03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Guardian Asserts Conspiracy to Hide the Peak

The global economy's life-blood (even if it has been on life support) truly doesn't flow through bankers' desks or Wall Street, but is pumped from the ground and into our chemical plants, manufacturing processes, and transportation. We should, as a global society, be working to "keep the grease in the ground" for a variety of reasons (from maintaining a supply of this valuable mix for future uses rather than profligate burning today to issues of overloading the global CO2 cycle to our detriment), but this is a necessary process of weaning off dependency, not a reckless nose-dive of suddenly going cold Turkey.

One of the nightmarish realities that we should face is how resource limitations intersect. Our carbon cycle limitations (e.g., Global Warming, Acidification of the Oceans) could partially be reduced when we hit the wall of oil limits, Peak Oil. On the other hand, hitting resource limitation walls running at 'full speed' is a recipe for disasters. When it comes to these, rather than hitting walls and dealing with crises (massive and multiple crises), we (as individuals, nations, global economy) would be much better off if we make reasoned and thoughtful plans of action based on sound knowledge to reduce our abuse of the resource and move toward sustainable resource use before we hit walls and suffer calamitous consequences.

When it comes to tackling climate change, there are legions of active disinformers, seeking to confuse the discussion and delay (if not defeat) action to mitigate catastrophic climate change. (They act from reasons ranging from mercurial financial greed to religious extremism to ideological blinders to dogmatic contrarianism.)

When it comes to Peak Oil, the general political discussion is not nearly as intense or broad, even as 'experts' debate over what might really be happening. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has long been toward the upper side of optimism about Peak Oil, having numbers about likely "Peak" production seeming to match likely demand growth rather than production possibilities. When it came to the 2007 World Energy Outlook,

what a magnificent resource -- a tremendous amount of data that anyone interested in energy issues will be citing.

Their rearward look -- what's happened already -- invaluable.

Their forward look -- what will happen -- would be laughable if it weren't so sad.

Optimistic estimates from authoritative institutions enable planners (business, government, etc ...) to push solutions to the right, as those estimates 'prove' that there really isn't a serious problem that requires near-term addressing.

The globe uses, roughly, 80 million barrels of day (mbd) of oil which is over 90 percent of global production capacity. Earlier this decade, IEA asserted that production capacity would grow to about 130 mbd with demand growing to about 125 mbd. See, no problem.

Last year, IEA changed this to a peak production of about 105-110 mbd. Hmmm ... okay. Real problem, but still some breathing space. We need to slow growth of demand, but not crisis.

However, others focused on this issue have questioned whether the 84 mbd range represents just about the peak level of production capacity. Even more importantly, Peak Oil highlights that there is roughly a mountain to describe the oil production path: once you've climbed to the peak of production, you will inexorable face a decline -- and you (as individual, community, nation, globe) will be far (FAR) better off if your demand curve trajectory is a more rapid decline than production potential rather than assuming continued growing ability to produce (and therefore burn) more and more oil.

Whether for climate change or Peak Oil, good information enables to better decision-making. We know that, when it comes to climate change, there are cabals recklessly endangering humanity by seeking to confuse the debate and hinder progress forward.

Today, the Guardian reported about potential efforts to distort the discussion about Peak Oil in what might be termed 'reckless endangerment of global economic prosperity'. (Note that this risk from getting Peak Oil wrong is even greater than the disasters caused by the financial improprieties and insanities behind our current woes.) Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure, says whistleblower reports that a "top EIA official" is asserting that there have been deliberate inflation of oil production estimates.


The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.

"The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year," said the IEA source, who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. "The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today's number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this."

What is driving the effort to distort what the IEA internal experts think? Concerns over near term market fluctuations evidently trump the necessity for good information to plan for tomorrow.

"Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. "

Now, what is "American" in terms of influencing IEA? Is this, likely, still from Bush Administration policies and appointees? Possibly. But, the Guardian article does not provide a conclusive case that American governmental pressure has been driving IEA's extreme optimism as to the global peak oil production potential.

A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was "imperative not to anger the Americans" but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. "We have [already] entered the 'peak oil' zone. I think that the situation is really bad."

Whether driven by 'conspiracy' to distort the conclusions or not, the IEA has consistently been on the high side of estimates as to peak oil production potential. And, as the authoritative global source for energy information, IEA's optimistic assessments have enabled planners to push off focusing on oil dependency challenges and the need for ever more efficient resource use because 'there will always be more tomorrow' according to the IEA.

There have been, for a long time, real reasons to question IEA. The Guardian article, however, raises the question: has there been a conspiracy (driven by America or otherwise) to inflate IEA numbers and thus distort the global conversation about our energy challenges?