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Peak Oil Denial Abundant Nonsense # 8: And…?

General Ideas

We don’t like bad news, particularly when it has very long term implications. Individually and collectively we tend to slip into denial mode, focus on diversions, become numbed to the reality of the situation, cling to anyone willing to assure us it just ain’t so, that things are going to get better. You can’t live your life in crisis mode.
We have, in recent decades, turned this into a political institution; the denial industry. The primary objective of the denial industry is not clarity but rather to create confusion and conflict in the minds of the public by creating the impression that there are legitimate differences of opinion between experts and scientists. It is a strategy honed and perfected around the issue of smoking, a strategy they have continued to use, often with the same players, on issue after issue and now dominating the debate over global warming and peak oil.
But it is a generational culture shift that has facilitated the success of the denial industry. With the growth in accessible information through the media, the internet, cell phones and more, people have abandoned seeking answers to their questions through independent thought and instead turn to various media for those answers. They have abdicated to others the right to tell them how and what they should think, to define truth. It has been a key part of the technological dumbing down of society, nowhere more obviously than in North America. [1]

Back in March, I offered comments on an article written by Robert Bradley, Jr. His impressive CV notwithstanding, Mr. Bradley’s assessments of peak oil were—to be kind—a bit curious. Judging by the comments to that earlier article by Mr. Bradley, I was not alone in my consternation at the reasoning behind his arguments against peak oil.

I recently came across yet another equally curious (more, actually) article attempting to again debunk the concept of peak oil and its certain impact on our future. [Links and citations can be found in Mr. Bradley’s article, from which quotes and comments below are taken.]

Off On the Wrong Foot

This newest one is incomparable, and that’s not a compliment. His purpose:

Given the upheaval in ‘official’ or ‘mainstream’ thinking, it is worthy to look back at the intellectuals who bucked the (old) orthodoxy and were ridiculed for seeing minerals, and oil in particular, as an expanding resource, not a fixed, depleting one. This post looks at M. A. Adelman….
[I]n the field of petroleum, MIT economist M. A. Adelman reigns triumphant. Here are some quotations from his writings from previous decades that have come of age.

The puzzling part is that none of the quotes cited from Adelman (all quotes below are his) have anything to do with the concerns about and challenges of peak oil. At best, they are generalized statements which, only after suitable contortions, can arguably be construed as having some relevance to peak oil. For example:

‘Huge new reserves in old [oil] fields were no gift of nature. They were a growth of knowledge, paid for by heavy investment.’


‘The search for new deposits is only a special case of the search for greater knowledge, including better productive methods. The French have a feeling for words, and when they use recherche to mean both research and exploration, they are conveying a truth we cannot afford to overlook. Greater knowledge of the earth’s crust and greater knowledge of the science and technology of extraction are only two exercises of the human spirit, two alternatives for investment.’


And…? What the hell does any of that have to do with peak oil? If that’s the best Mr. Bradley can offer, perhaps some other subjects might be better suited to his impressive skill set.

How about this Adelman quote:

‘All minerals are limited because the earth itself is. Where the limit lies, we shall never know and neither will our descendants, ever. Oil, for example, is only one member of a large class of combustibles which in the fullness of time will include seawater, granite, the wind, and the sun in amounts never contemplated today.’

(Looking forward to the day when I pull into my local ExxonMobil granite station for a fill up! “Crushed or half-inch stone size, sir?”)

Whether oil (or other “combustibles”) is still present underground or not is NOT the issue! Peak oil is about the rate of production and whether or not current resources are properly categorized as reserves and thus technologically and economically feasible to extract. If that basic fact is not understood, then writers such as this one have no business peddling their misleading, context-free nonsense to the public. And if they do understand it but choose to ignore it in favor of their narrow-minded and self-serving ideologies, they likewise have no business peddling this nonsense to the public. We’re already OD’ing on the Right’s ample supply of fact-free BS.

Missing the Point

‘It seems impossible to reconcile [the] data with any theory or vision that oil is a ‘limited exhaustible resource,’ becoming ever more scarce and expensive. What we observe is the net result of two contrary forces: diminishing returns, as the industry moves from larger to smaller deposits and from better to poorer quality, versus increasing knowledge of science and technology generally, and of local geological structures. So far, increasing knowledge has won.’

That’s it? This is not a solution or an answer by a long shot! Reality still must be dealt with, and the reality is that for all of the magnificent technological developments in recent times—resulting in an increase of fossil fuel production—we must all still account for the fact that this more expensive technology and the massive investments required to sustain them is necessary because we are now relying on inferior, unconventional supplies.

The facts don’t change: it is costing the industry more (guess who foots the bill?); the resources are not nearly as easily accessible; conventional sources are on the decline; unconventional supplies deplete more rapidly; the amount of energy expended to extract and produce those inferior supplies is greater, and if demand slips, prices drop. If prices drop, industry does not have the funding to continue with these more expensive exploration and production processes.

Second grade math will spell out the results, and they are not happy ones….

More to come

Peak oil Matters

2 Comments on "Peak Oil Denial Abundant Nonsense # 8: And…?"

  1. J-Gav on Mon, 30th Sep 2013 8:41 pm 

    Addle-brained Adelman – Turcotte’s right to go after that stupid reference but, you know, as Julius Caesar said: “Libenter homini id quod volunt credunt” which I’ll translate as follows: “People gladly believe whatever/whoever the F!u#k it is they wanna believe.”

    Which, unfortunately, includes economists.

  2. GregT on Tue, 1st Oct 2013 3:54 am 

    Cognitive dissonance. People prefer to believe what they are comfortable in believing.

    Exactly why PR is so successful. Sheeple are very easy to fleece. Ask any politician.

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