Back in April, I followed-up on a series of posts which I first began nearly a year ago and last discussed back in April [links below*]. In that series, I’ve discussed the apparently limitless ability of too many to either ignore facts about oil production entirely, or who instead resort to efforts where disingenuous arguments and/or half-truths serve as sole support for their positions. The net effect is that these attempts do little more than confuse their followers who likely do not have the time, interest, or inclination to explore the truths on their own (perfectly understandable … life tends to interfere with lots of options).
I’ve yet to come up with a satisfactory explanation as to why some seem determined to make such misleading efforts their sole contribution to important discussions….
The blogosphere has been lit up in recent days by discussions pro and con regarding Daniel Yergin’s newest book, The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World. (I have not read it, so please take my commentary in this series of posts with that caveat in mind.)
Needless to say, the Wall Street Journal, among other liberal bastions of enlightened, open-minded thinking, was more than willing recently to publish an opinion piece by Mr. Yergin based on his new book, touting some of his many, longstanding doubts about Peak Oil. Commentaries in support of and debunking his perspective have been around the Internet for years. This time around was no different.
Since I have not read the book, it would obviously be inappropriate of me to offer my opinions on anything Mr. Yergin. I’m more interested in the type of chatter that has been circulating since publication of that WSJ piece by others who are apparently in the same camp as Mr. Yergin. I’ll be devoting this and several other posts to some of the more noteworthy commentary and the inevitable nonsense.
The following are typical of the comments offered by Yergin’s fellow-cornucopians:
“If you’re a believer in ‘peak oil’—the idea that the world is on the verge of running out of oil—you will probably want to burn this book.” 
“The theory known as ‘peak oil’ has at its core the belief that we are rapidly running out of oil” 
The instant a criticism of Peak Oil and/or its proponents is prefaced by an assertion that Peak Oil proponents are claiming that “the world is running out of oil” meme, any credibility is lost. Repeating that nonsense makes it clear those authors do not understand even the most basic of issues regarding Peak Oil. The deniers are nonetheless quite determined in their insistence that we (who believe that Peak Oil is an imminent reality and great challenge to future prosperity) are always raising alarms that “the world is running out of oil.”
The problem is that anyone who has any working knowledge of the facts about Peak Oil and oil production in general never makes that claim! But again, why let facts get in the way of opinion?
I have repeatedly stated, as have others far more knowledgeable than me (Jeff Rubin, Kjell Aleklett, Richard Heinberg, among dozens of other leading lights) that the issue for us is not and has never been the notion that “the world is running out of oil.”
It’s not! We agree on that point.
There are indeed hundreds of billions of barrels of oil in various forms awaiting extraction and production. The tar sands of Alberta Canada and oil shale formations such as the Bakken here in the U.S. are among noteworthy examples. But in order to make their point (and thus calling into question the validity thereof, a separate point which apparently is lost on these deniers), they try to tar legitimate Peak Oil proponents with a bug-eyed premise we never argue in favor of!
Facts and the truth are convenient casualties in too many political and economic discussions as it is, so why should Peak Oil be any different? Sure would be nice if honesty and integrity mattered more than they do. Sigh….
“We are not running out of oil. The issue is not our endowment of oil resources, it is the world’s production capacity. [My emphasis]. Additions from exploration last replaced annual production in 1987. The easiest oil has been discovered. Costs are increasing for new barrels, where wells can be drilled in water depths of over one mile to targets up to six miles deep, and discoveries can take over a decade to develop.
“Oil field declines are running at more than 5 percent per year. That means we have to add at least 4 million barrels per day each year just to keep production flat.” 
Understandable that no one likes to hear that. But why is basic math subject to dispute? (Sorry! Forgot for a moment we have Republicans in Congress for whom math is not much more than a convenience.) Solutions are much more effective when you start with the facts at hand. Why is this such a difficult concept to embrace?
“One of the greatest of all American strengths is the willingness to examine national challenges remorselessly, in the confidence that only what is examined can be repaired.” 
Another tactic (as I’ve noted in the series of posts referenced above) is to use impressive-sounding but utterly meaningless buzz-words whose intent, the writers must believe, are to offer assurances to their readers that we nutty liberal tree-hugging socialist gay-loving atheist un-patriotic elites are just conspiring to … uh … take over the world. **
In the Rotman article quoted above, the author adds that there are [bold-face mine]“…vast quantities of ‘unconventional’ gas and oil….The examples are numerous: deep undersea oil reserves off the coast of Brazil where one field alone holds 5 billion to 8 billion barrels of recoverable oil; oil sands in Alberta that contain an estimated 175 billion barrels of recoverable oil and an estimated 1.8 trillion barrels of oil in the ground, waiting for future technology to get them out; another 20 billion barrels of ‘tight oil’ that is likely held in deposits scattered about the United States.”
How much is a “vast” quantity? Mr. Rotman states (which appears by most indications to be true) that one field in Brazil holds “5 billion to 8 billion barrels of recoverable oil.” But like so many others, attending facts either never make it into print alongside these bold statements of partial truth, or they are glossed over. Mr. Rotman notes that the Brazil find is in “deep undersea oil reserves off the coast.” Run that one again. “Deep undersea oil reserves off the coast.” Not exactly like digging a hole in the ground and watching a Jed Clampett-like gusher suddenly materialize….
No mention at all as to what’s involved in drilling, extracting, transporting, or producing this “deep undersea oil reserve off the coast.” No mention either of how much such an endeavor is likely to cost (hint: vast amounts of money), or how long it will take to actually bring that field to market (hint: a vast amount of time). But why explain anything when you can toss out unsupported statements which sound so much better without the facts? Oh, and by the way: “5 billion to 8 billion barrels of recoverable oil” is approximately two to four months’ worth of oil usage worldwide. Hallelujah!
How long should we plan on “waiting for future technology to get them out” (hint: a vast amount of time)? What’s involved? Has the innovation process begun? What are the guarantees of success? How much might that cost from idea to implementation (hint: vast amounts of money)? Who will pay? (hint: check your mirror). How efficient will these unconventional supplies be in comparison to Jed Clampett’s gushers? How much of the current supply of fossil fuels will be needed to provide the energy source for testing, trials, implementation, etc., etc., and where does the supply come from and at whose demand expense? What environmental and societal costs are to be incurred? And what happens in the interim while we’re waiting for this magic technology to materialize? Who is going to volunteer to tell us that we’re putting supply and demand on hold, while telling the Indias and Chinas of the world to just sit tight until we figure all of this out?
“According to the report, by 2035 three quarters of currently operating oil fields won’t be producing anymore. In fact, current fields are only expected to account for less than one fifth of that year’s production.
“That leaves over 80 per cent of the IEA’s 2035 production projection coming from new oil fields, ones that either haven’t yet been developed or haven’t even been discovered. And the contribution from that undiscovered category alone is still far greater than the one from currently producing fields. That’s a tall order for new field discovery.
“Undeveloped or undiscovered oil fields, growth in tar sands production and increased reliance on natural gas liquids account for all the expected growth in world oil production over the next two and a half decades. Curiously absent from this list is any contribution from conventional oil production–you know, the type you can afford to burn in your car, the type the global economy can afford to use to power transoceanic trade?” 
The mind boggles….
To be continued.
** A particularly loony, fact-challenged post from last week (discussed in greater detail in my next post) did in fact offer this gem of crazy-eyed, tin-foil-hat-wearing nonsense. (How sad is it that there is an apparently decent-sized segment of the population who actually walk the planet thinking like this and believing/fearing such insane notions?!):
“The great Western banking families always float scarcity memes as a way to consolidate control and further expand global governance. In fact, if the Peak Oil meme is now going out of fashion, this may only mean that some other kind of propagandistic measures is about to be initiated.
“We don’t know what it is but we can guess, as it seems obvious and evident that the powers-that-be are trying to form pan-national building blocks for world government.” 
 http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/38654/?p1=A1; Peak Oil Debunked by David Rotman – September 22
 http://blogs.marketwatch.com/fundmastery/2011/09/19/peak-oil-daniel-yergin-impending-doom/; Peak Oil, Daniel Yergin & Impending Doom by Kurt Brouwer
 http://seekingalpha.com/article/295546-hess-ceo-an-oil-insider-not-willing-to-sugarcoat-our-peak-oil-problem Hess CEO: An Oil Insider Not Willing To Sugarcoat Our Peak Oil Problem by Devon Shire – September 23, 2011 [citing comments from Hess Corporation CEO John Hess at http://www.energybulletin.net/node/50502]
 http://www.frumforum.com/will-america-survive-the-great-recession; Will America Survive the Great Recession? By David Frum [from a lecture given by Frum at the University of Western Ontario on September 20th]
 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-rubin/even-the-international-en_b_787450.html; Even the International Energy Agency Forecasts Peak Oil by Jeff Rubin – November 23, 2010
 http://www.thedailybell.com/2973/Americas-New-Production-and-the-Farce-of-Peak-Oil; America’s New Production and the Farce of Peak Oil – September 21, 2011