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Peak Oil Denial: Reality Is Still Here – Peak Oil Matters

Peak Oil Denial: Reality Is Still Here – Peak Oil Matters.


At the risk of starting a cat fight where truth may too quickly become a casualty, why don’t we more forcefully challenge those who deny peak oil (and global warming) and who do so for reasons that generally ignore reality in favor of narrowly-defined interests? Those motivations will ultimately do nothing but promote more eventual harm by denying the truths to those who clearly need them the most….
Of course, we run the risk of getting bogged down in he said/she-said arguments that quickly devolve into the lowest forms of ‘debate’, but why let those types of offerings go unchallenged? They feed on themselves, and it is tiresome and time-consuming to have to rebut all the nonsense. But if we don’t, uninformed readers and listeners have no reason to at least consider the possibility that there may indeed be other facts out there that should at least be examined in order to make informed assessments, rather than accepting the words of the few. More information is rarely a bad thing, and giving everyone the opportunity to examine the facts and engage in rational discourse as a means of seeking common ground makes for a healthier and more productive society.

That’s from a post I wrote three years ago, and my attitude hasn’t wavered. The constant flow of articles and opinions give me yet more opportunities to bat down the nonsense passing as advice and learned observations about the world of energy supply.


So-called environmentalists never tire of predicting the end of oil. They’ve been talking about ‘peak oil’ for decades, after which annual production would inevitably decline as we drain the world’s finite supply.
In fact, proven reserves (oil that we know is there and is recoverable with current technology and under current law) have been steadily rising, despite the fact that the world pumps 83.9 million barrels a day out of the ground, a 32 percent increase over 20 years ago. New techniques, such as fracking and horizontal drilling, have brought new life to both old fields and new ones whose oil had previously been unrecoverable. And vast new fields, such as the giant finds off the coast of Brazil, have added new reserves. [1]

If we could ignore facts and context, that message would carry so much more genuine weight than it does. But since the article’s word count restrictions must have prevented the author from adding a few relevant facts and a bit of context, I’ll be generous and add some here. My post, my word count limitations.

The “rising reserves” argument is one of the Right’s key talking points, and a good one! Impressive numbers; brief and to the point; fairly simple in delivery and understanding; a taste of mankind’s impressive ingenuity and technological prowess, and we have vast, abundant, energy supply lift-off!

A year ago, I offered some commentary (ably assisted by observations from peers much more knowledgeable than me) about “reserves” and resources. From Chris Nelder, for example:

It is not about oil reserves (oil that has been proved to exist and to be producible at a profit), or resources (oil that may exist in the ground, irrespective of its potential to be produced profitably). Those quantities do play a role in estimating the peak, but do not determine it in any way….
[I]f you’re not talking about data on oil production rates, or the general topic of reaching the peak rate, then you’re not talking about peak oil. [2]

And as I have also noted previously, echoing a comment offered by others in the know:

‘Reserves’ do not equal available supply; not by a long shot. Quintuple the proved reserves figures if it floats your boat, but what might arguably be buried beneath the Earth’s surface offers exactly zero assurance it will in fact be produced economically, practically, or efficiently…. And let’s not forget amid all of this great news the fact that we have been using for decades is being drawn down each and every day, and so much of what will be produced going forward will first have to match depletion rates before we marvel at their substitute potential … while billions around the world strive to improve their conditions … using more of the energy resources still available.


Just as unfortunate for the denial crowd, those Brazilian “giant finds” are not-so-giant—if actual production matters. (The numbers look and sound great, and in a contest with those points as sole criteria, Happy Talk is in the lead!)

When fields said to hold billions of barrels of oil were discovered off the coast here, exuberant government officials said the deep-sea prize would turn Brazil into a major energy player.
More than six years later, the outlook for Brazil’s oil industry, much like the Brazilian economy itself, is more sobering. Oil production is stagnant, the state-controlled oil company, Petrobras, is hobbled by debt, and foreign oil companies are wary of investing here. [3]

So close to good news! Facts still suck….

Undaunted, our fearless denier soldiers on:

We are a long way from seeing the end of oil as a major force in the world economy, but it is steadily losing its centrality. You would think that would be good news for environmentalists. But, of course, nothing is good news for them. Chicken Little runs the environmentalist public-relations operations, which goes a long way to explaining why fewer and fewer non-liberals listen to them anymore. [4]

He’s Right (of course)! Nothing makes us junior Chicken Littles happier than twisting Happy Talk stories into more sobering analyses. So of course those disinclined to appreciate facts, evidence, reality, logic, integrity, planning, etc., etc. are not going to waste their valuable time dealing with all of that sobering analyses based on facts, evidence, and reality! Nope!

They’ve got yarns to spin and narrow self-interests to protect, none of which are assisted by considerations that their exuberant assessments about today’s energy supply conditions don’t translate into anything resembling long-term. But if they can protect their interests and others are willing to buy what they’re selling with no questions asked, what’s the harm, Right?

Perhaps more of us should be asking that question….

~ My Photo: Good Harbor Beach, MA – 09.05.12

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[1] http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2013/11/18/the-decline-of-oil/; The Decline of Oil by John Steele Gordon – 11.18.13
[2] http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/energy-futurist/the-politics-of-peak-oil/326;The politics of peak oil by Chris Nelder – 02.01.12
[3] http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/brazils-oil-euphoria-hits-reality-hard/2014/01/05/0d213790-4d4b-11e3-bf60-c1ca136ae14a_story.html; Brazil’s oil euphoria hits reality hard by Juan Forero – 01.06.14
[4] John Steele Gordon, above

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