This is the fifth in a series of posts [* links below] examining the latest entry straight from the playbook on peak oil denial—that seemingly never-ending attempt to ignore facts, mis-/under-inform readers, or create ever-rising levels of non-credible optimism.

[NOTE: Any quotes in this series are taken from the above-referenced Manhattan Institute paper unless otherwise noted. Links to sources/citations/footnotes within those quotes are located in the original report.]

This post focuses on general considerations about oil exploration and policy.

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While admittedly impressive—and a genuine testament to ingenuity and technological progress—I’m hard-pressed to understand why devoting nearly 2000 words of this report to the minutiae of drilling enhancements should be extended/interpreted to suggest it’s another nail in peak oil’s coffin. A terrific recitation offered by Mr. Bryce, but … so what? Inventing more powerful vacuum cleaners to suck the last few pennies from the innards of everyone’s sofas is still about sucking those last few pennies here, there, and everywhere.

Perhaps a different strategy and focus would be worth considering? No one doubts there are great minds available to consider other options.

I can’t imagine anyone writing about or involved in energy would doubt the marvels of progress in the industry  as Mr. Bryce meticulously explained, (no matter which side of a debate they might be on). It is extraordinary! But we could just as easily discuss advances over the past century or so in medicine, manufacturing, computers … the list is a long one.

Progress does not mandate abandoning all other approaches. It’s essential that all other options be explored and embraced as needed—assuming progress for the greater good is the objective.

Given a hundred years’ lead time and countless billions in profits available for research and testing, I’d wager the renewables industry might conjure up an impressive innovation or two….Given what’s at stake, that actually might be worth testing out!

[E]very year, the U.S. oil and gas sector is spending more than $120 billion drilling new wells. Given that level of spending, the industry has huge incentives to improve its processes, hardware, training, and personnel.

Of course it does! Who doubts that? Doesn’t that apply to every business? But the obvious question is unchanged: Why go to such lengths and incredible expense, unless…?

Although ongoing innovation in the drilling industry is obvious, the ‘clean’ energy sector is the one that gets most of the attention from politicians, political appointees, and environmental groups.

Which politicians and appointees? All of them? Probably not too many Republicans in that group; but if we mention that, then the complaint loses some steam.

“Environmental groups” are focusing on clean energy? Really? Shocking! What’s that? The oil industry is focusing on oil and gas? Are you kidding? Politicians and appointees are giving those corporations most of their attention? Stop the presses!

Supporters’ instincts are to support who and what they believe in. Shocking! Still, it’s good every now and then to take stock and assess objectives balanced against means. Now and then, different paths are the only way to get “there.” Ideology at all costs would be a cute bumper sticker, but the “at all costs” factor carries a big downside.

All of these astounding investment numbers and complaints also obscure another point the author and his peers seem determined to skirt: the emphasis on renewables is an attempt to actually consider the facts below and above ground regarding our future supplies of finite energy resources and reserves.

Doesn’t every organization expect its leaders to make some prudent policy determinations and strategic decisions about the future by assessing what’s available to meet objectives? Shouldn’t even a minimal recognition that change and adaptation is the norm factor into planning? Given the evidence, how can these other factors be rationally ignored or trivialized any longer? I’ve said it before and say it again: Blind Faith is still and always a better rock band than business strategy.

Single-minded zeal is a hallmark of success, but so isn’t wisdom—and an ability/willingness to adapt as needed. (If not, that’s going to surprise the hell out of a lot of coaches and business leaders in every industry….)

Where’s the wisdom in continuing to shovel piles of money at the wealthiest corporations in this planet’s history so they can continue to be the wealthiest corporations for at least some years longer—consequences to the rest of us be damned? Finite still means finite; harder-to-come-by and more expensive, less efficient energy resources are still harder-to-come-by, more expensive, and less efficient; and oh by the way: more people around the globe are seeking to advance their societies just as we have.

How’s that math supposed to work out if we aren’t exploring all options and recognizing that some paths will inevitably lead us away from where we want to be?

Facts still suck! Perhaps one day (soon) these advocates of the Magic of Technology might devote some of their considerable and impressive talents to providing more information and resources to help our and their children with better and healthier environments—even if that removes a zero or two from the bottom line.

It’s a thought….

~ My Photo: Florida Keys – 02.22.05

* links to prior posts in this series: