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Wednesday, July 31, 2013


It's been a while since I last checked the PO situation, but I did a bit of browsing recently, and it seems that PO has, well, gone down the toilet.

I first started following peak oil in August 2004, and when I first heard the hype, I immediately thought "here we go, this is Y2K all over again." As it turned out, I was right.

The landscape is littered with the detritus of failed Peak Oil theories... Remember Matt Savinar and LATOC (Life After the Oil Crash)? Perhaps this will refresh your memory:

Matt was ruling 9 years ago, being cited in the Congressional Record, and lecturing me on what a doomed, oblivious asshat I was for mocking peak oil. Now LATOC is defunct and Savinar is working as an astrologer in San Francisco:

Remember the Olduvai Theory? Twilight in the Desert? Ace's predictions at the Oil Drum? "A Nose Dive Toward the Desert"? Plummeting EROI? The Export Land Model? All crashed and burned...

And now, to put the icing on the cake, The Oil Drum--epicenter of the most solemn, quantitative hand-wringing in the Peak Oil world--is signing off due to a devastating and total loss of credibility/interest.

Thanks to fracking, we're swimming in hydrocarbons. US oil production is rising again.

The Saudis aren't running out of oil due to the watering out of Ghawar and the "Export Land" effect. On the contrary, they are starting to crap their pants about collapsing demand for oil due to the glut created by fracking.

Let's face it, the "cornucopians" were totally vindicated, and the "peak oilers" turned out to be a bunch of Chicken Littles!

Just like Y2K, you would have been better off listening to your senile old grandma, who said it was all a bunch of hype, than all the overly-concerned "scientists" like Deffeyes and "researchers" like Heinberg.

Now, you may be wondering: How in the hell did I, JD (the author of this blog), know that Peak Oil was a farce, and wouldn't happen? The answer to that is very simple, and I wrote about it in #128 many years ago: The collapse of modern civilization is too good to be true.

We are certain to see more of these "Chicken Little" scenarios in the future, so (with a hat tip to Jean Baudrillard) let me leave you with a helpful rule:
JD's IRON LAW OF MEDIA EVENTS: The probability of any disaster scenario occurring is indirectly proportional to the degree it is hyped by the media/Internet etc.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


The founding myth of "peak oil" has always been Hubbert's 1956 prediction that US oil production would peak in the early 1970s and decline, never to rise again. This myth is being disproved as we speak. Thanks to technological breakthroughs, US oil production is rising again:
The trend is set to continue. From yesterday's Los Angeles Times:
By 2015, U.S. oil production is expected to rise to 10 million barrels per day and increase to 11.1 million barrels per day by 2020, overtaking second-place Russia and front-runner Saudi Arabia, according to the IEA's World Energy Outlook. The U.S. will export more oil than it brings into the country in 2030, the report said. Link
 In other words, even the great Hubbert is set to be embarrassed in the next few years. Don't buy into the hype folks. Peak oilers have an incredible knack for getting things wrong.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Hi everyone.
I've been on a long vacation from peak oil because it's so boring and irrelevant to daily life, but today I'd like to pop back in for an update on the situation.

Has anything happened? Not really, if by "happened" you mean any of the things the doomers predicted.

I first began writing on peak oil 6 years ago, in the summer of 2004. Matt Savinar was predicting imminent TEOTWAWKI, and telling folks to run for the hills. Now, 6 years later, I can go out on the street, and nothing whatsoever has changed since 2004. The streets are still clogged with cars going on mindless journeys. People are sleeping in their cars with the engine running to power the air-conditioning. Oil is at $75 and it's not going anywhere. Food prices and availability are completely normal. Plastic Hello Kitty paraphernalia is as plentiful and cheap as ever. Peak oil continues to be a ridiculously over-hyped non-event, just like I always predicted. I thumb my nose at it with impunity. LOL.

The Oil Drum doesn't even bother with new posts anymore. Just recycled versions of the same old "oil spill" post, flopping over and over like a flat tire, wump wump wump. Quite a comedown from the heady days of A Nosedive Toward the Desert in 2007.

Yup, peak oil is yesterday's party. The IEA is yawning and predicting oversupply of oil until 2015. Lucky us. Five more years of "topics for discussion" from Gail the Actuary

Matt Simmons' ongoing nervous breakdown continues to blossom in fascinating ways. Last week he predicted a mass evacuation of gulf states:
"We're going to have to evacuate the gulf states," said Matt Simmons, founder of Simmons and Co., an oil investment firm and, since the April 20 blowout, the unflagging source of end-of-the-world predictions. "Can you imagine evacuating 20 million people? ... This story is 80 times worse than I thought."Source Yah, that's some funny stuff. I think Matt Simmons is about 80 times more mentally unstable than I thought.

Matt "Bozo" Simmons

More hysterical bullshit from Matt Simmons:
"Mexico's ability to export oil will be over by the end of 2009."
(Spoken prediction made at 35:50 of the interview available here)
The reality:
Mexico exported 1.59 million barrels of crude per day in May 2010.

Speaking of the mentally ill, Mike Ruppert predicted that a nuke would be used on the gulf oil spill in a week to 10 days. That was a month ago. LOL.
"I predict that US Continuity of Government provisions will be activated and that FEMA will, before end of summer, be placed in complete control of the Southeast United States… limited martial law." Source

Colin Campbell, the pope of peak oil, recently caved and became a peak demand believer.

"I have changed my point of view about future prices," said Campbell, who used to think the peak in conventional oil production, which he believes happened in 2005, would lead to a relentless price surge.

Instead, the record rally led to a peak in demand in the developed world.

"Peak oil drives prices up in the first place. It has its own mechanism. We're sort of at peak demand right now," Campbell told Reuters from his home in the village of Ballydehob, West Cork. "I think presently the price limit is about $100."Source

Good job Colin, you ridiculous dumbass. You would have figured that out a long time ago if you had the sense to read Peak Oil Debunked.

Hey, and whatever happened to the much-ballyhooed Export Land Model (insert scary organ chords)? And Jeffrey Brown's 2005 prediction:

"As I said last year, I expect that by the end of 2006 we will be in the teeth of a ferocious net oil export crisis."Source

Stay tuned folks. I've got a few more doomers to scalp before I'm finished.
by JD

Saturday, October 03, 2009


We're all familiar with the classic Kunstler rap:
The age of the 3000-mile-caesar salad will soon be over. Food production based on massive petroleum inputs, on intensive irrigation, on gigantic factory farms in just a few parts of the nation, and dependent on cheap trucking will not continue. We will have to produce at least some of our food closer to home.Source
The logic seems to be straightforward. It takes more energy to transport food over long distances than short distances, so peak oil will drive a shift to local agriculture.

So what does local agriculture look like? Here's a representative quote by Megan Quinn of Community Solutions (a somewhat delusional group promoting Cuba as a model for peak oil response) on the structures of local food:
Now, local food systems look very different from conventional food systems. We're not going to have local food supermarkets. So what are the distribution mechanisms of local food systems?

Well, a variety of structures is a good way to go. We have on-farm and in-town vegetable stands operated by farmers, farmers' markets, fairs, CSA or Community-Supported Agriculture farm subscription programs, cooperatives, and direct sales from farmers to consumers, to name a few. Importantly, there is a human element in local food systems. Direct relationships are developed between those who grow the food and those who eat it. We should embrace that.Source
This all seems reasonable on the face of it, but as I noted in the previous article GOING RURAL FOR PEAK OIL: BAD IDEA, close analysis shows that farmer's markets, vegetable stands, CSA and direct sales are all incredibly inefficient in terms of fuel because they require long drives in lightly loaded vehicles. Local agriculture, as it exists today, is basically a highly energy-intensive form of cat herding. This comes through vividly in a revealing quote from Jeff Rubin's book Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller:
And if you have ever been to a farmer's market and have seen the fleets of Land Rovers and sleek Volvo wagons heading home with their cargos of organic cavolo nero and free-range Berkshire pork...

Farmers Market: Plenty of Parking is a Must

The inconvenient truth is that inefficient gasoline guzzling lies at the very heart of the local food model. And, as we've seen, this totally defeats the purpose of local food :
In the worst scenario, a UK consumer driving six miles to buy Kenyan green beans emits more carbon per bean than flying them from Kenya to the United Kingdom. Source
A number of studies have reached similar findings: local food is more energy intensive than long-range food. See:

Long haul food can produce lower carbon emissions than local produce
Food that Travels Well: Why Imported Produce may be Better for the Earth than Local
Food Mile Myths: Buy Global

Here's a quick calculation to give you a feel for the problem. Suppose Joe Sixpack gets in his 20 mpg vehicle, and drives 4 miles to pick up a pack of hot dogs at 7-11. This will consume 0.4 gallons of gas per pound of hot dogs (1 pack = 1 pound).
Now, a semi truck gets about 90 net ton-miles/gallon, assuming that it makes the return trip empty. So a semi can deliver a load of hot dogs (20 tons) coast-to-coast and return empty on 1333 gallons. That translates to .03 gallons per pound.
In other word, Joe Sixpack will burn 13 times as much fuel, per dog, driving to 7-11 than the semi which brought those dogs 3000 miles across the country.

Interestingly, a livestock farmer named Bob from Schoharie, New York -- who is actually involved in the local food business -- echoes these concerns. He confronts this every day in the real-world context of marketing his product:
In fact, local food currently uses much more fossil fuel, especially in distribution, on a per pound basis. This is so painfully the case that one example will suffice, my own.

I drive seventy miles round trip to the farmers market on Saturdays. Some people drive more, some people drive less. I think that on average, my mileage is not untypical, but the average might be closer to fifty miles. This market season, on a bad day, I would sell ten pounds of meat (an amount that does not cover the cost of gas to get there). On a good day, I would sell forty to fifty. One of the biggest farmers market meat sellers in our area that I am aware of probably sells about 200 pounds a week.

Lets take a good day for me:
Miles per pound — 70 (miles driven) divided by 50 (pounds of meat) = 1.4 miles per pound

Gallons of fuel per pound — 70 (miles driven) divided by 12 (miles per gallon) = 5.8 (gallons of fuel) divided by 50 (pounds of meat) = 0.116 gallons per pound

Miles per pound — 1500 (avg. miles driven) divided by 40,000 (pounds of chicken on a tractor trailer) = 0.0375 miles per pound

Gallons of fuel per pound — 1500 (avg. miles driven) divided by 5 (miles per gallon) = 300 (gallons of fuel) divided by 40,000 (pounds of chicken) = 0.0075 gallons per pound

I would have to sell 750 pounds of meat every week to match the gallons per pound efficiency of industrial distribution. That is fifteen times more than I currently sell, and 3.75 times more than the biggest seller in our area that I am aware of.

Stop perpetuating this myth!
Isn't that amazing? Industrial is at least 3 times more efficient than the highest volume local sellers, and that's not even including the monstrous waste of the buyers driving 50 miles round trip to buy a bag of local food!

That cracking and crumbling sound you hear in the distance is the accepted wisdom.

Bob takes the argument further in a post titled Pound-Gallons, Not Food Miles:
In the early 2000s, a report from the Leopold Institute popularized the phrase “food miles.” The research detailed in that report showed that locally produced and distributed food uses less fossil fuel than industrially produced and distributed food because it has fewer food miles in it. Since the publication of that and subsequent reports this idea has become dogma and the phrase “food miles” has become a part of everyday language. The problem with the Leopold paper is that the comparison they did was for fully loaded local, regional, and national trucks. In reality, local, especially, trucks are not fully loaded, they are often mostly empty.

Awhile back I got some flack for a post and a follow-up post in which I argued against this food miles dogma and claimed that local farm and food systems, as they really exist today, do not use less fossil fuel than the industrial one. I still believe the argument I made in those two posts. I also still believe that it is important to find ways to decrease, on a per pound basis, which was the basis of my comparison, the fossil fuel consumption of local farm and food systems, especially in distribution. I would like to propose that we abandon the concept of food miles in favor of the more revealing and accurate “pound-gallons,” a horribly ugly phrase, I admit. What matters in terms of fossil fuel consumption is not how many miles the food has traveled, but how many gallons of fuel are in each pound of food. (Pound-gallons can also be used to compare fossil fuel consumption between industrial and local food production as well [eg, tractor use]) The food miles framework is very misleading. The reality is that there are substantially fewer pound-gallons in 40,000 pounds of produce trucked 1500 miles (0.0075) than in 200 pounds of produce trucked 50 miles (0.021). At 550 pounds of produced trucked 50 miles, the local pound-gallons and the industrial pound-gallons would be equivalent. (See the link to the first post above to see the math)

Once we adopt pound-gallons and abandon food miles, we see that we have a long way to go before local farm and food systems are using less fossil fuel, especially in distribution, than the industrial system. We need to get substantially more produce on each truck and/or transport that produce substantially fewer miles.
The situation is exactly the opposite of the common wisdom. The 25 mile farmer's market salad is actually more fuel intensive than the 3000 mile Caesar salad.
by JD

Saturday, September 26, 2009


I've often thought that moving to the country is one of dumber things you could do in response to peak oil.

My reasoning for this is simple: people in the country have a massive dependence on cars and gasoline. For example, my brother used to live on a ranch in the extreme boondocks of Idaho (the area was only electrified in the 1980s) and he and his wife had to drive about 100 miles to go to the supermarket. That's an extreme case, but the general principle is very true. The country has incredible sprawl, and you have to drive really long distances to take care of your daily business. Urban dwellers like myself, on the other hand, don't have to drive at all. My supermarket is a 3 minute walk from my front door. It seems obvious to me that country people -- at least those who aren't making good money from serious agriculture or some other business -- are the ones who will get it in the neck first from peak oil.

If you think about it, it's just a straightforward extension of Kunstler's logic. If the suburbs/exurbs are going to die because they're too oil dependent, then surely the rural areas will die even quicker because they are even more oil dependent.

Of course, savvy people/companies who are already making money on farm operations will continue to profit from food production, and will have the earning power to remain in the country. They belong there. Likewise, if you don't have to work or you're wealthy, then moving to a rural area may be a great response to peak oil. I'm not talking about such people. Or, if you can be an extremely self-sufficient subsistence farmer, and perhaps squat on some land, then my critique doesn't apply.

But if you're a working person who needs income to live, support a family, or build up a doomstead, it seems to me that going rural is jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Here's some articles from summer 2008 that spell it out in painful detail:
Rural U.S. Takes Worst Hit as Gas Tops $4 Average
Rural drivers feeling rise in gas prices more than their urban counterparts
High Gas Prices Hit Rural Poor Hardest
Rural Residents Struggle with High Gas Tab
Fuel prices rocket in rural areas

Pops is a rural doomsteader from, and he and I had a little exchange which is relevant this topic:
We'll further diversify our meager income by planting some U-Pick berries on a couple acres and going as whole-hog into market gardening as time allows next year, direct selling grass fed beef and eggs and some value added (jams, jellies) and homemade stuff at the farmers markets and roadside.

Just curious, but how much driving is involved in these businesses? For example, how far would people generally drive for your U-Pick berries? And how far do you and your customers generally drive to a farmers market? Do you keep your beef chilled or frozen? Do you use a generator at the market?


I talked to neighbors who have blueberries they are about to retire from and they said people mainly come from the small town about 5 miles away but some come 40 miles from Springfield or Joplin. They bring their kids and grandkids and a picnic lunch and have a "Farm Experience". With the farmers market people show up with their straw hats and organic cotton shopping bags to be seen by their Green peers. I could make a little money today at the little market on our square but to do any good we'll need to drive to one of the bigger towns — our roadside stand can only make $50 or $100 a week and that's only a few weeks per year.
Smallpoxgirl -- another doomer -- talks in a similar vein about driving from Seattle to Olympia (60 miles) for a farmer's market.

But these long drives totally negate the purpose of local food:
We have found that if a customer drives a round trip distance of more than four miles in order to purchase their organic vegetables, their carbon emissions are likely to be greater than the emissions from the system of cold storage, packing, transport to a regional hub and final transport to customer's doorstep used by large-scale vegetable box suppliers.Source
Another study gets the same results:
In the worst scenario, a UK consumer driving six miles to buy Kenyan green beans emits more carbon per bean than flying them from Kenya to the United Kingdom.Source
The same point can be seen another way. Suppose a family buzzes out to Pops' farm and picks 10 pounds of berries. Driving an average US vehicle, they'll burn 4 gallons of gasoline for a round trip of 80 miles. (Incidentally, that gasoline will weigh about 2.5 times more than the berries purchased.) Now, a commercial aircraft gets roughly 70 miles per gallon per passenger, and a passenger would be roughly equivalent to 20 boxes of berries (each containing 10 pounds). So for 4 gallons, you could send a passenger 280 miles, and a passenger is 20 boxes of berries, so you could send a box of berries about 5600 miles by air. In other words, driving 80 miles by car to buy 10 pounds of berries uses the same amount of fuel as shipping them 5600+ miles by air. And it just gets worse the less you buy. With a 5 pound box, you're talking 11,200 miles -- about half the circumference of the earth. In other words, the only thing more fuel intensive than the 3000 mile salad is the 25 mile farmer's market salad.


Doomers really can't help but grant my point...

I totally agree with you though about the degree to which rural America is dependent on petroleum. People in Montana think nothing of a 100 mile round trip commute or of driving 8 hours round trip to go to the mall. It always impressed me how independent the people where I lived were WRT snow cleanup. It could dump a foot and the next morning everybody would be out with a loader or a snow plow cleaning it all up. In one sense they're very self sufficient, but all that equipment runs off petroleum. Take away the gasoline, and that area would be totally uninhabitable in the winter. To a large extent it's this sort of fake independence. They're more self sufficient in terms of being able to use different technologies and manufactured materials without the aid of a specialist, but they're just as dependent if not more so on the extractive and manufacturing industries in far away places keeping them supplied.
Toby Hemenway, a doomer who went rural and then realized after 10 years that it wasn't such a great idea after all:
Our isolation also meant we were burning a lot of gas. A simple drive for groceries was a 40-minute round trip. Fortunately we both worked at home and had no children, so we could go for days without using the car. But the odometer was whirling to higher numbers than it ever had in the city. A couple of families had moved off our hill because they were exhausted by two to four round trips each day down our steep, potholed gravel road to work, school, soccer practice, music lessons, and shopping.

We cherished our decade-plus in the country, but eventually the realities began to pile up. There wasn’t a local market for the work we did. Community events left us saddened by the gulf between our way of life and theirs. And we were still tethered to the fossil-fuel beast, just by a much longer lifeline of wire, pipe, and pavement. That the beast looked smaller by being farther away no longer fooled us.Source
More real-world info on how rural areas get mauled by high gas prices:
Soaring gas prices are a double-whammy for many rural residents: They often pay more than people who live in cities and suburbs because of the expense of hauling fuel to their communities, and they must drive greater distances for life's necessities: work, groceries, medical care and, of course, gas.

Meanwhile, incomes typically are lower in rural areas, making increasingly high gas prices an especially urgent concern. Rural households also are more likely to have older, less fuel-efficient vehicles such as pickups, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) says. The average age of a vehicle in a rural household: 8.7 years, compared with 7.9 years for an urban vehicle.

Rural residents do more driving, too — an average of 3,100 miles a year more than urban dwellers, the FHWA says.

A May survey by the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS), a fuel analysis company, and Wright Express, a company that collects data on credit card transactions, found that people in rural areas spend as much as 16.02% of their monthly family income on gas, while people in urban areas of New York and New Jersey spend as little as 2.05%.Source
During the last bout of high oil prices, there was some reporting about gas stations closing in rural regions (Fears for rural filling stations, Rural motorists running on empty as pumps close) forcing people to drive long distances for gas. As you would expect, this can turn into a nasty EROEI situation. Here's another report in the same vein...
When the only gas station in Allen, Neb., closed last summer, a gallon of gas cost $2.56, according to prices posted on two abandoned pumps. Since then, Allen's 411 residents have been driving 11 miles to Wakefield or 28 miles to South Sioux City to fill up.

Allen's grocery store went out of business last August, forcing people to shop in South Sioux City or 21 miles away in Wayne. Doctors, dentists and other essentials also require a road trip. The nearest movie theater is in Wayne.

"You have to leave town for about everything," says Jerry Schroeder, an insurance agent who has lived in Allen for all of his 57 years.Source
Still more on people getting savaged by high oil prices in the country (from High Gas Prices Threaten to Drain Small Towns' Populations):
These days, they're also cussing and shaking their heads about the price of that gasoline. People are doing that everywhere, but in small towns such as Leeton, population 619, it's even more of a gut punch because nearly every working adult commutes to jobs elsewhere.

These days, there had better be a really good job on the other end of that trip.

Don Campbell's daily commute to Kansas City - about 100 miles each way - costs him roughly $866 a month at $3.90 per gallon. But he's a union iron worker and says he can make the math work.

Most of his neighbors can't. For them and thousands of other small-town residents across the country who drive long distances to jobs that pay little more than minimum wage, the high cost of gas is making that daily commute cost-prohibitive.

So much so that economists predict that over the next few years, the country could see a migration that would greatly reduce the population of Small Town America - resulting in a painful shift away from lifestyle, family roots, traditions and school ties.
Perhaps the worst threat of all is a vicious cycle of depopulation. High gas prices cause commuting to work/the doctor/school/shopping to be too expensive, so people leave the rural towns/counties and move to larger cities. Govt. revenues decline (people fleeing) while govt. costs rise (gas for the cops, school buses, ambulances, inspectors, garbage collection etc.) Then merchants pull out and gas stations pull out, because there isn't enough population to support them. Govt. services get erratic. More people get fed up and leave etc. etc. Next thing you know, your rural "community" isn't there anymore.
by JD

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Lately, I've been fooling around with the figures from the 2009 BP Statistical Review (BSR) -- in particular the data for "Consumption by Fuel". I've made some surprising discoveries which I'd like to share with you. First, a note of caution: The BSR has some problems with completeness. For example, we know from EIA power generation stats that the Philippines produced 8.5 TWh from hydro, and 9.7 TWh from geothermal in 2007. This closes matches the BSR figure for hydro in 2007 (1.9 million tons of oil equivalent (mtoe) = 8.4 TWh). However the BSR only lists power consumption in 5 categories: Oil, Coal, Gas, Nuclear and Hydro. It neglects non-hydro renewables, and this distorts the data for nations which generate considerable power from non-hydro renewables (e.g., the Philippines, Iceland, Sweden, Brazil, Denmark, Canada and Finland). Another issue is that the BSR is not comprehensive, and only provides data for larger nations. In the future, I'll try to calculate a more accurate picture from EIA data, but for now, let's look at the results from the BSR.

First are the Top Twenty nations in terms of low oil dependence. I define oil dependence as the percentage of total energy consumption deriving from oil. For reference the oil dependence of the world as a whole in 2008 was 35%. Percentage of energy from other sources is also given so you can see how these nations achieved such low oil dependence. The winners are:

Now, the Bottom Twenty in oil dependence:

The next category is where we separate the stallions of the future from the nags of the past. The following are the Top Ten countries in terms of low *fossil fuel* dependence. That is, the countries are ranked by the percentage of their total energy which comes from fossils fuels, lowest first. Note, however, that these figures may be considerably skewed because the BSR does not include non-hydro renewables, as noted above. For reference, the fossil fuel dependence of the world as a whole in 2008 was 88%. That said, the winners are:

There are numerous losers in FF dependence. Countries with a FF dependence of 97% or higher are: Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Turkmenistan, Qatar, Denmark, Belarus, Algeria, Poland, Iran, Netherlands, Bangladesh, Ireland, Thailand, Indonesia, Greece, South Africa, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Australia.
by JD

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Just when you thought he'd checked himself into a good psychiatric facility....

Mike Ruppert roars back as the star of a new feature film "Collapse".

Owen Gleiberman posts a rave review from the Toronto Film Festival:
I said in my first post from Toronto that you could feel the anxiety of the economic crisis in any number of the films here. Yet even as I wrote that, I could never have guessed I’d end up seeing a movie that would tap into those anxieties with the power and terror of Collapse. It’s one of the few true buzz films of the festival (by the time I got to it, I’d heard a dozen people talking it up), yet the movie, which is 82 minutes long, consists of nothing more than an on-camera interview with Michael Ruppert, a former Los Angeles police officer who became a rogue investigative reporter and author.

A bluntly unassuming and rather plain-looking man in his late fifties, Ruppert sits in what looks like a brick bunker and talks about where he thinks the United States is now headed. It is not a pretty picture, but it’s not a naive one, either. Ruppert has more than a perception — he has a welter of facts, a restless and skeptical intelligence, a grasp of history that is professorial in the best sense, and an ability to slice and dice the platitudes of mainstream media. He’s like Noam Chomsky as a gripping pundit of doom. The drama of the movie, and it’s intense, is that even if you want to argue with him (and you will, since he’s predicting very bad things), you can’t dismiss what he’s saying.

He starts out with a trump card of credibility. In 2006, Ruppert predicted the economic crisis — I mean, he really saw it coming. We’re shown clips of him from that year, and there’s nothing vague or abstract about his statements. He glimpsed the whole house of cards in prophetic detail: the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the inevitable breakdown of a system built, like a gold-leaf castle in the air, on leverage. His astonishingly acute foresight seizes your attention, and so you’d better believe that you’re sitting up and listening as he starts to talk about “peak oil,” the term that’s used to describe the fact that the majority of oil reserves on the planet have, in all likelihood, already been depleted, and that the remaining supply will now perpetually be in decline. (He cites reports that the Saudis have resorted to off-shore drilling — infinitely more costly than on-shore — as evidence that they’ve begun to see the bottom of their wells.)
Now for the reality check...

Mike Ruppert, September 21, 2005:
While I had serious doubts about America's ability to recover from Katrina, I am certain that - barring divine intervention - the United States is finished; not only as a superpower, but possibly even as a single, unified nation with the arrival of Hurricane Rita.Link
Mike Ruppert Jan. 9, 2009:
*I can pretty much bet that as many as 50-75 new Executive Orders will be announced within 72 hours of the inauguration.

*I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a couple of days with 700+ point losses in the Dow over the next ten days to two weeks.

*Reports have suggested that China may dump half of its $1.4 trillion dollar holdings within the next two months.

*As I correspond with a number of key friends and researchers around the world we have all concluded that it may be just a matter of weeks (yikes!) before we start seeing major disruptions in everyday life.

*Soon it will be necessary for me to look at topics which we've mentioned in passing. These include civil unrest, camps, emergency communications and preparedness as the threat of societal breakdown becomes imminent. It's time to start doing that.Link
Mike Ruppert, Nov. 25, 2008:
-"The end" of the U.S. economy by March or April.
-Gold $2000 an oz. by March
-People starving and screaming for food by August
-Conditions 10x worse than The Great Depression by August
-Oil above $100, gas above $3.00 by Summer.Link
Mike Ruppert, Sept. 13, 2005:
"I predict we will soon see a national draft, and Canada will not harbor U.S. deserters as it did during Vietnam, as it is now a virtual U.S. colony." Link
Mike Ruppert, April 25, 2009:
"Now, with the swine flu outbreak just developing, it is clear that the dieoff has begun..." Link
Astonishingly acute foresight... LOL. Ruppert is a complete wingnut "truther" with a long history of BS predictions, extreme paranoia and mental health issues.

Update 9/28/09:
Mike Ruppert found guilty of sexual harassment, hit with $125,000 fine.
The state labor board has ordered author and conspiracy theorist Michael C. Ruppert, to pay more than $125,000 to a former female employee he was accused of sexually harassing.

State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, ordered the former Ashland businessman to pay Lindsay Gerken $2,713 in lost wages. Avakian then tagged on $125,000 in damages for the woman's mental and emotional suffering for an award of $127,713.


Avakian said Gerken was fired a week after Ruppert asked her to have a sexual relationship with him and she refused.

The most startling incident occurred when Ruppert came to Gerken's office door "wearing only his underwear and a smile," according to a BOLI release.


In an interview Thursday, Ruppert did not deny he presented himself to Gerken in his underwear.


"At the trial it was evident that one person was telling the truth, and another was not," he said. "All of (Ruppert's) businesses have failed and creditors a mile long are after him."Source
It's also worth mentioning that Delmart "Mike" Vreeland -- a primary source for Ruppert's conspiracy theory screed Crossing the Rubicon -- has been sentenced to 336 years in prison for pedophilia:
A Douglas County man has been sentenced to 336 years to life in prison after he was convicted of luring two boys into performing sex acts and making child pornography by giving them drugs and money and promising them a drum set.

Forty-two-year-old Delmart Vreeland was convicted in 2006 of 13 felony charges, including inducement of child prostitution, sexual assault, sexual exploitation of children and distribution of cocaine. Earlier this year, he was convicted of six habitual criminal counts.Source
by JD
Major hat tip to Andrew Ryan for keeping tabs on Mike and compiling most of this material. Hopefully he'll check in soon with more material for this article.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


REN21 has released its Renewables Global Status Report 2009. This table shows the scorecard, as of the end of 2008:
The wind build is amazing if you think of it in terms of EV fuel.

A typical EV efficiency value is 5 miles/kwH, while ICE cars run about 20 miles/gallon. That gives us an equivalency of about 1 kwh = .25 gallons of gasoline. The world is adding about 30 GWe of wind capacity per year, and wind has a capacity factor of about 30%. So the wind installed last year should produce roughly 87.6 Twh/year (roughly equal to the total annual electricity production of the Czech Republic). Converting that to gasoline, we get 1.4 million barrels /day. In a few years, the wind increment will double to the equivalent of 3 million barrels/day, so that windmills worldwide will be adding EV fuel equivalent to Canada's total oil production every year (or Saudi Arabia's oil production every 3 years). And windmills don't deplete!

EVs really can really be a game changer if you think about. Windmills are a very efficient and clean source of vehicle fuel, and they can definitely come on a lot faster than oil is depleting. No wonder the Saudi's are getting worried.

Here's a sampler of other interesting graphs from the report...
A phenomenal surge in wind in the last 10 years:

Solar PV growth:
Renewable power capacity:
China excels in yet another area:
Did someone say "The End of Growth"? LOL:
Here's a figure that will knock your socks off: The US alone invested $24 billion in wind in 2008.
by JD

Sunday, September 06, 2009


It seems this article by Lionel Badal was too hot for the Oil Drum to handle. I have to admit it's a little bizarre to see the Oil Drum suddenly so eager to paint the IEA in a good light. Is Gail a traitor to the cause of PO? Has TOD has been co-opted by moles from BAU and Team Yergin? The whispering has begun: "TOD has a hopelessly rose-colored view of OOIP and Alt resources..." Stay tuned...

This article was originally submitted to The Oil Drum[27] (one of the leading Peak Oil news webpage). While the editors initially accepted to publish the article, at the very last moment they changed their mind. In other words, an article on Peak Oil was censored by… The Oil Drum (TOD). The reasons why?

“I know there are at least a few people who think we should be putting the IEA in as favorable light as we can. So I have decided not to run it…” (Gail the Actuary, Editor, 2 September 2009).

However, to be fair with TOD, some of their members did not support this action:

“Sorry to hear about what's going on regarding your article and TOD… 1) this is something that TOD should publish, and 2) this kind of censorship, as you point out, isn't something that we should take any part in.” (Jeff Vail, 2 September 2009).

At the end, they wouldn’t accept it. If even TOD starts to censor information on Peak Oil…

To put it in the words of Steve Connor, Science Editor of The Independent, “What an odd thing for Oil Drum to be worried about -- so much for the independent journalism of the internet.”
As you can see, the article was accepted by The Oil Drum, but then (at the very last moment) cancelled…

From: Gail Tverberg [GailTverberg@comcast....
Sent: 01 September 2009 15:52
To: Badal, Lionel
Subject: Re: article on Peak Oil and the IEA

My current plans are to put it up tomorrow. Since it involves a
European issue, I may put it up late tonight, so it is up for your
morning tomorrow.


From: Gail Tverberg
Date: September 2, 2009 9:04:27 AM EDT
To: "Badal, Lionel"
Subject: Re: article on Peak Oil and the IEA


I have your post ready, but after thinking about it, I started worrying. The IEA folks are in a terrible position. I worry that we will make things even worse for them. The result could be people losing their jobs, or even suicide.

I know there are at least a few people who think we should be putting the IEA in as favorable light as we can.

So I have decided not to run it, at least not for now. Nate pointed out to me that it is well documented, so from that point of view it is not a problem.

I should have thought this through better before.


Update 9/8/2009:
The above text criticizing the Oil Drum has now been deleted from Badal's article. A thread on TOD's handling of this article (at TOD) is here.

by JD

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Man, this is some funny stuff... our old buddy Matt Simmons is pulling the fire alarm again. Seems there's some crackpots out there making unfounded predictions about natural gas production!!!
"In the 40 years I've followed the industry I've been continuously amazed at the tangent people are willing to go off on without any data, or by getting the data wrong," Simmons said. Link
Oh, the irony...

Matt seems to have forgotten that in 2003 he himself predicted* that a natural gas cliff -- a veritable natural gas armageddon -- was a certainty in the US by 2005. And yet here we are, 6 years later, swimming in a glut of natural gas, with production at a historic high last reached in 1974.

Simmons' credibility is shot, but he just keeps blustering on, oblivious.

The disappointing part is the guy who interviewed Simmons. Doesn't anybody do any research? I could name you five Simmons predictions that have imploded off the top of my head. And soon, we've got the much-ballyhooed Simmons-Tierney bet where he's fixing to lose $5,000 to a cornucopian disciple of Julian Simon, and be exposed in the New York Times as a laughing stock.

It's becoming ever clearer that Simmons is a buffoon who really can't get anything right. His instincts are bad. He has an intemperate personality. He tends to get over-excited and let his mouth get away from him. He's sort of like the "Joe Biden" of the peak oil community.

You wanna see what I mean? Listen to Simmons in this interview. He talks like someone who's been up all night smoking crack -- and I'm not exaggerating.


*)For your reading enjoyment, vintage Simmons from the summer of 2003:
Simmons: As you know, I have been talking for some time about the natural gas cliff we are experiencing.


Well, I know you understand it, but people need to understand the concept of peaking and irreversible decline. It's a sharper issue with gas, which doesn't follow a bell curve but tends to fall off a cliff.

Someone's going to be left holding the bag big time. If natural gas consumption surges in ten days of excessive heat then it would require almost a complete shutdown of industrial consumption to compensate and protect the grid. As I have been reporting for years now, there isn't going to be enough gas to run those plants, let alone new ones.


Pray for no hurricanes and to stop the erosion of natural gas supplies. Under the best of circumstances, if all prayers are answered there will be no crisis for maybe two years. After that it's a certainty. Source
by JD

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Some readers noticed that I was briefly branded as a malware site by Google yesterday. The site is back to normal now, but let me explain. It seems I had a hot linked jpg of a Cadillac on a page from 4 years ago, and that jpg was being hosted by a malware site. I deleted the link, and was certified A-OK by Google this morning.

Sorry for the inconvenience, and I hope you'll stay tuned. I've got some good new posts in the oven which I'll start posting later today.

As always, thanks for reading and supporting Peak Oil Debunked!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


This will be an interesting factor to watch going forward:
Iraq aims to increase oil production by up to four times: minister

ISTANBUL — Iraq aims to increase its oil production by up to four times with the development of 10 new fields to be auctioned later this year, Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said Tuesday.

The minister spoke after a meeting with oil companies in Istanbul to present the new fields and the terms for the tender, which will follow a first-round bidding in June that saw investors snub all but one of eight contracts on offer.

Iraq expects production from the new fields slated for auction "to be several million barrels per day", Shahristani said.

"So combining the fields of the first and second round, Iraq should increase its production to at least three to four times of its current production," he said.

Iraq, which has the world's third largest oil reserves, is yet to catch up with output levels prior to the US-led invasion in 2003, hit by deadly unrest and tensions between Baghdad and the oil-rich autonomous Kurdish region in the north.

Iraq currently produces around 2.4 million barrels per day, with oil accounting for some 85 percent of government revenues. It exports some two million barrels per day, most of it from the fields of the southern province of Basra. Link

Four times current production would put about 8 or 9 million barrels a day of new oil exports on the market.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


From Rigzone:
Natural gas prices after rallying on surprisingly strong labor market news have retreated in recent days as the prospect of full storage suggests the industry will be forced to curtail production unless demand picks up. At the end of July, natural gas in storage was almost 3.1 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), or about 25% above the 5-year average for volumes at this time of year. Estimates of full storage capacity range from 3.7 Tcf to 4.1 Tcf. At the date of this report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), there were 10 weeks left to the storage injection season meaning that without a strong pick up in gas demand or a collapse in production, domestic gas producers are facing the eventuality of all having to curtail their production. When that happens, we should expect a meaningful drop in natural gas prices.
Production continues to climb:

Futures prices are now as low as they have been since 2002:
by JD

Monday, August 17, 2009


Interesting new battery with tremendous potential:

In a modest building on the west side of Salt Lake City, a team of specialists in advanced materials and electrochemistry has produced what could be the single most important breakthrough for clean, alternative energy since Socrates first noted solar heating 2,400 years ago.

The prize is the culmination of 10 years of research and testing -- a new generation of deep-storage battery that's small enough, and safe enough, to sit in your basement and power your home.

It promises to nudge the world to a paradigm shift as big as the switch from centralized mainframe computers in the 1980s to personal laptops. But this time the mainframe is America's antiquated electrical grid; and the switch is to personal power stations in millions of individual homes.


Inside Ceramatec's wonder battery is a chunk of solid sodium metal mated to a sulphur compound by an extraordinary, paper-thin ceramic membrane. The membrane conducts ions -- electrically charged particles -- back and forth to generate a current. The company calculates that the battery will cram 20 to 40 kilowatt hours of energy into a package about the size of a refrigerator, and operate below 90 degrees C.

This may not startle you, but it should. It's amazing. The most energy-dense batteries available today are huge bottles of super-hot molten sodium, swirling around at 600 degrees or so. At that temperature the material is highly conductive of electricity but it's both toxic and corrosive. You wouldn't want your kids around one of these.

The essence of Ceramatec's breakthrough is that high energy density (a lot of juice) can be achieved safely at normal temperatures and with solid components, not hot liquid.

Ceramatec says its new generation of battery would deliver a continuous flow of 5 kilowatts of electricity over four hours, with 3,650 daily discharge/recharge cycles over 10 years. With the batteries expected to sell in the neighborhood of $2,000, that translates to less than 3 cents per kilowatt hour over the battery's life. Conventional power from the grid typically costs in the neighborhood of 8 cents per kilowatt hour.

Re-read that last paragraph and let the information really sink in. Five kilowatts over four hours -- how much is that? Imagine your trash compactor, food processor, vacuum cleaner, stereo, sewing machine, one surface unit of an electric range and thirty-three 60-watt light bulbs all running nonstop for four hours each day before the house battery runs out. That's a pretty exciting place to live.

And then you recharge. With a projected 3,650 discharge/recharge cycles -- one per day for a decade -- you leave the next-best battery in the dust. Deep-cycling lead/acid batteries like the ones used in RVs are only good for a few hundred cycles, so they're kaput in a year or so.

by JD

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

415. 16,000 MILE ICE CUBES IN THE YEAR 1833

Lately I've been reading A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World by William Bernstein, a fascinating book which details the history of world trade from the days of Sumer to modern times. This book will definitely disabuse you of the naive notion that peak oil (or anything else) is going to put an end to world trade, and return us to the good old days of rural autarky. The fact is, there never were such days. The human impulse to trade is innate and unstoppable, and has been a core driver of events throughout the course of human history.

There are lots of interesting stories and data points in the book, and I'll share more as time goes on, but I found this bit particularly amazing:
On September 5, 1833, the American clipper Tuscany appeared at the mouth of India's Hooghly River, took on a river pilot, and headed upstream to Calcutta. The news of its arrival was swiftly related upriver, throwing that city, whose name is synonymous with sweltering heat, into a state of excitement. The Tuscany carried a new and priceless cargo: more than a hundred tons of crystal-clear New England ice. (P. 332)
This turned out to be one of the most lucrative routes in the international network of the world's original ice trader, Frederic Tudor:
In 1833, fellow Boston-based merchant Samuel Austin proposed a partnership for selling ice to India, then some 16,000 miles (26,000 km) and four months away from Massachusetts. On May 12, 1833 the brig Tuscany sailed from Boston for Calcutta, its hold filled with 180 tons of ice cut during the winter. When it approached the Ganges in September 1833, many believed the delivery was an elaborate joke, but the ship still had 100 tons of ice upon arrival. Over the next 20 years, Calcutta would become Tudor's most lucrative destination, yielding an estimated $220,000 in profits.
It's pretty far-fetched to think that a manageable adjustment like peak oil is going to kill the 1,500 mile salad when 16,000 mile ice cubes were a thriving and profitable trade almost 200 years ago, in the pre-fossil fuel period.
by JD

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Recently Jeff Rubin has been talking up the end of globalization due to peak oil:
Jeff Rubin, a former chief economist with CIBC World Markets, told the Georgia Straight that in the coming years, “triple-digit” oil prices will make it far more expensive to ship goods here from Asia.

“Trade is going to become more and more regional than transoceanic,” he predicted.
The following quick calculation shows a serious problem with this viewpoint.

First, some fuel-efficiency statistics:

A tractor-trailer truck averages 90.5 net ton-miles per gallon.
A 100,000 dwt ship averages 1034.4 net ton-miles per gallon.

From Shanghai to Vancouver is about 6000 miles, so it takes about 6 gallons of fuel to move a ton that distance. By truck on land, that same 6 gallons will only move a ton about 543 miles. In addition, the labor costs of trucking are huge compared to shipping, because each truck needs a driver, while a gigantic ship only needs a skeleton crew.

Conclusion: High oil prices will destroy trade between Alberta and Vancouver before it destroys trade between Shanghai and Vancouver.

The relevant metric is not the percentage of fuel costs relative to total transport costs mentioned by Rubin. That ratio is high for shipping precisely because shipping has such low labor costs per ton.

The relevant metric is the comparative values of net ton-miles/gallon of different transport modes.

The reality is that it costs less to ship a container between China and Felixstowe, England than it costs to send it by road from Felixstowe to Scotland. Source

If it will be uneconomic to manufacture goods with low margins, like clothing and consumer products, across the oceans, it will be even more uneconomic to manufacture them within Canada, for exactly the same reason. Moving the products from, say, Vancouver to Alberta or Saskatchewan will take as much fuel (or far more) than moving the same products from China. In addition, you have the problem of high labor costs of trucking and manufacturing in Canada.

It's interesting to note that agitation against globalization and calls for relocalization are more than 300 years old, and arose long before the era of oil, or even coal. For example, English clothing interests were calling for protectionist legislation against cheap fabric imports and loss of jobs to India in the year 1681:
"into India throwsters, weavers, and dyers, and actually set up there a manufacture of silk... importing them ready made and dyed in England is an unspeakable impoverishment of the working people of this kingdom who would otherwise be employed therein and to the ruin of many thousands of families here." (Alfred C. Wood, A History of the Levant Company, p. 104)
Port cities along the pacific rim will continue to thrive, as port cities always have, due to the ease of trade.

If anyone is going to get clobbered by price inflation, it's the people in deeply landlocked rural areas like Saskatchewan. This will be due to: a) the high expense of moving goods to them, and b) the highly dispersed layout of rural communities, where you have to drive 20 miles to the supermarket etc. If you're driving more than 3 miles to the supermarket, that drive itself consumes as much fuel per item as transporting the same items halfway around the world.
by JD

Thursday, July 30, 2009


As noted in the previous article, peak oil doomers constantly say that oil shocks (or high oil prices) inevitably cause economic recession. They produce graphs showing the coincidence of recessions with oil price spikes, and suggest that the historical record is unequivocal.

For some countries, like the US, their point is very true. However, consider the flipside: when the US is getting bled to death and recessing due to high oil prices, countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia are swimming in cash and growing like never before. The money that is sucked out of the US economy is diverted to and spent by oil exporting economies, and the result is a net wash in terms of global GDP. The global GDP doesn't care who spends the money, or where it is spent, or what it is spent on. In fact, there is no simple logical reason why an oil shock should cause global growth to halt or reverse -- a fact which has been noted by economists.

The actual statistics on world growth bear my point out. Here is a graph of world oil production from 1978 to 1994 (a period I like to call "The Big Glitch"; figures from the BP. Stat. Rev. 2007). Note that there was no net growth in oil production in the 14 years from 1979 to 1993.

This was a period which began with a huge oil shock, and some of the highest real oil prices in history (click to enlarge):

And yet world real GDP grew the entire time (figures from the World Bank's World Development Indicators Database):

This is further supported by the following Table of global real GDP 1950-2001 (P. 233, The World Economy, Angus Maddison; click to enlarge). Note that an oil shock has never caused global growth to even halt, let alone reverse:

If declining oil production and high oil prices cause recession, why didn't the world economy recess during the Big Glitch? The world economy grew steadily without any net growth in oil production for 14 years.

In fact, in the 1979-1993 period, the world produced far less than it would have produced in a 14-year production plateau:
And yet world growth continued, unimpeded. The peak oilers tell us that a plateau will have devastating effects on economic growth, because the economy can't grow without growth in oil production. And yet that did not happen during the Big Glitch, even though far less oil was produced than would have been produced in a plateau. On the global level, something is very wrong with their theory that oil shocks cause recession... what is it?
by JD

Thursday, July 16, 2009


This morning, I was looking at the Nikkei Shimbun (Japan's leading economics daily), and noticed the following graph of China's GDP growth since 2000:

This is very interesting if you reflect on it. After all, we are told by many popular peak oilers that:
  1. High oil prices always cause recession.
  2. The current recession was caused by the run-up in oil prices prior to July 2008.
Notice the vertical axis on the graph. Even at its lowest point, the Chinese growth rate never dipped below 6%. China never even came close to a recession, despite the highest real oil prices in history.

How is that possible? If cheap oil is so critical to economic functioning, why doesn't an oil crunch stop growth in China?
by JD

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Today's a good day to review one of the oil production forecasts made by the Oil Drum's primary forecaster, Tony Eriksen aka "ace". (Quick question: How narcissistic do you have to be to call yourself "ace"?)

On August 6, 2007, ace published the following prediction on the Oil Drum:
World C&C production continues to retain its May 2005 peak and is forecast to decline by 1%/yr until 2009. The decline rate steepens to 4%/yr until 2012. The main reason for the end of the total liquids plateau in 2009 (Fig 1) is that the C&C production decline rate changes from 1%/yr to 4%/yr in 2009.
The graph of this forecast is as follows. Notice in particular the steep increase in the decline rate to 4%/yr which ace forecasted to begin right now, in the Summer of 2009 (click the graph to enlarge):

Now, let's compare this forecast with the actual results to date (from the latest Oilwatch Monthly):

As you can see, the first part of the forecast was not very accurate. Ace stated that there would be no new peak after 2005, but in fact a new peak was set in July 2008. Furthermore, production did not decline by 1%/yr from May 2007. In fact, there was a sharp increase in production, until the steep drop due to the recession.

However, those points are all pretty minor. The funky part of ace's forecast starts about right now, in July 2009. As you can see in the graph, he is predicting that world C&C (conventional crude) production will now begin a shocking and unprecedented nosedive, and decline by 4%/yr until 2012. (Compare this with the 1.3% C&C decline forecast by Kjell Aleklett.)

Current C&C production is roughly 72 mbd (EIA, April 2009). So here's ace's forecast for the next few years:

Summer 2010: 69 mbd
Summer 2011: 66 mbd
Summer 2012: 64 mbd

Those are horrendous declines. The total crude production of Saudi Arabia gone, in just three years. So stay tuned folks. Either oil production, or ace's credibility, is going to swirl down the toilet in the next year or two. I'm betting on the latter.
by JD

Sunday, July 12, 2009


This is a continuation of the previous post 409. THE IMPORT LAND MODEL examining the relevance of the Jeffrey Brown's Export Land Model (ELM).

According to the ELM, growth in oil consumption by exporters will rapidly reduce available exports. However, as I showed in the previous article, total 2008 consumption growth of all major exporters was about 486 kbd, while the 2008 drop in oil consumption by the US alone was -1,262 kbd. This means that increased consumption by exporters was completely swamped by decreased consumption by importers. Indeed, the drop in consumption by the US alone in 2008 eliminated roughly 2.5 years worth of the ELM effect. I call this the import land effect.

This effect is getting larger. Examining the Weekly US Petroleum Products Supplied from the EIA, I compared average US fuel consumption for Jan. 1-July 4, 2008 with the corresponding period for 2009. The results:

2008: 20,504 kbd
2009: 18,831 kbd

As you can see, US consumption is down by about -1,673 kbd in 2009 over 2008. This makes a total drop in consumption of roughly 3,000 kbd in two years -- an amount sufficient to wipe out the ELM for about 6.2 years.

And keep in mind: so far I am only considering consumption shrinkage in the US alone. When we figure in the structural drop in consumption in the OECD, which peaked in 2005 and will show a large consumption drop for the 4th consecutive year in 2009, it's likely that importer demand shrinkage is going to wipe out 8 or more years of consumption growth by exporting countries.

So Jeffrey Brown's 2005 prediction

"As I said last year, I expect that by the end of 2006 we will be in the teeth of a ferocious net oil export crisis." Source

is set to recede even further into the future.

The problem is that Brown's ELM calculates available exports like this

Available exports = Production by exporting nations - Consumption growth by exporting nations

when in fact, it is calculated like this

Available exports = Production by exporting nations - Consumption growth by exporting nations + Consumption shrinkage by importing nations

and the third term is currently swamping the second term.
by JD

Thursday, July 09, 2009


I've previously discussed the statistical gimmickry of Jeffrey Brown's Export Land Model (ELM). The problem can be quickly summarized like this: Suppose you have a fuel tank which is running down at a rate of 1 liter per hour. Ordinary people with common sense would say that the tank is being drawn down at a constant rate. Similarly, mathematicians would call this a simple linear decline at a constant rate. Jeffrey Brown, however, claims that the draw down is occurring at an exponentially accelerating decline rate. I kid you not. If you're curious about how this amazing feat of smoke and mirrors is achieved, here is a detailed explanation.

Today I'd like to talk about another gimmick of the ELM. Veterans who have read a lot of Brown's writing will have noticed that he always focuses on a few carefully selected examples: Indonesia, the UK and of course "Export Land" (the fictional country he uses to illustrate the model). He never seems to bring it all together, and give a coherent picture of the net export situation for the entire world. There is a good reason for this. When you look at the big picture, the ELM "crisis" appears in a very different light.

Consider the following table, showing oil consumption growth in the world's top 20 exporting countries (click to enlarge):

The first column gives the exporter, the second column gives growth in consumption from 2007 to 2008, and the third column gives average growth in consumption for the past 3 years. The figures in black come from the BP Stat. Rev. 2009, and the figures in blue come from the EIA. All figures indicate thousand barrels per day (kbd).

The first striking thing is how small these numbers are (with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia and Russia). For example, consumption in Mexico only increased by 13,000 barrels per day in 2008, and an average of only 35,000 barrels per day over the last 3 years.

For comparison, the US consumed 19.4 million bd in 2008. That's 1500 times the size of consumption growth in Mexico in 2008. Mexico's growth in oil consumption is literally one tiny piss-ant oil field a year. And Mexico is very representative of oil exporters in general.

So the idea that oil exporting nations are ravenously chewing into the developed world's oil supply is completely at odds with the facts.

In 2008, total world oil exports were around 40 mbd, and total growth in oil consumption by exporters was about 490 kbd. So growth by exporters in 2008 only consumed about 1.2% of the pool of available exports. Graphically, it looks like this:
According to the ELM, that little blue sliver is the bad guy. But try overlaying US oil consumption on the same graph for a size check:
Let's not fool ourselves about who's really sucking down all the oil, and needs to cut back. It's not the oil exporters.

And that leads me to the most interesting point.

On April 5, 2006, Jeffrey Brown (aka "Westexas") made the following prediction:

"As I said last year, I expect that by the end of 2006 we will be in the teeth of a ferocious net oil export crisis." Source

This turned out to be totally wrong in an interesting and unexpected way. The reason is that oil consumption in the US dropped by -1,262 kbd in 2008. This means that the decrease in consumption in the US alone cancelled out about 3 years of consumption growth by all exporting countries. Similarly, Japan's consumption has been dropping by about -166 kbd per year for the last 3 years, totally compensating for consumption growth in Saudi Arabia, the largest exporter consumer. There are also a number of other nations where oil consumption is steadily declining.

So instead of seeing a decrease in available exports due to rising consumption by exporters, what the statistics actually show is importer consumption dropping faster than exporter consumption is rising. I call this effect the "Import Land Model".

Given Brown's prediction it's a very paradoxical outcome. But it's also very satisfying. Clearly we should continue in just this vein: cancelling out exporter consumption growth through conservation and efficiency in the OECD.
by JD