Monday, August 3, 2009

Peak Oil...Again...Really?

Peak oil alarmists have been at it for a long time and they have been wrong every single time. The old doomers (peak oil advocates) have since merged with the new doomers (global warming theorists) in an uncomfortable eco alliance. I'll explain below.

A new report in the Independent claims, yet again, we are heading to catastrophe sooner than we thought.

The world is heading for a catastrophic energy crunch that could cripple a global economic recovery because most of the major oil fields in the world have passed their peak production...warned Dr Fatih Birol, the chief economist at the respected International Energy Agency (IEA).

... the IEA concluded that the global energy system was at a crossroads and that consumption of oil was "patently unsustainable", with expected demand far outstripping supply.

Oil production has already peaked in non-Opec countries and the era of cheap oil has come to an end, it warned.

Compare that with the (now) famous comments from Jimmy Carter in 1977:

Unless profound changes are made to lower oil consumption, we now believe that early in the 1980s the world will be demanding more oil that it can produce ... Each new inventory of world oil reserves has been more disturbing than the last. World oil production can probably keep going up for another six or eight years. But some time in the 1980s it can't go up much more. Demand will overtake production. We have no choice about that.

More importantly, if the peak oil doomers are right then our carbon based economy has a built in expiration date that doesn't require a cap/tax system.

Here is the Hubbert "peak oil" curve.

There are Hubbert-ian (more here at Wiki) peak curves for all fossil fuels with a consistent theme...we will be running down the back side of the curve starting in 2020 - at the latest. Which is coincidentally, the timeframe where the draconian carbon caps are scheduled to kick in.

The obvious conclusion is that natural and market forces will do all the heavy lifting promised in cap and tax - and in a similar timeframe. So if the old doomers are right, the carbon economy is resource limited and we will be forced to come up with a non-carbon alternative. If the new doomers are right, cap/tax will become a conservation program that will prolong our carbon economy by decades.

We need a new curve, let's call it the Gore Curve, to quantify how wrong both of these groups have been - and will continue to be.

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