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April 01, 2006



It strikes me that "peak oil" is true, and that it is being "disproved" by broadening the definition of "oil."

There is an obvious movement (I think the SEC has to sign off on "reserves") to reclassify some "non-conventional" oils as just oils.

What's this mean from a peak oil perspective? To me the real story is the decline of conventional oils, as your story indicates. Of course we will find alternatives ... post peak (conventional) oil, the interesting stories will be economic and environmental (how expensive and how damaging?)


It strikes me that "peak oil" is an unfalsifiable argument in the Popperian sense. Nothing at all could possibly falsify "peak oil" in the eyes of the believer.

Still, Jim has it right. We are looking at higher prices, and higher non-monetary costs for fossil fuels currently. To claim that production has peaked when demand and consumption grow ever higher, is obtuse.


So how far are you going to take the redefinitions? If coal-to-liquids become widescale in production, does that mean "oil" has not peaked, because "demand and consumption grow ever higher?"

In my past I've been a scientist and engineer, and what I like is concrete nomenclature, upon which one builds meaningful knowledge.

To simply redefine oil periodically is obtuse.


BTW, no one who honestly understands the nomenclature of "peak oil" thinks that means "peak fossil fuels."


I think the overall jist of the popular peak oil idea is that the production rate of total liquid fuels, what ever they are, will peak and decline. I think if increases in the production rate for fossil fuel alternatives prevents this from happening then the doomsday scenario many people have envisioned and associated with "Peak oil" is proven wrong. We won't know if this is likely to happen or not at least until world wide fossil fuel production rates decline, which they havn't yet as far as I can tell.


Another consideration is Enhanced Oil Recovery. Not only would it sequester CO2, but the supply of conventional oil would be increased very significantly.

Rod Adams


Nothing you or your readers wrote disputes the basic theories that underpin the "Peak Oil" theory.

As understood by the people that have studied the theory, the idea is that there is a finite amount of oil in the world. Our rate of extracting that oil increases as we get better technology and have more demands for the oil. At some point, which appears to be in the reasonably near future, we will reach a point where the ability to increase our rate of production slows to the point where the rate of increase (the slope of the production curve) reaches zero.

Though the rate of production might remain at that level for some period of time, it will eventually begin to decline. The decline is not caused by running out of oil, it is caused by running out of oil that is relatively easy to extract. That easy oil also made it fairly easy to increase the rate of production quite impressively for many years.

When you start having to invest in the infrastructures required to process tar sands more rapidly or shale, or use enhance recovery techniques on old production fields, you necessarily reach a stage where it simply takes a long enough time to bring on new production that it is IMPOSSIBLE to sustain the production rate.

When the amount of oil available to burn each year begins to decrease - even when there is still A LOT of oil left in the ground - economics 101 predicts a rather significant price increase. This will help pay for the necessary infrastructure, but it will not make it any easier to build the machinery, drill the holes, or lay the pipelines from new production areas.

This whole concept is what "Peak Oil" is really all about and why I accept the logic as something that makes sense and helps to predict the general trend of future production and pricing.


"I think the overall jist of the popular peak oil idea is that the production rate of total liquid fuels, what ever they are, will peak and decline."

People abuse all kinds of precise, sceintific, definitions. (Look at abuses of Heisenberg.) That doesn't make the loose interpretations right, or the loose definitions valid.

FWIW, I think we can talk about the peak of any non-renewable/non-recyclable resource. Just be concrete about which resource you are talking about. Are we at peak fossil fuel? Not even. Are we at peak light-sweet crude, maybe now. Are we at peak conventional oil? Maybe in this decade.

But if you muddy it up with a constantly changing definition of oil ... you can't have a serious conversation.


If the plentiful windpower on the Canadian plains were used for extraction and refining tar sands oil, the CO 2 release and environmental damage would be minimal. Electric plasma conversion extracts the oil and turns it directly into vapor ready for refining.

It compresses the extraction and refining into one process and leaves the sand where it's at, only removing the oil.

The present process uses steam necessitating the pollution of groundwater and the removal with huge mining equipment of the tar sands from the ground into the extraction equipment. After extraction the oil is separated from the water then transported to refinerires, which have to be specially modified to handle the thicker oil.

The only problem with wind powered electric plasma extraction is that it simultaneously develops wind power, which then can replace the need for oil. Thus cutting the demand for the oil. Companies who own oil do not like that result.

BTW, all this talk of peak oil is wrong headed anyway, peak global climate disaster is the serious issue. The oil reserves in Russia, for instance, have not even been explored or quantified.

CO 2 sequestration is a bad joke, just like "clean" coal. Who is going to verify that CO 2 pumped underground actually stays underground? The oil industry? hehehey.

Good old self regulation. It would be prudent for everyone to instead start noting the cycle of destruction unleashed by methane released from melting permafrost.

Peak oil, schmeak oil.


Global warming is a bigger, longer term, problem than peak oil.

But having a precise definition for peak oil allows you to discuss it, and the other environmental, economic, and political problems in context.

Peak oil has strong implications for global warming if we (world wide) move to unregulated coal.

Peak oil has strong implications for tropical agriculture if it spurs greater produciton of energy crops.


Joe Deely

I must agree with amazindrx and his "Peak oil, Schmeak Oil'

This whole Peak Oil thing is just a joke. The real problem is that we have too MUCH cheap oil and too MUCH cheap coal.

Peak Oilers need to take Econ 101. As demand outstrips supply, prices will go up, we will extract more expensive reserves, we will find more oil and we WILL start to use substitutes... whether they are Oil sands, oil from shale (this seems to be ignored) and Coal to Liquid and finally we will find more ways to become more efficient and use less oil. The world economy will continue to grow.

As others have stated the true problem is CO2 and Global Warming. What we need is a large carbon tax and we need it soon. This is the only way we will sllow down our use of fossil fuels.


I don't doubt that there are "peak oilers" who need to take econ ... there are also peak oilers who are economists:


It is really stupid to think that price feedback is being ignored in this.


As our technology has increased in the United States, we actually use less oil per capita now than we did during the first crisis in '73. If memory serves, the same activities now only use about 55% as much.

I have high hopes for oil-from-algae. It solves two problems: energy independence, and CO2 emissions. While we will not stop using coal anytime soon, we can re-use that emissions to enhance growth from algae and thus get a net reduction.

step back

OK. So you jest us with this April 1 posting.
But for those that buy into the "running out of oil" lie that runs like so much frothing diaherrea from the mouths of anti-Peakers, note that we will never run out of the "oil" stuff. The language is chosen for its semantic spin mastery. There will always be one last drop of liquid hydrocarbon trapped between unseen rocks far underground. We will never "run out" of oil. We will merely pay more dearly for each drop that gets us closer to the ever-elusive last drop.


step back,
Well said!

While your point about definition is true in theory, as a PO believer I think PO is only relevant in terms of its perceived consequences. Anything else would be like pointing out that iron could no longer be mined from a particular mineral, while it was still in plentiful supply in others. Who cares!?

Well, when it comes to fueling a one-person-per-giant-SUV culture with extremely dirty tar sands, shale oil, coal, etc., I care!

It was always about the environmental consequences for me, and still is. I just think PO will come before any major environmental disaster/degradation and has the potential of being felt harder on Western economies. That being said, looking at the reduction in global consumption in 1980, I'd just like to point out that we all survived... And there was no warning back then. No plateu for a decade or two before that decline.

There may be a silver lining after all. Sustained high oil price (from high production costs) and plenty of energy may just be what the doctor ordered for renewable energy to finally become commercially competitive.


Rod Adams

Cervus wrote:

"As our technology has increased in the United States, we actually use less oil per capita now than we did during the first crisis in '73. If memory serves, the same activities now only use about 55% as much."

That is an incorrect statement. I agree that we use less oil per unit of GDP. However, the activities in the United States have changed considerably since 1973. Our steel, aluminum, chemical, and plastics production facilities have largely moved off-shore. Their energy consumption no longer shows up in our statistics, but the energy is still being consumed somewhere else in the world.

If we had to include the energy content on the bill of lading for imported goods, we would see that our energy consumption per person had increased quite considerably since the oil shocks of the 1970s.


Does any one of you know what peak oil is? It´s not running out of oil, it´s simply peaking the maximum production capacity. And what happens whith the price of oil when the production is unable to satisfy the demands of the growing economy? Just what´s happening now, the price goes up. What happens when production starts to decrease on a daily basis in this growing economy? the same that happened in america in the 70s, prices whent caotic, only this time it will happen world wide.
As the article clearly states, the remaining sources of oil require a bigger energy input to extract the oil, meaning a higher price. Also, the oil extraction is much slower. The oil sources that remain now in the world are the ones that are harder to extract, and the plethora of technologies created to increase extraction are not keeping up fast enough to be able to fulfill the demand.
So, are we runing out of oil? certainly not. We are at the peak of production.

See you down the slope


"has vaulted Venezuela and Canada to first and third in global reserves rankings, although Venezuela's holdings in extra-heavy crude are a rough guess. Saudi Arabia is No. 2. Not including the oil sands, Canada would fall to No. 22."

here we go again: don't worry, Canada is the new Saudi Arabia that will satisfy US addiction to oil for eons to come! as stated by Rod Adams above, peak oil is not about "how much oil left?" but rather "how fast (and at what cost) can I extract the available oil?". Canadian synfuel production from tar sands is planned to increase 2-3 mbpd by 2015 thanks to huge capital investment. At the same time:
1- US oil consumption will grow by the same amount!
2- Mexico's production is about to decline (Mexico is the second source of oil inports for the US)
3- conventional Canadian oil production is declining.


I doubt we'll be able to extract non-conventional oil fast enough to maintain a stupid US-style SUV culture. But they could help slow the decline and keep society running. As JD at Peak Oil Debunked says, the ideal thing is a long tail — oil that trickles out just fast enough to power agriculture, public transport, plastic manufacturing and so forth, but not fast enough for stupid, environmentally damaging uses. Also, that would mean high prices encouraging innovation. That's where I see things going at the moment.


Has anyone denying peak oil ever read Stephen Leeb's Book? It goes over the ideas behind the rhetoric and gives a very clear picture of where the price of oil is going and the impact that this will have on the world economy. People said Stephen was crazy when at $30 per barrel he predicted oil would go to $50. What is the price of oil today? Close to $65, at this price it will affect the economy. With lack of growth in the US Economy, burgeoning US debt and real estate going south, more expensive oil is going to put the breaks on economic growth. That is the only thing peak oilers really care about; the impact on the world economy. This makes for a volatile mix. When demand for oil from India and China, who combined will soon be the largest economies on the planet, start to take hold, prices will continue to go higher, up to $200 per barrel as per Leeb. If that happens it doesn't matter how much oil is left in the ground or in shale or oils sands, the world economy will struggle to bear the load.

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