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Thread: Not another End of Oil story...

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Not Another End of Oil Story...

    by Richard Heinberg on September 11, 2008 - 7:49pm.
    In the wide but shallow literature of the Peak Oil debunkers and critics, one objection crops up repeatedly: People have wrongly predicted the end of oil again and again down through the years. They’ve always been wrong. Why should the new crop of Peak Oil theorists be any different?

    ExxonMobil says it; Daniel Yergin says it. It’s an accusation that’s easy to make, easy to understand, and doesn’t require much real thinking or analysis. What’s not to like about it?

    Just the fact that it’s simplistic tripe, that’s all.

    Supply problems with oil are inevitable eventually, since petroleum is a non-renewable, depleting resource. All experts, if pressed, acknowledge that world oil production will reach a peak and decline. Therefore Peak Oil is only a question of when, not if.

    So it is perfectly reasonable to investigate the question of when supply problems are likely to appear. Indeed, it would be foolish not to do so. Like every scientific investigation, the study of oil depletion is subject to a learning curve. In the early days of the oil industry, the data were sketchy and the methods of gathering and analyzing it were—well, crude. As time passed, the analytical tools became more sophisticated and the data pool more robust. Speculation about oil depletion that was made prior to the 1950s occurred during a period when world discoveries of oil were still increasing. An accurate global peaking forecast was simply not possible then.

    M. King Hubbert, perhaps the greatest geophysicist of the last century, did pioneering work in helping elucidate the process of oilfield depletion, and in 1956 correctly forecast that the peak of US oil production would occur around 1970. This was possible largely because US oil discoveries had been declining since 1930 and the US was further along the depletion curve than the world as a whole.

    Depletion studies have advanced considerably since Hubbert made that fateful forecast. Moreover, we now have decades more data for exploration, production, and depletion on which to base analysis and forecasts. World oil discoveries have generally declined since 1964, and the average size of oilfields discovered has also declined.

    Therefore there is every reason to assume more accuracy for a global oil depletion analysis produced today than, say, an assertion made in 1900 that oil would run out by 1920. Such early pronouncements typically just extrapolated depletion and production declines from existing oilfields without factoring in future discoveries. Today’s depletion analysis not only factors in discovery trends, but also the contribution of new technologies for exploration and production.

    Modified Hubbert analysis successfully predicted oil production peaks not just for the US, but for Britain, Norway, Mexico, Oman, Russia, and other producing countries. Meanwhile, official agencies like the US Department of Energy and the International Energy Agency, which do not employ any version of Hubbert analysis, failed to forecast these peaks and declines. If past success is a criterion, Hubbert analysis is a winner.

    However, some depletion analysts base their peaking forecasts not on Hubbert analysis, but on a painstaking process of adding up scores of individual production projects and their likely contributions and start-up dates, and then subtracting production that will be lost year-by-year due to declines from existing fields. Tellingly, these “bottom-up” analysts forecast dates for the world oil production peak that are very close to those forecast by Hubbert analysts—most forecasts from both camps falling within the period from 2008 to 2013.

    In short, the “They were wrong then, so they must be wrong now” platitude is illogical and misleading. But that won’t stop yet another oil booster from trotting it out yet again tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after.

    Prepare to cringe.

    Not Another End of Oil Story... | Post Carbon Institute

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    I'm all for alternatives to oil. I think Thomas Friedman was right in saying that the next big boom would be in the alternative-fuels market, and the U.S. should be an early adopter if it wants to get in on the boom.

    However, isn't a site like the "Post-Carbon Institute" going to be wearing its agenda on its sleeve?

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MohandasKGanja View Post
    I'm all for alternatives to oil. I think Thomas Friedman was right in saying that the next big boom would be in the alternative-fuels market, and the U.S. should be an early adopter if it wants to get in on the boom.

    However, isn't a site like the "Post-Carbon Institute" going to be wearing its agenda on its sleeve?
    And that agenda would be to get everyone prepared for the end of the age of oil since it is right around the corner. Demand is skyrocketing and production can't meet the increase.

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fluffy View Post
    And that agenda would be to get everyone prepared for the end of the age of oil since it is right around the corner. Demand is skyrocketing and production can't meet the increase.

    Demand was skyrocketing, and now is decreasing because of a global economic slowdown. I just read a non-partisan article saying that the problem with oil is the ability to surge to meet demand, not that we have a dwindling supply.

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    I didn't say supply was dwindling. I said supply can't meet demand.

    Regardless, the North Sea can't keep up its production volume, which is why Great Britain now has to import oil. Mexico's top field, Cantarell, has peaked as well. Mexico is one of the top producers of the US oil supply.

    Demand has decreased slightly. Notice that demand hasn't sunk to a much lower level like that of the early 90s or the 80s. Demand is still high.

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    I agree. Also, I didn't intend to make it sound like you were implying that supply was dwindling. It's just that my understanding of peak oil was that somehow it was a supply issue instead of a production issue.

    I think the demand level could decrease further depending on how economic events continue to develop. I just read that China's economy is based on hyperdevelopment, and because of a combination of trends a big slowdown in its economic growth and energy needs is likely to emerge, along with total chaos over there.

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    Elite Member Fluffy's Avatar
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    Peak oil means you've reached the maximum production point. Say the peak was at 85 million barrels a day. If world production drops to 55 or 65 million barrels a day you can't have run out of oil. However, that's a difference of 20 to 30 million barrels that are no longer available for consumption.

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