230. THE GROWING GAP
One of the great foundations of peak oil theory is the following graph of declining discoveries, drawn by Colin Campbell and endlessly reproduced within the peak oil community (click graphs to enlarge):
The above is the just the latest version (from the February 2006 ASPO newsletter). The graph has gone through a number of mutations over the years. It apparently appeared for the first time in an article by Colin Campbell called "Petroleum and People" in Population & Environment v. 24, n2, 2002. This is what it looked like then:
Notice the many interesting differences between the charts:
1) The 2002 chart is labeled "All liquid hydrocarbons", while the most recent 2006 chart is labeled "Regular conventional oil" (which is defined by Campbell to exclude oil from coal, bitumen, heavy, deepwater, polar and gasfield NGL). This is an ongoing slow-motion backpedal by Colin Campbell. The chart starts as "All liquid hydrocarbons" in 2002, becomes just "The Growing Gap" from March 2003 (when the curve started appearing as a regular feature in the ASPO newsletter) to Dec. 2004, then changes to "Regular Oil" in Jan. 2005, and once again changes to "Regular Conventional Oil" in Jan. 2006. The fact that this chart only applies to a very narrowly defined class of oil, which Colin Campbell calls "Regular Conventional Oil", is a grave problem for the argument here. The chart excludes the "discovery" of, for example, the Alberta tar sands, heavy oil in Venezuela, NGL (which is routinely counted as oil production), coal to liquids, the upcoming surge of GTL projects, ethanol and biodiesel. Coal reserves, for example, ARE oil reserves, as I noted in #43. COAL LIQUEFACTION. So why don't coal discoveries factor into the curve? Or sugar cane ethanol "discoveries"?
2) Also note how the shape of the graph has inexplicably mutated. The 1940 spike, which was about 27Gb in the 2002 graph, has grown to about 35Gb in the 2006 graph. Similarly, the 1950 spike of 42Gb in the 2002 graph has grown to about 55Gb in the 2006 graph. Apparently about 50 new Gigabarrels (i.e. about four Prudhoe Bays) magically appeared from somewhere between 2002 and 2006. This seems to suggest that the whole past curve is in flux. So how can you extend a trend when the thing you are trying to extend is still changing?
3) Where's the 26Gb from Azadegan in 2001, and the 38Gb from Ferdows/Mound/Zagheh in 2003? (See #228 below.)
4) Note that the 2006 chart gives "Exxon/Mobil 2002" as a source. Apparently this "citation" (I'm using that term derisively) refers to a chart drawn by Harry J. Longwell, Director and Executive Vice President of Exxon/Mobil, in an article called "The Future of the Oil and Gas Industry: Past Approaches, New Challenges" in World Energy, Vol. 5, No. 3, 2002. Here's the graph from Longwell:
Here's Colin Campbell's remarks on the Longwell curve (from ASPO Newsletter #25):
It is also noteworthy that [Longwell's] past discovery trend is an exact replica, down to the smallest detail, of an ASPO plot published by Campbell in Population & Environment v.24 n2. 2002.Hmmm. Kind of makes you wonder if Longwell just copied the drawing from Campbell's 2002 paper. It's also deceiptful to cite Exxon/Mobil as the source of the data. The paper was written privately by Longwell, an employee of Exxon/Mobil, not by the corporation itself.
5) Which brings us to the real dirty little secret of the peak oil community:
Despite the fact that this graph is a critical centerpiece of the peak oil argument, NOBODY KNOWS OR EVEN CARES WHERE THIS DISCOVERY DATA CAME FROM. Yes, we have this nice series of crayola drawings, but where did the underlying numbers come from? Longwell's paper is a puff piece which doesn't have any notes. Same for Campbell's puff piece in Population & Environment.
Clearly this has the stink of pseudo-science all over it. Genuine scientists do not accept graphs when nobody has a goddam clue where the data came from, or how it is being updated.
-- by JD