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NYTimes mis-information on Peak Oil

The NYTimes carried an Op-Ed column, contributed to by an Oil Consultant, that poorly attempted to "debunk" the myths of peak oil by making use of nothing but mockery. Of course, there is an ongoing open thread on discussing this very article and in the usual TOD style, the comments speak for themselves!

I was reminded of how the "Intelligent Design" movement, heavily funded yet weak in scientifically testable claims, was able to make a dent to the efforts to ramp up Evolution education in schools. Them IDers did indeed succeed in their effort because they did manage to distract the crowd from seeking the truth. The ID principles are generally easily believed because the notion of blind nature creating life forms tends to oppose people's widely held notions of how life forms were created (many a times, indoctrination since childhood about God's Creations). Sometimes, the simplicity of the concept can just seem nauseatingly depressing. Someone (Carl Jung?) said humans can't take too much reality - maybe its something like that?

In this specific topic of Peak Oil, I'd like to reality-adjust the famous Mahatma saying that goes...

First they ignore you
then they laugh at you
then they fight you
then you win Entropy wins
      -- Self, Circa 2009.

It doesn't really matter whether life forms descended from a common ancestor or not as long as there is food on one's plate. Peak oil, however, is different as it is quite likely to dramatically change not only the food on your plate but also how you're going to earn it.

The Peak Oil community at The Oil Drum has enjoyed excellent, data-driven open discussions contributed to by several oil industry veterans, Petroleum Geologists and Scientists from various disciplines on topics ranging from alternative energy, impact analysis of peak oil on the many aspects of the world (primarily Economy, Food, Climate, etc.,).

Although I myself can claim no expertise on petroleum geology, economics or physics, I can say with certainty that blind rebuttals like the one made by Mr.Lynch on NYTimes are quite effective in making that yet-to-be-informed person glance through the headlines that reads "Peak Oil is a Waste of Energy" and a deeper glance into the article only shows more ridicule of the "doomsayers". Its a classic technique and it works! Doesn't it?

Anyway, if you'd like to take this opportunity to objectively understand peak oil, setting aside the emotional affects peak-oil is likely to have after the Truth sets in, I suggest getting started with the many excellent introductions all over the web including Wikipedia.

The truth will set you free, but first it will make you sick.

... and then you'll understand why I spent the effort in writing this post. :)


( 3 comments — Comment on this )
Aug. 27th, 2009 07:38 am (UTC)
Oh well.

That page is funny - it claims
"In fact, many believe that we have oil in sufficient quantities for some time to come."

... and quotes "The Long Emergency" out of context. Its just like the Intelligent Design folks who keep saying "Evolution built things in random" and keep quoting out of context. Whoever says Peak Oil is the end of oil is clueless about the very simple phenomenon of a finite resource's extraction, depletion profile. Peak oil only means the end of Cheap Oil but that means a lot in an Economy and Way of life which is ultimately driven by profits. Its the beginning of the end of an economy that Must Grow At All Costs. It means, if one economy has to grow, the economy needs more liquid fuels to power it due to the way things are done today (JIT economics, heavy use of transportation and loss of local industries in many places in preference of a more reactive, yet oil shock prone, centralised system of manufacturing). So that means, if one economy has to do well, with only lesser oil in a given year, atleast someone else's needs won't be met. That means, it would be time to make choices instead of having more discretionary liquid fuel

Peak oil means the 6 billion that have been created by the excess food oil could produce will already be well on their way to becoming 7 billion in 20 years. Yet, there won't be _more_ oil (unlike what we've thus far managed to find along the growth trajectory) but only lesser and lesser year after year. Even if a magical technology springs up and lets us keep up the rate of production higher for a few more years, it will only result in a steeper decline rate since its a finite resource, afterall. The faster you go, the harder will be the crash.

This site seems to define "Peak Oil" itself as follows:

The term peak oil, shorthand for 'global oil-production peak', "means that a turning point will come when the world produces the most oil it will ever produce in a given year and, after that, yearly production will inexorably decline due to the structural lack of innovation regarding exploration led by ExxonMobil's 'cheap oil' strategy: global disorder of 'incorporated governance' - budget crime under market pressure

So peak oil is due to ExxonMobil? Nice try confusing the reader.

Edited at 2009-08-27 07:40 am (UTC)
Aug. 27th, 2009 08:12 am (UTC)
Just so three important points are made:

1. Abiogenetic Oil, that this site so adorns to debunk peak oil, is a Hypothesis. In contrast to the well established Biological origin theory of petroleum origins. The ones who believe in it are like the Geneticists who believe in "Intelligent Design".

2. Conventional oil sources discovery peaked a long time ago and the production is outstripping the discovery, much like how the consumption outstripped production to cause a $147 / bbl price.

3. Non-conventional oil sources such as Tar sands, Shales, etc., are required to grow at 10% to offset peak oil's effects. Consider this in contrast: the thus-far easy to get cheap oil grew at a rate of 2%. Now we're not only talking about pumping a lot more energy into the system to extract the tough to get oil amidst a looming peak metal issue but also oil that requires a lot more energy upto the refining process. Unfortunately, investments in exploring/extracting non-conventional sources took a major hit after the oil price crash in 2008 since these non-conventional sources are not (yet) economically viable at this price point.

A classic case of "technological progress" postponing the peak can be understood from the Cantarell Oil Field, Mexico.

Edited at 2009-08-27 08:15 am (UTC)
( 3 comments — Comment on this )