[NOTE: 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). This post is another follow-up.]

Another in a seeming endless list of far-Right websites recently posted their own take on what the writers called the “farce” of Peak Oil. That they later cheerfully admitted to being believers of the wacky notion of “abiotic oil” (the long-ago discredited notion offered by Russians some fifty plus years ago and heralded by apparently one academic here in the U.S. that oil essentially replenishes itself underground—perhaps via the Petroleum Fairy) is in and of itself the only reason needed to place them in the “loon” category of deniers.

Nonetheless, I found another example of the Right’s also seemingly endless capacity to twist facts into some delusional substantiation of the nuttiest perspectives, one which they no doubt hope readers will not contemplate at all. This website recently offered their take on an article by a Venezuela-based New York Times journalist—the paper’s Andean bureau chief. Raymond Learsy from the Huffington Post—whose opinion pieces will never find their way into the “open-minded” indices—not only echoed those same claims, but introduced us to the concept of “an amplitude of oil” … much more impressive than the increasingly boring “vast” or “massive” quantities, doncha think?

For reasons entirely unclear, the opinions offered were premised on the inane and entirely fact-free determination that the publication of this single article about oil exploration and production represented a dramatic reversal of “editorial policy” on the part of the Times, which has now apparently joined the club of Peak Oil deniers by virtue of this one article. Somehow, the discussion of efforts being undertaken in South America morphed into a final debunking of the “farce” of Peak Oil by a full leap into nonsense—while attributing an incredible amount of journalistic power to a gentleman in Caracas. Cool, huh? “Well, gee, if the Times is now disputing Peak Oil, then of course….” Nice try!

That the article made no attempt to debunk Peak Oil does not matter in a world where facts are only useful when convenient to an otherwise entirely dumb argument. Apparently, the mere fact that exploration is taking place is in and of itself another sufficient reason to completely discredit Peak Oil. This approach does simplify the entire concept of thinking!

Sad to sad, this is not a tactic unique to these two authors.

The Times article begins as follows, (as does the DailyBell piece):

“Brazil has begun building its first nuclear submarine to protect its vast, new offshore oil discoveries. Colombia’s oil  production is climbing so fast that it is closing in on Algeria’s and could hit Libya’s prewar levels in a few years. ExxonMobil is striking new deals in Argentina, which recently heralded its biggest oil discovery since the 1980s.”

A couple of questions jumped out at me as soon as I read that. What does it mean that Columbia “is closing in on” Algeria? Does spending an amplitude of money by “striking new deals” mean that Peak Oil is indeed a “farce?” Kinda think it proves no such thing. That oil companies are now spending so much more in so many more difficult to reach places suggests at a minimum an alternative, common sense explanation. Like basic math, facts, truth, reality, and science, however, this concept seems elusive still to too many. But if reasoned and fact-based opinion is not your thing, then that argument works!

Although facts can be so damned annoying when reality is not a concern, I nonetheless spent nearly thirty seconds on the internet to find the Energy Information Agency’s list of the top oil producers in the world. (Yes, I rested after locating an answer. Whew!)

Let me modify that introductory paragraph by inserting some [bracketed] facts and added bold/italic emphasis to lend some relevance to the article’s opening statements:

“Brazil has begun building its first nuclear submarine to protect its vast (there’s that word again!), new offshore oil discoveries. Colombia’s oil production [currently ranked 29th in the world] is climbing so fast (Wow!) that it is closing in on (look out!) Algeria’s [ranked 15th in the world at a whopping, vast, massive, amplitude-iful two whole million barrels of oil per day,  meaning that it could soon supply approximately 1/40th of the world’s daily production … pass out the smelling salts, Mildred!] and could hit Libya’s [# 17] prewar levels in a few years (which of course is easily quantified as maybe, possibly, potentially happening … uh, um, in a few years). ExxonMobil is striking new deals in Argentina [# 24], which recently heralded its biggest oil discovery since the 1980s [which, according to a Bloomberg article, is the equivalent of about 150 million barrels of shale oil ].”

Two comments on that last point. Shale oil is a wee bit different than your conventional, drill-a-hole-in-the-ground-and-out-it-comes oil. (See here and here, just for the hell of it—not the final and definitive take on shale exploration, but not to be ignored or dismissed, either.)

World production is somewhere around 85 million barrels of oil per day, so “about 150 million barrels” of an inferior substitute is in the neighborhood of not quite two entire days’ worth of annual production (“annual” is 365 days for those interested in facts. Two days is thus less than 365—if you use Planet Earth’s version of math—and by an amplitude of days.)

But if that’s not enough to convince you, the DailyBell also indicated that “One of the Forbes brothers (of magazine fame) was quoted some months ago as saying the US itself, even in the lower 48, might contain enough oil (not to mention coal and natural gas) to provide for its needs for the next 1,000 years. And that’s with the current technology.” Wow! One entire Forbes brother! Who needs proof when a Forbes brother (“of magazine fame” which is almost identical to being a petroleum expert), says we have enough fossil fuels to last a bazillion years?

Seriously? This is what passes for an intelligent contribution to our understanding of a not-easily-understood challenge everyone will be affected by (yes, even the far Right)? To what end? When do we reach Peak Nonsense?

Consistently missing from all of these supposed rebuttals to the validity of Peak Oil are two more of those pesky mathematical facts. First up: Oil fields deplete as oil is extracted. (I know! Amazing concept, isn’t it?) The consensus offered by those in the know suggest that the depletion rates of existing oil fields is anywhere from 4% to 7% per year. Ballpark, this means that any and all new discoveries must first produce about 4 – 5 million barrels of oil per day just to keep pace with depletion.

Another argument frequently advanced (as was the case in the Daniel Yergin Wall Street Journal article which prompted these posts) is that U.S. oil production has increased in recent years, from which we’re apparently expected to deduce as another refutation of Peak Oil. American production peaked four decades ago. That production has increased in the last couple of years (and not by any amplitude, by the way, although noteworthy nonetheless) should be understood in the appropriate, fact-based context. We’re nowhere near the production level which peaked some forty years ago. Good that more is being produced (although it should be noted that we’re not producing much more of the conventional oil … most of the increases are due to production of the more costly and difficult unconventional sources). Still have a long way to go….

Let’s say you were an unmarried single for a decade. From 1990 – 1999 you earned a bit more each and every year, topping out at $100,000 in 1999. Now we turn the corner into 2000, and you’re married! Unfortunately, your income has dropped to $60,000. Five years later, you’ve also got two new mouths to feed, a mortgage, a couple of car and credit card bills, and assorted other expenses unknown to you in the decade before. But let’s inject a ray of sunshine in this example and say that in the last five years, your income increased to $65,000 per year (but baby # 3 has arrived, along with a bigger mortgage and some unanticipated medical expenses tossed in for good measure). Problems solved? Income has increased, so what’s the beef? You’re making more recently than you did just a few years ago, so what exactly is your problem?

Peak oil is kinda like that in its simplest, simplest form.

I’ll let you ponder that. More still to come.

* http://peakoilmatters.com/2010/10/18/more-on-the-message/