free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: November 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Big news today:

The Nov. 07 IEA Oil Market Report (pdf) is now available. As suspected, world oil supply increased by 1.4mbd in October to a new all time high of 86.43mbd.

What does this mean? Well, first of all, it means we're gonna have to change that big peak oiler diaper -- yet again -- because July 2006 wasn't peak oil after all. Oil production is still growing!

All those folks who said last year was the peak? They were wrong. Again.

But that's okay, because starting tomorrow, they'll be right again. They'll have a fresh, clean nappy to wear, that says: "Oil peaked, in Oct. 2007".

Total amnesia. And it won't matter. Because peak oil is like a black hole, vacuuming up the past and distorting the very fabric of logic itself. As the hole approaches, peak oilers can never be wrong, even when they're wrong. You can say: "You we're wrong" to a peak oiler. But then he just points to the hole, and says "My mistake doesn't matter, look at the hole". And the hole sucks his mistake up. So it's gone forever. Amnesia.

And.... on that note, it is with some regret that I must announce that I have decided to become a peak oiler. Yes, I know it's a big disappointment, and I was like the Great White Hope and all. Sorry everybody... I don't want to let you down, but I was taking a dump earlier -- and you know how conducive to deep thought the toilet can be sometimes -- well, I was thinking about peak oil, and it finally hit me, man, like a bolt out of the blue:


Honest to God, it finally sunk in. I'm hereby making a formal apology. Hanging my head down in shame. The peak oilers were right. Oil is actually going to peak someday. The logic is solid and I'm going to have to concede that point. I'm so sorry everybody. But that's just the reality, and I'm just going to have to suck it up, and face it.

Regular readers: Please don't be alarmed by this "new" realization. Aside from a fine print disclaimer in the site banner, and the fact that I will be proven right and have backslapping privileges when peak oil occurs, the programming stream you know and love will be completely unaffected.

Friday, November 23, 2007


We know from Peak Oil 101 that our agricultural systems are utterly dependent on crude oil. Food growth, harvesting, transport, retail, the plastic bag you take it all home in... It all runs on oil. In fact, it takes 35 calories of fossil fuel to make one calorie of beef. And that doesn't even include the half gallon of gasoline you need to get to the drive-thru and back. So everytime you eat a hamburger, you're basically guzzling down half a barrel of crude oil.

Clearly peak oil is going to have gruesome knock-on effects on the food supply. As oil prices soar, the price of food will spiral out of control and our food systems will collapse. Mass starvation is a certainty.

This isn't some hypothetical future event we're talking about here. The latest stats from the EIA show that crude oil peaked in May 2005 at 74.4mbd, and is now down by almost 2.5% from that peak. Peak oil already happened, and we're more than 2.5 years into the decline of the post-peak period.

Only the prepared will survive the looming food crisis. People like Matt Savinar, who have wisely stocked up large quantities of nitro-packed food:

Now, as you may know, I am JD -- one of the Internet's premier peak oil denialists, and proprieter of the website Peak Oil Debunked. I have taken no steps whatsoever to prepare myself for peak oil. In fact, I have consistently maintained that peak oil is no big deal, and gone far out of my way to mock and ridicule peak oilers. Here's my food supply:

Don't have much gardening space either. Just a few old pots I found in the trash, and a ratty tuft of untended green onion:

It doesn't take a genius to see that I am going to be starving to death in the near future.

Now I know I've enjoyed laughing at you peak oilers over the years, so I figured you all would enjoy watching me eat my words. You know... Rue the day I ever mocked peak oil.

To that end, I have started this thread to document my descent into starvation due to peak oil. I will be posting to this thread every 3 months or so with an update on the soaring food prices, and my ongoing starvation status.

To establish a base line, I got some prices from the supermarket this morning:

Nov. 24, Sakae Supermarket, Osaka, Japan, 2.5 years post-peak (prices in yen)
One apple: 100
One tomato: 158
One head, Iceberg lettuce: 198
One stalk of broccoli: 198
One medium onion: 33
One medium potato: 66
5 kg, White rice: 2480
1 liter, Milk: 188
Chicken breast (100 grams): 50
Beef stew meat (100 grams): 114
I loaf of French bread: 165
One egg: 53

Current weight: 86.5 kg

Mood at onset of starvation: Upbeat

Saturday, November 17, 2007


The idea that nitrogen fertilizer production is dependent on oil and gas is a myth -- a really stubborn and persistent myth. In fact, just this morning I woke up to find yet another uninformed bozo spreading the big lie:
If we are unprepared for Peak Oil the potential outcome may be devastating for our way of life and that of the world. Unfortunately Peak Oil is expected to coincide with Peak Food because oil is required for food growth and delivery.Source
We can debate the part about delivery, but the part where it says "oil is required for food growth" is nothing but pure, straight-from-the-rump bullshit.

I have previously addressed this issue in a number of posts: 28. ISN'T FERTILIZER MADE FROM CRUDE OIL?, 174. ARE HIGH FERTILIZER PRICES A THREAT TO THE FOOD SUPPLY?, and 176. THE OIL-BASED FERTILIZER MEME. But this myth really dies hard. So allow me to explain again, and hopefully enlighten a few more people to the actual facts.

I'd also like to enlist the help of the rational wing of the peak oil movement. Can we redouble our efforts to challenge this myth, and ensure that the general public has access to the truth instead of endless repetition of the same lie?

The key facts are very simple:

1) You don't need oil, natural gas, coal or any other fossil fuel to make nitrogen fertilizer.
2) All you need to make nitrogen fertilizer is air, water and energy.

back40, a soil scientist from the blog Muck and Mystery, has a great post describing the situation*:
Natural gas, methane, is a common feedstock for nitrogen fertilizer production since it has four nice hydrogen atoms, which is what is of use for fertilizer, and it is used as an energy source for heat and pressure production to enable the catalyzed reactions to take place.

But that's just one way to make ammonia, the simplest type of nitrogen fertilizer. At the turn of the century ammonia was a waste byproduct of coke production from coal that was sold as an industrial chemical and later as fertilizer. This is still so. But coal is still a fossil fuel albeit a much more abundant one. This debunks the peak oil whingers but not the anti-fossil whingers.

The earlier post Fire Down Below noted Iceland's use of geothermal energy and efforts to greatly increase production. One of their proposed uses of all that energy is to make hydrogen from water and export it around the world. They could use that hydrogen to make ammonia fertilizer and export that instead. It might be easier and more profitable.

Any energy system could be used to make hydrogen. We've heard of wind farms planning to use their peak output energies to make hydrogen as a way of storing the energy from intermittent winds. The hydrogen is a sort of battery in the sense of being charged up when the wind blows and drawn down between times, and thus overcoming one of wind's limitations as an energy system. Hydroelectric power has been used to make hydrogen and fertilizer too. All of these energy sources and hydrogen sources use no fossil fuels, just air and water, to make fertilizer.
There are numerous historical examples of firms making fertilizer from hydroelectric power:

Norsk Hydro:
A week after meeting, Eyde and Birkeland submitted a patent for artificial fertilizer. They obtained money from the Swedish financiers, the Wallenbergs, and a mere three years later a hydroelectric plant had been built out of the wilderness at Notodden and a Birkeland-Eyde arc furnace was producing the first Norgesalpeter - Norwegian Saltpeter, i.e. calcium nitrate.Source
Among pioneers in nitrogen fertilizers
In 1909, a new power plant was built at Nera Montoro and the work to develop ammonia synthesis technology started, headed by Dr Luigi Casale. Italian scientists and engineers were very much part of the fertilizer technology race of the early 20th century.

Ammonia production based on the Casale process started at Nera Montoro in 1922/23 with a capacity of 14 tonnes per day. Synthesis gas for the ammonia converter was based on hydrogen from water electrolysis and nitrogen from the air.Source
A New York Times article from March 5, 1922, describes various projects to produce fertilizer using hydroelectric power: Food from the Air.

The Minnesota Central Research and Outreach Center (MCROC) is currently developing a prototype system to manufacture nitrogen fertilizer from wind, air and water:
The WCROC Wind to Hydrogen to Ammonia pilot facility is currently under design. The major equipment will be ordered Fall 2007. Construction is targeted for Spring 2008 and the facility should be in operation in Summer 2008. The system will feature a 400 kW electrolyzer and a modified Haber Bosch reactor that will produce a maximum of 1 ton per day or 365 tons of ammonia per year. The reactor will be approximately the size of a 50 gallon drum. Once in operation the facility will produce anhydrous ammonia for use on the West Central Research and Outreach Center fields in addition to some excess which will be sold or used in other energy systems.Source (Also see here.)
Even Richard Heinberg concedes that fossil fuels are not necessary to produce fertilizer:
Organic or ecological agriculture can be even more productive in some situations than industrial agriculture, but local success cannot make up for the fact that the total amount of nitrogen available to crops globally has been vastly increased by the Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis process, which is currently dependent on fossil fuels. Ammonia synthesis could be accomplished with hydrogen, which could in turn be produced by hydroelectric hydrolysis; but the infrastructure for such production is currently non-existent. (Source: The Party's Over, P. 197)
Clearly no fossil fuels whatsoever are needed to manufacture nitrogen fertilizer. All you need is an energy source (hydroelectric, solar, wind, wave, geothermal, nuclear etc.), air and water. And none of these are even remotely facing a supply crisis.

Therefore, the supply of fertilizer is not threatened by peak oil, peak gas or even peak coal.

Of course, we can expect the doomers to make yet another last ditch rebuttal: "Yah, well, so what. Just because we can make nitrate without fossil fuels doesn't mean that we will."

Sorry, but I can assure you with 100% certainty that we will continue producing huge volumes of nitrates from the air, long after fossil fuel has been entirely exhausted. How do I know this? Simple: In addition to being fertilizer, nitrates are the active ingredient of gun powder and bombs. So, yes, nitrate facilities will be up and running, as a matter of national security, so we might as well use them to feed ourselves in peace time.
by JD
*) Part 2 of this article Fossil Fertilizer is also really good. Great summary of the history and future of nitrate.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


On March 3, 2007, Stuart Staniford made some very ominous, pee-your-pants-type predictions about Saudi Arabia in the post "Saudi Arabian Oil declines 8% in 2006".

He shows the decline in this graph, illustrating Saudi production data from the various indicated sources (click to enlarge):

Using this graph, Stuart determines that the Saudi's are caught in unstoppable, plummeting decline, as indicated in the following passage (emphasis mine):
My intepretation is that the bump in the middle of the year that separates the two lines is due to the impact of Haradh III coming on stream. So that tells us that, given some extra production capacity, Saudi Aramco immediately threw it into the production mix. And the effect of that? It lifted the plummeting production curve up by 300kbpd, but did nothing to change the gradient of the plummet. That suggests that the Saudis had nothing else to throw at the problem.

It also suggests that last year's underlying Type II decline rate, before megaprojects like Haradh III, was 14%.

Overall, I feel this data is clear enough that I'm willing to go out on a limb and conclude the following:

* Saudi Arabian oil production is now in decline.
* The decline rate during the first year is very high (8%), akin to decline rates in other places developed with modern horizontal drilling techniques such as the North Sea.
* Declines are rather unlikely to be arrested, and may well accelerate.
* Matt Simmons appears to be right in Twilight in the Desert, but the warning did not come until after declines had actually begun.

[Update: Steve Andrews of ASPO-USA correctly points out to me in email that Matt Simmons began warnings about Saudi Arabia as early as December 2003, significantly before the publication of the hardback version of the book in mid 2005. I relied on an over-hasty check of Amazon which has the paperback publication date - mea culpa.]

I suggest that this is likely to place severe political strains on Saudi Arabia within a year or two at most.

What actually happened in 2007?
Dialing up the 2007 production stats for Saudi Arabia over at the EIA, we get:

January 8.75mbd
February 8.6mbd
March 8.6mbd
April 8.6mbd
May 8.6mbd
June 8.6mbd
August 8.6mbd

No decline. Nothing unusual. Just standard, steady-state production like we've come to expect from Saudi Arabia.

How did they arrest the plummet, Stuart? With those tank farms Matt Simmons claims they've been using to cover their decline ever since "Twilight in the Desert" came out?

The most ironic part: Stuart includes an "Update" crediting prediction of the Saudi plummet to Simmons all the way back in 2003! So... given that the plummet has failed to materialize, we are now going on 5 fucking years of Simmons prattling on about the Saudi's going over a cliff any day now. And it still hasn't happened! (Let's all pray that the Saudi's don't start raising production any time soon. I don't think any of us wants to contemplate the horrible tsunami of mockery and ridicule that would unleash.)

[Note: Two posts today, folks. Don't miss #312 below. It's even better than this one. Oh... and don't forget to push the Digg button!]
by JD


This is some great stuff from Iver over at Iver and his buddies up in Maine are a bunch of mad geniuses, out to prove that "YOU DON'T NEED OIL" (See #311 below). These two videos are old-school yankee ingenuity at its finest, and will give you a clearer vision of what the oil-free, high-tech future looks like.

First is John Howe with his solar powered tractor and chainsaw. Guess we're going to have some mechanization on the post-oil farm after all!

Second is Art Haines with his solar powered car. This video is awesome and constitutes conclusive proof that you don't need any fossil fuel at all to get from point A to point B. It also shows the amazing benefit of driving in "cars" that look like glorified 4-wheel bicycles. Although I imagine the Americans may balk at the idea of traveling in such vehicles. In the American mind, you're not actually getting from point A to point B if you're not encased in 6,000 pounds of superfluous metal and upholstery. That 6,000 pounds is part of their "standard of living" doncha know -- although in this case, a better term might be "standard of stupidity".

Just imagine how bummed Jim Kunstler is going to be when the solar car is all the rage in Las Vegas and Phoenix! :P
by JD

Friday, November 09, 2007


Wow! Busy week for peak oil. Lots of scary developments... and the peak oilers smell blood! $100 oil! The IEA goes doomer!! The subprime crisis! Dollar in free-fall! The titanic is going down!! Get out of that friggin deck chair, you moron!!

Yah, okay... Before we get completely covered by the foam issuing from the mouths of these fanatics, let's take stock:

Crude production hasn't risen since May 2005, and liquids haven't risen since July 2006. Were already at peak oil!
Sorry, the peak hasn't been confirmed yet. We'll see.

It doesn't matter! We're going to peak soon anyway!
Yah, okay. Let's grant that. In fact, let's grant that oil and liquids have both already peaked. Why not? I agree with the doomers that oil/liquids will peak. I just don't think it will be that big of a deal.

What are you talking about? Oil is at $100!
Oil is an addictive drug. It causes global warming and pollutes the air. We all agree that we need to stop using it. In fact, it's a matter of national security. The important thing is to adjust to the rising oil price with a smile.

You may find this confusing at first, but I will now give you the ultimate peak oil debunk in four easy words. You may experience a flash of discomfort, or a stunned sensation. But hang in there, and read it over at least five or ten times. Let it sink in:


Have you grasped it? Resistance to this idea is ingrained, and you may involuntarily mumble in disagreement, but try to fight through that. That's the addiction talking. Trust me: the idea that "we need oil" has been inculcated into the deepest fibers of your brain by decades upon decades of relentless GM and Exxon advertising.
True, we do need liquid fuels for certain mission-critical applications, but that is a small portion of total usage, and can be substituted with alternatives such as electricity (electric scooters/cars/rail), nuclear power and biofuels. The vast majority of liquid fuel is being used in optional lifestyle bullshit, like suburban living and massive traffic jams. See Alan Drake's detailed plans for a non-oil transportation system in the U.S. here and here. That will help you visualize the world without oil.

But oil's at $100, what should we do?
Wise up, and stop using. Oil prices are like a big truck coming down the street. Get out of the way. There's a whole range of solutions. Carpool. Ride the bus. Move closer to your job. Buy a scooter. Buy an electric bicycle. Telecommute. Walk. Ride your bike. Get a space heater. Buy a faggy-assed little electric car, like the Takeoka Milieu.

But, but, but...
Yah, I know. This is where all the excuses start, and folks resort to feeble stuff like: "Car pooling won't work in America" or "There aren't enough scooters" or "Fat people can't ride bikes" or "People would laugh at me if I did that" or "I can't walk because there's no sidewalk" etc. etc. It's quite sad, really, how the doomer position collapses into this kind of piffle at its foundations.

--by JD

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


In Nov. 2005, peak oil wonderboy Stuart Staniford wrote an analysis claiming that the likely decline rate for fields in place (FIP) is 8%. What he means by this is that, if all new oil projects were stopped tomorrow, existing production would decline at an annual rate of 8%.

Staniford repeatedly stresses the importance of this number:
Most of us thinking about peak oil have been aware for some time that the central uncertainty is the decline rate on fields in production (FIP). This dramatically affects when one believes peak will be, and seems to be the main difference between more pessimistic projections such as Chris Skrebowski's , and CERA's. Source (Emphasis mine)

An analysis of Exxon's production suggests the problem. Their existing production apparently declines at rates varying from 6% to 14% per year. Thus all the new projects they bring on stream each year just serve to offset the declines in their current fields. [...]

The situation does not appear to be much better in OPEC. According to the US EIA, Saudi production is declining 5% to 12% each year. So they have to bring on that much new production just to stay level. Similarly, Iranian production is estimated to decline 8%-13% each year.

This to me is the most compelling argument that we must be close to peak oil production. The amount of new production required every year just to stay level is enormous. Source (Emphasis mine)

This 8% decline rate for FIP is a central assumption underlying Staniford's pessimism. So it's especially interesting that Staniford made predictions in 2005 based on this assumption. He took current production, subtracted 8% per year for decline, and then added projected new production from Chris Skrebowski's list of megaprojects. In this way, he created the following graph predicting production given various decline rates:

As you can see, the 8% line predicts production of roughly 75mbd for 2007, even though actual current production is roughly 84-85mbd. Something went very wrong, to the tune of 10mbd, with Staniford's assumptions. That is a HUGE discrepancy which needs to be explained.

At the time, Stuart listed 3 possibilities:
1) Chris Skrebowski has missed most of the volume of new projects in his analysis.
2) Andrew Gould [CEO of Schlumberger] is smoking dope, Exxon, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are an anomalously bad piece of the production mix, and the average decline rate is really much lower.
3) Life is about to get less fun, pretty quickly. Source

Clearly, possibility 3 did not pan out. Staniford's forecast based on an 8% decline rate for FIP was wildly, even ridiculously, in error.

So... I'm curious. Where did your analysis go wrong, Stuart? Did Chris Skrebowski miss most of the volume? Or is it the case that Andrew Gould is smoking dope, Exxon, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are an anomalously bad piece of the production mix, and the average decline rate is really much lower?
by JD