free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 279. THE MANY WRONG PREDICTIONS OF KEN DEFFEYES

Thursday, April 06, 2006


In the interests of honesty and full-disclosure, it's probably best if we take a close look at the numerous failed peak predictions of Professor Kenneth Deffeyes, PhD.

Ken first called the peak for the year 2000. In an article called "Brace yourself for the end of cheap oil" in New Scientist*, Deffeyes had this to say:
And he [Deffeyes] believes the highest single year may already have passed. "2000 may stand as a blip above the curve and be in the Guinness Book of World Records."
Similar remarks are recorded in the ASPO August 2003 newsletter:
This may substantiate the view, voiced by Ken Deffeyes, at the Paris ASPO Meeting [May 2003], that peak oil production may turn out to have been in 2000 as much from falling demand as supply constraints.
This was a huge goof, and seriously calls into question Deffeyes grasp of the situation. According to the EIA, oil production in 2000 was 77mbd, while today it is pushing 85mbd.

Next, in his book "Hubbert's Peak", published in 2001, Deffeyes claimed that "the numbers" showed that peak would occur in 2003, although he admitted the possibility of error, as described in the review of his book in the October 2001 issue of Scientific American:
The numbers pointed to 2003 as the year of peak production, but because estimates of global reserves are inexact, Deffeyes settled on a range from 2004 to 2008. Three things could upset Deffeyes's prediction. One would be the discovery of huge new oil deposits. A second would be the development of drilling technology that could squeeze more oil from known reserves. And a third would be a steep rise in oil prices, which would make it profitable to recover even the most stubbornly buried oil.
Then, in the New Scientist article* referenced earlier, Deffeyes made the following claim:
I am 99 per cent confident that 2004 will be the top of the mathematically smoothed curve of oil production.
This too, turned out wrong. Production kept rising, so Deffeyes swept the old predictions under the carpet, and boldly stated that the peak would occur on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 24) 2005.

Yet again, his prediction turned out wrong, so he changed his prediction to Dec. 16, 2005.
In the January 2004 Current Events on this web site, I predicted that world oil production would peak on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2005. In hindsight, that prediction was in error by three weeks. An update using the 2005 data shows that we passed the peak on December 16, 2005.Source
(This waffle occurred in the same issue of his web newsletter where he claimed that "By 2025, we're going to be back in the Stone Age" -- a claim that he later backpedaled and retracted. See 259. KEN DEFFEYES STARTS BACKPEDALING.)

This still isn't the end of it. Just a few days ago a reader of this blog attended the EGU meeting in Vienna. In a "Great Debate" with Jean Laherrere, Michael Lynch and Yves Mathieu, Deffeyes said that if we consider the uncertainty of his regression line, peak oil can be expected to occur somewhere between Nov. 2005 and April 2006 -- i.e. right now. In other words, he's waffling yet again.

So let's total up the whole sorry scorecard. Deffeyes has predicted that PO would occur in:

Nov. 24 2005
Dec. 16 2005
And now Nov. 2005-April 2006.

No integrity whatsoever. Just a sad old man trying to hang onto the spotlight. Maybe it's time to retire, Ken, and open a waffle shop.

You wanna know the method that Ken is using to predict the peak now? It's fun. Anybody can do it, and it's guaranteed to work -- even if you're a drooling moron with Cheetos in your nostrils.
  1. Buzz over to the EIA site, and see what the current world oil production figure (X) is.
  2. State that X is the peak.
  3. If in fact X does turn out to be the peak, you're Prophet El Supremo.
  4. If oil production subsequently rises, you'll have to "readjust your prediction to take account of new data". Go to step 1.
Deffeyes isn't the only scammer out there playing this game. T. Boone Pickens is running the same con, and making money at it!

“Never again will we pump more than 82 million barrels.”
-- T. Boone Pickens, 9th August 2004. On the Kudlow and Cramer Show, MSNBC.

“Global oil [production] is 84 million barrels [per day]. I don't believe you can get it any more than 84 million barrels."
-- T. Boone Pickens, addressing the 11th National Clean Cities conference in May 2005.

"I don't believe that you can increase the supply beyond 84 or 85 million barrel as day."
-- T. Boone Pickens, on "CNN In the Money", June 25, 2005.

"Supply is—you‘ve just about had it on supply; 85 million barrels a day world supply is about it. "
-- T. Boone Pickens, on Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC, Aug. 26, 2005


*) New Scientist vol 179 issue 2406 - 02 August 2003, page 9 -- a copy can be downloaded as a doc file here),
-- by JD


At Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 7:14:00 AM PDT, Blogger goritsas said...

Come on, give poor 'ole Ken a break, you heartless soul. Everybody reaches a tipping point. Surely you remeber the tragic tale of Linus "10,000mg a day" Pauling? Just think of him as tragic Ken "A peak a day, that's all we ask" Deffeyes.

At Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 7:26:00 AM PDT, Blogger sameu said...

very informative, but utterly useless whatsoever

you know po is going to happen

does it matter when exactly po will occur, and who made how many wrong predictions?

In the mean time oil is back at 67$ with driving season and hurricane season still waiting to happen, and that's real and happening now.

At Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 7:59:00 AM PDT, Blogger Mark said...

no, it sameu, it is useful.

the usefulness of this is that it shows that if the doomers can't even accurately predict the one thing that we all know is going to happen with absolute certainty (global oil production peaking) than how much less should we trust their other predictions (economic collapse, resource wars, etc).

It also calls into question the integrity and motives of the doomers. Someone who adjusts their predictions 6 times and is just as confident each time is not an intellectually honest person. It colors how you view the other things that they say.

At Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 8:18:00 AM PDT, Blogger dub_scratch said...

OK JD, now to be fair you should post a critique of the long list of failed Mike Lynch predictions on oil price....I'm waiting.....

That said, I've learned to take all predictions as pure worthless speculation-- from Kunstler's invading Asian pirates in Seattle to Yergin's oil glut until 2020.....I predict that any prediction out there will not come true.

BTW, speaking of Kunstler & predictions, I bet you are licking your chops in waiting for 2007 so you can go back and read what happened on 2006 according to Kunstler's predictions.

At Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 8:23:00 AM PDT, Blogger JD said...

If you present yourself publicly as a prophet, then yes your track record does matter, and you should be prepared to take your licks. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Your record gives the layman a better idea of how much credibility to assign to your predictions in general.

Global peak oil is an important issue, and forecasting it should be entrusted to sober people who are conscientious enough to integrate all the necessary information in a scientific fashion -- not those who are lazy and simply whoring for headlines.

As for the high oil prices... I welcome them. They're the solution to peak oil, not the problem. And the driving season? What kind of "reality" is that? It's lifestyle fluff. It's not going to kill anybody if it gets canceled. In fact, that's probably one of the best things that could happen if you're concerned about hurricanes.

I'm a dyed-in-the-wool car hater, sameu. They totally disgust me. So you're going to have a hard time convincing me that we have a "problem" with high oil prices, an endangered driving season, the death of GM etc. In my mind, those are all good signs, signs of healing.

At Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 8:34:00 AM PDT, Blogger JD said...

You always say great stuff. You're right about Lynch. He has the best record out there on production, but he did mess up big time on price. I'm an equal opportunity debunker, and I'll post on that sometime soon. Mistakes are always educational, no matter who makes them.

I also agree with you about predictions in general. We should be thinking about shaping the future, not predicting it. The future isn't a static unchangeable object.

BTW, do you have the link on those Kunstler predictions? ;-)

At Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 8:34:00 AM PDT, Blogger dub_scratch said...

I'm a dyed-in-the-wool car hater, sameu. They totally disgust me. So you're going to have a hard time convincing me that we have a "problem" with high oil prices, an endangered driving season, the death of GM etc. In my mind, those are all good signs, signs of healing

Yes. Things like the death of GM and the frivolous driving & flying habits of Americans are signs of a healthy evolving civilization and economy, where things come and go. Doomers see the end of certain activities as sighs of the impending death of civilization. Folks like myself and you JD see this as another cycle in the evolving human condition toward progress-- the same thing that has been going on for centuries.

At Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 8:41:00 AM PDT, Blogger dub_scratch said...

Yes JD. Go to this site:

This is a chronological collection of clusterfuck blog entries. Scroll down to the January 2, 2006 for the wonderful predictions he makes for the year.

At Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 9:35:00 AM PDT, Blogger nukeengineer said...

"I'm a dyed-in-the-wool car hater, sameu. They totally disgust me. So you're going to have a hard time convincing me that we have a "problem" with high oil prices, an endangered driving season, the death of GM etc. In my mind, those are all good signs, signs of healing."


You're sounding like one of thoses civilization-haters, almost like Pianka but not quite.


At Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 10:36:00 AM PDT, Blogger Chris Vernon said...

JD, you've got to be careful pulling these predictions apart. For the most part Ken is only talking about conventional oil - that's the oil he knows about. He isn't considering tar sand, oil shale and heavy oil. Taking that into account is looking like conventional oil has peaked recently.

At Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 2:14:00 PM PDT, Blogger sameu said...


yes high oil prices will be eventually the 'solution'

and you can be a car hater
and despise the people who make airplane holiday trips etc
It is a lifestyle fluff

But that's not the point, the point is not everybody thinks like you or me. And there are many many people who's job, who's income is totally dependent on this. Labour people working at GM, who arent qualified for another job, I bet they care, cause you know, they don't know how to handle a nanotechmachine or space elevator. And I bet you're going to have one angry huge mob of people who are not going to be happy being jobless.

So to welcome high oil prices, no.
I know you can't avoid it, but I also know this will bring a lot shit with it, shit I'm not really looking forward to.

At Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 2:57:00 PM PDT, Blogger dub_scratch said...

But that's not the point, the point is not everybody thinks like you or me. And there are many many people who's job, who's income is totally dependent on this. Labour people working at GM, who arent qualified for another job, I bet they care, cause you know, they don't know how to handle a nanotechmachine or space elevator. And I bet you're going to have one angry huge mob of people who are not going to be happy being jobless.

sameu, do you think this is the first time an industry with its whole workforce hitting the skids and going bye-bye. I seam to recall learning about a sizable passenger train and trolley car service in this country. What happened to that? Did the whole of civilization go down the toilet with that industry?

Sure, we here in America will see car industries get squashed by high oil prices. We also will see a significant investment in alternative energy, creating all kinds of streams of new investments.

Oil prices going up?..It looks like it's time to sell your General Motors stock and buy General Electric.

At Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 7:18:00 PM PDT, Blogger Roland said...

If the peak is not supposed to be visible until a few years after, how can Deffeyes know it didn't happen on Thanksgiving accurately enough to adjust it to three weeks later?

At Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 11:07:00 PM PDT, Blogger nick said...

"If the peak is not supposed to be visible until a few years after, how can Deffeyes know it didn't happen on Thanksgiving accurately enough to adjust it to three weeks later?"

Ha, good point. If you notice, he's been making this public predictions ever more often. Soon they'll just be daily. By that point, I suspect even his loyal clan might start to catch on to his predictions.
"Oil will peak next week."

A week later...
"Oil will peak tomorrow."

1 day later...
"Oil will peak today."

A few hours later...
"Oil is peaking now!!!!"

I'm starting to believe that the absense of a Peak-Idiocy will have worse consequences that Peak Oil.

At Friday, April 7, 2006 at 8:40:00 AM PDT, Blogger GermanDom said...

wenn will oil peak?

Wenn will conventional oil peak?
Wenn will non-conventional oil peak?

At Friday, April 7, 2006 at 8:41:00 AM PDT, Blogger HedgeFund said...

Any daily oil *supply* figure needs to include an assumed price for oil otherwise it's nearly worthless. After all, we're talking about a supply curve and one axis is price. In SA, cost of production is in single digits. The *shallower* stuff in the Gulf runs some $15+ per barrel: the deep water stuff more. The Alberta tar sands run $25+, etc.

Don't be too hard on Boone Pickens, he must have done something right in order to make 1.5 billion for himself last year. (Either that or he's the luckiest man ever.) Are his public comments self-serving? Yes. But, I can also say that about bond market guru Bill Gross (and most every other public figure who opines on the markets.)

At Friday, April 7, 2006 at 8:45:00 AM PDT, Blogger GermanDom said...

So, now that you don't give any price predictions, it's pretty obvious that you'll now say you don't give any Peak predictions.

Am I right?
Am I right?
Am I right?

It's easy to let others put their necks in the rope...

At Friday, April 7, 2006 at 10:33:00 AM PDT, Blogger dub_scratch said...

....Yea JD. Where the hell is your prediction for war, pestilance, desease and not enough cheap gasoline for driving a pick-up durring the rapure?.......I'm waiting!!!!....

At Friday, April 7, 2006 at 1:28:00 PM PDT, Blogger popmonkey said...

dom, dom, dom. no one asked deffeyes to put his neck in the noose noose noose.

chris v,

so what if he's talking about conventional oil??? does conventional peak eq stone age in 20 years?

if he's trying to warn people about the REAL peak oil then he shouldn't be talking about peak conventional. peak conventional is not going to bring down civilization.

but i don't think he's trying to warn anyone. i just think he likes being in the spotlight. hubert's famous friend (riding the dead guy's coat tails in prophetering :D)

At Saturday, April 8, 2006 at 12:45:00 AM PDT, Blogger GermanDom said...

popmonkey, popmonkey, popmonkey,

yeah, yer right.
Nobody asked him, just like nobody asked Hubert. I will admit that Hubert wasn't as shrill as Deffeyes, but his estimate was between 1996 and 2000.

The Carter admin adopted 2000. Now that's gone and passed. So What? Back then, Hubert kept pushing US peak back - it took a while to reach 1971:-!

So, JD,

have you ever proposed a date?
You only have to do it once.
You don't have to repeat yourself or keep changing your date.
Only once.
For us.

Faithfully yours,

At Saturday, April 8, 2006 at 3:46:00 AM PDT, Blogger Chris Vernon said...

Let me put some words in JD's mouth - correct me if I'm wrong John.

I think JD certainly accepts a conventional oil peak within the next few years but argues that it's no big deal. Argues 'conventional' is just an arbitrary label and unconventional oil will maintain total oil supply at high rates beyond the conventional peak. He also suggests that the potential of alternative sources of energy and conservation and efficiency measures are capable of mitigating the 'doomer' predictions making peak oil a non-event in the grand scheme of things.

I think it's important to split peak oil into two subjects. Firstly when and at what rate it will occur and secondly what does this mean. JD's position is reasonable on the first point (though I don't think unconventional oil will offset conventional decline for more than a few years - leading to a all liquids peek well within a decade) but is far more controversial (within the PO community) about what it means.

At Saturday, April 8, 2006 at 5:00:00 PM PDT, Blogger Omnitir said...

You know, optimists can play the same dodgy prediction game that the doomers play as well. For example, I could say something like “the peak won’t occur until 2024 at the earliest”. And I will be correct up until peak or 2024, and if peak occurs before 2024 I can just say, “I’ve adjusted my prediction based on new data”.

How is this dodgy prediction any different from predicting an imminent peak, and then “adjusting for new data” when it does not occur? It’s different because the more optimistic prediction does not put me into the spotlight as I try to sell my books.

* BTW, I’m not selling anything and I’m not predicting the date of PO. Unlike some fear mongering retired oilmen exploiting the doomer mentality for all it’s worth.

At Sunday, April 9, 2006 at 2:12:00 PM PDT, Blogger DC said...

A date sans any mention of the confidence in the estimate means nothing to me. I think thats why Hirsch resonates with the reasonable folks in both camps: he appropriately couched the issue in terms of a risk mitigation problem. In this context, the uncertainty in the estimate is as much a driver as the estimate itself. I think it's telling that few, if any of the Cassandras disclose anything beyond the estimate. Proclaiming that the peak will be reached in 200X is a hell of a lot more sensational, misleading and can sell more books than proclaiming the peak will be reached in 200X with a standard deviation of 10 years.

Finally, I think that taking Lynch to task over his price predictions is bogus. He is an expert at predicting production curves, with price being one of the many factors influencing his forecasts. Unless you can credibly claim that the errors in his production forecasts are highly sensitive to the errors he makes in his price assumptions or forecasts, then I see no reason for summarily discounting the former. In fact, he's one of the few people to echo the sentiment I wrote above; he's on record as regarding the uncertainties over a peak date as too large to warrant any estimate right now. The guy's track record and analytical abilities are about as solid as they get in this community and yet he is one of the doomers' favorite whipping boys. That's reason #532 why I think most of the PO commununity has been co-opted by other factions (e.g. neo-Luddites, Malthusians, etc.).

At Sunday, April 9, 2006 at 2:31:00 PM PDT, Blogger Joe said...

High Oil prices don't seem to be hurting world economy yet. - see below

"The ministers predicted a 4.5 percent expansion of global economic output this year, their Vienna meeting host, Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser, told a news conference.

That compared to 4.3 percent growth in 2005, which was the best in decades and driven to a significant extent by rapidly developing economies such as China and India, where growth is three or four times faster than in industrialized countries.

"We are more optimistic, even if the oil price has increased further. We are happy because we are more resilient," European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said."

At Sunday, April 9, 2006 at 4:04:00 PM PDT, Blogger sameu said...

yes, hurray

report back on the world economy when we're hitting 100$

and I know there have been complete industries turning obsolete over time, and those people got a job elsewhere

problem with oil, it effects like virtually every sector that exists

retro-fitting all those people into a oil-independent job seems a bit difficult to do.

At Sunday, April 9, 2006 at 6:28:00 PM PDT, Blogger Joe said...


I don't think $100 oil would have much effect, maybe it would knock the growth for 2006 down between 3.5 - 4% ... still a very good year. In real terms $100 oil this year would be about the same as price in 1980.

If we go up to $150/barrel in 2007 then I think the world economy will definitely slow down... maybe to about 1-2% growth.

However, we will adjust to these new higher prices and within a few years we will be back up to to 2.5 - 3% + growth in world economy.

At Sunday, April 9, 2006 at 7:24:00 PM PDT, Blogger sameu said...

and I think we won't :-)

what sector will grow?
the renewables? when windturbines, pv-panels and every single other thing is getting produced, packaged and transported with oil
I think not

At Sunday, April 9, 2006 at 8:21:00 PM PDT, Blogger JD said...


At Tuesday, October 31, 2006 at 7:39:00 AM PST, Blogger TraderGordo said...

Those predicting PEAK OIL 2006 WRONG AGAIN

We hit a new record high in the latest quarter, almost 86M barrels a day.

Thanks for the informative blog, I just found it. I had been thinking about peak oil and what it would mean. The world is definitely going to change a lot, FOR THE BETTER!

We have many decades to adjust, we can do it. People don't want to buy cheesy looking smaller light weight cars today for example, but they will when gas prices triple again.

We will adapt and thrive. The fantastic technological development will continue.


At Monday, June 11, 2007 at 6:03:00 AM PDT, Blogger Caseygrl said...

Okay, I'm having to agree with JD that Deffeyes is a little bit......dumb? I've heard that his latest prediction for PO is this year (2007) and after reading about his prior predictions, i'm not really taking his latest one with a grain of salt. (and oil is still sitting below $70, yes gas prices soared here a month ago, got to around $3.20+ for unleaded but not it's calming down). I do believe PO will happen, but I think that it's still maybe a few years away and that as we need to, we will make the big change to alternative fuels. It's already happening, in small steps. Frankly, I'll be glad to see the end of SUVs (especially Hummers, i think their a big waste of gas) and see the new era of walkable communities, the rebirth of rail and water travel (hopefully), and other things that will happen. This change from oil to alternative fuels will be for the better for us humans...

At Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 8:58:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, today is May 25, 2008 and oil prices are at $132 per barrel. I pay $4.30 per gallon here.

Even if his prediction if off by a few years or even a decade it does not negate the fact that it will occur. When it does, and we are not prepared what will be the consequences?

It is time to consider alternatives (i.e. hybrid car, nuclear energy, bio-fuels) and prepare. Switching away from gas will take decades. The time to prepare has really passed -- we would have been much better off preparing in the 90s -- but the soon we start the less painful it will be to make the switch later.

At Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 10:43:00 PM PDT, Blogger JD said...

Even if his prediction if off by a few years or even a decade it does not negate the fact that it will occur. When it does, and we are not prepared what will be the consequences?

You will have to ride the bus, or a scooter, or (shriek! shriek!) maybe even a bicycle. I know this sounds like dying and going to hell for Americans etc., but in the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal. 90% of peak oil angst is all about *lifestyle*.


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