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Peak Oil Matters

A fresh perspective on the concept of peak oil and the challenges we face


Archive for August, 2012

In the course of conducting research for a book I’m now working on, (and as a follow-up to last Thursday’s post) I came across this—the unofficial genesis for the dozens of Peak Oil-denial posts I’ve featured here.

In writing of the oil industry’s/right-wing’s efforts to cloud the issue of what impact the gradual decline of conventional fossil fuel supplies will have on all of us, I’ve frequently asked How does this help? Aside from failing to provide the general public with important information they should possess, and ensuring that business-as-usual for the oil industry and its shills continues unabated, what happens when the inevitability of declining resources begins to affect us all? How will this failure to inform—and the unnecessary and damaging delays that result—help anyone?

After editing it to focus on just a few key issues, along with a tweak or two for clarity, I thought that re-posting the main themes might spark some discussion.

Peak Oil matters.

~ ~ ~

Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said (or is famously reputed to have said) that we may each be entitled to our own set of opinions, but we are not entitled to our own set of facts. In a time when mainstream news organizations have already ceded a substantial chunk of their opinion-shaping influence to Web-based partisans on the left and right, does each side now feel entitled to its own facts as well? And thanks to the emergence of social media as the increasingly dominant mode of information dissemination, are we nearing a time when truth itself will become just another commodity to be bought and sold on the social-media markets?… More far-reachingly, how does society function (as it has since the Enlightenment gave primacy to the link between reason and provable fact) when there is no commonly accepted set of facts and assumptions to drive discourse? [1]

Why not go after those for whom facts are mere inconveniences to be disregarded when they conflict with a narrow-minded and clearly self-serving agenda? At the risk of starting a cat fight where truth may too quickly become a casualty, why don’t we more forcefully challenge those who deny Peak Oil (and global warming) and who do so for reasons that generally ignore reality in favor of narrowly-defined interests? Those motivations will ultimately do nothing but promote more eventual harm by denying the truths to those who clearly need them the most.

What causes me more despair than perhaps anything is not the stupidity exhibited by politicians who clearly have forsaken integrity (remember when that mattered?) and truth in order to pander to the least enlightened among us. That groveling for short-term gratification in November is endemic in our political system. The dysfunctions exhibited regularly as indicative of the political norm are certainly discouraging enough.

The shamelessness of politicians is now sadly all-too-routine, but the fact that there are so many among us who manage not much more than a shrug is perhaps even more disheartening.

Of course, we run the risk of getting bogged down in he said/she-said arguments that quickly devolve into the lowest forms of “debate”, but why let those types of offerings go unchallenged? They feed on themselves, and it is tiresome and time-consuming to have to rebut all the nonsense. But if we don’t, uninformed readers and listeners have no reason to at least consider the possibility that there may indeed be other facts out there that should at least be examined in order to make informed assessments, rather than accepting the words of the few. More information is rarely a bad thing, and giving everyone the opportunity to examine the facts and engage in rational discourse as a means of seeking common ground makes for a healthier and more productive society.

Seems like a decent enough concept….

The strategy of “just utter it and hope no one asks” has been very effective, but it’s hard to find legitimate defenses for that approach if one genuinely cares about the well-being of our fellow travelers.

The fears of many who feel woefully out of touch and helpless in the face of the current economic crisis (and certainly not without good reason) make it easy to latch onto the “facts” offered by deniers without once taking a deep breath to consider the validity or logic behind the utterances—especially when they’re extended by those in seeming positions of authority or knowledge (and who coincidentally share—and play to—their same intense dislike for government and liberals and assorted other popular bogeymen). To what end?

What is this nonsense designed to accomplish? How does this help us in any way? It would be so helpful if integrity still counted for something when dealing with issues that require a broad consensus (and understanding) for resolution. How can we effectively help enlighten and prepare others who do not have the means or opportunities to learn the truth, especially when one side seems so intent on obliterating it? Where’s the honor in that? So I’ll ask again: How does this help?

How can we as a society hope to properly address the challenges we’ll face when the lack of knowledge in a sizable portion of our society is so rampant and is so consistently encouraged by a not-insignificant segment of public officials and their sycophant media counterparts?

How do we reach those who clearly need a greater understanding? Peak Oil is not a progressive or liberal agenda. It’s about the facts on and in the ground—facts that affect (and benefit) all of us now, even Tea Partiers and the right-wing machine that works so hard and effectively to cloud the truth. Peak Oil’s impact will also just as surely and adversely affect ardent deniers when the consequences of declining oil production and a warming Earth begin to make their inevitable appearance. By then it will be much too late….

How do we convince the currently un-/ill-informed to empower themselves, to learn that there is in fact other evidence about Peak Oil that is not (surprise!) about conspiracies, or liberal evil, or an alien, black, Muslim-loving, Socialist-leaning, apologist Martian President? That evidence is what it is: the disturbing truth about our fossil fuel resources and the declining production coupled with increasing demand which will in the years to come make our lives a lot more challenging than we’re prepared to acknowledge or deal with. That’s not pleasant for Peak Oil proponents either!

What can we do and say to help them understand that Peak Oil and the climate crisis are not figments of their imaginations easily scorned, but real-life conditions based on real-life facts in a real-life world that will have real-life consequences in their own real lives … much sooner than they’ll be prepared for? We’re all in this, and one’s political leanings or thoughts about government and all the rest will not matter. Peak Oil is not going to single out the fear-mongering, sky-is-falling, loony liberals and preserve the rest!

What help can these citizens expect then from their so-called leaders who so artfully disseminated their fact-free nonsense at a time when genuine leadership and integrity were most needed? Conducting themselves in this manner in crystal-clear reliance on their hope and belief that their followers simply lack the ability or inclination to ferret out the truths for themselves is beyond appalling! And we let it happen! What kind of a nation do we choose to be?

How do you look at a broad swath of an industrial or urban landscape in these times (knowing that there are literally tens of millions of identical scenes playing out across our planet) and honestly believe that the products and production spewing smoke and carbon and exhaust and pollutants into the air—all flowing from our genuinely magnificent innovations and creativity and skill and dedication—have no effect on our atmosphere—cumulatively or otherwise? What kind of delusions are needed to honestly believe that our astonishing levels of progress do not simultaneously carry with them the risks so obvious to so many others among us? What kind of denial mechanisms do these people have in place that allow them to just simply ignore the truth and facts and irrefutable evidence?

Why is the decline of oil production so hard to imagine when we’ve all been exposed to shortages of one kind or another along the way, especially when in this case we are dealing with a finite resource being used with greater demand than ever before? Take a look at those same urban/industrial vistas and ask yourself how can we possibly continue to supply ourselves with enough fossil fuels to keep it all going effortlessly and endlessly—especially when so many millions more seek to emulate our lifestyles in years to come?

How deep must one’s fears and sense of helplessness be that they allow themselves to be manipulated by those who prey on those same fears in order to exploit them for their own selfish gains? How can we help those so clearly in need of truths about our future find their better selves, in the process enabling them to offer their own needed contributions to the dialogue we must continue to engage in?

More worrisome still: How difficult will it be for these people to adjust to declining supplies of energy and the consequences of our warming planet when the people they rely on most have been at best disingenuous, but more truthfully complicit in the slow and steady damage to our society and civilization by exploiting the lack of understanding across the citizenry for their own economic or political gain? These are the people revered as patriots and leaders? How can we expect them to be of any help at all?

Now is the time when citizens need to understand what is at stake. Once we’re up to our eyeballs in declining production and its myriad impacts it’s way, way too late to only then start becoming aware and wonder what to do.

The “What’s The Matter With Kansas Syndrome” has to be among the most disturbingly fascinating themes of modern society. Tens of millions of followers routinely elect officials or hang on the words of those who so clearly do not have their best interests at heart! It’s almost comical in its brazenness now. And come November, we’re likely to see even more demonstrations of this phenomenon. That so many allow themselves to be persuaded of “facts” that are so clearly detrimental to their self-interests, and that they are so unwilling to take time to exercise their own independent gift of thought and reason as we all move closer to cliffs of our own making is amazing! I just wish it were happening in some other place at some other time in history, rather than on my dime!

So what do we do? What kind of nation do we honestly choose to be?

How do we get the message across to so many who are blindly heading for the cliffs?

NOTE: On vacation – this is my only post of the week


[1]; Truth Lies Here: How can Americans talk to one another—let alone engage in political debate—when the Web allows every side to invent its own facts? By Michael Hirschorn – Nov 2010






Give credit where credit is due: the right-wing alternate reality machine is remarkably well-disciplined. They have a message to share, and as usually fact-free as it may be, they do stick to the playbook.

Good to know that the Canadian press’ contribution to that world marches in lock-step with those of our own, as evidenced by this piece. Lots of delicious right-wing buzzwords (see this) sure to appease those for whom explanations are unnecessary intrusions.

Scamming in Secret

Apparently, we Peak Oil advocates are “fleecing the inherently gullible.” Who knew? The author didn’t get around to explaining just how we do so, although he did offer a hint that our “headline-grabbing, money-making blockbusters” are the culprits. (What have I been missing? Woulda been nice if Richard Heinberg, Chris Nelder, Sharon Astyk, Kurt Cobb, Chris Martenson, and others clued me in on how they’ve made their millions and millions of dollars fleecing gullibles. I’ll keep checking my email.)

Thankfully, the article didn’t get around to specifying names of the apparent legion of blockbuster-achieving fleecers, or the actual “money-making blockbusters”. Probably word count limitations. (If we must confess, it’s part of our ultra-top secret mission “to politicize any issue for [our] personal ‘higher’ purpose.” Don’t tell anyone, though! We don’t even know what that means!

Then again, it might spoil the whole narrative if the author pointed out that, well, there aren’t any fleecers. But page 3 paragraph C of the standard right-wing playbook states quite clearly that facts should not be considered an obstacle when making arguments. Inventing others more suitable to your purposes seems to be the most frequently-employed directive.

And those who offer half-truths, unsupported statements, buzzword-laden nonsense, or disingenuous arguments helping the few at the expense of the many? They are embarked on what … some noble and equally top-secret “higher purpose” for the benefit of mankind?

No Explanations Needed

Tossing out the impressive totals from unconventional resources, which “could supply” or “may even match” known fields because they have “plenty of energy potential” and that “estimates” “could see” job-creation of a “whopping” 3.6 million new jobs* is great right up until the point where one must start considering those pesky details about how these vast resources below ground finally show up at our friendly neighborhood gas station. That’s when the opinions start to lose their charm … probably a good reason why those facts never seem to find their way into the arguments of writers like this. It’s more of the whole “screwing up the narrative” thing….(Apparently, alternative/renewal energy efforts [the “key ‘frighteners’”] are all voluntary and thus create no jobs at all. Damn shame.)

* Chris Nelder [here] took some time to do that … what-do-you-call-it? Fax … no, no … fact-checking! That’s it! Yeah … fact-checking of reports touting all these new jobs and energy independence. Chris stated that “as far as the data shows, none of these projections have any basis in reality.” If I’m understanding that correctly, he appears to disagree—but I may be misinterpreting Chris’s no “basis in reality” point. [He also cited a terrific piece by Dave Summers which likewise had a very different, fact-based take on one of the reports relied upon in the Canada Free Press article.]

And the author was likewise quite content to rely on Leonardo Maugeri’s recent, headline-grabbing, money-making blockbuster of a report which was intended to put to bed the entire Peak Oil advocacy super-secret nefarious plot. Of course, the fact that a fair number of credible experts (see this or my smart-ass summary) examined those fax … no, facts (gotta remember that word!) and came away with conclusions suggesting Maugeri’s report was less than credible, shall we say, seems to have escaped the writer’s attention. But as I noted in that post, “Facts aren’t facts if they are either inconvenient or fail to support a position insisted upon no matter what reality suggests.”

Perhaps the “plenty of energy potential” might possibly result in impressive gains if certain things would happen at some point due to certain facts that might play a key role in providing us with vast sums of planet-incinerating energy … perhaps.

On a finite planet with finite resources, however, deniers are nonetheless quite happy to rely on the curious wisdom of those for whom the term “finite” is a bit more fluid than defined by those of us here on Planet Earth. Besides, prices will rise! That’s such great news for … uh, who is that great news for?

When making their arguments, it would help if they offered just a ballpark estimate as to how quickly the human ingenuity-derived alternatives would come to market (the whole experimentation-testing-feasibility-marketing-supplying conversation). A brief rundown of corporate/oil industry opposition might not be a bad idea, but … yeah, that won’t happen. Damned word count limitations….

And as for their delight with oil shale/shale oil/tight oil/whatever, perhaps they might toss in a comment or two about the effort and time required for production; maybe some mention of cost; quality … yeah, quality would be a good thing to pass along; offset caused by depletion of existing conventional resources … that would have helped a lot; as would a brief word comparing the production of shale/tight oil versus conventional … but only if factual perspective is important to you.

As for concerns about documented consequences from all that Magic Technology Fairy-fracking going on? Consequences schmonsequences. Who cares? No mention of them in this article! (Some concerns are best left unmentioned—especially the factual kinds which dim the luster of one’s position.) Good to know we can now disregard nice summaries such as this one:

The drilling technique for tar sands and shale oil — ‘fracking’ — uses great amounts of highly pressurized water, sand and toxic chemicals to force oil and gas from the rock formations in which they are embedded. This has resulted in serious air pollution, wastewater problems, and concerns about the safety of water supplies, with growing evidence that toxic fracking water is leaking into underground aquifers. Earthquakes are also occurring in fracking areas where they’ve not happened before.
But the ultimate irony to this so-called ‘end of peak oil’ scenario is the climate card that unavoidably comes into play. For in addition to the expensive wells and environmental damage, there is also the fact that this new technology must burn great amounts of energy — and, hence, release millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere — in order to extract yet additional fossil fuels to be burned. Unconventional oil and gas — the touted liberators from peak oil — require far more energy than drilling for conventional fuels. [1]

Energy Independence – NOT!

Besides, using the author’s own numbers (good to add one or two into an article, just for appearances), “shale or tight oil has added about 700,000 bpd to US oil production.” So here in the U.S., with our “current levels of US consumption [at] 19.5 million barrels per day”, the double super-duper Bakken formation is now supplying us with almost 52 entire minutes of oil-derived energy each and every day, and all of this after just … how many years? Never mind.

And as for the Green River formation in the western United States? “… the world’s largest shale oil—more properly, tight oil—deposit at the Green River Formation (GRF). The USGS estimates the GRF holds 3 trillion barrels of oil, around half of which is deemed recoverable.” Energy independence, here we come (even if the Green River formation is not shale/tight oil)!

Chris Nelder has previously raised just one or two teeny, tiny problems with the vast deposits in the Green River formation. I’m sure those same word count limitations prevented any discussion of those annoying fact-things Chris fortunately managed to squeeze into his article [my bold/italic]:

There is another unexploited resource in America known as oil shale, not to be confused with shale oil (tight oil). Oil shale is a dense, hard rock impregnated with kerogen, an ‘uncooked’ form of hydrocarbon that nature hasn’t yet converted into actual oil. Oil cheerleaders like to talk about the trillion barrels or so of it that exists in America in places like the Green River Formation of Utah, but as yet no one has figured out how to produce it commercially (at a profit). So we may consider our prospects from oil shale to be a big fat zero.

So we’ve been trying to find a commercially viable approach for oil shale for a hundred years or so! They’ve been “deemed recoverable” after all! It just might could potentially happen some day, maybe. Can’t we just be satisfied with stating the large numbers and leave it at that? Why add explanations and facts if they are just going to screw up the point one is trying to make? Why provide those who don’t have access to information any facts which are going to do nothing more than … well … inform them?

How do these efforts help?

Perhaps the answer suggested is the point; and perhaps more of us might pay attention to the motivations (few) and beneficiaries (fewer) encouraging those efforts.

I’m still holding firm to my longstanding take:

Now there are the expected deniers who issue their platitudes about ingenuity and technology and zillions of barrels of oil here and there which I guess are going to magically appear just in the nick of time, but this cottage industry of obfuscation, misdirection, and disingenuous arguments serve no purpose in the long-range planning we will have to undertake to convert our ways of life away from oil dependency. The seeds of doubt and confusion they sow appear to have no purpose beyond ensuring that monies continue to be spent on business as usual. That’s all fine and well in the short term, and more power to them, but we’re going to pay a price. How steep that price turns out to be will depend on how soon and how effectively all of us start taking steps now to chart a different course by dealing with Peak Oil.

Any chance that out of the goodness of their hearts the deniers might share with us poor, fact-insistent slobs how they plan to escape every single consequence caused by declining fossil fuel production in the years to come? Perhaps in the alternate reality governing much of their ideology, it won’t matter. Must be nice….

* My Photo: Ana Nuevos, CA Sept 2004

NOTE: I’m taking a short break from new posts here until after Labor Day. Instead, I’ll be re-posting one or two prior pieces worth taking a lot at. Enjoy these next couple of weeks.


[1]; Is Peak Oil Dead? by Tim Stevenson – 06.25.12





 Oil has us literally over the barrel. If this situation is to change, we will all need to recognize that our present course is not sustainable. All of our institutions are geared to an era that was designed for a different set of circumstances that mainly relied on cheap domestic oil. That day is over. We need to realize it and embrace a future that recognizes that fact. That future must include public transportation, especially rail. Delay simply pushes future prosperity and enhanced mobility that much further from our grasp. [1]

The world is addicted to a material that is being used up from day to day and from hour to hour, a material that is also much too valuable to be burned. The prosperity of the human race is based on limited resources. Most people know this, and yet they refuse to accept the necessary consequence: reducing their use of fossil fuels….
The withdrawal will undoubtedly be tough. The economy will be affected when it is deprived of its lubricant. But consumers and business owners have no choice, and the longer they delay, the more painful the transition will be. [2]

None of this is enjoyable to contemplate. While Peak Oil proponents honor a responsibility to share what we know (based on facts … an amazing concept!), it is—as I’ve noted in several prior posts—a constant struggle to maintain and share optimism in the midst of evidence suggesting our future will be different in ways beyond our ability to fully appreciate and that we’re woefully unprepared.

It’s been a recurring theme of mine from my very first post that we need to take time to become better informed about what the future has in store for each of us. Facts, evidence, truth, and reality all serve to inform us that Peak Oil will impact every single one of us, necessitating some dramatic changes in how we live and work. Rosy scenarios are nice, and blind optimism has its place, but the claims deniers continue to make, couched in their “perhaps might if only could possibly” memes [e.g., see the series beginning here], need to be seen for what they are: statements motivated by a desire to maintain profitable business as usual for the benefit of the relatively few. That train track is not endless.

I’ve also been clear that we also cannot rely on “leaders” to properly inform us about Peak Oil and the challenges we face, for reasons mentioned above. What successful energy corporation wants to undo its very existence because of unpleasant and inconvenient facts artfully dismissed? They have shareholders and bottom lines to contend with. As for our politicians, most if not all are far too concerned with their next donation and/or pandering to select followers with limited interests to concern themselves with a broader, long-term vision benefitting us all.

The political process as it exists today is utterly repugnant to good people. I’m sure there are many fine people with noble aspirations to make a difference in our world, but they immediately meet with the cruel reality: getting elected and staying in office is about raising money and repaying it in favors, not voting one’s conscience and doing what’s right for the majority of the people. [3]

So now what? What options do we have for meaningful change?

How do we get off oil and other fossil fuels? By working vigorously now to become more energy efficient, conserve more, build massive amounts of renewable energy (wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, etc.) and over the next few decades shift to using electricity to transport people and goods. Energy efficiency and conservation alone can do far more than increased oil production — as recent history has amply demonstrated.
For this transformation away from fossil fuels to happen, we need to educate ourselves on energy. It’s time to learn a new vocabulary and to pay attention to what may seem like arcane facts. These arcane facts are going to become extremely important in the coming years. [4]

And what are some of those facts? (This is one discussion, for example.) And a couple more which I and others continue to point out:

Another key issue is one that oil companies do not want to emphasize: depletion. The worldwide average for production declines in existing oilfields has been estimated to be about 4 percent per year. [5]

[E]xploiting those resources [Arctic and off-shore] would be a long-term effort: probably 10 years to bring the first oil online, and 15 years or more to reach maximum output around 2 to 3 mbpd. By that time, it would be hardly noticeable as it compensated for the loss of oil production in the U.S. and elsewhere due to the depletion of mature fields. [6]

Canadian tar sands production today is about 1.5 mbpd, and it is hoped to increase to 3 mbpd by 2020. ‘Tight oil’ production from shales is hoped to grow from 0.9 mbpd today to 2.9 mbpd by 2020. Even if these projections panned out—and am I extremely skeptical that they will, based on the failure of such projections over the past decade, the cost of new production, the outlook for project financing, among other factors—that’s only a total increase of 3.5 mpbd over a decade . . . less than one year’s decline in conventional oil. [7]

[Some] “urban legends” about energy that comfort Americans[:] Here [are] four comforting myths about unconventional and alternative energy sources. These are excuses for not doing the hard work of gathering information, analysis, planning, and executing programs necessary to prepare for the multi-decade transition through peak oil to the next era (whatever that will be). These four myths are:
I. We’ll run crash programs for adaptation just as we mobilized for WWII.
II. Demand creates supply, by raising prices.
II. Oil is Oil, even if it is not oil.
IV. Demand creates supply, from new technology.
Unfortunately, we can rely on none of these. Certainly they are not substitutes for intense research and planning…. [8]

As we have seen with the Bakken and the various natural gas bearing shales we have been drilling of late, it takes an awful lot of expensive wells and environmental disruption to get the oil out. One estimate of the Energy Returned on Energy Investment (EROEI) for the Bakken shale suggests that the EROEI is six. This means that it may take one oil barrel’s worth of energy to produce six barrels of Bakken shale oil. This is getting very close to the theoretical point at which it really is not worth the effort and all the economic disruption. [9]

Between 2000 and 2010 China increased its consumption of oil more than any other country, by 4.3 million barrels a day, a 90 percent jump. It now burns through more than 10 percent of the world’s oil. More surprising is the country that increased its consumption by the second-largest increment: Saudi Arabia, which upped its oil-guzzling by 1.2 million barrels daily to 2.8 million, making it the world’s sixth-largest consumer and burning through more than a quarter of its 10-million-barrel daily output.
Saudi Arabia is not the only oil-producer that chugs its own wares. The Middle East, home to six OPEC members, saw consumption grow by 56 percent in the first decade of the century, four times the global growth rate. [10]

And that’s just for starters….

I can’t argue that the contrary views of those who discount, ignore, or simply misrepresent the facts is much more appealing to citizens already beaten down by the Great Recession and its myriad consequences. Who but the terminally pessimistic wants to consider more problems, especially those on a scale even approaching that of Peak Oil? As I’ve stated frequently, my own life is a very pleasant and comfortable one, and I have exactly zero desire to see it uprooted by the impact declining fossil fuel availability will have on me and my family.

But if we’re not even discussing it openly and broadly, let alone doing any planning at all, at some point in the near-enough future (who cares if it’s two years or eight or fourteen—we still won’t be prepared), we are all in for a very, very rude awakening to life here in Reality.

With this knowledge, there is no intellectually honest way to believe that the world can continue its near-total reliance on fossil fuels for much more than another decade — a paltry window of opportunity. We also know that we cannot wait until they go into decline before reaching for renewables and efficiency, simply because the scale of the challenge is so vast, and the alternatives are starting from such a low level that they will need decades of investment before they are ready to assume the load. The data is clear, and the mathematics are really quite straightforward. [11]

That’s not encouraging.

* My Photo: San Francisco, Sept 2004


[1]; OUR VIEW ON THE PRICE OF OIL by Glen Bottoms – 03.06.12
[2],1518,825171,00.html; A World without Oil: Companies Prepare for a Fossil-Free Future, reported by Dietmar Hawranke, Alexander Jung, Alexander Smoltczyk and Florian Zerfass (Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan) – 04.02.12
[3]; Why Good People Are Not Attracted To Politics by Craig Shields – 02.02.12
[4]; Toward Energy Literacy: Our “Peak Oil” Reality by Tam Hunt – 03.12.12
[5]; Fossil Fuels vs. Renewables: The Key Argument That Environmentalists are Missing by Kurt Cobb – 01.23.12
[6]; The last sip by Chris Nelder – 04.04.12
[7]; When should we pursue energy transition? by Chris Nelder – 11.02.11
[8]; An urban legend to comfort America: crash programs will solve Peak Oil by Fabius Maximus – 09.09.08
[9]; The Peak Oil Crisis: Parsing the Bakken by Tom Whipple – 03.21.12
[10]; Oil: Saudis are burning through it, Article by: THE ECONOMIST – 04.02.12
[11] Chris Nelder: When should we pursue energy transition?





An observation worth noting … and pondering, from Samuel Alexander:

This point about breaking our addiction to oil deserves some brief elaboration, because it raises the spectre of what Tom Murphy (2011) has called the ‘energy trap.’ In order to break the addiction to oil, economies dependent on oil arguably need to invest huge amounts of money and energy in building new social and economic infrastructures that are not so heavily dependent on oil (e.g. efficient public transport systems to incentivise people to drive less; localise food production and critical manufacturing, etc.). But since this transition has not yet seriously begun, the necessary investment of money and energy is going to be required at a time when money and energy are scarcer than they have been in recent decades. This places us in the ‘energy trap.’ Politicians are going to have a short-term incentive not to invest extra money and energy in new infrastructure, since people will already be feeling the pinch of high oil prices. This means that there will be very little or no surplus money and energy to direct towards the necessary infrastructure projects. But while this will provide some short-term relief for people and politicians, it delays the inevitable need for that new infrastructure. But a delay only exacerbates the problem, since the necessary investment will then need to come later, at a time when energy and money are scarcer still (see also, Hirsch et al, 2005) [1]

A succinct and accurate assessment of a point I (and others) have made on a number of occasions. Waiting until we have less in order to then try and get more is an ass-backwards approach on its best day.

We might be wise to start pondering some of these common sense considerations, and we ought to be doing so fairly soon.

One major party is a strong proponent of less of pretty much everything, and it might also be wise for us to start examining who keeps benefiting from that ideology and those idiotic policies, and who suffers—now and on down the road.

Is a hint really necessary?

* My Photo: Gloucester, MA July 2008


[1]; Degrowth, expensive oil, and the new economics of energy by Samuel Alexander – 08.07.12

In the course of conducting research for a book I’m now working on, I came across this post of mine, written just after the November 2010 elections.

I have from time to time asked this question or a variation thereof: What kind of a nation do we choose to be? What is our collective vision for this great country?

I thought there were enough parallels in the issues discussed in that 2010 post to re-visit it now, as perhaps the most momentous election in history looms in on the near horizon. After editing it by eliminating discussions about infrastructure not relevant to my intentions today, along with a tweak or two for clarity, I thought that re-posting the main themes might spark at least a thought or two as we move into the final stretch of the national elections.

Enjoy … and ponder. This stuff matters.

~ ~ ~

Where we’re going as a nation obviously carries significant import for where we go as individuals: can we expect prosperity and growth, or will the decline feared by many prove to be to our destiny? That’s not a pleasant option to contemplate under any circumstances.

But now, when the energy resources we might otherwise count on to boost us back to customary levels of prosperity (and beyond) will not be available to us in the same measures in the immediate years to come (and beyond), we have even more daunting challenges. Even acknowledging them is extremely painful and discouraging. Contemplating what has to be done is paralyzing to most of us.

So what do we do?

There’s little reason why we cannot be the world’s most successful or prosperous nation as those attributes are commonly measured. But we will not do so by relying on business as usual, demonstrably failed policies of the past, or levels of vitriol that are almost laughably inane. These are not the paths to restore our nation to that lofty place. (Waiting for tax cuts to the wealthiest one per cent of Americans as one strategy to help all of us guarantees one thing and one thing only: one hell of a long wait.)

Is this the best we can do? Are we going to permit justifiable anxieties and fears and doubts cloud our vision as to the choices we need to make (fraught with their own set of less-than-ideal policy considerations and consequences). This remains an economic crisis. There is no getting around it. It was a long time in the making, and it will not be “fixed” anywhere near as quickly as we would wish. Perfect solutions are nowhere to be found, and every choice has ardent supporters and detractors. Economic challenges atop and surrounded by looming energy and climate challenges most are ill-informed about at best only add to the dimension of what we will have to contend with. We need broad-based plans now, and under the worst possible conditions.

But as I have suggested often, this is also about opportunity. Our future prosperity will be measured in large part by the vision we develop right now about how economic growth will be produced and sustained in a world with a very different base of energy resources. We cannot continue to rely on unlimited amounts of inexpensive and energy-dense fossil fuels to sustain us at the same levels as in the past, let alone support our hopes for greater levels of growth and economic prosperity in the years to come. We need to accept that. Then our work and innovation can begin in earnest.

Oil production has not increased in nearly five years, and with demand on the upswing and a host of economic and geological challenges confronting prospects for producing more, we need to come to terms with the fact that we need to redefine growth and create new means and methods of production in a once-again growing economy. Less government is the exact opposite of what we need. Less ideology runs hand-in-hand with this approach.

We’re not going to suddenly discover magical amounts of fossil fuel reserves though magical technologies because the Republican Party controls the House. Energy resources don’t concern themselves so much with political ideology. What’s left (and there are still massive amounts left) is going to be harder to find, extract, and pay for. The quality and quantity will simply not be there in the manner we’ve come to expect. That’s the reality, and those are the facts. This means we’re going to have to make do with less just when we need it all more than ever, and just when millions more have asserted at this same time their needs and demands for the same finite amounts. Party affiliations shouldn’t be expected to change any of that.

But buried as we are under the weight of this Great Recession, it is even more frightening to contemplate that we may not get back to our expected levels of growth soon, if ever. That fear and anxiety—stoked by too many for whom integrity is an entirely foreign concept (if you have to resort to disingenuous misrepresentations to further your aims, what does that say about the message, and the messenger?)—clearly played itself out in the elections held last week.

I get the sense that what the last election was about was not a rejection of the President’s agenda and legislative successes as much as it was a frustration and anger (buttressed by much legitimate anxiety) that things are not better already, and too many of us thought that it would be. Feeling largely powerless, the majority of voters opted to check off the box marked “Someone Else” as their way of contributing to problem-solving. “Someone has to do something to get us some results right now” was the basic message … not entirely dissimilar to 2008’s message. We’ve proven once again that we’re an impatient and forgetful nation.

“Someone else” is a familiar electoral option, but at times one of questionable logic and wisdom. The delusion about quick and inexpensive solutions (and amnesia about the severity and breadth of problems that escorted President Obama into the White House)—notions or hopes that this could all be fixed with a couple of waves of his magic wand—collided quickly with the reality of the depth of fundamental problems which ushered in the Great Recession. Choosing Someone Else is no guarantee that the nearly insurmountable economic, industrial, and employment problems are going to be alleviated any quicker, if at all. And with one party committed to spending even less on crucial needs, we’ve got our work cut out for us just to stay afloat, let alone move ahead.

We need to be educated about the truths, painful as they are. There are no golden options, no guaranteed measures to restore us back to the “normal” we took for granted. Yes, deficit spending is no panacea. Debt passed on to future generations is not anyone’s first choice under ideal or even less-than-ideal circumstances. No one wants to pay more taxes for anything! But that’s the deal we strike with this form of governance. Less means less. More doesn’t always mean better, but more is more, and we need more of the more than we need the less.

The harsh reality is that we are in a far different set of circumstances than most of us have ever faced. Coupled with the equally harsh truth that we are going to have to fashion new measures and definitions of growth and prosperity (if that’s even possible, hate to say), and will have to achieve much of it in the years to come under a different set of rules and with different energy resources (many not yet in place), we have some serious, deep-seated, and long-lasting problems to address. The time to plan and prepare so as to ensure a seamless transition to new standards of industrial and economic production has passed. It’s not too late, but it is getting very late in the game. Adapting to means of production and supporting our vital infrastructure with different sources of energy will take extraordinary vision, planning, innovation, and implementation … and that will all be years in the making.

We’ve kicked enough cans down the road as it is. This is one more we cannot afford to pass on to the future.

These challenges need to be addressed not just by others. As I have taken pains to stress in numerous posts, we all have a stake in what happens to us and to our nation, and we all bear responsibility for helping to fashion solutions. Voting is one contribution to be sure, but let’s make certain that it is an informed choice and not solely a lashing out in impatient frustration. I’ve been on the unemployment lines, too. I understand and remember the anguish and the soul-sucking stress that governs every waking moment. Tomorrow is too long a time to wait.

In these circumstances, voting cannot be our only contribution, however. Ideology won’t create a better climate, or produce more fossil fuels from ever-declining reserves. Technology and innovation and inventions will help, but there are no plans for them to all show up early in December. We’re going to have to recognize—on top of all of our other economic challenges—that we’re going to have to make do with less of the fossil fuel-based means of producing goods and services which have long sustained our ways of living. Conserving, like it or not, is going to be a standard M.O. for us.

And to think that we can achieve any semblance of prosperity again under a political agenda that suggests we’ll spend less—less on education, less on research, less on training, less on our children, less on programs to help the many disenfranchised, less on vital infrastructure, less on necessary federal programs and departments that safeguard our citizens in a variety of ways—is to compound the delusions. The truth is that the only place where these magical economy-strengthening spending cuts will come from will be on programs that aid or benefit the vast majority of the not-wealthy Americans—ones that offer us the potential for future prosperity or serve as lifelines now. Do we really want to define our nation’s character by the philosophy of “every man, woman, or child is on their own ‘cuz I got mine.”?

By all means let’s be certain that we cut back even more programs to help the distressed, and compound the neglect to our vast infrastructure needs to insure that the wealthy have enough money to buy a seventh or eighth home. That money is gonna trickle down one of these days to us, I just know it!

If there’s any lesson that Republicans are going to take away from this election it is that vitriol and intransigence and total unwillingness to cooperate work — politically, at least, if not in terms of getting anything done that meaningfully improves the welfare of Americans. [1]

This is a good thing? This is what we cast votes for? This is who we are?

Are the hundreds of millions of not-wealthy Americans really content with the nonsensical explanations that the few wealthy and the major corporations need more tax cuts at their expense, while asking those same hundreds of millions of not-wealthies to sacrifice even more? Now, under these dire economic conditions?!

An ill-informed electorate that too often allows others it only thinks have more knowledge and information to lead the debate and frame the issues is every bit as damaging as abuses of power or media manipulations. The reality is that Republican Party officials’ statements about creating jobs by reducing the deficit through spending reductions and tax cuts are economic nonsense and nothing more. Analysts much more intelligent than I am have demonstrated that not one of the policy plans the Republicans produced would reduce the deficit by so much as a nickel, and prominent among those misrepresentations is their proposal to reduce taxes on the wealthiest one per cent of Americans (oh the horror that that may not come to pass!) as a means of jump-starting us back to prosperity. That alone is going to add $700 billion to the deficit! Hello?

We have to be better than that, and we have to be smarter.

The Republican agenda favors business and the wealthy. It’s not any more complicated than that. That is their history over these past few decades. If you are comfortable with that ideology, if you think that that approach is going to somehow help you and your community; or enhance and support your personal values; if you think that you can obtain the same breadth and depth of government services (most of which we completely take for granted) by giving government less funding; that spending less money on the fundamental and badly in need of repair and maintenance and revitalization infrastructure (which enables us to have industrial and economic success in the first place) is the path for future economic and industrial growth; and/or that these and similar approaches will somehow help restore this nation to levels of progress and growth and prosperity and innovation that have long been the envy of the world, then keep leaning right. It’s a free country.

‘I don’t get what they think they’re doing to stimulate the economy right now,’ said [Bill] Gale [a senior fellow in economics studies at the Brookings Institution]. ‘I can understand that people are angry or upset about the economy. But I can’t understand how that anger and anxiety has turned into this set of legislative proposals [tax cuts for the wealthy, less regulation, massive spending cuts].’ [2]

We have to be better than that, and we have to be smarter. We cannot afford otherwise.

Our rage and frustration and animus that things are not better by last month at the latest has blinded and is blinding us to the future we do face: one where the rules will change of necessity, and one where the energy foundation of all of our progress and prosperity in the past century and a half will not be available to us as it has been. It’s not pleasant to accept that, but accept it we must, for if we do not understand what is at stake, what kind of changes need to be made, and how much we need to act in concert—political ideologies notwithstanding—then any hopes we have for pulling ourselves out of this dire set of economic challenges are a collective waste of time. (And yes, deficit spending by our government cannot and must not continue indefinitely, I get that part. We’re talking about spending a lot of money. That’s not nearly as simple a proposition as one would like to think.)

We have too much to do and design and innovate and implement and repair and maintain and support and provide to rely solely on the market place. Borrowing costs are ridiculously low; there’s an urgent need to repair and modernize our transit systems and bridges, schools, power grids, water and sewer facilities and all the other elements of our vast infrastructure; there are millions looking for work whose income earned will in turn be spent in the marketplace, and thousands of companies and millions of their employees who will benefit from the spending accompanying this work.

We need a national vision with courageous, honest national leadership (Democrats and Republicans) unconcerned with narrow-minded and short-term ideological nonsense. This is about so much more than partisan principles. It’s about what is best for us as a nation now, next week, next year, and for the rest of this century at the very least. No easy, simple, or inexpensive and consequence-free decisions are on the horizon.

What will we choose for our future? What answers—and opportunities—will we be able to provide for our children and grandchildren?


[1]; After the GOP deluge, what next for the economy? by Andrew Leonard – 11.03.10

[2]; Republicans map out their agenda of less by Lori Montgomery – 11.05.10


I’m passing along some useful/informative Peak Oil-related articles of note [and some political ones, too, which in one way or another will have considerable bearing on what we do and don’t do as Peak Oil makes its presence felt], all of which crossed my desk during the prior month … in case you missed them!



David Roberts
The new fossil-fuel glut: Less glutty than you think


Kurt Cobb
How changing the definition of oil has deceived both policymakers and the public


Dave Summers (“Heading Out”)
A new energy report from Harvard makes unsupportable assumptions
[Original article:]


Sami Grover
Is Peak Oil Really a Thing of the Past?


Steve Sorrell, Sussex Energy Group, Christophe McGlade, UCL Energy Institute
undated – July 2012
Commentary on Maugeri’s decline rate assumptions


Ugo Bardi
Peak oil debunked? The mechanisms of denial at work


Matthieu Auzanneau
Denying the imminence of Peak Oil is a Tragic Error


Joe Conason
Defining American Exceptionalism


Paul Begala
What do Republicans really want? Read the fine print.


Eugene Robinson
The GOP’s crime against voters


Frank Bruni
The Divine Miss M


George Monbiot
False Summit


Sharon Astyk
Treehugger, Monbiot and Is Peak Oil Over?


James Hamilton
Maugeri on peak oil
[Original article:]


Chris Nelder
Is peak oil dead?


Kurt Cobb
Fool me twice, shame on me: The oil industry repackages the fake abundance story (from the late 1990s)
[Original article:]


Robert Reich
The Selling of American Democracy: The Perfect Storm


Richard (RJ) Eskow
The Nakedness Of Their Greed


Earth Tribe Team
The Great Debate
[original article:]


Jonathan Cohn
Romney’s Distortion—and Why It Matters


Michael Linden, Seth Hanlon, Jennifer Erickson, Gadi Dechter, Adam Hersh, Karla Walter
The Romney Economic Agenda and Its Effect on the Middle Class and Growth
How His Economic Proposals Depend on the Failed Bush Strategy of Enriching the Wealthy at the Expense of Everyone Else


Bernie Sanders
Oligarchy or Democracy?




It was all so perfect … the only report anyone could ever need to consign Peak Oil to the trash heap; hailed far and wide as the definitive answer. One entire report! Don’t believe me? Check out these headlines from individuals eagerly embracing the findings of Leonardo Maugeri’s effort.

The Vanishing Peak
William O’Keefe

Shortages: Is ‘peak oil’ idea dead?
Roger Harrabin

Are We Witnessing the End of Peak Oil?
Andy Rowell

No Peak Oil In Sight: We’ve Got An Unprecedented Upsurge In Global Oil Production     Underway
Mark Perry

Potential U.S. Oil Boom Shakes Up Energy Politics
Keith Johnson

False Summit
George Monbiot

Peak Oil A Long Way Off
Stuart Shapiro

“Peak oil” is past
Peter Cresswell

Harvard Senior Fellow: Peak Oil Is History
Bob Adelmann

We are nowhere near hitting ‘peak oil’, because we keep inventing new ways of extracting the stuff
Tim Worstall

But no!

Just when it seemed that we might possibly could have had the potential for perhaps a possible end to the so-called myth of Peak Oil if only certain things might possibly happen in some way at some future point depending on some other things which might happen if certain other things happen first with the vast resources that could incinerate us in many ways, the “perfect” Peak Oil-debunking report is debunked by a group of busybodies who just had to go and screw up a perfectly good story with damned facts and evidence and reality. Gee … thanks!

All of the Maugeri advocates listed above all seemed quite content relying on one single, solitary report without wasting a lot of time seeking independent verification. But the rest of you can’t leave well enough alone, can you?

There’s a message there….

It will be difficult to come away from this reading with any conclusion other than a recognition that there is a conspiracy on the part of Peak Oil advocates named below—a fiendish (dare I say “nefarious”) plot designed to use facts, investigations, verifications, evidence, and reality to contradict Mr. Maugeri and his acolytes. Shocking, but true!

Let’s see how these fact-checkers tried to fool us. You’ll thank me later.

The Cast Of Characters

Richard Heinberg offered some thoughts but … come on! Richard Heinberg?

[S]ome of the fuels (ethanol, natural gas liquids) counted by IEA and EIA in the ‘all liquids’ category have significantly lower energy content per unit of volume than regular crude oil; thus an increase in barrels-per-day of ‘all liquids’ does not necessarily mean an increase in the amount of energy delivered to society.

As if that’s significant! Don’t be fooled by the intelligent observations he presented. Typical of Mr. Heinberg, he’s just trying to be honest to confuse us, but we’re on to his game. Oh sure, he’s written a number of acclaimed books, lectures on Peak Oil internationally, is a sought-after and widely respected guest in the media, blah, blah, Post Carbon Institute, yadda, yadda, yadda. But is that all going to qualify him as an authority on Peak Oil? How can we be absolutely certain?

Dave Summers? Sure … he examined facts, production history, depletion, decline, and looked into other resources besides just Mr. Maugeri’s report (like all of that effort is supposed to impress anyone), then noted:

It is instructive [studying a plot in Maugeri’s report], to first recognize that it is a plot of anticipated production capacity rather than projected actual production.

Anticipated. Actual. Like there’s a difference! Both begin with the letter “A”. What’s his point? Isn’t it enough that we might possibly have the potential?

And then Stephen Sorrell and Christopher McGlade had to butt in. A critical examination of Mr. Maugeri’s depletion and decline information by carefully considering factual evidence and clarifying essential terminology was all done for what reason? Excuse me … but who asked for a factual and detailed analysis based on truth and evidence?

All of their careful analysis leads them to the conclusion that:

Maugeri has made some very optimistic assumptions about global average decline rates, failed to provide adequate justification for them and misrepresented the estimates made by others. Adopting more realistic estimates would significantly change his results.

The answers are right there! In their own words they stated that adoption of “realistic” estimates would “significantly change” the conclusions reached. Hello! If the facts are going to produce a different outcome, then why the hell would someone want to use them?

Are we supposed to just buy their analysis because Mr. Sorrell is “senior lecturer, Science and Technology Policy Research, Sussex Energy Group” and Mr. McGlade is a “doctoral researcher at the UCL Energy Institute.” Well-respected and credentialed expertise in energy matters doesn’t mean they are good at basic addition, subtraction, and division—potentially.

And of course David Strahan had to stick his nose into this by also challenging Mr. Maugeri’s math computations, pointing out how wildly incorrect they were.

Maugeri has got his sums horribly wrong. In the key section of the report, he claims that even the lower end of the range ‘would involve the almost complete loss of the world’s ‘ ‘old’ ’ production in 10 years’. But this is laughable. A 6% annual decline over 10 years leaves you with 54% of your original production, because each year’s 6% decline is smaller volumetrically than the previous one. So over a decade the decline is 46% – and very far from an ‘almost complete loss’.

The result casts most of Maugeri’s assertions about a bountiful energy future into the wind. Why, David? It was a nice report which made several people very happy, and you had to grab a calculator and mess it all up by providing the correct totals. Have you no shame?

Did it occur to any of you before you wrote your articles that there are a fair number of people here in the U.S. (and “across the pond”) where facts are useful only if they like them (and if not, then they can be ignored or just changed on the computer)? I’ll have you know that some people don’t look at reality like each of you do, Mr. Smarty-Pantses.

Some people don’t like to use facts when they are sharing opinions because the facts would turn those opinions into nonsense. Did you not watch the Republican Party presidential debates? Facts aren’t facts if they are either inconvenient or fail to support a position insisted upon no matter what reality suggests. Duh!

Disputing Alternative “Strategies”

Sharon Astyk seemed a bit put off by the strategy:

In a lot of ways, this is just another version of the same old, same old – take the most optimistic imaginable assumptions and push them all together in new ways without regard to any possible negative consequences or less optimistic outcomes, and lo and behold, all problems disappear.

Again this insistence on facts and reality! We’re trying to solve problems here, people! If facts are unpleasant, well then….

Perhaps Ms. Astyk might consider this observation from Ugo Bardi:

The problem is that most people – including decision makers – have no time, no inclination, and no expertise to go in depth in issues such as resource depletion. So, when facing a complex and nuanced issue they tend to choose the interpretation that they like best – it is called ‘confirmation bias.’ Now, surely good news are better than bad news and for most people an apparently authoritative study that says that we are not running out of oil is preferable to the gloom and doom of most depletion studies. [1]

So there. Problem is solved, and it took just a few seconds because some people are smart enough to ignore the truth and cherry-pick just the phrases they like to hear. No more energy concerns! But that’s not good enough? Really?

I haven’t forgotten about you, Kurt Cobb. No sireeee.:

Maugeri and others argue not using facts, but fantasy. They try to sell their imagined future by conjuring vast supplies of oil from extremely low-grade sources which no one has so far figured out how to extract profitably such as oil shale (not to be confused with shale oil which is properly called tight oil). Or by projecting unrealistically low worldwide decline rates in existing fields, pretending that existing fields are somehow like factories that can be made to produce not far below current levels for an extended time instead of declining at historically observed rates. Or by engaging in fantasy projections of supply growth not based on existing data and a proper understanding of historical and technical information. [Sources cited in original]

Um, fantasy and fact both begin with the same letter, Kurt. I don’t think I need to explain or add more. And by the way, since when are unrealistic or fantasy projections an issue when trying to solve serious problems? Pretending is an actual strategy, if you didn’t know, and damn near just as helpful as denial (except that it sounds better). And to the point I made above, if facts and reality lead to conclusions not supported by irrational contentions, then of course one should ignore the evidence and truths! How else are misleading statements and disingenuous arguments supposed to succeed in confusing others if facts keep getting in the way? Isn’t all of this obvious? Do you not watch Fox News?

Insinuations that just because someone worked for an industry and had their research funded by a particular and prominent international company in that industry, and then created an impression that a prestigious university supports that someone’s contention doesn’t mean that the “findings” were the only results the check-signers demanded! What’s next: allegations that secretive billionaires anonymously supplying insane amounts of campaign funds for a candidate might expect that candidate to favor those few billionaires and their policy expectations rather than those of the countless millions who cast votes? Yeah … Right!

Europe Chimes In

Oh, and nice try to whoever is responsible for getting Olivier Rech, a “former officer at the International Energy Agency” and “petroleum expert” to weigh in on the questionable assumptions offered by Mr. Maugeri. (Who’s foolish enough to give any validity to the opinions of an international petroleum expert? Let’s introduce Mr. Rech to Mr. Sorrell and Mr. McGlade and let them share all of their “energy” expertise. Gotta believe that would be a fairly short conversation, right?)

I guess we’re all supposed to consider these offerings from Mr. Rech as significant “facts”:

New fields coming on line will tend to be smaller. As it happens, a priori, the smaller a field is, the faster its rate of decline will be. Moreover, a rising proportion of new fields coming on line are off-shore projects. Experience shows, particularly in the North Sea (where Mr Maugeri admits that production is in apparently irreversible decline;), that offshore fields decline more rapidly as operators seek to raise production as quickly as possible in order to recover their considerable investments as fast as they can. In so doing, they very often accelerate the ensuing decline.

Mr Maugeri asserts that new production capacity could reach 49 Mbd by 2020 and no-one has any way of knowing how he arrived at this figure. He then goes on to reduce it to 29 Mbd, taking into account, he says, certain ‘risks’ and ‘restrictions’. Nowhere does he explain how he arrived at the original 49 Mbd figure. Thus the 29 Mbd figure appears to be equally open to doubt.

Why? It’s less than 49 Mbd. But no, that’s not enough for Mr. International Petroleum Expert. Note carefully that Chris Nelder raises a very similar objection (below) by complaining that we don’t know how Maugeri arrived at his projections. Conspiracy to insist on public, verified facts before arriving at conclusions? I think my case has been made.

Oh, and then one final comment from Mr. International Petroleum Expert:

Mr Maugeri emphasizes the fact that only a third of the sedimentary basins on the Earth have thus far been explored by the petroleum industry. The reason for that is simple: geologists have concluded that they did not present the necessary characteristics to be oil-bearing.

That’s his argument? Does he not realize that scientific research by experts notwithstanding, it might be possible if certain conditions come into play at some point in unforeseen ways that some of those basins might have the potential to exhibit a characteristic or two? But no, he just dismisses all of that based on the detailed assessments of “geologists.” A man with his allegedly impressive creds is going to rely on them, and we’re going to take him seriously? Seriously?

Perhaps he might consider having a conversation with, for example, Sen. James “Hoax” Inhofe, whose vast expertise in climate matters put the whole global warming issue to bed. No doubt the good Senator has an equivalent amount of knowledge and expertise on subterranean characteristics of fossil-fuel reservoirs and can enlighten Olivier accordingly.

And as for you, Mr. Kurt I-Object-To-Fantasy-Cobb, our Mr. International Petroleum Expert points this out:

It is true that extraction techniques are improving and a number of investments in older fields are taking place. It is also quite apparent that the increase in American reserves in recent decades is mainly due to statistical legerdemain: the accepted definition of reserves in the United States long permitted the declaration of only reserves in production but not the total extractable resource, in order to protect the interests of investors.

Did you catch that, Kurt? “Statistical legerdemain.” It’s a strategy, just like unrealistic pretending! Some people happen to like these approaches, given how often they utilize them….

Chris Nelder Wraps This Up

Finally, Chris Nelder also has a problem with all of this. And what’s worse, I don’t get the sense he took the feelings of Mr. Maugeri and supporters into consideration at all.

Just because you have time to examine facts, conduct research, and examine other sources pro and con as you analyze a report doesn’t mean others want to be bothered to do so, Mr. Nelder. If someone publishes a study that supports narrow-minded contentions, there really isn’t any need to go and do your own independent research. Why run the risk of proving someone else wrong … or even delusional?

So why can’t he and his peers just accept a largely fact-free opinion and let it be?

Much of the capacity and growth Maugeri foresees includes millions of barrels per day of natural gas liquids, of which only about one-quarter are useful as vehicular fuel.
Maugeri generally refers to production capacity throughout his report, not actual production. Therefore, while it is true that reserves do grow over time with the application of new technology, it is disingenuous to imply that it will lead to the enormous increases in production, or the far lower decline rates that Maugeri claims. Again, Maugeri only presents the summary results from his private database and does not disclose the recovery factors he is using, so there is no way to judge how realistic his model is.

Uh … that’s what “private” means, Chris. It’s information he put together on his own, in secret, so no one else would see it. “Private,” get it? Are you suggesting that we now should be looking for verification of facts … let someone else see his work, or rely on verified information? That’ll happen! I thought I had made this pretty clear: Facts can get in the way of damned good arguments.

Maugeri’s forecast amounts to a more than four-fold increase in eight years, an extremely optimistic prospect.

Let me just point out the obvious: Mr. Maugeri is not suggesting a six-fold increase. Just a four-fold increase. Need I say more?

[And let me add that Mr. Nelder’s concerns about the estimated production capacity of the Bakken tight oil formations sound awfully similar to the fact-based disputes discussed by Steve LeVine last weekend which also suggest (based on facts, so take it with a grain of salt) that the Bakken “potential” is … well, not so full of potential.]

We cannot independently evaluate Maugeri’s country-by-country forecasts without seeing the assumptions in his data model, but his summary expectations are optimistic in the extreme….
For example, he sees production from Iraq expanding in the next eight years at rates that have never before been achieved, despite a great deal of uncertainty about the country’s stability, its ability to maintain security in the future, and its ability to attract Western oil partners with the knowledge and technology needed to exploit its resources. The failure of Iraq’s recent oil lease auctions do little to give one confidence that Maugeri’s extraordinary forecast can be realized.
More generally, his assertion that, of the countries with more than 1 mbpd of production capacity, only four will have reduced capacity by 2020 is impossible to square with the fact that production has been declining in more 50 of those countries since 2000.

I’m sensing some additional opposition. I’m going to suggest that he and Ms. Astyk are in collusion, since the objection he raises sounds suspiciously similar to those she lodged above. That fact alone makes Chris Nelder’s entire reality and fact and evidence-based objections a wee bit curious, don’t you think?

Is it necessary that we explain the difference between declining and reduced capacity? Less is not always the same as “not as much as before”, and I see no reason to elaborate….Declining production in more than fifty countries is supposed to be a big deal? Come on! And as for those political concerns … all of a sudden they matter? We have vast resources with possible potential!

And Mr. Nelder apparently seems quite content with his evidence-supported conclusion that Mr. Maugeri:

[F]ails to provide adequate justification that his assumptions, being widely divergent from most other industry estimates, are remotely realistic.
We must conclude that the key assumptions about reserve growth and its effect on decline rates in Maugeri’s report are muddled, speculative and unverifiable….
Finally we must note that Maugeri is well known for his hostility to peak oil, as is BP, which funded his report.

What’s the point? Sounds as though he and Kurt Cobb are a bit too cozy with their similar suspicions. Kurt doesn’t like fantasy projections, and Chris has an issue with “muddled, speculative and unverifiable”. There’s no pleasing people like this.

I still find it very difficult to believe that a petroleum industry insider with a record of opposition to Peak Oil and whose study is funded by an international petroleum corporation might exhibit even a whiff of bias. What’s your next argument, Chris: Tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of the middle and lower class are not going to get our economy back on track? Who are you trying to kid?

Two words for you: “Job Creators.” Two more, no charge: “Another yacht.” Reagan promised they will create more jobs if their taxes are lowered, and just because it hasn’t happened after thirty years doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to possibly happen someday.

I could go on, but I think my position is clear on these various approaches to debunking Mr. Maugeri’s study.

Thanks! (Seriously … thanks!)

* My Photo: Peter Island Resort, BVI – November 2006



An observation worth noting … and pondering, from Kurt Cobb:

But because few of the non-oil products now being lumped in with oil supplies are genuine substitutes and the ones that are have serious limitations on the volume they could provide, we should consider the truth about oil. Its supply is stagnant which accounts for the record prices of recent years. And, the promise that high prices would bring on copious new supplies has proven to be nothing more than wishful thinking.
 The limitations on oil supplies are now upon us. The salient issue is the rate of production, not the supposedly huge resources that optimists may conjure up in their imaginations. How much oil you can get out out of the ground on a daily basis is what counts, and it’s getting harder and harder to extract the amount of oil we desire from the Earth’s crust each day. We extracted the easy stuff first. We cannot now expect to extract     the difficult stuff at the same high rates as the easy stuff. And, we cannot expect that total percentage recoveries from the smaller, more complex and challenging reservoirs which we are now forced to exploit will be as high as those we’ve gotten from large, simple, straightforward reservoirs in the past.

It seems a simple enough concept to grasp.

Denial is much more convenient since it doesn’t require one to consider consequences or any aspect of unpleasant reality, but one has to wonder just how efficient and beneficial a strategy this is for any length of time beyond the next couple of weeks. And when that strategy is being passed off as the proper course of action for the many without access to the genuine facts, how much more harm will result?

Should we expect that having less at our disposal is going to make it any easier for us to transition just about everything away from a fossil fuel-based economy when even more will be needed (and when we’ll have even less time to do so in order to have any chance of succeeding)?

How does that math work?

* My Photo: New York City, September 2009