The Peak Oil Paradox -Revisited-


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    M. King Hubbert It’s been a while since we posted an article by our friend Euan Mearns, who was active at The Oil Drum at the same time Nicole and I w
    [See the full post at: The Peak Oil Paradox -Revisited-]

    Ken Barrows

    Although I certainly cannot prove it, I’d say the net energy from global oil extraction peaked around 1998-99. Why? The answer is in the double digit per annum capital expenditures (h/t Steve Kopits) since 2000 and that debt.

    As oil production rises, the question to ask may be “how much debt does it take to do it?” The Hills Group has some thoughts:


    If we did not use the carbonates that we use, what would Mother Earth do with it?
    It’s a hot and slippery question.

    steve from virginia

    Not that it matters but North Slope Prudhoe Bay play contained 25± billion barrels proved whereas US shale plays (EIA) = 13 bn barrels. At current rate of consumption shale plays would provide the world with about 2 months of supply. That this makes any sort of difference other than in the most speculative sense is irrelevant.

    The problem is the absence of any real returns — of any kind — for the majority of end users. Yet someone must pay somehow: that is by way debts that have become so large they cannot be retired (even serviced) except by taking on even more debts … overly indebted is where we are right now.

    As debt increases, finance capitalization deteriorates, so does the ability to finance more fuel extraction as well as to roll over maturing loans.

    This absence of return for the hundreds of millions of end users is the black hole in the center of the industrial economy that nobody — including economists and policy makers — dares to discuss. The implications are too profound … that we are bankrupted by our precious toys. That trying to expand the economy by increasing (fuel) demand is suicidal.

    E. Swanson

    As a one time Oil Drum “greenie”, I was not surprised to find that Euan is still seriously anti-AGW. At the time the Oil Drum shutdown, I didn’t understand that it was done because of the repeated concerns voiced by some (me?) about AGW and Climate Change. There are still people who post on Euan’s web site who are rabidly opposed to doing anything about our CO2 emissions, even though the science has become even more solid in the intervening years.

    A little over 2 weeks ago,a letter regarding AGW and Climate Change was sent to every member of the US Congress. The letter was signed by 31 major US scientific organizations. Do you think the RNC members in Congress listened? Well, I notified my Congress critter, who happened to also be a Co-chair of the GOP Convention Platform Committee, which was approved yesterday. Read it and Weep (see p17-22). Naturally, those folks are even more adamant that they aren’t going to do anything except promote the increased use of fossil fuels, even as the latest weather reports indicate that June was the warmest June on record, adding to a string of 13 record monthly readings.

    I hope these RNC geniuses all end up holding bonds when interest rates start to rise. As David Stockman and others have pointed out, bonds and stocks are both in bubble territory, which is likely to end badly. Both could go down the tubes as the debt bubble implodes.


    “… who are rabidly opposed to doing anything about our CO2 emissions, even though the science has become even more solid in the intervening years”

    How about some data?

    Signatures are easily bought by those who dispense bursaries and favours.


    It’s hard to believe that Euan is really surprised that the idea of stranded resources that can’t be burned caught on. After all, 190-odd countries signed an agreement in Paris, recently, and we’ve just had 14 months in a row of record monthly surface temperatures. I realise that Euan is something of an AGW contrarian but he really can’t be surprised by that notion catching on. He should stick to the strict analysis of Peak Oil and not offer unfounded opinions.

    On Peak Oil, I had always thought that the peak discussed last decade was about conventional crude oil, without adding all the bits and pieces that get added these days (including tight oil and deep offshore oil). It would be interesting to know how the BTU value of oil production has changed over the years (with the BTU costs of producing the oil removed), though I don’t think there has been any serious study on this aspect.


    “… and we’ve just had 14 months in a row of record monthly surface temperatures”

    I guess someone must have forgotten to tell the trees in Europe.

    “Scientists Can’t Figure Out Why Leaf Unfolding In Europe Not Happening Earlier”

    E. Swanson

    Nassim wrote: How about some data?

    Here’s an example of a rabid commentary. While I understand her distress, having experienced unemployment thru most of my career years, I think her rejection of the scientific facts is a classic example of denial. Besides, who is to say “her” post is genuine, as it contains no identifying information.

    I take it you didn’t look at the post from the Weather Underground, which points to the surface data from NOAA. There’s lots more data, especially Arctic data, such as declining sea-ice extent and record high temperatures in Alaska. It’s no surprise that the scientists who have studied the AGW problem are seriously worried.


    “It seems highly likely that momentum on the down leg will be replaced by inertia on the up leg with a diminished industry unwilling to jump back on the band wagon when price finally climbs back towards $100 / bbl, which it surely will do one day in the not too distant future.”

    Inertia? Inertia from where? The consumer? Wall Street? The Pentagon? In what context will we reach $100 / bbl that can entice and sustain the industry?

    Ken Barrows

    If you want, you just can go to the National Climatic Data Center. But, if you reject their data, then you don’t.


    Hi all AGWers, what about the data rigging?
    Remember, “hide the decline?” What about the manipulation of temperature sensors?
    You guys do know about this, right? Yet you don’t address it.
    IMHO, your emotional bias is revealed in the subject grammar you omit, omission being the most efficient form of lying according to George Orwell.
    This is a tremendously complicated subjected due to enormous inputs and effects. I’ve argued that nobody has sufficiently proved either side of the false dichotomy correct – that humans are mostly responsible or not responsible at all.

    Read that about 10x because you haven’t been programmed to see that kind of absolute truth in such a simple, straightforward way.
    Without the exponential debt-money growth carried out by the Debt-Money Monopolists who control the MONEY CENTER banks, there wouldn’t be the MONEY available to create industries to burn fuels to generate CO2. Oh, did you make the connection?
    WHO funds government? THE VERY SAME PEOPLE.
    Ruminate on those facts for a while…

    What do those “connected dots” mean for ordinary people?

    Cui bono – how do the Debt-Money Monopolists benefit from this set up and deception?


    There is a false dichotomy between “doomers” and “greenies” in this debate. As evidenced by the great work of The Automatic Earth, focusing on only one of the LtG factors (energy, environment, finance etc) to the exclusion of the others is seriously flawed because they are all inter-related.

    See for example this post on ToD, based on a 2008 letter to Professor Ross Garnaut, pointing out the flaws in his landmark AGW report that provided the basis for the Australian Government’s policy response to AGW. Among Garnaut’s assumptions was that global oil production would be unconstrained for at least 50 years. As a neo-classical economist, he explicitly rejected the idea of peak oil.

    The policy responses to AGW are in tatters due in no small part to the fact that most of them ignore or outright reject the reality of LtG, which is bizarre given that AGW concerns are also based on the physical sciences.


    TheTrivium4TW, please check multiple sites that have dealt thoroughly with all of the denier arguments. I won’t rehash them here but if you really want to understand the world then look at the science. From being a fervent denier, 15 years ago, I started to look at the science and realised I’d been really stupid and ignorant about the issue.

    Nassim, look at the totality of the scientific evidence and research, not single snippets which you think support your desired opinion. By the way, a study last year showed Spring in the US is coming earlier. Doesn’t prove anything long term but there is plenty of other evidence. Plenty, even if 14 monthly records in a row doesn’t impress you (and try calculating the odds of that happening without global warming).


    By the way, Nassim, that study that you linked to (or rather, you linked to a blog post about it) does not show what you (or the blogger) think it shows; perhaps you should read it.

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