As I mentioned in my last post, there are some common threads running through the mostly nonsensical camps arguing against the reality that oil is a finite resource which is now on the downside of its maximum production rates … Peak Oil.
[NOTE: If you have not yet read this terrific article by James Quinn and you have even the remotest interest in the realities of our energy future, take a few minutes to do so.]
I outlined some of the initial red flags readers should be alert to when combing through material discussing Peak Oil. If an article contains some or all of the following buzzwords, it’s a good chance that the argument offered against Peak Oil is likely going to be an at-best disingenuous collection of partial truths with all the damning facts contradicting the assertions neatly omitted; or the “facts” within are not exactly the type of facts used by people here in reality.
(1) Peak Oil proponents/doomers are constantly spreading falsehoods that we will soon be “running out of oil.” [The deniers keep saying we are making those claims, when in fact only they are! We know that is not true, but it’s also not the issue!]
(2) We still have “vast” resources [or “giant”; “immense”; “entire new planets of”, etc. … the kind of “facts” you can’t assign numbers to.]
(3) Failure to put genuine facts in any kind of truthful context. [As cited in my last post, mentioning a find of 250 million barrels of oil as yet another sign that we Peak Oil nutcases are full of it conveniently fails to point out that a find like that one will meet three days’ worth of oil demand, and thus loses a fair amount of its impressive-sounding luster.] *
(4) The newest talking point: “The now-discredited theory of Peak Oil.” [Each time that assertion is offered, any credible authority substantiating that claim never gets mentioned, curiously enough. So the “now-discredited” part is actually the writer’s own fact-free assessment. Does save research time!]
* A glaring recent example of this comes from David Holt, President of the Consumer Energy Alliance, arguing in favor of more drilling in the Arctic [my emphasis added]:
Energy exploration in Alaska’s OCS, in both the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, is expected to produce 25 billion barrels of oil over the next 40 years. This is the equivalent of 2010 imports from Iraq and Russia combined. That production will also spur nearly $200 billion in government revenue from royalties and taxes, and 55,000 new jobs per year for generations.
Two comments on this disingenuous-at-best effort to inject meaningful facts into the dialogue:
(1) Take your handy calculator and do the math to discover just how many barrels per year Mr. Holt’s assertions will add to our energy supply (assuming full production at some distant point on the time horizon, while keeping in mind what might be involved in Arctic oil production; and the inconvenient fact that we use approximately 85 million barrels of oil per day);
(2) In reading the jobs claims Peak Oil deniers tout repeatedly, it would appear that only fossil fuel production and exploration produces tax revenue and creates jobs … go figure! (The comparison to imports from Russia and Iraq is important for apparently secret reasons.)
One of the “best” examples of Test Criteria # 5 comes from the same Clifford Krauss (New York Times) I mentioned in last week’s post (and more thoroughly here). In his most recent Peak Oil-related work, Mr. Krauss offered this gem of certainty [emphasis is mine]:
The United States may now have the means to reduce its half century of dependence on the Middle East. China and India may have the means to fuel the development of their growing middle classes. Japan and much of Europe may have the chance to reduce dependence on nuclear power. And, at least theoretically, poor African countries might be able to lift themselves out of poverty.
I may have a winning lottery ticket in my shirt pocket and thus may have the means to purchase my own private island and accordingly may have the chance to reduce my dependence on anyone else to provide anything for me at all; and at least theoretically, I might be the richest man on Earth (and while we’re at it: at least theoretically, pigs might start flying tomorrow).
The tap dance required by these advocates (of an apparently limitless supply of worry-free fossil fuel resources) to make claims with such certainty about complete uncertainties is exhausting to behold. If they weren’t doing so much harm to so many who do not and cannot be expected to have knowledge on this subject, the effort would be Monty Python-esque hilarious!
This kind of physics-defying contortions to make bold claims about nothing is not limited to Mr. Krauss (who, to be fair, has also written many fine pieces for the Times). In one of several prior posts of mine, I highlighted this CNNMoney-Fortune Hall of Fame effort [emphasis added is mine]:
“There are many oil reserves around the globe that remain untapped, and explorers continue to discover new fields deep beneath the earth’s surface. Depending on how the controversy surrounding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge turns out, the U.S. could exploit oil reserves in the area, despite potentially grave environmental consequences.”
I then noted that: “‘Depending’; ‘could’ … along with ‘might potentially’, ‘if’, ‘could be possible’, and an array of similar, carefully-worded utterly-lacking-in-certainty phrases are the apparent stock in trade for those denying those annoying facts about declining world oil production.’” (Glossing over “potentially grave environmental consequences” is in a category all by itself.) And perhaps an explanation as to what’s involved in getting to “new fields deep beneath the earth’s surface” might be a good idea?
That article is the poster child for denier nonsense, as I took pains to detail in that February 10, 2011 post. I can only assume that the purpose or intent is to offer semi-plausible assertions to those whom the authors fully expect to accept their claims unquestioningly, thus protecting whatever their ideological, financial, or business interests might be, and all with only the most minimal of efforts at sharing the truth.
Even if they were right and we do have at least several more decades of plentiful, easily-obtained, relatively inexpensive supplies of fossil fuels (which we don’t!), by what perverse notion of long-term thinking are they content to do absolutely nothing to begin the beyond-description complex transition away from fossil fuel dependency?
Anyone looking out their window and/or taking a quick peek at all the gizmos and gadgets inside would have to be completely delusional in failing to realize that almost everything we have, own, use, depend on is in some measure large or small a product of fossil fuel.
Just how much effort, time, money, planning, trial-and-erroring, marketing, producing, implementing, and transitioning to something other than fossil fuel dependency do these deniers think might be involved in swapping out this way of living for a non-fossil fuel existence? Full-blown denial and misrepresentation is their idea of contributing to our collective well-being (and their own)? Seriously?
The Hirsch Report (see this and also my series beginning here) is among the most influential energy studies undertaken in the past decade. A major conclusion reached by the authors left little doubt as to the depth and breadth of challenges we will face (deniers included).
The peaking of world oil production presents the U.S. and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem. As peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically, and, without timely mitigation, the economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented. Viable mitigation options exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to have substantial impact, they must be initiated more than a decade in advance of peaking.
Mitigation will require an intense effort over decades. This inescapable conclusion is based on the time required to replace vast numbers of liquid fuel consuming vehicles and the time required to build a substantial number of substitute fuel production facilities. Our scenarios analysis shows:
• Waiting until world oil production peaks before taking crash program action would leave the world with a significant liquid fuel deficit for more than two decades.
• Initiating a mitigation crash program 10 years before world oil peaking helps considerably but still leaves a liquid fuels shortfall roughly a decade after the time that oil would have peaked.
• Initiating a mitigation crash program 20 years before peaking appears to offer the possibility of avoiding a world liquid fuels shortfall for the forecast period.
The obvious conclusion from this analysis is that with adequate, timely mitigation, the economic costs to the world can be minimized. If mitigation were to be too little, too late, world supply/demand balance will be achieved through massive demand destruction (shortages), which would translate to significant economic hardship.
There will be no quick fixes. Even crash programs will require more than a decade to yield substantial relief.
Is it really in anyone’s best interests to instead rely upon a host of head-in-the-sand “mights” and “possiblys” and “may haves” and “coulds”?
More to come….