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Page added on August 30, 2015

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US Oil Production Nears Previous Peak

US Oil Production Nears Previous Peak thumbnail

The EIA’s Monthly Energy Review came out a couple of days ago. The data is in thousand barrels per day and the last data point is July 2015.


US consumption of total liquids, or as the EIA calls it, petroleum products supplied, reached 20,000,000 barrels per day for the first time since February of 2008.

Something I never noticed before, consumption started to drop in January 2008, seven months before the price, along with world production, started to drop in August 2008. This had to be a price driven decline. Could the current June and July increase in consumption be price driven also?

US Recent

US Production was down 96,000 barrels per day in July to 9,503,000 bpd. That is 190,000 bpd below the March level of 9,693,000 bpd.

US Crude Oil Production

Here is what the last 50 years of US production looks like. The peak was in 1970 or 1971, depending on what you call the peak.

US 70 - 71

In March 2015 we were still 351,000 barrels per day below the peak month of 10,044,000 bpd in November of 1970. But right now we are headed in the wrong way to break that record. In July we were 541,000 bpd from that record. Right now the 2015 average, January through July, is 9,534,000 bpd. That is 103,000 barrels per day below the 1970 average. But the 2015 average is likely to get smaller as the year plays out.

I have another chapter from Peter Goodchild’s Tumbling Tide: Population, Petroleum, and Systemic CollapseI really like this book. The author comes closest to matching my sentiments than anyone I have read to date.

Tumbling Tide Chapter 10

The Pollyanna Principle

The problem of explaining peak oil does not hinge on the issue of peak oil as such, but rather on that of “alternative energy.” Most people now have some idea of the concept of peak oil, but it tends to be brushed aside in conversation because of the common incantation: “It doesn’t matter if oil runs out, because by then everything will be converted to [whatever] power.” Humanity’s faith in what might be called the Pollyanna Principle—the belief that everything will work out right in the end—is eternal.

The critical missing information in such a dialogue is that alternative energy will do little to solve the peak oil problem, although very few people are aware of the fact. The Pollyanna Principle, after all, is what gets us through the day. Unfortunately, a quick glance through any standard textbook on world history would show that the principle does not apply to many civilizations that lie buried in the mud. But to point at oil-production charts is to mistake psychological problem for an engineering one; most people do not like to be pushed very far in the direction of the logical.

The main stumbling block, as noted above, is not the fact of the decline in world oil production, but the related fact of the impracticality of alternative energy. Alternative sources of energy do have certain uses, and they always have had, especially in pre-industrial societies. However, it is not possible to use non-hydrocarbon sources of energy to produce the required amount of energy, and in a form that can be (1) stored conveniently, (2) pumped into cars, trucks, ships, and airplanes for the purpose of long-distance transportation of goods and people, (3) converted into a thousand everyday products, from asphalt to pharmaceuticals, and (4) used to run factories—and which costs so little that it can be purchased in large quantities on a daily basis by billions of people.

There is also the question of time. The entire conversion of world industry would have to be done virtually overnight. The peak of world oil production was probably around 2010. The more-important date of peak oil production per capita was 1979.There are approximately 1 billion automobiles and over 7 billion people. Throughout the twentieth century, food production only barely met global needs, and in the last few years it has not even reached that level. In terms of the amount of time available, the switch from hydrocarbon energy to an alternative form of energy would stretch the bounds of even the most fanciful work of science fiction.

But we don’t even know the name of such an “alternative energy.” Every month, the mainstream news media tell us of “the miracle of x power,” but in the following month the x has been replaced by another provider of miracles. And even if that x were named, there would be the immense task of setting such a program in motion on a planet-wide scale—half a century too late do any good.

Contemplating the expense will also take us far into the realms of fantasy. At $10,000 (a fairly arbitrary figure, admittedly, but no real figures exist) per vehicle, replacing the vehicles that are now on the road would cost $10 trillion. The substructure—the ongoing manufacture, transportation, maintenance, and repair—would add much greater expense. The existing furnaces in all the world’s buildings would be obsolete. Countless machines all over the planet would have to be replaced, countless factories redesigned. We would have to replace the asphalt on all the world’s paved roads with a non-hydrocarbon substance. The money and resources simply do not exist. It is perhaps fortunate that there is no politician or business leader who would be willing to initiate such a mad venture.

In actuality, the world of the future will not be crowded. Survival for a few will be possible; survival for a population of billions will not be possible. But very few people have asked the ugly question of exactly how rapid and dramatic reduction of population is going to take place. Voluntarily?

There are two further problems with trying to educate people on these matters. The first is that any discussion of either peak oil or alternative energy requires a scientific frame of mind: an understanding of empirical research and an ability to follow statistics without being misled. A grasp of basic science is essential in order to get balanced perspective on the data and in order to judge between the practical and impractical. The so-called civilized world is still largely the domain of astrology and other forms of superstition. Yet empirical research does not mean “I once saw something-or-other,” and statistics are meaningless unless one understands exactly what is meant by “statistically significant.”

The second of those further problems is that the concepts of peak oil and alternative energy extremely complicated. Although it is possible to reduce those two topics to five hundred words or so, the problem with such a single page explanation is that much of the vital information would be left out. If the document failed to mention every “an/but/or,” the message would almost certainly be lost. If, on the other hand, the document were to be expanded to cover every minute particular, the writer would probably lose track of the average reader, since the text might exceed the latter’s attention span.

The alternative energy problem can also be illuminated by examination of similar dialogues on other topics, especially in cases where science clashes with its opposite. A discussion about creationism, for example, might entail hours of exhausting dialogue, to be terminated when the creationist party raises his head, takes a deep breath, and says; “Well, I believe. . . .” The Conversation has reached a barrier, beyond which no travel is possible. When communication is in such a poor state, there is often little hope that the reader will go so far as to check citations, bibliographies, or further reading lists, or even to do something requiring as little labor as clicking on a hyperlink on a web page.

peak oil barrel

25 Comments on "US Oil Production Nears Previous Peak"

  1. Mark Bucol on Sun, 30th Aug 2015 8:55 pm 

    One caveat that the author neglects is the slope of the curve on the down side of peak oil, which is now and not 2010. The slope of that down slope determines how societies can adjust, or will not adjust.
    Alternative energy sources can supply a society with electric power and limited transportation. Net result is much more expensive consumer goods, less mobility, perhaps shorter life spans. The decline in oil production will be a transition over many years to a less productive economy and a poorer population worldwide. US will fare well, China not so well and Saudi Arabia very poorly.

  2. Fat Lady on Sun, 30th Aug 2015 9:32 pm 

    “alternative energy” does not exist to scale. If “alternative energy” did exist to scale, in an affordable easy to use way, we would be replacing FF now. Wind and solar as it now exists is intermittent and expensive because of the FF inputs. The Author is correct most people do not get it, without FF energy 7 billion people mostly die.

  3. Davy on Sun, 30th Aug 2015 9:58 pm 

    We need to be talking more about the alternative energy found in permaculture farming and alternative lifestyles. We are spending a fortune on complex alternatives to fossil fuels when instead we could be moving people back to the land. These people could be made to agree to a transition living away from fossil fuels and focused on the natural cycles of energy production through food and farming.

    I know this sounds unrealistic but if one crunches the numbers it is a good value. What better way to increase societies efficiency than to remove people from the grid and transport fuel network at the same time food is produced.

    We really need some alternative thinking now. Nothing else is working. AltE is a failure from the standpoint of a transitional energy source. It has a place and is important but it is not a plan B. Nothing is a plan B because there are none in this situation. Yet we can have multiple mitigation efforts that in summation help offset the worst of what is coming. We could soften the landing and draw out the descent gradient. This would give us some time to relocalize.

  4. Boat on Sun, 30th Aug 2015 10:10 pm 

    Fat Lady, I agree with you mostly. But wind and solar are getting cheaper all the time and are finally growing in scale. IMO they will be growing a lot faster as the next decade unfolds. Whether or not the world institutes a carbon tax might swing the the balance in favor of renewable. The global market place has taken over and billions are being spent for the race to the tipping point where wind and solar explode.

  5. Boat on Sun, 30th Aug 2015 10:21 pm 

    Davy, totally unrealistic
    The efficiencies are in the big city apartment complexes with a close proximity to work with transit and bus systems. The bigger the city the bigger the buildings, there is an economic reason for that. To switch to millions of small farms just think how much infrastructure would have to be built. It’s cheaper to distribute food to the cities where they are massed than distribute food to the animals that are dispersed.

  6. Fat Lady on Sun, 30th Aug 2015 10:34 pm 

    Boat, Wind and solar may be cheaper in terms of money numbers, however these “alternatives” are ever more expensive and costly in FF inputs in the infrastructure maintenance and build out as time goes on. Replacement costs for “alternatives” in the future will be impossible without FF inputs. The money is a concept that physics will always override.

  7. Boat on Sun, 30th Aug 2015 11:15 pm 

    Fat Lady,
    I have never see a comprehensive study that shows the total effects of the build pollution, repair costs, maintenance and decommission etc. I mean it takes drilling rigs to get oil, pipelines, refineries etc. Same with any energy product. I would love to compare all the forms of energy.For example I don’t think they include flaring when discussing clean nat gas.

  8. apneaman on Sun, 30th Aug 2015 11:28 pm 

    Boat, what scale are they at? I see solar is up to a whopping 1 – 1 1/2% all that and it only took 45 years – wow!. Imagine what it will cost in environmental damage at 20% or 50%.

    The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust

    Hidden in an unknown corner of Inner Mongolia is a toxic, nightmarish lake created by our thirst for smartphones, consumer gadgets and green tech, discovers Tim Maughan.

  9. apneaman on Sun, 30th Aug 2015 11:32 pm 

    Boat, maybe you high efficiency Americans can build enough nuclear power plants to keep the party going a while longer.

    After 36 Years, Nuclear Plant in Tennessee Nears Completion

  10. Boat on Sun, 30th Aug 2015 11:43 pm 

    Boat, what scale are they at? I see solar is up to a whopping 1 – 1 1/2% all that and it only took 45 years – wow!. Imagine what it will cost in environmental damage at 20% or 50%.

    There is environmental damage building most products. Coal used to be used in homes for heat. Then fuel oil. Don’t you think solar would be cleaner to build and operate over a 30 year time period? I forgot the earth will be dead
    in a year. You don’t think in terms of decades.

  11. apneaman on Sun, 30th Aug 2015 11:59 pm 

    The earth will not be dead until the sun burns it out in 4 billion years, it’s the apes that are going away soon. Techno industrial civilization does not have 30 years left boat. It might stagger-shrink along for another decade or so at best.

  12. GregT on Mon, 31st Aug 2015 1:09 am 

    “There is environmental damage building most products.”

    Absolutely correct Boat, and much of that damage is accumulative, and requires finite resources. Which are both leading us all down a dead end road, with dire consequences, with no plan B in effect.

    Perhaps now would be a good time for our species to grow up, and accept that we are not masters of the universe. We need to return to, and respect the land that gave us all life, or that land will not give life for future generations.

    Davy’s post above, as usual, is spot on. We need to embrace sustainable practices. Permaculture, animal husbandry, and small local communities are our only future. Small scale localized energy production would also be a great short term transitional energy source, but it is not a viable long term solution.

  13. Dredd on Mon, 31st Aug 2015 5:43 am 

    US Social Dementia Nears Previous Peak

    The Authoritarianism of Climate Change

  14. joe on Mon, 31st Aug 2015 7:57 am 

    Many developed nations have a problem which so far has not been given a popular pseudo – conspiracy theory name. So I am calling it, ‘peak young people’. Up to a third of most developed economies is poised to become totally unproductive. The answer is simply to industrialise third world countries with young populations and low debt, and let the party continue. Globalisation.
    But to service a billion geriatrics we are gonna need more resources than this planet can provide. Science has given us a poisoned chalice. A long old age, but with a weak body.

  15. JuanP on Mon, 31st Aug 2015 8:02 am 

    Boat “I have never see a comprehensive study that shows the total effects of the build pollution, repair costs, maintenance and decommission etc.”

    Some of us have. I highly recommend UCSD Physics Department Professor Tom Murphy’s Do The Math website. It is the best place to learn about the comparative costs, scalability, and future potential of different energy sources. The professor and I disagree with you, and he has the physics and math necessary to back us up at his UCSD Physics Department website:

    It may take you a few years of studying to try and prove him wrong, it all depends on your previous knowledge of the subjects involved, particularly physics and mathematics. This articles are at the undergraduate level, but still way over most people’s level of understanding. 😉

  16. JuanP on Mon, 31st Aug 2015 8:07 am 

    Boat, It is one thing to have an opinion on something and another quite a different thing to actually know something. Understanding the difference may lead to wisdom, which is something else, altogether.

    I have found that the more one learns, the more one becomes aware of one’s own ignorance. And, the smarter one is, the more one realizes the limitations of human intelligence and perceptions.

  17. Richard on Mon, 31st Aug 2015 10:57 am 

    Great article, really does sum up the attitudes of people concerning the real world. I think we can walk that road, we aren’t all science minded or even understand the subject so well.

    The lack of cheap, good quality energy is just a present and near future inevitable event that we’ll have to adjust to accordingly.

  18. GregT on Mon, 31st Aug 2015 12:48 pm 


    Thanks for the link! I’m finding Altemeyer’s book to be of particular interest. Explains perfectly what I have had such a difficult time with in understanding what exactly makes some of these people think. I hope you don’t mind if I link his book in Ghung’s “The ‘Fear The Doomer’ thread” in the private forums.

    That’s what I enjoy most about this site. So much knowledge and wisdom here.

  19. apneaman on Mon, 31st Aug 2015 2:27 pm 

    The Crash of 2015: It’s Here

    “Screw it, I’m calling it. I’ve been watching the so-called “markets” of China, the United States and a couple dozen other countries fall off a cliff, get up, stagger upward, fall off another cliff, and repeat. I’ve been listening to the chattering class say over and over again, this is normal, seen this before, everybody buy the dip. I’ve been watching the zombie oil-fracking revolution in this country go into spasms, jerking a few feet forward, a few feet back, gasping for breath, while the cheerleaders agree: perfectly normal, blood pressure okay, reflexes good, lend them more money. This is not normal, it is not okay, it is the Crash of 2015.”

  20. BobInget on Mon, 31st Aug 2015 2:38 pm 

    The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, feeling the heat when it comes to falling oil prices, says it is now ready to talk to other big producers.

    OPEC “stands ready to talk to all other producers,” the oil cartel writes in its monthly OPEC Bulletin. “But this has to be a level playing field. OPEC will protect its own interests.”

    While the article, headlined “Cooperation holds the key to oil’s future,” does not spell out how the discussion would go, the focus would clearly be on how to moderate production levels in a way to drive up prices, which fell below $40 a barrel this month.

    As word spread that OPEC is ready to deal, oil prices rebounded on Monday. U.S. crude prices rose $3.98, almost 9%,, to $49.20 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, was up $3.61 to $53.60. Also helping to push prices: The Associated Press reported the U.S. Energy Department cut its estimate for U.S. oil production because of lower projected output in Texas.

    Even as oil prices have fallen in the short run, OPEC is looking to factors that might push them higher in the future. It is betting that lower prices are going to encourage consumers around the world to use more oil, as happened previously when an oil price bust and subsequent lower gasoline prices coaxed many Americans into buying SUVs and more fuel-thirsty vehicles in the 1990s. In recent years, consumers in emerging nations have been buying their first cars, boosting demand for oil.

    Indeed, OPEC says its projections show that World Oil Demand will rise 1.38 million barrels a day this year compared to 2014 to 92.7 million barrels a day, mostly due to higher demand in the resurgent economies of the U.S. and Europe. In 2016, it says demand will increase another 1.34 million barrels a day.

  21. Boat on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 12:25 am 

    JuanP on Mon, 31st Aug 2015 8:07 am
    Boat, It is one thing to have an opinion on something and another quite a different thing to actually know something. Understanding the difference may lead to wisdom, which is something else, altogether.
    I have found that the more one learns, the more one becomes aware of one’s own ignorance. And, the smarter one is, the more one realizes the limitations of human intelligence and perceptions.

    Well Mr Juan. If the information isn’t easily shown in charts, graphs and easy to understand information it won’t get to the masses to learn. Very few have time to study more than a couple of topics if they work a 10 hr day, have children and a house and yard to keep up with.
    Opinions will change if accurate and laid out well and then thoroughly vetted. If not all that research is pissing in the wind.

  22. apneaman on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 12:41 am 

    “Opinions will change if accurate and laid out well and then thoroughly vetted. If not all that research is pissing in the wind.”

    WTF does that mean??

  23. Boat on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 1:19 am 

    Put down the whisky and read.

  24. GregT on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 2:38 am 

    “I have found that the more one learns, the more one becomes aware of one’s own ignorance. And, the smarter one is, the more one realizes the limitations of human intelligence and perceptions.”

    “If the information isn’t easily shown in charts, graphs and easy to understand information it won’t get to the masses to learn. ”

    Not something that the masses can learn from charts and/or graphs Boat, and what Juan is referring to, has nothing to do with opinions or research. It’s what some of us refer to as common sense, which isn’t common at all. Apparently.

  25. Davy on Tue, 1st Sep 2015 3:19 am 

    Juan said “Boat, It is one thing to have an opinion on something and another quite a different thing to actually know something.” Boat it is a matter of humility. Many here like to abbreviate IMHO. I find it much more important to be fair and balanced presenting both sides and asking “which is right or more right” “I want to know”. Knowing something also points to acceptance and acknowledgement of difficult truths. Acceptance of things we don’t want to hear or believe because they are not happy or point to pain, suffering, and death.

    Some of us must face this. We can allow the children the innocence but we men have always had a duty to face the storm. We must provide and protect as men. That is how it used to be before life was de-sexed and watered down with politically correct. We are going to return to heroics of our past in a collapsing world. Our modern world has become sterile in regards to this part of our humanity. This is going to change and it very well may change for good.

    The next generation will be put to the test like no other in modern history. Historians and geneticists say we likely had a bottleneck 70,000 years ago. We are likely going to go through another within a generation if not sooner. It is the humility of acceptance of something that terrible that is true knowledge. It is knowledge of our limitations and the failures so we may know. We cannot reject that which is not pleasant or does not fit our current cultural myth. Knowledge is that which gets closer to the truth honestly and in humility. Everything I am seeing points to this bottleneck. It is my humble opinion this is coming. Please prove me wrong somehow because this is terrible. If this is true let’s take the higher road and face the uncomfortable and inconvenient truth.

    The happy face bullshit that society is feeding us makes me sick. Society does not want to know anything that is not growth based, positive, and divine progress of species dominion. Boat, this is about honesty from acceptance of a discovered reality through science and global debate. It is a rejection of a delusional cultural myth propagated for all the wrong reasons. It is about admitting ignorance of the past and acceptance of failure of that cultural myth and its corresponding economic meme. It is really in the end an acceptance at the very level of our species of having an evolutionary defect of a large brain that will possibly lead to our evolutionary dead end.

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