free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 18. NINE DELAYS FOR PEAK OIL

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


A lot of people in the peak oil community seem to be rooting for an early collapse of modern society. Here, briefly, are nine factors which will delay that outcome.

1. The delayed peak
Deffeyes, Campbell, Ruppert, Richard "Olduvai" Duncan and Boone Pickens may be wrong in calling for an early peak. For instance, Campbell is calling for a peak in 2006, but he's made a number of incorrect predictions before. None of these people have any exact data on ultimate recoverable reserves (URR), and that uncertainty may cause the actual peak to occur 5, 10, 15 or 20 years later than they predict.

2. Plateau
Even if we hit peak, it may be possible to extend a flat plateau for another 5 or 10 years.

3. Substitutes
Even if oil peaks, this does not mean that other forms of energy will peak. The loss of oil can be compensated by boosting forms of energy which aren't peaking, such as natural gas, coal, sugar cane ethanol, biodiesel, solar etc.

4. Recession
Crude oil prices rise sufficiently to cause global recession, as occurred in the late 1970s. This causes oil consumption to drop dramatically, and stalls off peak oil for another 10 years.

5. Demand destruction
Even if world petroleum production peaks, this does not mean that consumption by wealthy nations will decline. They will keep their flow steady or growing by outbidding poorer nations for the limited supply. The wealthy, powerful nations will hog the oil, and thereby maintain their growth for some time.

6. The slow slope
Common wisdom amongst peak oilers is that world oil production will drop by 3% or more a year post peak, but that's not cast in stone. It may be possible, using technology, substitutes and other delaying tactics, to reduce the decline rate to something more manageable, like 1%. If that can be achieved, the "collapse" will occur at a glacial pace; it would take an entire human lifespan for standards of living to drop to 50% of their previous level. I would imagine that standards of living in the US could drop by 50%, and people could still live quite comfortably. And this does not take into account nations with declining population (like Russia, Japan, Italy, Ukraine, Germany etc.) which can reduce consumption without lowering their standard of living.

7. Conservation
Clearly nations like the US are wasting massive volumes of oil everyday. The effects of the peak can be delayed by another 5 to 15 years by squeezing out all this waste.

8. Technology
It does sound kind of silly to have "faith" in technology. On the other hand, it is just as silly to have no faith whatsoever in technology. We simply can't rule out the possibility that someone will discover a solution (partial or whole) to our energy problems. Many peak oilers seem to think that we have come to the end of energy-related technology breakthroughs, but I find that extremely unlikely. Bizarre and previously unthought of discoveries have always occurred (X-rays, fission, quantum effects, bucky balls, quantum teleportation etc.), why would they stop now? Because we've gotten to the bottom of it?? I doubt it.
Honestly, someone needs to explain that: Why would technological breakthroughs just stop one day? Did the universe run out of secrets? We understand everything now? I find that incredible.

9. Hoarding
Exporters like Russia can stall off peak oil effects in their own countries by not selling their oil. They have more than enough oil to satisfy their own needs (including growth) for decades. If peak oil gets tough, they can stop selling oil, and the peak won't affect them.


You can combine the above factors in the obvious way, and next thing you know, we've pushed any serious effects of peak oil out 35 years into the future. There's a very good chance that we will adapt and develop new approaches to energy/transportation during that time. There is no reason to run for the hills or hoard food and guns in preparation for an imminent peak oil famine.


At Monday, May 22, 2006 at 5:43:00 PM PDT, Blogger mealymind said...

Well in the interest of creating a "fuller" dicussion, i will put on my doomer hat and offer up some counters to the arguments above.

1) To say that an imminent peak is unlkely because of unreliable data over reserves is like saying that the cake won't rise cause i didn't measure the baking powder with a spoon but used pinches instead.
instead. Yes there is a lot of room for error in the reserve-based predictions but that doesn't prevent the peak form happening any time now.

2) A plateau isn't as stable a place to be as its naem implies. markets in the face of tight supply margins will get the jitters and economic growth that is in some regard dependent on increasing availability of oil will falter.

3) All other form of liquid fuels production are dependent on oil, from the mining of coal for Liquifucation to the growing of biofuel stock.. Remember fast depletion rates will be creating huge pressures on so many levles that it's not such an easy thing to ramp up other forms of energy production.

4)Rather an icomplete argument, it will rather be series of oil price peaks that climb and fall with demand changes, not a benign reaction to a single shock.

5)How does one hog oil? by paying a higher price for it in bidding wars. Consider how this will push prices so high as to stifle growth.

6)Who's to say that the depletin rate will start of slow and remain slow. Any appreciation of depletion patters and extraction methods allows one to realise that depletion rates will accelerate over time and solutions found in one year would haev to be doubled the next and so on and so on. Defintiely cause here to accept a sloer crash more likely than a faster one, but that doesn't negate the ongoing everwrosening state of things. One point to add here is the potential for alternative renewable energy sources. Where's the investment for the massive development of these coming from? Not from oil companies as their profits continue for years to skyrocket from their old dependable product and enrgy infrastructure. Not from governments as their revenues shrink as economies falter. perhaps in countries where their oil industry is nationalised and their governments are sufficiently leftist, well after peak there may be some investment but tht's well down the line and a pretty limited set. New multinationals may emerge but it would take huge amounts of capital to be spent at a time when the downslope was still not so far advanced as to cripple the finance markets but far enough advanced that institutional denial had given way.

7)The idea that massive amounts of "wasted oil" could be simply wiped out of the equation is too much removed from reality. i could mention the unreality of a large scale switch to fuel efficient cars or the dependence on trucking and shipping or the need for high level of consumerism that fuels the American and world eceonmy that depend on easy-motoring.

8)Jiminy cricket will solve all our problems when we need him.

9)Yes those nations whose main source of income is oil will stop exporting it. Then they'll have mountains of oil to use themselves for..... um now what do bankrupt nations do with oil?... buckle under pressure and start selling it again I would think.

Apologies for the obviously doomeristic counterarguments, they are not a full expression of my position on this subject, they are only the things i say to myself when i say the things to myself which JD has kindly put into writing.

At Saturday, September 29, 2007 at 2:38:00 AM PDT, Blogger jim1296 said...

Don't forget shale oil. The U.S. has the equivalent of over a trillion barrels of oil in its shale deposits. At least half a dozen companies are constructing pilot extraction projects. New "in-situ" techniques reduce water requirements while allowing production for $30-40 per barrel. According to SHELL, they have an energy balance of 3.5 units output for every 1 of input. The doomers are going to be caught flat footed when production ramps up in the next ten years. Adding that to the production from tar sands, coal to liquids, and deep wells in the gulf means that peak oil is a long way off.

At Sunday, June 14, 2009 at 4:21:00 PM PDT, Blogger Chad said...

To say peak oil is delayed by solar (etc.) is to miss the point of the Peak Oil thesis. It is NOT Peak Energy. We have lots of energy sources, although most are not as good as oil. Wind works pretty wwll and is growing rapidly. Geoethermal is equally economic in certain places. Solar has to come down in cost. Marine power could work some day. But if we have to use renweables then probably oil got scarcer and more expensive.


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