THE BLOG
06/29/2007 11:22 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Peak Oil Theorists Gush Obfuscation!

I know its too much to expect that determined peak oil theorists like ASPO co-founder Steve Andrews will suddenly admit they're wrong-no matter how many times their predictions of doomsday come and go without the world coming to an end. Sometimes all you can do is to shake your head at the stubborn denial. But Mr. Andrew's rejoinder here on the Huffington Post, to my "Peak Oil is Snake Oil!" piece of 6/25/07 requires some untangling to get at the pertinent facts.

The first thing that happens is that ASPO simply changes the text of their argumentation, whereby reference to flawed geological studies by the likes of Hubbert and Coleman are conveniently bolstered by geopolitical observations that have little or nothing to do with the purported "science" of peak oil. To quote Andrews, "Roughly two-thirds of the world's oil lies in the Middle East- a cauldron for geopolitical, religious, cultural and military conflict"; or "Over 90% of the world's oil is owned by government controlled companies". These are truisms abundantly clear to anyone focused on this issue. They do not require an MIT degree to either fathom or postulate. And they have nothing to do with the purported "science" of peak oil. And yes, within their own parameters they have a decided impact on the price of oil, but they are separate issues altogether. To wrap them up into the "science" of peak oil is a digression and a deliberate obfuscation underlining the spuriousness of peak oil theology.

When I speak of the "fabricated drama of peak oil" I am referring to the oft repeated and over heated claim that the end is "near" even as the nearness of "near" continues to drift just out of reach. Yes, there are oil fields that are diminishing. And if the peakist miss the point, yes, they once panned gold in California, and they once pumped oil in Pennsylvania. But new oil is to be found, and is being found throughout the globe and made increasingly accessible by innovations in exploration and technology from deepwater fields in the Gulf of Mexico, Cambodia, Africa, China, India, offshore Sakhalin, the marginally tapped Canadian oil sands, the Venezuelan Orinoco deposits, our Western shale oil, our currently offlimit offshore and Alaskan deposits, and of course the potential buried in the Artic and the enormous potential of a peaceful Iraq whose oil resources, were they ever to be fully developed, could conceivably challenge those of Saudi Arabia. The list could go on. With past history as example of the tenuousness of predicting reserves, in 1970 OPEC members supposedly had 412 billion barrels of oil. In the thirty subsequent years they pumped 307 billion barrels and, lo and behold, then claimed 819 billion barrels in reserve. That amount has increased substantially with Saudi Arabia's recently revised figures of available reserves. In this case it seems the more you produce the more you have.

There is Mr. Amdrew's argumentation that accessibility to new sources such as ultra deepwater fields is costly. Yes, but a) that doesn't mean the oil isn't there and b) at even at half of today's prices for oil and gas these "difficult to access" deposits offer windfall profits (see my post "Massive Oil Find in Gulf of Mexico Brings Gloom to Peak Oil Pranksters" 9.08.06). And yet once again this argumentation has nothing to do with the "science" of peak oil.

As for what Mr. Andrew's calls my "delusional notion" that the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas/USA is "in cahoots with the oil companies", I would point out that ASPO's propaganda furthers the price gouging aims of the oil companies even if no blood brother rituals were ever performed ( curiosity or coincidence, in 2005 ASPO'S International Workshop On Oil and Gas Depletion was held in Lisbon under the auspices and sponsoship of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation known for its support of the arts and sciences. Calouste Gulbenkian, perhaps the richest man in his time, was known as Mr. Five Percent for the royalties he received on all the oil pumped in Mesopotamia as stipend for having been the go-between for virtually all the early lease negotiations of the region) ). But just for the record, the preeminent peaksters do indeed have strong ties to the industry, many of them having been on oil company payrolls as geologists and engineers. The peakster saint , M. King Hubbert whose 1956 theory started all this oil patch piety, was a Shell geologist, while his acolyte, Colin Campbell worked for Texaco and BP while Jean Laherrere spent many years at Total.

Finally, Mr. Andrews says a "growing list of respected energy analysts" think the world peak is coming "soon". (Where have we heard that before ?), most likely between 2010 and 2015. Maybe so, but there is another list of high profile industry figures who say otherwise. Robert W. Esser, director of of Cambridge Energy Research Associates says peak oil theory "is garbage as far as we're concerned". While Robert Nehring, once described by Laherrere as the best expert in the U.S. on its reserves and one of the best in the world" has concluded that "the Hubbert method clearly fails to predict future production accurately" and substantially overstates the rate of decline in producing fields.

Fifty years ago when Hubbert made his predictions that worldwide output would peak in 2000, as did many others since that first well in Pennsylvania, with varying peak dates along the way (and set forth at length in my book, "Over a Barrel: Breaking the Middle East Oil Cartel"). He had no way of knowing what impact the new technologies would have on exploration and production. Today's peak oil spinmeisters have no such excuse!