John Vidal reported in the Guardian that oil production could peak within a year. The subhead of his piece: “Kiss your lifestyle goodbye.”

A 2006 documentary captured the zeitgest.


Environmental organizations caught the wave.


Most economists were dismissive, but by 2008, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote that peak oil was “a dismal theory that keeps getting more plausible.” Two years later, he declared that “peak oil has arrived.”

The peak oil frenzy probably reached its crescendo in the late 2000s.


In 2009, the International Energy Agency  (IEA) announced that peak oil was, in fact, true. Then a 2012 IEA report suggested that announcement was premature, prompting the Economist to say that America now had energy to spare. What the hell?

So what is the current status of peak oil? A recent article in EnergyWire canvassed experts from think tanks and universities. Their verdict:

The peak-oil concept is increasingly out of date less than a decade after its proponents said global output would surely hit the halfway mark. And few of these sources [experts] came from what one would think of as traditionally right-leaning or “pro-energy” institutions.

“There is little reason to believe that the peak in global oil production will be reached anytime soon,” said Jason Bordoff, the director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and a former White House climate aide to President Obama.

Hindsight, of course, may be 20-20, but Michael Ross, a political scientist at University of California, Los Angeles, and author of “The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations,” says it was a faulty theory to begin with. He pointed out that many of the countries from which oil and gas companies have historically steered clear — in Africa and Latin America — are now expected to become significant oil and gas producers, shaking up the landscape and adding a layer of cushion atop this elusive entity called global supply.

“I don’t think it was ever a well-founded theory,” Ross said. “The fact is these resources have always been out there, and it’s just a matter of the industry needing to invest more in extraction technology in order to get at that. That’s what we’re seeing now.”

Maybe Tim Worstall in the Telegraph is on to something here:

Can we please just declare the end of ‘peak oil’ and start worrying about something important?

I vote for peak coffee.

Discover Magazine

22 Comments on "Have Concerns Over Peak Oil Peaked?"

  1. Mike on Sat, 30th Mar 2013 12:10 pm 

    Awesome, guess all the shit with economies collapsing because no one got any money to buy anything is all in our heads then. I’ll be expecting cheaper petrol just round the corner and a huge economic growth spurt any minute!! time to invest all my money in stocks!

  2. Arthur on Sat, 30th Mar 2013 1:18 pm 

    What is so breathtaking is the short term thinking of people like Tim Worstofall. “Do not worry, be happy”. As if a few years of respite thanks to tight oil is going to make a difference regarding the fate of industrial society. This remains the general picture…

    … and debates about whether shale is going to last 5 or 30 years do not change a iota about it.

  3. Mike on Sat, 30th Mar 2013 1:18 pm 

    I was just thinking this actually feels like standing there while a guy punches you in the stomach and another guy keeps shouting at you “HE IS NOT PUNCHING YOU” “YOU ARE WRONG” I think the major aim of these idiotic articles is to send us insane.

  4. BillT on Sat, 30th Mar 2013 2:00 pm 

    The desperation of the petro industry to keep the dream alive and the sucker investing is becoming more and more evident. All thinking humans who look around and think, know that at best, we are bumping along on a temporary plateau. That the slide down the other side is only because we now count cooking oil and moonshine as ‘oil’. Take away the non-petroleum liquids and we are already on the way down.

    Dream on deniers, but $140 oil is coming along with $5 gas.

  5. mo on Sat, 30th Mar 2013 2:50 pm 

    Bet these guys never even glanced at David Hugh’s drill baby drill

  6. GregT on Sat, 30th Mar 2013 5:11 pm 

    “Can we please just declare the end of ‘peak oil’ and start worrying about something important?”

    How about something really important? Like what is about to occur now that the peak has ended and we slide down into the abyss of the post oil era.

  7. Beery on Sat, 30th Mar 2013 7:38 pm 

    Oh thank God! It’s over. So now oil is back to $20/bbl, the era of recession, slow growth and quantitative easing is gone for good and we can look forward to a bright and prosperous future. Oh I’m so relieved.

  8. Dmyers on Sat, 30th Mar 2013 7:59 pm 

    Ever since Leonardo Maugeri issued his “energy independence” paper from whatever Harvard think tank he is associated with, we have seen this same article, i.e., the current “Discovery Magazine” article again and again. I suppose this confirms BillT’s contention that dream preservation and fraud perpetration are the meaning behind the message. It’s a message well received: “Doomsters wrong again; No real problems in sight; Plenty of oil to meet your needs.”

    I would venture that Americans who follow the news, the standard college educated clerk, salesman, teacher, consultant, or whatnot, take the message to heart. Look, it’s a done deal. Peak oil was wrong. The riding lawn mower is here to stay, and so is the DVD that keeps the kids happy in the SUV. Long live the suburbs!

  9. Norm on Sat, 30th Mar 2013 10:38 pm 

    Hooray! No more peak oil. There is unlimited oil available. Its time to buy a Cadillac Escalade. And a 5000 square foot house, about 20 miles from the nearest grocery store. When you need a gallon of milk, go driving in the SUV.

  10. MrEnergyCzar on Sat, 30th Mar 2013 11:47 pm 

    I guess getting a Volt wasn’t a good idea…


  11. BillT on Sun, 31st Mar 2013 2:33 am 

    MrEnergy, getting a Volt was a good idea, if only to feel good about it. Too bad magic cannot make all of the cars on the road into similar vehicles without the cost involved, but … with articles like the above telling the sheeple that nothing is going to change, Volts have little chance of changing anything.

  12. Arthur on Sun, 31st Mar 2013 11:59 am 

    Volts drive on electricity that is generated for years to come by fossil fuel, adding extra energy losses due to conversion and battery storage inefficiency.

    Did I miss anything?

  13. ennui2 on Sun, 31st Mar 2013 12:40 pm 

    Well, if you have enough money for a solar array, it doesn’t have to be powered by fossil fuels, but then again, that much money could buy enough gas to power a car for many years.

  14. rollin on Sun, 31st Mar 2013 1:04 pm 

    Recipe for covering up peak oil:
    1)Change the definition of oil to include just about any liquid fuel even if it does not substitute, thus making the numbers look better due to condensates from gas well.
    2) Muddle the picture by filling the media with oil discovery news that often turns out to be relatively small and may be natural gas instead of oil.
    3) Don’t talk about the exponentially rising cost of margins on oil discovery and production.
    4) Marginalize peak oil experts with articles like this one, which is just a blog.

  15. Kenz300 on Sun, 31st Mar 2013 1:17 pm 

    Coal powered fossil fuel plants are closing down and are being replaced by a combination of cheaper natural gas, solar and wind combination plants.

    This is safer, cleaner and cheaper than generating electricity from oil, nuclear or coal and will provide a growing share of the energy needed for electric and hybrid vehicles as they continue to grow in popularity.

    If you do not like the high price of oil you have some choices. Walk more, ride a bicycle, take mass transit or get a fuel efficient vehicle or one that does not run on an oil derived fuel. There are plenty of options to choose from. Electric, hybrid, flex-fuel, CNG and LNG fueled vehicles are available.

    The era of cheap oil is over. High fuel prices are motivating people to change their behaviors.

    The fossil fuel industry is fighting to keep their monopolies and profits. They continue to bash any alternative that might be competition and cut into their PROFITS.

  16. Arthur on Sun, 31st Mar 2013 2:03 pm 

    “Well, if you have enough money for a solar array, it doesn’t have to be powered by fossil fuels, but then again, that much money could buy enough gas to power a car for many years.”

    Exactly. And therefor nobody does that… powering Volts with solar. Solar panels are used for domestic power generation and nothing else and probably will not ever do anything else.

    Reason: average power consumption during operation:
    – car: 70 kW
    – household: 1-2 kW

  17. rollin on Sun, 31st Mar 2013 2:45 pm 

    Great analogy Mike.

  18. econ101 on Sun, 31st Mar 2013 3:50 pm 

    Peak oil is a crack-pot fallacy having predicted nothing. It has been miserably wrong and amended so many times that it has become meaningless in the face of annual record production.

    To think there is some type of homogeneity to each type of crude discovered is simply ignorant. If its refined like oil its oil.

    The world is producing more oil today than at any time in history. Just think how much we could be producing if we had access to the vast reserves now off limits because of peak oil politics?

    Our oil future is very secure with far more oil in front of us than behind. Thanks to the revolution in drilling technologies brought about by laws restricting access to those vast resources some lovingly call conventional we not only have the off limit areas for future development but the huge shale reserves as well!

  19. poaecdotcom on Sun, 31st Mar 2013 5:49 pm 

    Mathematics is not meaningless. Learn and understand the exponential function.

  20. econ101 on Sun, 31st Mar 2013 9:32 pm 

    When applied incorrectly mathematics is meaningless. The function I see is rising production world wide. Supplies will meet demand. Profit will be made at the margins. Peak oil politics is responsible for high energy prices. The main mechanism has been supply restrictions, secondly taxes.

    I am begining the hear the EPA has lost respect and control in the oil fields. They are unable to stop any activities. When they appear onsite with more of their inane and dictatorial rules/regulations they are refered to Houston/Bismarck/Fargo/Great Falls/New York etc. They are simply shut out of operations on the ground and pushed upstream. They get no restraining order support from North Dakota courts. They dont have the muscle to push their way in.

    The federal Government is having trouble in the nations strongest and freest state.

  21. BillT on Mon, 1st Apr 2013 1:17 am 

    North Dakota…a bubble in the making. The bigger they get, the harder they fall. No problem. True oil is declining. Cooking oil and moonshine will not offset the decline. Nothing will. But, demand will fall with the drop as the consumer will soon be unable to buy gas because they will not have the money to do so. They will likely not even own a car. After all, car ownership costs more than a day’s wages per week for most people.

  22. econ101 on Mon, 1st Apr 2013 6:58 pm 

    Yes I know, and the ice age just started, or was supposed to. All kidding aside there is little evidence to support your predictions. Most predictions dont come true.

    Right now the evidence is pointing to at least twice as much oil as we had just a few short yrs ago. Remember we not only have the huge shale developments around the world, we still have those huge “conventional” supplies on federal lands yet to develop. Those alone will last generations.

    Remember it was peak politics that gave us shortages to begin with, not peak oil. There is no peak oil, just peak politics.

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