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By Robert Rapier on Nov 7, 2011 with 56 responses

Five Misconceptions About Peak Oil

I have just returned from the annual ASPO conference in Washington, D.C. This was only my 2nd ASPO conference; the first one I attended was in 2008 in Sacramento. There were many familiar faces; some of whom I had previously met and some I only knew by reputation.

The mood seemed remarkably calmer than in 2008. That year, oil prices were just coming down from record highs, a pair of hurricanes were causing spot gasoline shortages, and the economy was headed into the toilet. The general mood was that things were rapidly unraveling. Three years later, the long-term outlook isn’t really any different, but I think some who predicted imminent doom are starting to change their views on how things are going to play out.

I noted during one of my talks that I don’t even like the phrase “peak oil.” That is because there are a number of misconceptions and negative connotations associated with it. I prefer to talk in terms of resource depletion and a supply/demand imbalance that includes multiple elements – all of which combine to keep upward pressure on oil prices.

So what are those misconceptions about peak oil? Below are the ones that I think are most common.

Misconception 1: Peak Oil = Running Out of Oil

This one is surely the most common. Many articles that seek to debunk the notion of peak oil start with that premise, and then respond by highlighting other historical instances where someone influential suggested that we could be running out of oil. In fact, anyone concerned about peak oil will readily acknowledge that we are going to be producing oil for a very long time, and when we stop there is still going to be a lot of oil left in the ground.

US oil production peak 1970So what then is the definition of peak oil? In its simplest form, peak oil means that just as oil production in the United States peaked in 1970 and began to decline, so shall the rest of the world. Once you get past that basic premise – one in which there is near-universal agreement once people understand that is what you mean when you say “peak oil” – there are many different opinions of exactly how events will unfold.

Misconception 2: Peak Oil Beliefs are Homogeneous

The beliefs among people who are concerned about resource depletion cover a wide span. There are those who believe that a peak is imminent, followed by a catastrophic decline. Included in this group are people who have vocally and (to this point) wrongly predicted dates and catastrophic consequences as a result of peak oil. These are the real targets of those who claim that peak oil is nonsense. What they really mean – but perhaps don’t say due to misconceptions about peak oil beliefs – is that the idea of imminent, catastrophic decline is nonsense. But that isn’t the same thing as arguing that peak oil is nonsense.

But there are also people who believe peak oil will inevitably lead to cleaner environments, closer communities, and healthier food. Then there are those who believe that peak oil will lead to a dirtier environment as we become more desperate for energy and turn to more oil sands and coal to replace declining oil supplies. There are people who believe peak oil will be a minor inconvenience because there are plenty of sources capable of replacing oil. And there are those who believe certain elements of all of the above.

Misconception 3: Peak Oil is a Theory

It is also common among those writing articles seeking to debunk peak oil to refer to the “peak oil theory.” As in the previous example, this paints with a very broad brush. When someone describes peak oil as a theory, what they are really referring to is the belief that a production peak is both imminent and the results promise to be catastrophic. I doubt that’s the majority view, and I would estimate that the percentage of people holding that view has declined over the past five years as some of the catastrophic scenarios failed to materialize on schedule. But peak oil itself is an observation, not a theory.

Misconception 4: Peak Oil was Dreamed Up By Big Oil to Inflate Prices

In fact, most of the major oil companies argue that oil production will not decline for decades. This has been the public view of ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute. But within oil companies, there have been some executives who have publicly expressed concern that oil production could not grow to the levels projected by various agencies. I am unaware that this is the official position of any major oil company, but I would submit that the reason some executives expressed concern is because they are concerned.

Misconception 5: Peak Oil is Denied by Oil Companies Worried about Alternatives

This view is the opposite of the previous misconception. The idea is that if oil companies acknowledge peak oil, governments will redouble their efforts to develop alternative fuels, hastening the end of Big Oil. There are two flaws with this reasoning. First, from my view inside the oil industry, most people in the industry deny peak oil for the simple reason that they have either never given it much thought, or subscribe to one of the misconceptions. I frequently had conversations with people about peak oil in which the response was “They have been saying that we are running out of oil my entire life.”

The second flaw in this argument is that I have never seen anyone in the oil industry express anything resembling worry over the alternative energy industry. They may be annoyed at mandates that force them to do something they don’t want to do (like blend ethanol) but then they can respond by getting into the business themselves. And in fact, I have yet to see an alternative energy scheme that Big Oil wasn’t already working on: Algae, cellulosic ethanol, butanol, solar – oil companies have major efforts in every one these areas (and have been working on them for years). It is just that in most cases, they don’t publicize and hype those efforts because they aren’t out trying to raise funds. It is just a part of the basic research that oil companies do. The scientists and engineers that work at oil companies aren’t just sitting around basking in the final days of the age of oil – a very common misconception. They are thinking about what comes next, and investing to make sure that when it does come, the oil companies are in the position to provide it and profit from it.

Conclusions

So I think as far as peak oil goes, most of us can agree that just as it did in the U.S. in 1970, global oil production will inevitably decline. The points of contention are the timing, the steepness of the decline, the impact on the global economy, and the ability of other energy sources to fill the supply gap. Some believe it will be a non-event, and some people believe it will be catastrophic.

What do I believe? I think of peak oil as supply struggling to keep up with demand, which will keep prices at recession-inducing levels. I think that we will probably eek out a bit more global production, but I will be surprised if the world gets past 90 million barrels per day. I believe that shale gas and oil sands production will continue to rise, and global carbon emissions will continue their upward march.

I still believe in the Peak Lite scenario; in fact I think that view has been validated. I also believe that my view on the Long Recession is supported by the state of the economy as well as the continued strength in oil prices. As far as the consequences of peak oil, I believe that what we are seeing now with respect to the economy is a prelude to what we will see for the next few years. I expect a slow squeeze on western economies as developing countries continue to raise their standards of living – keeping fairly constant upward pressure on oil prices. I believe we have entered the long recession, but if the economy shows major strength within the next couple of years I will concede that at least my timing was too early.

I do not expect a massive die-off of the population, as I reiterated to several people at the ASPO conference this past week. In fact, my mind can’t even begin to entertain that scenario. I understand the basis of those who believe in this scenario, but I believe that we will show great resilience in the face of great challenges. It won’t be a picnic; I expect the economic situation to further deteriorate from here and I think a lot of people are going to suffer (and I recognize that a lot of people are suffering now). But of course I have always been an optimist…

Postscript

After this essay was originally published on my blog, it was republished in several locations. Based on the comments I received, I want to clarify a couple of points. Some people misinterpreted my comments about those who believe in an imminent, catastrophic decline. What I wrote was that this is the view that those anti-peak oil articles ridicule and attempt to debunk — as if this view is representative of peak oil, period. I personally am not ridiculing that point of view; it is one of many possible outcomes. But it is not, in my opinion, the most likely outcome.

Many seemed to equate “Peak Lite” with “peak oil will be a minor event.” That is not remotely what the Peak Lite scenario is all about. I came up with this scenario when we were debating whether 2005 was the peak. It occurred to me that maybe there was far too much emphasis on a physical peak, and then the aftermath of the peak. After all, what happens after a peak? There is not enough supply to meet demand. I reasoned that we would see this and the associated impacts before we necessarily saw a physical peak. When I first started writing about this, I envisioned a scenario in which global demand growth outstrips the growth in supply, so that even if supply could still grow the market behaves as it would in a peak oil situation. So I used “Peak Lite” to denote “Effective Peak” — which is not to imply that the impact of peak oil would be “Lite.”

The Long Recession phrase was obviously inspired by The Long Emergency. I reasoned that since high oil prices frequently precede recessions, peak oil would likely mean a recession without end. The reason is that demand usually falls during a recession, supply creeps up, price falls, and the economy recovers. In a Long Recession, supply doesn’t creep up, and therefore prices remain high — stalling a recovery. I think that’s a pretty apt description of the situation in which we find ourselves.

Link to Original Article: Five Misconceptions About Peak Oil

By Robert Rapier

  1. By George Hart on November 7, 2011 at 7:28 am

    ” . . . I believe that we will show great resilience in the face of great challenges.”

    Up to this point in your post, you invoke reason, and evidence. But your conclusion is faith-based. Faith is good, but ideally, to advance our understanding, you would share with us your thoughts, based on reason and evidence, about the future (see Tom Murphy’s blog, Do the Math, for great examples).

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  2. By Ron Patterson on November 7, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Reply to George Hart: You say Robert’s conclusions are faith based. I assume you say this because, when discussing his opinions on what the future holds, he uses the words “I believe”. What would one expect him to say, “I know”? No, all expectations of what the future holds are mere beliefs because no one knows for sure what the future holds. So to phrase them as his beliefs are the only honest way to put it.
    I agree with all Robert’s conclusions except I expect the long term consequences of peak oil to be far more catastrophic than he seems to believe.

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  3. By addoeh on November 7, 2011 at 9:14 am

    With regards to oil companies investing in alternative energy, it is interesting to note that the government invested $535 million into Solyndra and it was described as too much, but XOM invests $600 million into algae oil (Synthetic Geonomics) and it isn’t enough for some or is just ignored.  Granted Solyndra has other problems with it (cronyism, bankruptcy, etc), but the dollar figures for the two investments are very similar.

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  4. By Wendell Mercantile on November 7, 2011 at 9:35 am

    I assume you say this because, when discussing his opinions on what the future holds, he uses the words “I believe”.

    George would probably prefer, “In my opinion.”

    I do not expect a massive die-off of the population, as I reiterated to several people at the ASPO conference this past week.

    I do, but not because of peak oil. It’s a certainty that at some point a comet, asteroid, some kind of solar burp, or mega-volcano will wink out life as we know it. The only question is when: Perhaps in 50 years, perhaps in 500,000 years. In eater case, with respect to geologic time, it’s only, as the Germans would say, “Ein Augenblick.” (A blink of the eye.)

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  5. By rrapier on November 7, 2011 at 9:49 am

    George Hart said:

    ” . . . I believe that we will show great resilience in the face of great challenges.”

    Up to this point in your post, you invoke reason, and evidence. But your conclusion is faith-based. Faith is good, but ideally, to advance our understanding, you would share with us your thoughts, based on reason and evidence, about the future (see Tom Murphy’s blog, Do the Math, for great examples).


     

    George, all but the most obvious predictions about the future have some element of faith. This is where I get into it with Doomers sometimes (and I don’t know if you are one) because they are so sure that their view of the world is correct that they don’t consider it to be faith. I can go back and show you some of their predictions from 2005 regarding Saudi, who at this point should be producing 6 million bpd. We should be in a deep natural gas crisis. Oil prices were going to go on an unbroken march straight to the moon. Matt Simmons thought his $200 oil price bet for 2010 was a no-brainer. It goes on and on.

    The reason I believe that we will muddle through — albeit I can’t emphasize enough that I believe it will be a very painful period and we will have much diminished expectations — is because we use so much more energy than is absolutely necessary. We have already shaved 1.5 million bpd in the past 5 years, and it’s been painful but it hasn’t killed us. I also believe that because of the impact oil prices have on the economy, we will have a series of shocks that cause people to gradually come to grips that their energy consumption has to be lower. If oil prices a year from now were $500 and stable, then I think we have huge problems. But if they keep advancing a bit more and retreating, we will ultimately adjust to $500.

    RR

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  6. By dduggerbiocepts on November 7, 2011 at 9:49 am

    It’s hard to lend a great deal of credence to a discussion of peak resources that don’t include peak phosphate (peak less than 30 years, depletion as little as 50 – if you don’t consider biofuels, population growth in India, China, Indonesia and the rest of the NPK demand of the developing world). The price of petroleum fuels determine the price of NPK fertilizers – as fuel rises the cost of mining phosphates (95% goes to NPK) rises and the economic feasibility of mining lower concentration deposits declines. We haven’t had a human population living within the natural phosphorus replenishment cycle since the early 1800s. Now we are 3.5 times beyond that population and 95% of that population is currently dependent on the confluences of peak petroleum and peak phosphate – and 99.9% of the planet’s population don’t understand that peak oil = peak phosphate = peak food = peak people.

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  7. By rrapier on November 7, 2011 at 10:10 am

    dduggerbiocepts said:

    It’s hard to lend a great deal of credence to a discussion of peak resources that don’t include peak phosphate…


     

    I heard a lot of people during the week ask “What about phosphate?”

    The biggest problem there is that the average person doesn’t even care about oil, and their dependence on oil is obvious. They know less about their dependence on phosphate, so they don’t give it much thought.

    Personally, as I have indicated before I start with some basic premises, one of which is “We have to take care of the topsoil.”

    RR

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  8. By Wendell Mercantile on November 7, 2011 at 10:44 am

    They know less about their dependence on phosphate, so they don’t give it much thought.

    The average person also has no clue of how much their current way of life owes to the Haber-Bosch process.

    Had Haber and Bosch not made that discovery, someone else would have — eventually. But with out a way to fix nitrogen, there would not be seven billion people living on the earth.

    Walk the streets of the average American city asking, “What is the Haber-Bosch process?” and I bet not one in one-hundred would know. (Not even those in the corn ethanol industry.)

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  9. By Peter on November 7, 2011 at 11:34 am

    2I believe that we will show great resilience in the face of great challenges”

    Up til that point, your article was balanced and logical. But since when have human beings shown resilience when society collapses? Have you even been watching the news about Greece? We are always only 2 days away from total anarchy – people are panicky, selfish, short-sighted creatures. We only give a pittance to charity when we have extra cash, and there are very few of us (like you, sir) who are reasonable and keep our heads while all around us are losing their’s. I hope I am wrong, but I don’t have “faith”.

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  10. By thomas398 on November 7, 2011 at 11:46 am

    An additional misconception I would add: “America’s drop in oil production starting in the 1970s was brought on by over regulation and environmentalism.”

    This is a common refrain among the Drill, Baby, Drill crowd.  Any one can look at a chart of Texas oil production history  (Texas is not a “green” state) and see that with or without regulation oil production inevitably and irreversibly declines in the long term.  The U.S. could strengthen its oil production and create jobs by opening up more offshore and national park exploration.  People who own property along the coasts of Florida and California aren’t going to feel the oil price pinch for quite sometime, however.  I think that even these steps are not the solution but would essentially buy us more time to come up with one.  Much less reduce the price of gasoline as DBD has many people believing. Any of the major oil producers could simply cut their production as much as we raised ours or demand in the developing world would simply adjust.

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  11. By rrapier on November 7, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Peter said:

    2I believe that we will show great resilience in the face of great challenges”

    Up til that point, your article was balanced and logical. But since when have human beings shown resilience when society collapses?


     

    We do have some historical examples — the Great Depression, response to WWII — where we responded with enormous changes in our lives that would not have seemed likely a few years prior. Then we have counter examples like Hurricane Katrina, where people are living normal lives and then the next week there is the total breakdown of civil order.

    I think in terms of probable outcomes. I think we probably muddle through. But I think people misunderstand what I mean by that as “We pop out on the other side of a difficult period in a business as usual mode.” I just see a lot of discretionary energy consumption that can still be eliminated which I think we do over the next few years. It will be a time of diminishing expectations for our future. But I don’t believe — and in fact my mind can’t even comprehend — a mass die-off of the population.

    RR

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  12. By Benny BND Cole on November 7, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    RR–

    Economically speaking, you are subscribing to a mirage. If oil prices remain high, more resources are deployed to finding oil (or alternatives). That is not the same as a recession. If the economy was 10 guys working, and one digs for oil, in the future perhaps two will dig for oil. If the productivity of all workers keeps rising (as it has) then even living standards can keep rising.

    Total economic output (global) can climb even as oil prices rise. The distribution of that income may be unagreeable; more income to oil thug states. Or more to North Dakota and Pennsylvania.

    For the United States, as we import oil, there may be a decline in living standards. However, oil is becoming a smaller and smaller percent of GDP, and alternatives are opening up (including domestic production of oil and gas).

    in any event, oil at $80 to $100 seems to result in flat demand and much interest in developing new supplies. In you go back to a ASPO conference in 5 years, the “woe” may be oil gluts.

    I wish it was only oil that caused recessions. Unfortunately monetary and fiscal policy play much larger roles, and occasional real estate busts etc.

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  13. By Benny BND Cole on November 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    RR-

    I realize there is a study every day on energy, and one can cite any study to make a point.

    However, here is one on Peak Demand–here in seven years.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fin…..-2020.html

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  14. By Mark P on November 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Regarding your Misconception 5:
    I talked with a recruiter from ExxonMobil a few years ago, and I remember him basically saying that the company was scrapping its forays into alternative energy and re-focusing on their core businesses.  So, I was under the impression that Big Oil <em>actually is</em> “basking in the final days of the age of oil”.  I hope they really are transitioning to alternative energy, as you say.

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  15. By perry1961 on November 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Benny,

    Economically speaking, you are subscribing to a mirage. Peak demand won’t happen as a result of an oil glut. It can only happen as a result of peak oil, and the price shocks that follow. EV’s are seen as too expensive at the moment. They will be a no-brainer with $200 or $300 oil. There will be a dozen EV/PHEV models on the market by the end of next year. We’ll be well prepared for peak oil.

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  16. By shecky vegas on November 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    After reading most of the responses on this board, I have to ask – When will that die off begin?

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  17. By Optimist on November 7, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Misconception 1: Peak Oil = Running Out of Oil

    Funny you should say that. The serious doomers always pretend that they understand that PO is a gradual development. Then they proceed to describe a scenario where you wake up one Tuesday to find that (darn it!) there is suddenly no oil to be found anywhere.

    Your own repeated warning that we use oil for more than liquid fuels fall in the same category. The implication that PO means we won’t have plastic containers is patently absurd. PO may well mean more expensive plastic containers, but plastics will remain popular, whether made out of oil, natural gas, coal or recycled WVO.

    It’s hard to lend a great deal of credence to a discussion of peak resources that don’t include peak phosphate (peak less than 30 years, depletion as little as 50 – if you don’t consider biofuels, population growth in India, China, Indonesia and the rest of the NPK demand of the developing world).

    Horse manure! Or, to be more precise, sewage sludge. Like water, unlike oil, phosphate is not converted to thin air during use. All that mined phosphate ends up in sewage sludge. Once the phosphate resources start running out, we’ll figure out soon enough how to recover the P out of the sludge.

    Trust the free market*, hard as it may be after 2008. Once P resources run low, prices will reflect it. High prices for P (as for anything else) will drive a number of innovations. Including how to recover the P out of the Poo.

    *Free markets = NOT capitalism. I’d say many of America’s problems stem from too much capitalism (crony and others) and too little free markets.

    Now we are 3.5 times beyond that population and 95% of that population is currently dependent on the confluences of peak petroleum and peak phosphate – and 99.9% of the planet’s population don’t understand that peak oil = peak phosphate = peak food = peak people.

    Enjoy the silence of 7 billion people. More are on the way.

    And there is no such thing as Peak People: Robert Malthus has been wrong for 200 years. As always, his supporters believe he will be proved right in the next 20.

    Walk the streets of the average American city asking, “What is the Haber-Bosch process?” and I bet not one in one-hundred would know. (Not even those in the corn ethanol industry.)

    And your point is? Joe Sixpack is overworked (all those productivity gains came off his sweat) and you expect him to lose sleep over nitrogen fixing? In a technologically advanced society people are not going to keep abreast of everything. It’s hard enough to make a living.

    Ideally, the media would distill the noise and produce meaningful news reports that focus on the big picture. Eech! I guess capitalism killed the media: why report on serious news, if you make more money reporting on Britney Spears?

    We do have some historical examples — the Great Depression, response to WWII — where we responded with enormous changes in our lives that would not have seemed likely a few years prior. Then we have counter examples like Hurricane Katrina, where people are living normal lives and then the next week there is the total breakdown of civil order.

    The difference seem to be the quality of the leadership. Oh @#$%^! Daddy, does that mean we’re screwed?

    I talked with a recruiter from ExxonMobil a few years ago, and I remember him basically saying that the company was scrapping its forays into alternative energy and re-focusing on their core businesses. So, I was under the impression that Big Oil actually is “basking in the final days of the age of oil”. I hope they really are transitioning to alternative energy, as you say.

    Wowa. that’s objectivity for you: one recruiter talking for one oil company (and probably getting that wrong too) speaks for the entire industry… They’re all the same, right?

    Back off people – hating oil companies doesn’t help anybody.

    If EVs are suppossed to save us from Peak Oil, we’re hosed…

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  18. By rrapier on November 7, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Mark P said:

    Regarding your Misconception 5:

    I talked with a recruiter from ExxonMobil a few years ago, and I remember him basically saying that the company was scrapping its forays into alternative energy and re-focusing on their core businesses. 


     

    Well, ExxonMobil is one of the “purest” oil companies, in that they know they are an oil company and they focus on that business. But even they are making forays into algae. When it becomes clear that there is an alternative that has a chance of being economical, I can guarantee you that they will be involved.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say they — or any oil company — are transitioning to alternatives. Rather they are doing basic research in many different areas, and if one of them looks promising they will pursue it.

    ExxonMobil is full of very smart people. They aren’t going to sit around and watch the end of oil pass them by. They don’t believe it’s upon us yet, and it is possible they will make their move late. But they will have the means to make those moves and reposition themselves.

    RR

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  19. By Don S on November 7, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Peak oil is observational, shown by the number of fields going into production, less than those ending, and needs to be acted on now as the globe is as if designed only for fossil oil, the basis of our motion for the universal law of comparative advantage, the only pathway from subsistence existence. Ninety-seven per cent of transport is oil reliant. The massive oil transport system, massively fastened and intertwined to the bricks and mortar world around us, it has built, as opposed to one of much more adjustable but far less resilient sand / plasticine one. Nevertheless it is immensely energy intensive, running on gushed in energy, to the point of use, in so many ways and so many points, through the immense absolute amount of inefficiently harnessed energy of a fuel tank. Projected demand to 2035 shows demand for oil is by far number one (not to be confused with supply, with dark clouds gathering over its certainty in any event). It is the demand in a world of goodies promoting exploding uncontrolled energy demand that is the achilles heel, hand in hand with a world without discipline of energy use, which oil dispensed with, when such could not be more needed. The production of fossil and its natural holding tanks have never been costed. Oil is finite, essential to a world of the current massive infrastructure, as described, requiring enormous amounts of energy and time for adjustment, apart from involuntary massive correction, which cannot be discounted happening before 2050. My social view is that we are overmotioned, at the expense of closely knit local communities, and the bigger the move from present oil activity, the more pain there will be. More a question of how much say humankind will have in this as opposed to thrust on us. One barrel of oil goes into retrieving embedded oil, where there is some move to, as oil price rises, on the economics. One barrel is needed for 25, from oil wells.

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  20. By Wendell Mercantile on November 7, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    And there is no such thing as Peak People: Robert Malthus has been wrong for 200 years.

    But you do have to admit that Malthus had no idea what Haber-Bosch would do. Take the Haber-Bosch process out of the equation, and Malthus would have been more right than wrong. :-)

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  21. By C. Paul Davis on November 8, 2011 at 1:09 am

    After six plus years I have never seen a title quite like this about Peak Oil.  Until just recently the tiitle would have been, “Five reasons why Peak Oil is a myth”. 

    Please be aware that people like Messrs Yergin, Lynch, Forbes, and others are changing their pitch to – there will no problems with oil supply for the foreseeable future because of the huge amount of oil that the world be getting from oil sands and oil shale – 1.5 trillion barrels from the original-oil-in place  found in 1859 , plus the 13.5 trilllion barrels that come from oil sands and oil shale and presto, we now have a new number – 15 trillion barrells of oil.

    Unfortuately these people are not wiilling to talk about these several key challenges.

    1. The cost to produce a barrel of oil.  It will be considerably more expensive to produce.  Oil costs will rise over the years ahead.

    2. The excessive amount of costly water that will be required.

    3.  The Energy Returned on Energy Invested (ERoEI) challenge. 

    4.  Pollution of the atmosphere.  The same for lakes and streams.

    5.  Disposing f the waste generated during the two processes. 

    6.  Impact on the enrironment destruction is potentially enormous.

    7.  The damage and killing of wild life who inhit the land that will be destroyed. 

    Six years ago a very small percentage of the people in the oil industry belived in Peak Oil.  Today, my best guess is that over 50% of the people now belliveve iin Peak Oil.  I have never felt it was an issue of running out of oil.  It is an issue of running out of affordable oil.  We will see $150 oil sometime soon – next few years the way things are going.

    Oil energy continues to be the biggest challenge of the 21st Century.  Nothing else comes close.  Water and global warming are the next two. Just like Global Warming people will have to come around and believe in Peak Oil. 

    For the record, I believe in Peak Oil. 

    Paul

    pdavis@davis.sbcoxmail.com Wink

     

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  22. By Rufus on November 8, 2011 at 2:05 am

    Mexico seems to have exported, Net, about 132,000 bbl/day of oil/oil products in Sept.

    They could, quite likely, be a net “Importer” of oil/oil products by Jan 1, 2012.

    We achieved the “Peak Plateau” in 2005. No one knows, exactly, when we will start the decline, but “within a couple of years” probably wouldn’t be a bad bet.

    Our only possible “Out,” within any reasonable time-frame is cellulosic ethanol. Poet, Abengoa, and Duponts’ cellulosic (from ag waste) plants will start coming online about the time things start looking “‘dead serial.”

    It’s going to be an interesting decade.

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  23. By moiety on November 8, 2011 at 6:19 am

    C. Paul Davis said:

    Oil energy continues to be the biggest challenge of the 21st Century.  Nothing else comes close.  Water and global warming are the next two. Just like Global Warming people will have to come around and believe in Peak Oil. 

    For the record, I believe in Peak Oil. 

    Paul

     


     

    Just to add

    I have tce issue 844 in from to me and the cover page refers to peak Nd i.e. the end of Neodymium supplies that are cheap and easy. There are plenty of peaks out there and most are related to logistics and thus liquid transport (BTW I have not read it yet as I was cycling the Rhine).

    The water peak is potentially a devastating one with aquifers in India and China coming under sever stress. However this can be potentially avoided by deploying more desalination plants based on reverse osmosis or electrodialysis which rely mostly on electricity. Of course the electrical infrastructure has to be built and if we take global warming into account, then de-fossilised. However as we are currently seeing with Germany this is not easy as their immediate increases in electricity come from importing nuke from Czech, turning on older coal plants and ultimately using more gas via the Nord stream line. So the main peak is definitely energy as some form is required to fixed the other peaks.

    One peak that I rarely see is peak plastics as I called it. With the increases in oil price that other 15% or so of crude that is used for the chemical industry is going to become more expensive. Shale C2 can make up for a fair whack of that but those products will become more expensive.

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  24. By OD on November 8, 2011 at 9:24 am

    I wonder if Stoneleigh still holds the belief that most American’s won’t be able to afford to drive <5 years. I believe that prediction was made a year or 2 ago. 

    I mostly agree with this article, but i’m on the fence about a die-off. It’s hard to imagine how countries that are currently hanging by a thread and rely on surplus food, can absorb a shock such as peak oil. Sadly, a lot of these countries also have the highest birth rates. I just don’t invision a ‘muddle through’ scenario there. I hope I am wrong!

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  25. By carbonbridge on November 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm

     Robert Rapier said:

    I have just returned from the annual ASPO conference in Washington, D.C.


    RR:  Thank you for sharing your thoughts relative to Five Misconceptions About Peak Oil.  This topic certainly is bringing newbies to their keyboards to discuss this thread.
     

    Any other personal thoughts or nuances from this conference gathering which you might be willing to further share with others?

    -Mark

    [link]      
  26. By rrapier on November 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Rufus said:

    Our only possible “Out,” within any reasonable time-frame is cellulosic ethanol. Poet, Abengoa, and Duponts’ cellulosic (from ag waste) plants will start coming online about the time things start looking “‘dead serial.”


     

    And in a news release I got today: “Will Second-Generation Ethanol be able to Compete with First-Generation Ethanol? Opportunities for Cost Reduction.”

    From the article:

    The production of ethanol from lignocellulose-rich materials such as wood residues, waste paper, used cardboard and straw cannot yet be achieved at the same efficiency and cost as from corn starch. A cost comparison has concluded that using lignocellulose materials is unlikely to be competitive with starch until 2020 at the earliest.

    When people project possible cost competitiveness a decade into the future, the fact is they haven’t the foggiest clue if cost competitiveness will ever be achieved. They are just projecting a long time frame so that some of the those necessary technical advances might be achieved. I could do the same with “We won’t have a man on Mars before 2020 at the earliest.” The truth is, we don’t have a man on Mars for very good reasons that we haven’t figured out the answers to. If I put it off to 2020, I am just saying we might find the answers if we have more time, but I don’t have a good reason for thinking that.

    RR


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  27. By Wendell Mercantile on November 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I wonder if Stoneleigh still holds the belief that most American’s won’t be able to afford to drive < 5 years.

    There will certainly come a point when motor fuels made from oil are too dear for the average person to afford, but I doubt it will be that soon.

    But even when that happens, people will still be driving electrics. They may not drive as much, or as far, but they’ll still be driving, even if only a car shared among several owners.

    There will be a trend for those that can find jobs to work close to their homes, and not commute long distances, or travel as far on weekends.

    When I went to college in the mid-70′s, the barber who cut my hair (probably mid-50s) was actually proud he had never been more than 50 miles from where he was born. Lots of people could comfortably handle that.

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  28. By rrapier on November 8, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    CarbonBridge said:

     Robert Rapier said:

    I have just returned from the annual ASPO conference in Washington, D.C.


     

    RR:  Thank you for sharing your thoughts relative to Five Misconceptions About Peak Oil.  This topic certainly is bringing newbies to their keyboards to discuss this thread.

     

     

     

    Any other personal thoughts or nuances from this conference gathering which you might be willing to further share with others?

    -Mark


     

    Jeff Rubin is quite a character. He has swagger, and if you spoke with him for 5 minutes you would say “That guy is a real smart aleck” because he has that sort of demeanor. But he is a very entertaining speaker.

    Wes Jackson gave a lunch keynote talk. I was not familiar with his work. He is trying to breed perennial grain crops. He showed the complexity of the root systems of the plants he is developing. He talked about no-till, and said that while it helps with erosion, the plants don’t take up nitrogen as well and you end up with much more run-off. He also showed a lot of pictures of Midwest erosion in corn fields. I was left wondering how much of that is anecdotal, and how much has actually been measured. Losing our topsoil is one thing we can’t afford to do, so I wonder if any comprehensive studies have been done looking at the expansion of the corn crop and the relative soil erosion.

    RR

     

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  29. By rrapier on November 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    OD said:

    I wonder if Stoneleigh still holds the belief that most American’s won’t be able to afford to drive <5 years. I believe that prediction was made a year or 2 ago. 


     

    She never addressed the general audience, and when she spoke I was always in a different panel session. So I never got to see her talk. I did visit with her a bit, but we were mostly in different places.

    RR

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  30. By Wendell Mercantile on November 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    He also showed a lot of pictures of Midwest erosion in corn fields.

    Farming is the original “extractive industry,” and in my opinion, has had far more of an effect on the world than all the other extractive industries combined.

    At one time the Midwest and the Corn Belt was covered with lush natural grasses and fertile soil that was in places several meters deep. That is certainly no longer the case.

    I can’t help seeing the irony of politicians and farmers in Nebraska being up in arms about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would cross their state, while they refuse to look at what they’ve done to Nebraska’s soil and the Ogallala Aquifer.

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  31. By carbonbridge on November 8, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Today, the same theme of this RR discussion thread is being shared in several articles from Peak Oil News. 

    This daily feed of Peak Oil articles condensed into one pdf file is a free service to subscribe
    http://zoom.netatlantic.com/re…..me=podaily

    OR
    by going to the next URL below you can tag just TODAY’s news stories as a single pdf file.  

    http://www.aspousa.org/

    Several people in today’s compilation of news articles are also discussing this same conference event which RR recently attended.   RR is being mentioned as a speaker as well.  Good job!!! 

    I’ve posted headline clips below of some of this Peak Oil discussion being presented today…

    -Mark

     

    Featured Story

    Americans Deserve the Truth about Potential Oil Crisis

    By ASPO-USA • on October 31, 2011

    Last week we and other representatives of the Association for the Study
    of Peak Oil & Gas USA (ASPO-USA) stood on the steps of the U.S.
    Department of Energy (DOE) to call for “Truth in Energy” concerning one
    of the most serious threats to our economy, national security, and
    environment: the prospect of an impending decline in world oil supply.
    The consequences of this milestone are far-reaching and potentially
    catastrophic. After a news conference at DOE, we delivered a letter to
    Energy Secretary Steven Chu summarizing our concerns and requesting
    answers to specific questions about DOE’s response to this monumental
    challenge.

    Discussion and Analysis
    27. 2011 ASPO-USA CONFERENCE: DAY 1
    Posted by Jonathan Callahan The Oil Drum November 8, 2011 – 4:22am
    I recently attended the ASPO-USA annual conference in Washington, DC. Overall, I found the presentations and discussion to be very engaging. The vibe this year had much less of a doomsday feel than last year and the topic of how best to tell an engaging Peak Oil story came up often.

    28. ASPO-USA CONFERENCE REPORT: FRIDAY NOTES
    Here’s some highlights: World of Wall Street
    Robert Hirsch – a guy worth listening to. Claims no change since last year. Peak oil is on track. Dept of Defense has published 2012 as the possible peak data with a 10 mbpd decline by 2015. That’s dramatic. Hirsch rightly defines “the problem” as a liquid fuels problem, not a general energy problem.
    Robert Rapier, chemical engineer.
    US per capital oil consume is 23bbl/per person/per year. China’s is 2. The big Peak Oil question today is: How does the US come out of recession when oil prices hover at recession inducing levels.

    29. ASPO-USA CONFERENCE TAKEAWAYS
    World of Wall Street
    Here’s what I included as an off-topic comment I put in my weekly report at my not-related-to-investing-or- energy day job to try to give some of the people I work with a bit of a wake-up call: “Off topic: I attended the Peak Oil conference downtown last week. Here’s the key results: Peak oil is proceeding right on schedule with growing oil supply/demand tightness leading up to the Peak around 2015. Expect the USA to have to get along with between 20% and 50% less oil by 2020.

    30. ASPO CONFERENCE: ADAPTING TO FUTURE SCENARIOS
    by Donal Dag Blog 11/6/2011 – 2:30 pm    |
    I just attended the Saturday session of the 2011 ASPO USA conference. I had been hoping to take a few personal days and attend Thursday and Friday as well, but it is hard to predict the future.

    31. TIME TO WORRY: WORLD OIL PRODUCTION FINISHES SIX YEARS OF NO GROWTH
    Kurt Cobb Scitizen
    As oil prices rose ever higher in the last decade, the optimists kept predicting rising production capacity and plummeting prices. Looks like they got it wrong.

    32. OIL DEMAND GLOBALLY TO PEAK BEFORE 2020
    Global oil demand is expected to peak before 2020 as a “perfect storm” of regulation promotes energy efficiency, new technology and biofuel use across the world, according to a new study.
    By Garry White The Telegraph 5:45AM GMT 07 Nov 2011

    33. AUTOMOTIVE CONSULTANCY SEES OIL DEMAND PEAK BY 2020
    Oil & Gas Journal”Peak oil” will be a demand rather than supply phenomenon, says a UK engineering, management, and automotive consultancy. Ricardo PLC says multiclient research its Ricardo Strategic Consulting unit began last June indicates global oil demand will peak before 2020 at no more than 4% above 2010 levels. The International Energy Agency estimates average 2010 oil demand at 88.2 million b/d.

    34. RICARDO STUDY SUGGESTS GLOBAL OIL DEMAND MAY PEAK BEFORE 2020
    By Press Release
    VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, Mich., Nov. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Ricardo today announced the results of a landmark multi-client research study conducted by Ricardo Strategic Consulting in association with Kevin J. Lindemer LLC, and involved participation of some of the world’s leading energy and technology companies and organizations. The research challenged the concept that “Peak Oil” will be a supply side phenomenon and predicts that the demand for oil may well peak before 2020 and then fall back to levels significantly below 2010 demand by 2035. “The world is nearing a paradigm shift in oil demand,” said Peter Hughes, managing director of the Energy Practice of Ricardo Strategic Consulting.

    37. IEA ECONOMIST: ‘WE HAVE TO LEAVE OIL BEFORE IT LEAVES US’
    EuroActiv
    The International Energy Agency (IEA)’s annual World Energy Outlook, due for publication on 9 November, will contain alarming research that the world is on track for a catastrophic rise in global temperatures unless fossil fuel subsidies are cut, energy efficiency is improved, and more countries introduce some form of carbon pricing.

    38. ASPO-ITALY 5: BEYOND PEAK OIL
    Cassandra’s Legacy
    Peak oil is behind us. That much seems to be clear from what was said at the 5th meeting of the Italian section of the Association for the study of peak oil (ASPO) held on Oct 28 in Florence, Italy.

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  32. By cheryl on November 9, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Robert –

    Do you think projections of $8 -$10 gas prices at the pump sometime between 2015 and 2020 constitutes more hysteria or a real possibility?

    Also, to what extent do you think smaller and more fuel efficient vehicles will reduce energy use?

    Thank you

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  33. By OD on November 9, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    OIL DEMAND GLOBALLY TO PEAK BEFORE 2020

    I’m starting to believe it, for the mid term at least. Europe is coming apart faster than I thought it would (watching Italy’s bond yields today, ouch!), which will drag the US down as well. I don’t see how China continues to grow at such a rate, if their top 2 export markets falter. I am much more worried about the economy in the mid term (next 10 years) than peak oil. Though both keep me awake at night :-) .

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  34. By rrapier on November 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    cheryl said:

    Robert –

    Do you think projections of $8 -$10 gas prices at the pump sometime between 2015 and 2020 constitutes more hysteria or a real possibility?

    Also, to what extent do you think smaller and more fuel efficient vehicles will reduce energy use?

    Thank you


     

    Hi Cheryl,

    A decade ago Europe paid $4 a gallon for gasoline (I lived there at the time) and the U.S. paid $1.50. Today they pay $8-$10 and we pay $4. So I don’t think it is unreasonable to think that we might pay those prices by 2020. It obviously depends on a lot of things, but I don’t think there is any doubt that we would be willing to pay those kinds of prices if the alternative was to walk. Europe is a perfect example.

    Greater fuel efficiency and conservation have helped shave off 1.5 million bpd from our demand in the past 5 years. I am sure this trend will continue, for maybe another 1 or 2 million barrels. We might end up with per capita energy consumption in the neighborhood of Europe’s, which is about half of our consumption. (We won’t get to European levels, however, because of how our cities are built and the locations we have chosen to live; that will take a lot longer to change).

    RR

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  35. By Sam Fox on November 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Has any one been curious about how the Russians became a big player in oil?
    Are you familiar with Ukrainian & Russian scientific research that debunks
    peak oil in regard to oil being a finite resource that is running out  &
    comes from fossils? I know their research is not published much in the
    USA….but is well worth more scrutiny.

     

    Any one know about industrial hemp & how many products can be derived
    from it? Bio fuel is one product. I find it amusing, in a negative sort of way,
    that algae & corn are ‘big deals’ & need research& govt subsidies when inddustrial hemp has
    been established as an alternative source for fuel, food, clothing, plastics,
    paint & varnish..[.perhaps it's the lure of all that research money?]…for
    decades. At least 10 of them.

     

    Hemp, how can we use you??? Let us count the ways!

     

    If we count up all the uses for ind. hemp, the list would be impressively
    long. Henry Ford made a car from hemp & powered it with fuel made from hemp
    oil.

     

    I can’t take the ‘green’ movement seriously until they go full bore for the
    reinstatement of industrial hemp as an alternative source for fuel & the
    thousands of other products that can be derived from this wondrous plant. Hemp
    is easy on the earth, requires far fewer synthetic chemicals in the production
    of it’s many uses & is an excellent carbon scrubber. For those still stuck
    in Reefer Madness, industrial hemp can’t get ya ‘high’.

     

    Hemp is superior to cotton & synthetic cloth products, like nylon. Plus
    hemp comes from nature rather than coal tar & is biodegradable.Find out how hemp can also be a great source of nutrition.

     

    SamFox

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  36. By Leo Strauss on November 9, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Some of the psycho-social trends that have emerged int he United States since the 1970′s include people being increasingly socially isolated, blatant and overt corruption of government on all levels, especially the federal government, and a significant dumbing down of the population. Many Americans either don’t know, or don’t care that citizenship in a democracy means those with opposing views are not always “the enemy”. Few Americans know or care about the legitimate problems our society is facing. Talking points from the mass media rule the day, no exceptions. Many of the most passionate followers of an Ayn Rand-like view of life are also the ones that would suffer greatly if left solely to themselves. Not to mention that many of these same people are the ones carrying signs with “Get the government out of my Medicare” messages. Few Americans are going to be able to grasp the true causes for any severe societal crisis, whether it is a “peak lite”, or otherwise. The government is so divorced from anyone except lobbyists, that one can only reasonably expect an iron fist approach to a severe crisis. There may be a few hundred people in the entire country that could survive alone in the wild for an extended period of time. To discuss how we are all connected will instantly bring jeers of “socialist” from many Americans. Knee jerk assertions of American exceptionalism hold little value. The more optimistic among us are obligated to give some examples as to why.

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  37. By Walt on November 9, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Sam Fox said: 

    Has any one been curious about how the Russians became a big player in oil?

    Are you familiar with Ukrainian & Russian scientific research that debunks

    peak oil in regard to oil being a finite resource that is running out  &

    comes from fossils? I know their research is not published much in the

    USA….but is well worth more scrutiny.
     


     

    Where did this post come from?

     

    I’m familiar with the work as one of the most well known geologists from Russia works for me and was given the only geological award by the AAPG on a study that evaluated this issue.  It is based upon reversible and irreversible deformation of reservoirs and the various source rocks.  I have translated much of his work, but his main book was published 3 years ago and which the Russian government would not allow it to be translated into english.  I have the Russian copy in my house, as well as many of his writings on his research into reservoirs worldwide.

     

    There is little work in this field in the states as far as I am aware.  I hope some of the information will be published in english in the near future.  The Russian companies are really expanding globally, and although they are 10 years behind the west in working with many foreign governments, they are bringing some amazing technologies to the marketplace which could give them a edge in growing worldwide to help find more oil.

     

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  38. By takchess on November 9, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Perhaps a future column on fracking and water. I suppose the best defense is to hold drillers responsible and insure they are financial sound to pay damages if needed. Then the marketplace will decide.

    two interesting links that speak to

    http://www.greencarcongress.co…..11109.html
    http://www.nationalreview.com/…..bert-bryce

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  39. By Optimist on November 9, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    More a question of how much say humankind will have in this as opposed to thrust on us.

    Don, can you use bigger words and longer sentences to make your posts more challenging to read, please…NOT.

    BTW, humankind will do fine.

    And there is no such thing as Peak People: Robert Malthus has been wrong for 200 years.

    But you do have to admit that Malthus had no idea what Haber-Bosch would do. Take the Haber-Bosch process out of the equation, and Malthus would have been more right than wrong. :-)

    Maybe somebody should write a column entitled Five myths about Robert Malthus… Haber-Bosch was invented more than 100 years after Malthus made his dire predictions, which (like recent disciple Paul Ehrlich) he believed would be fulfilled before the decade was out. At what point can we call his bluff? 200 years not enough? Can’t please some people…

    Malthus simply did not understand the data he was looking at. He also made some outright laughable conclusions: population does NOT grow geometrically. It only does so when there is room for many people. As the utter lack of mass starvation proves.

    Water and global warming are the next two.

    There is no Peak Water: Toilet to Tap solves that for the next several generations. And if you think it can’t happen here, it is most likely already happening wherever you are getting your tap water. For example: Las Vegas’ treated sewage goes into Lake Mead – source of drinking water for Vegas, and Southern California. In the case of water: what happens in Vegas does NOT stay in Vegas. YUM!

    And you can’t have Peak Oil and Global Warming, since Peak Oil effectively eliminates Global Warming. Pick one already!

    A decade ago Europe paid $4 a gallon for gasoline (I lived there at the time) and the U.S. paid $1.50. Today they pay $8-$10 and we pay $4. So I don’t think it is unreasonable to think that we might pay those prices by 2020.

    And for the most part nobody noticed the difference. So why fear $8 – 10/gal? Because at those prices the stupid politicians may figure we need their help. Last time a politician interfered, Nixon effectively put a ceiling on gas prices. Pity that caused shortages. Don’t fear prices, fear politicians…

    There is no Peak Oil, as long as the politicians stay out of it: if production goes into the gutter, prices will rise until lower consumption meets increased production (oil plus alternatives). Might be inconvenient, but it won’t be a crisis. Definitely not the end of civilization…

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  40. By fg on November 10, 2011 at 12:35 am

    Optimist said:

    And you can’t have Peak Oil and Global Warming, since Peak Oil effectively eliminates Global Warming. Pick one already!

    Have you ever heard of coal?

     

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  41. By Wendell Mercantile on November 10, 2011 at 11:37 am

    And you can’t have Peak Oil and Global Warming, since Peak Oil effectively eliminates Global Warming.

    What? We’ve had climate warming in past epochs that had absolutely nothing to do with burning oil or coal. The atmosphere can certainly warm without Peak Oil causing it.

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  42. By Optimist on November 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    And you can’t have Peak Oil and Global Warming, since Peak Oil effectively eliminates Global Warming. Pick one already!
    Have you ever heard of coal?

    By implication coal saves us from Peak Oil, making Peak Oil a non-event. Exactly my point…

    What? We’ve had climate warming in past epochs that had absolutely nothing to do with burning oil or coal. The atmosphere can certainly warm without Peak Oil causing it.

    Clever! But (obviously) the object of the comment was the ultra-pessimistic view that first Peak Oil spells the end of civilization, and then man-made global warming wreaks havoc on the (few) survivors…
    And BTW, the point is that Peak Oil prevents (man-made) global warming…

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  43. By Wendell Mercantile on November 10, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    It only does so when there is room for many people.

    Not true, because of biological urges, population grows to some point where it exceeds what there is room to comfortably hold. That’s why some percentage of the population is always miserable and on the ragged edge. That’s always true: It was true in the 1300′s, the 1800′s, and today in the 2000′s.

    If the current population of the earth was 2,000,000,000 vs. 7,000,000,000 we could all live comfortable. But we will never constrain our population to a comfortable revel. Population containment can only happen by constantly pushing against the edge of what is possible, and that means some percentage of the people on earth will always be miserable.

    That’s also why the lemmings periodically jump off those cliffs in Norway — they aren’t smart enough to control their population on their own, but instead follow the strong biological urge to reproduce and must periodically seek new territory to counter their constantly growing population densities.

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  44. By carbonbridge on November 10, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    That’s also why the lemmings periodically jump off those cliffs in Norway — they aren’t smart enough to control their population


     

    Wendell:  I’m developing a keen sense for just one-half of one century.  That particular morning when JFK took a fateful bullet in Dallas, – will be just 48 years ago on the 22nd of this month.  That very morning, I was in 5th grade, reading a Geography lesson and we’d just learned that the best guess from global demographers 48 years ago was that planetary population was between 3–B and 3.3–B.  To ‘feel and live through’ this planet’s population more than doubling in less than 50 years is gut wrenching.  And in much less than this same time frame, mankind has over-fished the continental shelves to feed the growing hordes of hungry people. 

    Where did all the crude OIL go which both World Wars were fought over? 

    And where did all this climate changing urban SMOG come from?

    -Mark

    What is a carbon pollution credit anyway?  Really now?

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  45. By Optimist on November 11, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    You have some odd ideas, Wendell.

    Not true, because of biological urges, population grows to some point where it exceeds what there is room to comfortably hold. That’s why some percentage of the population is always miserable and on the ragged edge. That’s always true: It was true in the 1300’s, the 1800’s, and today in the 2000’s.

    Poverty and population have very little correlation: otherwise the Netherlands would be the poorest country on earth. Instead, the Netherlands is one of the richest countries on earth. Could it be that there is a corrleation between wealth and population?

    And how would population keep a portion of the population in poverty in the Middle Ages, wehn today’s population is several times the population of then? If you didn’t notice: today’s poor have it much better than the poor during the Middle Ages.

    If the current population of the earth was 2,000,000,000 vs. 7,000,000,000 we could all live comfortable.

    And where is the data, or even a reasonable theory to support that hypothesis? You may be aware that when the population of the earth was 2 billion life was NOT as comfortable as it is today.

    That’s also why the lemmings periodically jump off those cliffs in Norway

    You keep describing humans as if they have no self-control, when the data supports the opposite: go look at what Malthus saw: low population growth in Europe (where the place was close to full based on the available technology). The high population growth he saw in the New World was due to the fact that modern technology from Europe meant that the New World could support a much higher population. Notably population growth did NOT continue until starvation set in.

    The facts seem to strongly disagree with your beliefs, Wendell.

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  46. By Optimist on November 11, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    To ‘feel and live through’ this planet’s population more than doubling in less than 50 years is gut wrenching.

    And how was it gut wrenching, Mark? How did your life get worse over the last 50 years (other than getting older)? Or are you refering to the fact that the theory of overpopulation is keeping you awake at night?

    And in much less than this same time frame, mankind has over-fished the continental shelves to feed the growing hordes of hungry people.

    Much of the overfishing was done by the Japanese fishing fleet. If they did it to feed the starving masses, it is news to me. Looks like they did it for personal enrichment, Like Wall Street bankers, and many others. Sure the oceans need better protection. But the link to population is tedious, at best.

    Where did all the crude OIL go which both World Wars were fought over? 

    Both World Wars were fought over oil? More interesting teories out of Colorado! Why not go away and explain how Big Oil is responsible for JFK’s death, along with everything else that’s wrong in the world?

    And where did all this climate changing urban SMOG come from?

    A lack of local regulation, perhaps? The interesting theory out of Beijing that only capitalists were capable of environmental degradation/pollution? Lack of pollution control equipment? People buying SUVs when gasoline was cheap?

    Can’t be population growth, since population growth is generally highest in countries where smog is NOT a problem.

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  47. By Wendell Mercantile on November 11, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Notably population growth did NOT continue until starvation set in.

    It certainly does in about one-third of the world.

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  48. By carbonbridge on November 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Optimist said:

    And how was it gut wrenching, Mark?  Much of the overfishing was done by the Japanese fishing fleet.  Both World Wars were fought over oil? More interesting teories out of Colorado! Why not go away and explain how Big Oil is responsible for JFK’s death, along with everything else that’s wrong in the world?  Can’t be population growth, since population growth is generally highest in countries where smog is NOT a problem.


     

    Dear Anonymous Optimist:

    First:  As you are a longtime blogger on this RR site, I hereby request that you use your own name.  It will give your pointed statements more punch and credibility.  Personally, I don’t give much credence to statements published from anonymous persons such as yourself.

    Secondly:  I remember when The Population Bomb was required reading in both my High School Biology and early College Science classes.  This 1968 document helped to focus my attention to the perils of overpopulation at an early age.  While I personally participate in negative population growth, this has NOT been the rule of thumb for planet earth’s two-legged inhabitants for the past fifty or sixty years while the planet’s population has recently doubled in just four decades with many grave consequences.  While ocean trawlers snaring aquatic species are doing so at a profit, – having so many hungry bellies to feed has created guaranteed market consumption for seafood.

    The Population Bomb was a best-selling book written by Paul R. Ehrlich and his wife, Anne Ehrlich (who was uncredited), in 1968.[1]  It warned of the mass starvation of humans in the 1970s and 1980s due to overpopulation, as well as other major societal upheavals, and advocated immediate action to limit population growth.  Fears of a “population explosion” were widespread in the 1950s and 60s, but the book and its charismatic author brought the idea to an even wider audience.[2][3]  The book has been criticized in recent decades for its alarmist tone and inaccurate predictions. The Ehrlichs stand by the basic ideas in the book, stating in 2009 that “perhaps the most serious flaw in The Bomb was that it was much too optimistic about the future” and believe that it achieved their goals because “it alerted people to the importance of environmental issues and brought human numbers into the debate on the human future.”[1] [from: Wikipedia]

    Paul Ralph Ehrlich (born 29 May 1932) is an American biologist and educator who is the Bing Professor of Population Studies in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University and president of Stanford’s Center for Conservation Biology.[1][2]  By training he is an entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera (butterflies), but he also a prominent ecologist[1] and demographer.  “At the moment the United States uses well over half of all the raw materials consumed each year.  Think of it.  Less than 1/15th of the population of the world requires more than all the rest to maintain its inflated position….”  “The birth rate must be brought into balance with the death rate or mankind will breed itself into oblivion….  “A simultaneous famine and population explosion in India in the 1960s led Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich to write a blunt and controversial book, The Population Bomb, which catapulted the environment into a cause and Ehrlich to instant celebrity.  Speaking to an Earth Day rally at Iowa State University in 1970, Ehrlich proclaimed, “We have the world’s largest, the world’s weakest and the world’s densest population.  There are more hungry people today than there were in 1875.”  [from: Wikipedia]

    The Day of Seven Billion and the World’s Most Overpopulated Nation  (including 54 footnotes – Published 12 days ago.)

    The Day of Seven Billion, the day when United Nations demographers believe the planet will attain a population of seven billion people, occurred on October 31, 2011.  Global population growth, and the problems associated with it, deserve more publicity and acknowledgement than they usually get.  But so does population growth in the United States, a topic that many living in the United States need to better understand if for no other reason that we sometimes assume overpopulation is solely a problem of developing nations.

    http://www.progressivesforimmi…..n-billion/

    Optimist:  At the URL above you can read and even download a pdf file of a very fresh and thorough examination of overpopulation now exceeding 7 billion people on planet earth.  This recent examination of population data by author Kathleene Parker from Albuquerque – contains 54 footnotes if you’d care to peruse this overpopulation subject even just a little bit further.

    While you may be personally comfortable concerning your statements about “present comfort levels,” – others like myself experience some level of ‘gut wrenching’ over the growing hordes of human population amid depleting resources.  I personally do not care for – nor am I attracted to – the density of people traveling U.S. freeways, or filling subway stations, or public swimming holes or schools.  And I also realize that this same level of population density is also very common in many other countries on planet earth today.

    The fact that you do not understand the specifics of why both World Wars were instigated by the Germans is your problem, not mine.  This is not a theory…  Nor am I calling out Big Oil as you infer…  Instead, I’m stating some basic truths that Germany (and Japan) did not have availability to enough quantities of Crude Oil to sustain their industrial revolutions and this precipitated both WW’s.  Do a little research here if this point seems foreign to you…  May I suggest you start by reading THE PRIZE: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, & Power, written by Daniel Yergin about twenty years ago.  The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power is Daniel Yergin’s 800-page history of the global oil industry from the 1850s through 1990. The Prize became a bestseller owing to its release date: it was published in October 1990, two months after the invasion of Kuwait ordered by Saddam Hussein and three months before the U.S.-led coalition began the Gulf War to oust Iraqi troops from that country.[1] It eventually went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.[2]  [from Wiki]  The Prize has also been made into a 8 hr. PBS film documentary in 1993 and has been shown on public TV many times.  It is also available to download and view on your computer screen.  You’d quickly learn of the importance of non-available Crude Oil during WW I and WW II.

    Please use your own name on future blog comments.  Thank you.

    -Mark

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  49. By Optimist on November 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Notably population growth did NOT continue until starvation set in.
    It certainly does in about one-third of the world.

    Nope. Hunger has been around for centuries, since times when there were much fewer people than today. Whatever causes hunger (and we can debate that all day), it is NOT population numbers. As the facts show.

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  50. By Optimist on November 15, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Mark,

    Thanks for an exhaustive read on the theory of how overpopulation is a major threat to mankind. The facts prove the opposite. In a word, for all of human history so far: More people = more wealth.

    If that equation is about to change, and changes do happen, I have not seen a single sensible explanation about why now. This is at the heart of my criticism against Robert Malthus, Paul Ehrlich, and most other alarmists. To be fair: in the case of Malthus and Ehrlich I admittedly have the benefit of hindsight.

    “At the moment the United States uses well over half of all the raw materials consumed each year.  Think of it.  Less than 1/15th of the population of the world requires more than all the rest to maintain its inflated position….” 

    50%? That sounds a tad high. Between the US and China, that wouldn’t leave much for anybody else, would it? The US uses roughly 25% of the global oil consumption. Given that the US also generates about 25% of the global economic activity, these numbers do NOT suggest the US is an energy glutton. Perhaps Africa would do better if it used 25% of the planet’s oil and generated 25% of the economic activity.

    Of course, it would be great if the US paid greater attention to energy efficiency. Not to worry. At future prices it would. Don’t you just love the free market? At least as much as we still have it.

    The birth rate must be brought into balance with the death rate or mankind will breed itself into oblivion….  ”

    Utter hogwash, not supported by any data. See the equation for a simple refute.

    There are more hungry people today than there were in 1875.

    There are also more millionaires. Were there any billionaires in 1875? As a rule of thumb: more people means more in every category.

    A simultaneous famine and population explosion in India in the 1960s led Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich to write a blunt and controversial book…

    Funny you should mention India, one of the most densely populated countries in the known universe. You’d expect India to be a bankrupt, poor hovel by now, won’t you? Instead India is a member of BRIC and experiencing the kind of economic growth that makes most other (less densely populated) countries’ eyes water. More data to support the equation, won’t you agree?

    The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power is Daniel Yergin’s 800-page history of the global oil industry from the 1850s through 1990.

    With all due respect to Mr. Yergin: his utter inability to correctly predict any of the recent price trends for oil (his supposed field of expertise), makes me just a tad skeptical of his analytical nous.

    I realize you are emotionally tied to the theory. I simply request that you consider the facts.

    Please use your own name on future blog comments.

    Tell you what, Mark: you do what works for you, and I’ll do what works for me. OK?

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  51. By carbonbridge on November 16, 2011 at 2:26 pm

     Mrs. Optimist said:

    50%? That sounds a tad high. Between the US and China, that wouldn’t leave much for anybody else, would it?


    Dear Anonymous,

    You are speed reading…  Your criticism above directed at me is from an italicized quote made by author Mr. Paul Ralph Ehrlich dated 41 years ago.  Once again, I don’t give much credence to statements published from anonymous persons such as yourself.  Have a good day!

    -Mark

     

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  52. By Optimist on November 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Optimism has to a missus, eh? LOL!

    So what? Are you willfully quoting wrong numbers here? Yeah, that’s convincing! Or does reading it slower make it true?!? Also: am I to blame that you are quoting 41 year old statements? Hint: the intervening 40 years wasn’t kind to the woe-is-us, the-sky-is-falling population bomb pessimists.

    How does it feel to have your clock cleaned by an anonymous poster?

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  53. By ralph schindler sr on November 17, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Just search

    Just search Russian deep drilling.

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  54. By Terry Scott on February 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Optimist,
    Your two comments ” You keep describing humans as if they have no self-control, when the data supports the opposite” and ” Notably population growth did NOT continue until starvation set in” reveal your basic lack of education on both human psychology and anthropology.
    You seem to have overlooked one basic fact – that up to now the people of the world have always had somewhere less populated and new to go. There has always been a perception of an “unlimited” supply of undeveloped land over the horizon. This is no longer the case with current population levels in all continents, and we do now know how “limited” the surface of the earth is. However as individuals we have not internalised this and will probably never do so, probably due to our historic ability to migrate to somewhere else because we have always been able to do so. You ask for an example of the “overshoot” of human population. have a look at this site: http://www.eco-action.org/dt/e…..sland.html. This site describes the population overshoot and collapse of the society of Easter Island and is a microcosmic example of what awaits us if we do not come to the realisation that uncontrolled population equals disaster. However I do not hold any hope that this realisation is anywhere in our future.

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  55. By carbonbridge on February 7, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Terry Scott said:

    Optimist,

    You seem to have overlooked one basic fact – that up to now the people of the world have always had somewhere less populated and new to go. There has always been a perception of an “unlimited” supply of undeveloped land over the horizon. [And]….if we do not come to the realisation that uncontrolled population equals disaster.  However I do not hold any hope that this realisation is anywhere in our future.


     

    10/4 Terry Scott.

    You hit the nail squarely on its head…

    -Mark

     

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  56. By bill constantinidis on October 19, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    I believae peak cheap oil is long gone ( + decades ) houdini economics by those in charge have kept the consumerist’s binge party going the bubble will burst and when it does the gap between rich and poor will multiply several times over and many middle class members will be turned into poor class members picture your  house values dropping to 5 % of current present value, wages dropping in tandem and our debt level staying constant.The future is as a debt slave for the vast majority

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