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Peak Oil Matters

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


Archive for December, 2012






Happy Holidays to all.

It’s been a tough stretch for us, so here’s to peaceful, happy, and joyous celebrations with family and friends. Cherish them….

Back to work here some time in early January.


Rich Turcotte






My posting today was intended to be the last original one of 2012, but it can wait.

Peak Oil is no less important an energy topic today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. But in light of what happened at Newtown on Friday, it’s not all that important right now.

I grew up with weapons in my home. My Dad is a Korean War veteran, and a long-time member of the NRA. I fired more than my fair share of guns in my younger days. My stepson is in the United States Army. Eleven middle-aged adults are in my immediate family; seven of them consistently vote Republican. I practiced law for a lot of years, and was a political science major. I have more than a passing acquaintance with the Second Amendment and conservative viewpoints.

Ideology has consequences. Rigid ideology devoid of any rational thought, perspective, and respect for reality is dangerous.

Public figures like right-wing loon and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee should pause to see if they can’t locate a wee bit of intelligence before flapping their gums. Huckabee said the Newtown massacre should not have been a surprise “because we have ‘systematically removed God’ from public schools.” What kind of God does he worship—One who is in such a snit about our refusal to invite Him somewhere that It’s perfectly okay with six- and seven-year olds being gunned down instead? Yeah, that’s gonna make others just filled with adoration! Address that first!

There’s a lot of room for discussion, negotiation, and compromise between “no guns anywhere, ever” [see this for some clear-headed truth-telling—what a concept!] and “guns everywhere for whatever reason.” Fifty? Two Hundred? Three thousand? How many more innocents have to be gunned down by deranged others before we find room in that vast middle to legislate some meaningful and effective controls to help alleviate this ongoing national disgrace? [See this, also.] This is a mark of an “exceptional” nation?

The failure to have meaningful gun control laws is far from the sole reason why Newtown (and others) have happened. A wide range of social, cultural, and psychological factors play prominent roles as well. Duly noted.

But everyday citizens do not need to carry assault weapons around or have enough bullets on hand to mow down twenty children plus; churches don’t need guns among the worshipers; and perhaps it would be a good idea if moronic, close-minded assertions like this one were held in check until the speaker had a chance to buy a clue (hate to break the news, but stupidity is not a virtue, although sometimes it’s hard to be sure):

‘Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones. The only thing accomplished by gun free zones is to insure that mass murderers can slay more before they are finally confronted by someone with a gun.’

The wingnut jackasses of the Michigan legislature, with their integrity-free MO (is there some national legislative contest as to who can destroy more of democracy and reason in lame duck sessions? You guys win!), offered Exhibit A of their collective madness:

Changes to the concealed weapons law passed the state House and Senate late Thursday, allowing trained gun owners to carry their weapons in formerly forbidden places, such as schools, day care centers, stadiums and churches.
Schools, however, and privately owned facilities could opt out of the new law if they don’t want people carrying guns in their buildings.

Day care centers? Seriously? How f’ing stupid is that? And stadiums? Won’t that be fun after a couple of beer-fueled patrons have at it! By all means let’s make absolutely certain that anyone, anywhere, at any time, who is pissed off just enough, has the “right” to settle any dispute with guns rather than conversation. The countless innocents who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Tough luck is what it is….Even a damn shame.

Instead of working so hard to protect the paranoid, tin-foil hat fears and fantasies of a small minority of knuckleheads in an otherwise honest and law-abiding group of gun owners numbering in the tens of millions (and keeping the coffers of gun advocate groups well-stocked … you never know when another misrepresentation might be needed!), how about we have a national debate and put into place rational legislation to provide a bit more protection, safety, and security for all of us? Imagine doing something like that!

Tonight and every other night from now on, twenty sets of parents (among others suffering) will never again experience or share the tenderness and love for their sons and daughters so eloquently stated by James Russell Lowell:

Remember, dearest little daughter, that you are your papa’s only little girl and that his first thought is always and ought to be about you. I never go to sleep without asking all the good angels, and especially one, to be near you. You grow dearer and dearer to me the farther I go away from you

On that note, some words of wisdom which might offer a bit of guidance to us all:

Nothing in this world is so powerful as an idea whose time has come – Victor Hugo

You must be the change you wish to see in the world – Mohandas Gandhi

Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must first be overcome – Samuel Johnson

If we gather a set of strong enough reasons to change, we can change in a minute something we’ve failed to change for years – Tony Robbins

We cannot solve life’s problems except by solving them….This is because we must accept responsibility for a problem before we can solve it – M. Scott Peck

A man cannot despair if he can imagine a better life – Wendell Berry

You have an obligation to act for the common good – Napoleon Hill

The way to mend the bad world is to create the right world – Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

* My Photo: sunrise at Good Harbor Beach, MA – 09.03.05





As anyone with even marginal interest in the future of fossil fuel production knows, the International Energy Agency’s [IEA] recently-released World Energy Outlook 2012 offered some exuberant assessments about American production in the years to come. The prediction is that in a handful of years, the United States will become Numero Uno once again in oil production.

A small sampling of recent headlines shows no small measure of delight in some quarters at the news:

US oil production hits 15-year high
Remembering “Peak Oil” Madness
A Cause for Thanksgiving, Part I
A Cause for Thanksgiving, Part II
World’s oil industry won’t be the same in the wake of shale
Bakken revolution is only half-complete
The story of plenty is yet to be realised

Sounds so wonderful, doesn’t it? Almost all of our problems have been solved! Any day now, we can only hope that the tens of thousands of climate scientists and related peers will fess up and tell us that they had indeed engineered an elaborate plot to try and convince the world that our planet was warming for reasons they’ll soon divulge. Can’t wait! All that’s left is for reputable economists and leaders on the Democratic side of the aisle to admit that they’ve been making up charts and evidence for close to three decades, and that yes indeed, tax cuts for the 2%-ers [a/k/a “job creators”] does indeed trickle down to the rest of us, and thus the illusion of the Great Recession and unemployment/inequality woes have just been figments of our imagination.

President Obama will thus have no choice but to finally admit that he and three close friends from his days as a gay Kenyan Muslim community organizer engineered an elaborate scheme of their own to steal the last two elections (mind-control was involved, for those who must know); that in fact he has no real birth certificate because he was not born on this planet (he and his mother conspired to make him a “terror baby” just weeks before his pod-hatching), and that he indeed will convert us all to Communist Islam Socialist Liberalism as soon as he personally removes all guns from the possession of every gun owner in America. (It’s expected that he will wait until the first week of January to do this, after changing the laws so that everyone is taxed at a rate of 83%.)

Back to the main topic….

As for the so-good news about our energy future, I prefer the more accurate assessment offered in this headline:

Peak oil, peak bullshit

Recent posts of mine—among others—have been pointing out some of the other commentary and information contained in that IEA Outlook (that annoying fact stuff) which gives us pause before jumping on the bandwagon of good news. Not that we don’t want to believe it, despite what some will surely argue. As I’ve stated on numerous occasions, I would really like to be wrong about my take on Peak Oil. I enjoy a very nice lifestyle which Peak Oil is sure to screw up royally, so there’s no incentive on my part to be a “doomer.” I’d prefer we just take a more careful look at the facts and perhaps make a plan or two….

To that end, ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil) President Kjell Aleklett recently examined the IEA report and offered up some commentary of his own. Of course, his current role as ASPO President and “Professor in Physics at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Global Energy Systems Group (former Uppsala Hydrocarbon Depletion Study Group) at Uppsala University” should not be taken to mean he knows much about the subject. I’m sure former insurance executive and now U.S. Senator James Inhofe could teach Dr. Aleklett a bit about energy production and climate change in one sitting, just to set him straight.

For purposes of this article, however, I’m going to give Dr. Aleklett the benefit of the doubt, and let you ponder a few of his observations about the information and statements contained in the  IEA Outlook which serve in part as the basis for its optimistic assessments of future oil production:

Around 50% of the USA’s crude oil production in 2035 is to come from fields yet-to-be found. New regions must be opened up for exploration.

In common with all attempts to describe future market trends, the projections in WEO-2012 are subject to a wide range of uncertainties. Indeed, it is unlikely that the future will follow any of the precise paths described in our scenarios. But that is not the aim of the WEO: none of the scenarios is a forecast. Each is intended to demonstrate how markets could evolve under certain conditions. How close those scenarios are to reality not only hinges on how well the model represents the way energy markets work and the validity of the assumptions that underpin that model, but also on the occurrence of ‘game changer’ events in the economy at large….
When reading articles about the findings in WEO-2012, these scenarios, although not forecasts, are treated as being the truth….

The majority of the oil we consume is crude oil and this statement from WEO-2012 should be noted by all: ‘Crude oil output from those fields that were in production in 2011 falls by close to two-thirds, to only 26 mb/d by 2035 (Figure 3.15). Thus, the projected production of 65 mb/d in 2035 requires almost 40 mb/d of new capacity to be added over the projection period. Of this capacity, 26 mb/d, or 66%, comes from discovered fields yet to be developed, most of which are in OPEC countries, and the remaining 13 mb/d from fields that have yet to be found, mainly in non-OPEC countries.’

Is there any possibility at all—any—that Dr. Aleklett (among others critical of the Outlook) might possess at least some vague working knowledge of the information reported and might thus be at least marginally correct in his assessments? If we’re willing to grant him that at the very least, wouldn’t it make sense to start some conversations at a broader level to determine if we might/should consider a plan or two … just in case he’s right?

Granted, it’s only our, and our children’s, future well-being that we’re talking about, so it’s not as though it’s anything of importance. But just to give us all something to do on the weekends, perhaps some plans might be kicked around?

* My Photo: Good Harbor Beach, MA – 09.04.05





The magnificence of the shale oil “revolution” generated by the International Energy Agency’s wildly optimistic forecasts for future oil production in its 2012 World Energy Outlook has found favor with a large contingent in the media and elsewhere. No great surprise, of course. Good news is good news, even if it’s not exactly all it’s cracked up to be, as I discussed in two of my posts from last week [here and here].

This is typical of the exuberant commentary:

By extending the supply-side, shale oil also changes the peak oil equation and arguably militates against alternative energy: is shale oil production already balancing declining production from established ‘peak oil’ fields? [1]

Uh … no, actually, it isn’t and it won’t. But since the facts about shale production put a damper on all that enthusiasm, it’s best not to discuss those annoying details. [A strategy that’s also no great surprise.]

A recent two-part series in Barrons online [here and here] by Thomas G. Donlan—which also sung the praises of this amazing feat of technological prowess—got my attention for different, and disturbing, reasons.

Accepting without question the similarly over-the-top enthusiasm for shale’s prospects by an official of the American Petroleum Institute (no issues about objectivity there!), the author of those two pieces pivoted to a broad swipe against all those who oppose the balls-to-the-walls plunge into shale production, stating that “some” opponents “disparage the American lifestyle, especially its freedom of mobility in cars,” (say what?) while “Others fear the costs of new technologies — whether the costs be financial, social, or environmental.”

Imagine that! “Some” people have a lot of nerve, don’t they? Social costs? Environmental concerns? We’ve got pillaging to do and profits to make, people! We’re not sticking around after we’ve fracked-up your communities, so excuse us if we don’t give a rat’s ass about social or environmental costs. As for financial costs … we pass that on to you, so what’s the big deal?

Mr. Donlan also found fault with the federal government’s unwillingness to issue permits for exploration “off the California coast, the Atlantic Seaboard, and the west coast of Florida.” In what may or may not have been a Freudian slip, he complained that those actions “choked off exploitation.”

One common definition of the term “exploitation” is: “Utilization of another person or group for selfish purposes.” My own handy-dandy Macbook offered this: “The action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.” Granted, that’s my spin, but it’s not all that far from the truth, given that his objections stemmed from his assessment that the federal government’s refusal was “to please shore-side homeowners and businesses.” Imagine giving those freeloaders preference over The Oil Industry! Shocking!

Back in September, a revealing article by Evelyn Nieves entitled “The North Dakota Oil Fracking Boom Creates Clash of Money and Devastation,” offered a dose of reality about the lives of “some” of those people:

No one imagined tanker trucks barreling up and down Main Street, back-to-back like freight trains, seven days and nights a week. No one predicted construction zones that grind traffic to a halt as far as the eye can see, the deafening clatter of semis, the dust kicked up by 10,000 vehicles pulverizing the two-lane road every day or the smell and taste of diesel. No one anticipated the accidents, two or more a week on Main Street and all over the rutted reservation roads, costing lives and shattering families.
In fact, Fort Berthold, home of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, or Three Affiliated Tribes, did not reckon on a lot when North Dakota invited the energy industry to Drill Baby Drill. No one knew that energy companies in search of housing for their workers would buy private property and evict some of the reservation’s poorest residents from their homes. No one planned on police and fire calls multiplying. No one guessed that on a reservation of nearly one million acres, all the deer would disappear.

Just a guess, but I’m wondering Mr. Donlan might have been thinking about those Fort Berthold residents in Ms. Nieves’ article when he wrote this criticism of Elmira, New York’s apparent unwillingness to bow down to the fracking gods, no questions asked:

Elmira has plenty of company and support in the legions of foot-draggers who oppose fracking. In addition to an invasion of roughnecks and roustabouts, antifrackers fear earthquakes, cancer, water pollution, land-clearing, road-building, wear and tear on existing roads from heavy trucks, and local poor people being driven to homelessness because well-paid drillers would bid up rents. In short, antifrackers seem to fear profits and prosperity.

Elmira officials and residents are expressing concerns about “earthquakes, cancer, water pollution, land-clearing, road-building, wear and tear on existing roads from heavy trucks, and local poor people being driven to homelessness because well-paid drillers would bid up rents,” and we’re supposed to accept this as little more than “in short” irrational behavior because profits are to be made?

Seriously? Good to have priorities straight, Right?

Who’s making those profits? Whose prosperity, what kind of “prosperity” after the frackers are long gone, and at what cost to those left behind? Facts still suck.

Perhaps some of those profits might be plowed back into teaching some people about having a bit of humanity and perspective….But then, that would mean passing up a possible chance of more “profits and prosperity” somewhere. Can’t have that, no matter what the price, Right?

* My Photo: sunset near Half Moon Bay, CA – 09.15.04


[1]; World’s oil industry won’t be the same in the wake of shale by Malcolm Maiden – 12.08.12





An observation worth noting … and pondering, from Sharon Astyk.

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.

The recent and much-touted International Energy Agency report, citing among other expectations the United States’ rise to the top of the oil production pyramid in a few short years, was certainly music to the ears of those hoping for some good news and verification that the “theory” of Peak Oil has at last (once again) been put to bed.

Good news everyone! Business as usual is just around the corner! No pesky energy conservation measures and no diversion of funds to research alternative sources. Nothing but smooth sailing ahead. Anyone seen any Hummers for sale?

Who cares about facts when such good news is just there for the picking, right? Continuing depletion of conventional resources? We’re not gonna pay any attention to no stinkin’ depletion … that just musses up a good story. We’re just gonna keep frackin’, consequences and facts be damned. Full speed ahead … we’ll worry about the Wall when we get close.

Who cares about how many wells must be drilled almost constantly to maintain some semblance of increasing production? Costs per well? Who cares? Keeping oil prices high to justify all that extra drilling and investment? We’ll figure something out soon enough….Rapid depletion of new wells in the tight oil formations of the Bakken and elsewhere? Can’t be bothered to worry about that! We’ll just drill more!

So what if most of the good stuff has already been found and produced … we’ll just drill even more, dammit!

No time for plans; no time for intelligent and reasoned assessments. And damn sure there’s no time to explore opportunities or make use of our great attributes to consider other options. Nope! Gotta drill, baby, drill!

Good news is good news, even if the facts and reality suggest otherwise. Hell of a strategy….Just wish we weren’t all getting dragged along for the unpleasant ride.

* My Photo: Rockport MA – 05.16.11

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!


~ ~ ~

Rachel Maddow:
Republicans Got Shellacked’ On Election Night (VIDEO)

~ ~ ~

Robert Reich
We the People, and the New American Civil War

~ ~ ~

Michael Cohen
How the Republican party sabotaged itself: the real story of the 2012 election

~ ~ ~

Conor Friedersdorf
How Conservative Media Lost to the MSM and Failed the Rank and File

~ ~ ~

Mark Morford
The Great Obamagasm of 2012

~ ~ ~

Robert Reich
Obama’s Next Economy: Why He Must Take This Opportunity to Reframe the Economic Debate

~ ~ ~

Andrew Leonard
Conservatives stare into the abyss

~ ~ ~

Jonathan Haidt
We Need a Little Fear

~ ~ ~

Conor Friedersdorf
Fake History in the Making: Karen Hughes’ Bad Advice for the GOP

~ ~ ~

David Frum
Conservatives, don’t despair

~ ~ ~

Steve Kornacki
How Bill Kristol could split the GOP in two

~ ~ ~

Tom Murphy
Crippling Intellects

~ ~ ~

Peter Coy
U.S. the New Saudi Arabia? Peak Oilers Scoff

~ ~ ~

David Roberts
The moral logic of climate communication

~ ~ ~

Jonathan Martin
The GOP’s media cocoon

~ ~ ~

Robert Rapier
Hofmeister: Surging Demand and Flat Production Equals High Oil Prices

~ ~ ~

Gail Tverberg
IEA Oil Forecast Unrealistically High; Misses Diminishing Returns

~ ~ ~

Richard Read
U.S. Oil Future: Energy Independent By 2030, Bigger Than Saudis In 2020

~ ~ ~

Tom Whipple
The peak oil crisis: alternative futures

~ ~ ~

Jim Greenberger
The Real Energy Crisis

~ ~ ~

Damian Carrington
IEA report reminds us peak oil idea has gone up in flames

~ ~ ~

Jennifer Granholm
The GOP’s credibility gap

~ ~ ~

Erik Curren
With America distracted by oil bubble, peak oil patiently waits

~ ~ ~

Jeffrey Simpson
The end of the oil world as we know it

~ ~ ~

Richard Kirsch
An Agenda For Revitalizing Our Democracy

~ ~ ~

Michael Lind
What I Learned at a Conservative Think Tank: Propaganda Now, Facts Later!

~ ~ ~

James Howard Kunstler
Peak oil, peak bullshit

~ ~ ~

Roger Blanchard
A Closer Look at Bakken and U.S. Oil Production

~ ~ ~

Chris Nelder
U.S. will not surpass Saudi Arabia’s oil production by 2020

~ ~ ~

Michael T. Klare
World Energy Report 2012: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Truly Ugly










There’s been a fair amount of rejoicing in some circles of the energy world in recent weeks on the heels of the wildly optimistic forecasts for future oil production as contained in the recently-released 2012 World Energy Outlook by the International Energy Agency (IEA). As if the generous expectations weren’t enough, miracles of miracles the good ‘ol U S of A is predicted to once again be Number One in world oil production in less than a decade.

Peak Oil is history! Hooray for us. The Magic Technology Fairy has come through just in the nick of time. What a holiday gift for everyone; those gas-guzzling SUVs should start flying out of showrooms any day now.

But every now and then, a little rain must fall on parades. Facts and reality have made their way into the dialogue about our future “energy independence.” A slightly different story results when those in the know take a look behind the International Energy Agency’s curtain.

Yes, United States’ oil production has risen in recent years. No one disputes that. However, few in the media and fewer still who should know better (and most likely do), decide against telling the whole story. Why bother to let the rest of the world know that the rise in oil production still leaves us many millions of barrels per day short of our 1970 production peak? [It goes without saying that those who deny the facts never get around to pointing out pesky little factoids such as the IEA’s own caveats, or that it is once again asserting a portion of the increase in U.S. oil production will come from fields “yet-to-be found.” Good to be optimistic!]

Adding liquids to the production totals which should not be factored in adds another feel-good element to the story of oil abundance, but that’s not exactly the truth, either.

[N]atural gas liquids are not equivalent to oil. They contain only about two-thirds of the energy content of oil; they are far less versatile in their applications; and only about 19 percent of a barrel of natural gas liquids is actually usable as vehicular fuel. If the implication is that the U.S. is going to be able to drive around on its own domestically-produced fuel, then that implication is simply wrong. [1] [See this also].

So while gushing over our marvelous ingenuity and technological prowess in having revolutionized oil production by utilization of “fracking” to blast open shale formations and release oil trapped in the layers [a very simplistic explanation of what is actually a complex process], those who deny the reality about our fossil fuel resources never get around to sharing important details which most of us should be aware of. Who benefits when the details are omitted, shaded, or hidden? Fairly certain it’s not you or me….

Even just a few more of those damned annoying facts dull the luster of the feel-good news. And I won’t begin to discuss the environmental issues associated with fracking, our ongoing failure to invest more aggressively in alternative energy options, or the effects on climate change—but thank goodness that’s a “hoax” perpetrated by tens of thousands of scientists who are scheming to … ah, do things in … um, certain ways to … ah, get some … uh, benefits of some kind.

[I’d highly recommend reading the articles cited in the “Sources” section below to get the full picture….]

Recent US news reports have highlighted the fact that US oil production has been rising and is now higher than it has been in years. Reports that highlight the recent US oil production increase don’t mention that oil production outside of Texas and North Dakota has actually declined in the last few years….
It appears to me that in the near future, the prime producing area within the four [North Dakota] counties is going to be saturated with oil wells considering that the fracking wells being used can extend up to approximately 2 miles. Assuming that the industry continues to add new wells rapidly, they will have to go to less fruitful areas outside of the prime producing area.
Oil wells in the Bakken region decline rapidly. From data I’ve seen, the average decline in the first year is ~60%. The only way to maintain or increase Bakken oil production is to rapidly increase the number of wells.
As the industry has to drill in less fruitful areas, being able to maintain production will become an increasing challenge. [2]

[P]resently the commercial profitability for new wells is barely positive.
The ‘average’ well now yields around 85 000 Bbls during the first 12 months of production and then experiences a year over year decline of 40% (+/-) 2%
The recent trend for newer ‘average’ wells is one of a perceptible decline in well productivity (lower yields)
As of 2007 and also as of recent months, the total production of shale oil from Bakken, has shown exceptional growth and the (relatively high) specific average productivity (expressed as Bbls/day/well) has been sustained by starting up flow from an accelerating number of new wells
Now and based upon present observed trends for principally well productivity and crude oil futures (WTI), it is challenging to find support for the idea that total production of shale oil from the Bakken formation will move much above present levels of 0.6 – 0.7 Mb/d on an annual basis.
Authoritative research companies (like Bernstein Research) and widely acknowledged specialists/institutions like USGS and SPE have recently and in general arrived at identical conclusions by applying different sets of methodologies and from studying other areas….
The wells normally have a high production at start up that rapidly enters into steep declines.
To facilitate growth in total production an accelerating number of wells needs to be brought into production.
To sustain a plateau requires a continual addition of a high number of producing wells. [3]

One reason the WEO 2012 estimates are unreasonable is because the oil prices shown are unrealistically low relative to the production amounts forecast in the report. This seems to occur because the IEA misses the problem of diminishing returns. As the easy-to-produce oil becomes more depleted, and we need to move to more difficult reservoirs, the cost of extraction increases.
In fact, there is evidence that the ‘tight’ oil referenced in Exhibit 1 is already starting to reach production limits, at current prices. The only way these production limits might be reasonably overcome is with higher oil prices–much higher than the IEA is assuming in any of its forecasts.
Higher oil prices cause a huge problem because of their impact on the world economy. The IEA in fact mentions that current high oil prices are already acting as a brake on the global economy in its first slide for the press. Higher oil prices also mean that investment costs required to reach target production levels will be even higher than forecast by the IEA, adding another impediment to reaching its forecast production levels.
If higher prices put the economies of oil importing nations into recession, then oil prices will drop lower, reducing the incentive to invest in new oil production infrastructure….
There are other issues as well. If there is a need to drill an increasing number of wells just to stay even, or an even larger number, to increase the amount of oil produced,  we start to reach limits on many kinds: number of rigs available, number of workers available, miles driven for water to be used for fracking. Perhaps the issue that will limit production first, though, is limits on debt available to producers. Rune Likvern has also shown that cash flows from tight oil extraction tend to run ‘in the red,’ so an increasing amount of  debt financing is needed as operations ramp up. At some point, companies hit their credit limit and have to stop adding new wells until cash flow catches up. [4]

But wait, suggests the IEA, there’s still one wild card hope out there: Iraq. Yes, Iraq. In the belief that the Iraqis will somehow overcome their sectarian differences, attain a high level of internal stability, establish a legal framework for oil production, and secure the necessary investment and technical support, the IEA predicts that its output will jump from 3.4 million barrels per day this year to 8 million barrels in 2035, adding an extra 4.6 million barrels to the global supply. In fact, claims the IEA, this gain would represent half the total increase in world oil production over the next 25 years. Certainly, stranger things have happened, but for the obvious reasons, it remains an implausible scenario. [5]

I’ll ask the same question I and others have asked on countless occasions: Wouldn’t it be a good idea to do a bit of planning for something other than fossil fuels as our energy supplier?

* My Photo: low tide at Good Harbor Beach, MA – 11.13.12


[1]; U.S. will not surpass Saudi Arabia’s oil production by 2020 by Chris Nelder – 11.28.12
[2]; A Closer Look at Bakken and U.S. Oil Production by Roger Blanchard – 11.21.12
[3]; Is Shale Oil Production from Bakken Headed for a Run with “The Red Queen”? by Rune Likvern – 09.25.12
[4]; IEA Oil Forecast Unrealistically High; Misses Diminishing Returns by Gail Tverberg – 11.13.12
[5]; World Energy Report 2012: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Truly Ugly by Michael T. Klare – 11.27.12