Bert Baeck

Managing Director, D square N.V.

This conversation is closed.

Is peak oil a hoax? Can it be debunked?

I am already reading for a while on the topic of 'peak oil'.

It's clear for everybody that the industrial revolution arose primarily because of fossil fuels but there is a fight (with words) going on about peak oil. Amongst others, you have Richard Heinberg claiming the end is near (following Hubbert's curve) and there are other people debunking it...

The same reaction as on global warming comes back: Fighting science with science (e.g. Merchants of doubt)

I personally am a believer but how can you handle all this debunking when you want to convince people?

Are there some strong arguments claiming 'Peak oil' can't be debunked?'

Thanks for your insights!

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    Oct 4 2011: My take on the Peak Oil debate (which I've been participating in since 2004 over at the forum) is rather childishly pragmatic: I'm a believer when oil prices skyrocket, and a non-believer when prices are low. :-)

    The debate comes and goes as prices go up and down. And this is probably exactly why peak oil is a real problem: people (politicians, policy makers, economists, etc...) only delve into it when prices become a problem. We may be blind to the simplicity and brutal reality of the issue. Oil is a finite resource and we need to find alternatives, which will be extremely difficult.

    The only real point of the debate is the eventual "date" of the peak, and what this implies for the economy and for policy. If it comes in 2020, we'll be facing a disaster. If it comes in 2040, we may have some time to adapt.
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      Oct 4 2011: Laurens,

      Thanks you for your clear, wise voice here.

      You are right..we, "we the people", don't stay with the fundamental reality of peak oil and all its implications..we sort of drift back to any concern about oil at all when the prices at the pump get to high or home heating bills skyrocket..we don't connect in the mean time with the insidious and insistent rise in food prices and most goods and services that are oil dependent and making prices rise much faster than our incomes.

      I don't think the term "peak oil" or its meaning is well understood and I am glad to know there is a place devoted to that where we can all learn more and stay with it more..all the time..until the problem is solved.

      I will come to and hope you and fellow forum members at peak oil will check out Adriaan Kamp's work at Energy for One World which is doing exactly what you suggest and beginning to win support and interest in places of influence including the Clinton Global Initiative.
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    Sep 26 2011: Peak oil is fundamentally a concept of production, not a concept of supply. It comes from the fact that an oil well, when first drilled, spews out oil easily. Then after a while, it needs to be pumped out with more and more energy until eventually they pump water in to float out the rest. Eventually it takes more oil to to scrape the bottom of the barrel than you get in return and then the well is dead. That production curve can be averaged out across all oil wells and you get a peak oil estimation.

    The tar sands throw a wrench into that because they aren't a well, they are a mine. They involve shoveling immense amounts of earth with giant excavators and giant dump trucks into separators and refineries. The rate of production depends on the capacity of their equipment rather than the physics of an oil well. The rate of production at the tar sands could be increased if markets forces, investment and regulation allowed it.

    This isn't necessarily a good thing, it doesn't mean we are in less trouble. It just means that we aren't going to be force weened off of oil. We have the ability to keep the pedal to the metal far closer to the end of oil than we could with conventional oil wells.

    The question isn't whether we have passed the point of maximum production for all time (peak oil), its whether we have passed the point where we don't have enough supply to actually make the infrastructure to replace oil. It takes oil to build electric cars, solar panels, windmills, or whatever. It took us 100 years and a lot of oil to build this oil addicted economy. Its going to take us a lot of time and a lot of oil to build the green energy economy that will replace fossil fuels.

    If we hit the point where the fossil fuel supply is insufficient to build the green infrastructure to replace it then we are in for some hard times.
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    Sep 24 2011: We have to start to learn about "energy interdependence". Not just depend on oil, but wind, solar, chemical, phisical energy. The comfortable average in some countries start to descend and here resides the alarm. Really is a phony exercise to see the figures in the balance, Im sure that ALWAYS we have to confront some bad result. So, whay we dont start to see beyond the political stupidity and discover the real options?
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    Sep 23 2011: Lindsay why we dont change all that...oildollars ....sundollars...windollars....or oilmoney, sunmoney, windmoney, ?
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    Sep 23 2011: No peak oil can be debunked. All you need to do is prove that there is a never ending infinite supply of oil in the earth. If you can't do that then I guess we are just haggling over the date a bit.
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    Sep 20 2011: Dear Bert

    I am so very glad to see this here at TED. I too have been doing a lot of reading on the peak oil issue..I too am persuaded it is no hoax..I first learned about through the amazing documentary film Blind Spot that let me competely stunned.."slack jawed" as they say here in Maine. Here is a nice summry from an amazon rebiew of the film which is available as an instant watch at netflix.

    "2005 was probably the year of peak oil; that means that half of all the oil in history (the EASY to get half) is now gone. thus the end of cheap energy. without fossil fuels the world could support one billion, maybe 2.5 billion, depending on who you ask. so this century (of peak oil, peak uranium, peak coal, peak everything) the world's population must go down quite a few billion whether we like it or not, or there WILL be a massive die-off this century."

    Sounds extreme and way out there but as the film soberly lays out oil is in everything..agriculture, clothing, construction, food, medicine..its not just heating our homes and fueling our cars. Oil is cheap and plentiful only at the front end of punping a given reserve then even though there is lots of oil left in the reseve the cost of extraction becomes too great. Apparently the US reached peak oil production in the 70's which is what placed us in dependence of foreign oil.

    And this one reality is basically what is driving global politics, wars, regime changes and national priorities. Its astonishingto me that it is not the number one topic of conversation here at TED and everywhere around the world. The film "Blind Spot" is a good place to get te basics..and then I promise will be something in the fore of your thiking.

    Although it involves massive shifts in just about every area of our we grow food, how we build roads brdges and houses, how we manufacture just about everything..Adran Kamp at Energy for One World, a fellow TEdster here believes that we have options and choices.
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      Sep 20 2011: Hi Lindsay . . . at your recommendation I watched the first half hour of blind spot (then it stopped on me and I couldn't get it going again). So, I did not see the whole film which really looks like a documentary except that its charts had no sources and the authors seem to have their bias: The Party's Over; Overshoot; Powerdown and Collapse of Complex Societies. These are the types of films (documentaries) that bother me somewhat because they do not present both sides with facts and figures. Statements like the tail-end of oil will last a 'very long time' and the only question is 'exactly when it will happen' with no discussion about the question.

      Does this makes sense to you?

      With respect.
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        Sep 20 2011: Hello Lynn,

        Nice to see you again..and especialy in this topic ( it has been hard to get folk interested in how oil drives our lives).

        I can't disagree that Bind Spot is not balalnecd neutral reporting..its more in the genre of investigative reporting and clearly intended to convey the message that we all need to think about what peak oil and peak agricultural production means to us and to the future of the globe.

        I am certainly not an expert on global economics or oil economic but further reserach suggests to me this is definitely not in the real of conspiracy theory or hype. I think it presents reality..

        I have to watch it again myself to refersh my memory in light of these two most welcome conversations..this and alo one on the impact of dimisnidhing oil supplies. My recollection is that it didn't offer any directions or stargetgies for global solutions..

        But maybe te first step is to get us to understand the problem with oil is bigger than we realize.
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          Sep 20 2011: Yes, the need to understand our dependence on oil is crucial so that we go forward with a deliberate, well-thought out plan to find an alternative.

          Thanks, Lindsay.
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    Oct 20 2011: A final thanks and a a post script.

    .In a statement October 19(2011) calling for more favorable U.S.policies on fossil fuels, Chevron CEO John Walter acknowledged peak oil.

    “Despite the relative abundance and affordability of fossil fuels, they won't be enough to meet future demand growth, so other sources must be developed” Watson said.

    Hope to see you here at TED Conversations on otherkey oil issues which affect all our lives.
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    Oct 18 2011: Dear Bert,

    As this conversation nears its close I want to thank you again for bringing it to TED. Even though it has drifted way back off front and center I think this conversation has been a benchmark here at TED Conversations in trying to bring these complicated global issues that affect all of our daily lives into view where we can understand them better and perhaps see what we might be able to do about it

    Inspired by wikileaks, I have taken up the habit of using source documents for all research and investigation wherever possible ( rather than pre-digested commentary from journalists who may not be experts or bloggers who are deeply biased.)

    On this issue of oil and global energy needs, I have been looking to the web sites of oil companies and investor advisers who are driving commodities speculation. Very enlightening.

    Here is the latest from Energy & Capital declaring that post peak oil globally will be reached in 5 years, referring to the voracious accumulation of oil by China & European nations, the article, entitled "Buy it if it Burns",. sees deep drilling, tar sands and shale oil as short lived last gasps of facing the reality of peak oil and envisions massive investment in natural gas and solar energy ( exactly as Adrian Kaamp's Energy for One World predicts) as we begin to make an aggressive transition past oil dependence globally


    He confrms what everyone else alreday knows and is banking on..that oil prices will stay sky high and continue to rise until we complete the transitio , that speculation will further inflate the price of oil .

    For those of us who are not immersed in our investment portfolios, that means the costs of all goods will continue to grow faster than our incomes, continue to challenge the fixed incomes of retirees and old age pensioners, continue to to ever rising food prices and continue to create millions and millions of people globally living in chronic hunger.
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    Oct 16 2011: Well this video tries to prove that peak of oil will happen if it didn't already:

    The implications of steady growth are also terrible: WW1 and WW2 are examples of resetting the economy every 50 years or so - to compensate the ceiling limiting the infinite growth.
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    Sep 29 2011: Bert, features a banner at the top of their page which answers your question.


    An opinion with some weight on that question I would say.and here are some quotes fromthe link from that banner of executives of top oil companies acknowledging that peak oil is past tense:

    "And while governments and oil companies have tried to keep this a secret for some time, their inability to produce more oil means a harsh reality is finally starting to sink in...

    Exxon admitted Peak Oil is a problem when its official spokesman said:

    “All the easy oil and gas in the world has pretty much been found. Now comes the harder work in finding and producing oil from more challenging environments and work areas.”

    Even Shell's former chairman has acknowledged a peak:

    “It is pretty clear that there is not much chance of finding any significant quantity of new, cheap oil. Any new or unconventional oil is going to be expensive.”

    The International Energy Agency even claimed crude oil output peaked in 2006."

    So there we have it..and there in the huge push to tar sands (sagd), deep drilling, and shale oil....If Shell and Exxon acknolwdge that oil is finite ,,that's good enough for me.
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    Sep 29 2011: Here is a wonderful Real News briefing exlaining in fairly straight forward terms how the US failure to implement the corrections in the commodities markets already law in the Dodd-Frank Act keeps the price of oil arricifically high purely through speculation..straight out gambling


    A very well done piece of journalism, Real New explains that there are more "paper barrels" of oil out there in the market than there are real barrels of demand . They discuss wikileaks communications from the Saudi's to the U.S. urging exactly the reforms that are in the Dodd Frank bill that would bring commodities trading back in line with actual end user demands and eliminate the huge price inflationary factor of pure speculation

    .The wikileaks documenents on communiques from the Saudi's to the U.S. show them to be very coorperative with U.S. requests on supply but as early as 2007 the Saudi's are saying they can't produce oil for which there are no buyers.

    The piece explains that this cacth 22 effectively realizes and locks the end users into the higher artificial price driven by speculation .In other words..the hedge fund guys are the only winners in this straight out market manipulation at the expense of all consumers globally..higher prices for end users means higher prices for virually all comsumers goods and services..not just the gas in our cars or the heating oil for or homes

    .The Dodd-Frank bill, which would bring "paper barrels" back in line with actual end user demand would result in an almost immediate price correction in oil to real demand levels with a dramatic positive effect on the ecnomy. Republicans have used their control, of Congress to delay implementation on Dodd-Frank hoping they can kill it under a Republican President.This all feeds the post peak panic bringing us pressure for tar sands oil and keeping us clinging to oil.
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    Sep 27 2011: Here is the American Petroleum Istitute's (dba Energy For Tomorrow") spin on the Keystone pipeline

    It's not current (dated July 2011) and it doesn't refer to or acknowledge the existence of peak oil per se ( we an't expect oil companies to say that out right can we?) but clearly arises from the reality of that. It's pitch is very interesting.. It isn;t directed at us "we the people " is directed at the governments of Canada and the U.S.threatening that heavy oils will come to market one way the other and that China will do that ( implying in partnetship with Russia if not with Canada?

    I would have to say the tone and pitch of this Energy For Tomorrow PR is good news. It is responding mainly to Obama's apparent refusal to approve right now and maybe the reality Canadian pemit expired in March and cannot go forawrd now inspite of Harpers hype. It gives me hope that maybe it is not a done deal and "we the people" will get to have some say about what we think of heavy oil.

    .I think all the rhetoric debating whether peak oil has happened or not is dangerous and unrealistic thinking. It is thinking that will stall out and take political energy and economic resoucres away from the transition we have to make in the next 30 years to sustainable renewable energy sources. I actually feel heartened by the thin and transparent rhetoric of this Petroeum Institute memo. It suggests that they smell defeat on this. And that is good news.
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    Sep 27 2011: Here is interesting articel from Daniel Yergin: "There Will Be Oil"

    In my opinion - panic scenarious about the world running out of oil are wrong, but in the other hand the price of oil is going to continue to fluctuate - Big Oil is eager in sustained high oil prices.

    The Peak Oil theorists rests on conventional Western geology textbooks and central story is biological origin - algae, fossilized dinosaur remains and other biological residue which are in finite supply.

    On the other side there is abiotic theory, and is far more reasonable: oil is formed deep in the earth, formed in conditions of very high temperature and very high pressure. ‘Oil is a primordial material of deep origin which is transported at high pressure via ‘cold’ eruptive processes into the crust of the earth,’ concluded by Prof. Vladimir Porfir’yev
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      Sep 27 2011: A great article by a credible author..thanks for bringing it here.

      The United States did actually reach peak oil production some time in the 70's and continued to consume and allow its demand for oil to rise at even greater rates than before peak oil. We presently provide only 25% of our own oil and even wih our wonderful trade agreements with Canada which is significant in global oil markets,we still are dependent, increasingly dependent on foreign oils.

      The reality, not the myth, of U.S. peak oil production in the mid 70s has driven and undermined our nation ever since. Americans are worse off economically than they were in the 70's..the costs of goods ( most driven by the price of oil) has increased faster than real incomes and at the heart of all of it is oil economics and global politics .

      China's unexpected rise to global power and its 7% per year increase in demand for oil have created a post peak panic and high stakes international competition for control of existing and new reserves, as was played out in the lead up to the Libyan "regime change" over Libya's own control over one of the most significant new reserve discoveries in decades.

      The arguement you advance, that oil may not be a fossil fue after all, may or may not prove to be true in time. When we know already what our energy needs are globally for the next three decades ..when we know our entire global economy is oil cenetered and oil dependent , when we know already the toll that oil has taken on our atmosphere world wide it just seems so unwise to not aggressively pursue our necessary global transition to sustainable renewable energy, so unwise to keep looking to finding and using more oil. The wisdom to me lies in the strategy promoted by Energy for One World..equally share what oil reseves we have globally. ( iei not squeeze out the least powerful, poorest and most needy nations of the world. while our transition to sustaianable energy

      It is a wise 30 year plan.
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        Sep 27 2011: The reality of 1970 peak is not due to resource depletion in the US fields – it peaked because US oil companies like Texaco, Mobil... flooded US market with cheap imports from Middle East, tariff free, at very low prices so that Texas and California domestic producers could not compete and were forced to shut down their wells, result was major decline in US oil production.

        The argument of abiotic oil theory is followed by Dr. J.F. Kenney – who has studied under Vladilen Krayushkin. Kenney stated in one interview that „alone to have produced the amount of oil to date that (Saudi Arabia’s) Ghawar field has produced would have required a cube of fossilized dinosaur detritus, assuming 100% conversion efficiency, measuring 19 miles deep, wide and high.“ – which is absurde.

        I strongly agree that we must pursue alternative - clean energy technolgies, but oil will still play major role in many years to come.
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          Sep 27 2011: Thanks for your further comments, Matija. I am not an expert on oil..but your version of the 70's peak oil is sort of isnide out..The Us. Doesn;t flood the wolrd with cheap middle eastern oil..the dominance of middle eastern oil in the global marketplace made US oil infeasible to recover..that's the definition of peak oil..again I make no claims to being an oil expert.

          I am glad if you agree though that clinging to oil, investing in heavy crude, delaying our transition to wiser energy sources is not wise policy for humanity.
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        Sep 27 2011: Lindsay, do you really believe this? Don't you have questions?
        Google the name of that prof. It is all over the place and only on commercial site's. It lookes to me they are payed for it.
        I'm sorry to say so but anyone that believes a hoax like this . . . . . and without any theory to go with it.
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          Sep 27 2011: Hi what? google who? JF Kenney?

          There is in my mind ,based on quite extensive research, that US oil production peaked in the 70's that a global peak will definitely ocurr if it has not already ( why would the saudi's be interested in partnering in the refining of heavy crude in Texas?)

          There is no question in my mind that the policy that serves humanity is a 30 year commitment to a complete transition away from oil and toward s sustanianble renewable and more universally available wnd, sun, tide,

          To me the issue of the ; whether peak oil did or did or did not happen doesn't even figure into wise policy; whether oil is fossil based or abiotic as this Professior Tenney seems to be touting is completely irrelevent except for the fact that it will take us 30 years to make the full transition. In the context of peak oil, oil is an increasing costly resource to recover,why would we invest more in that? Why would we want to have more and more plastic, more and more carbon emissions, more and more goods and services completely dependenet on oil where price will outpace gains in income by many times over? Why would we want that?

          Chinas huge demand on oil ( and its trends in oil demand) against a reality of diminishing cost feasible extraction ) raise the issue to which Energy For One World addresses itself. Do the big over consmers just take it all for themselves and leave the developing world unable to afford any oil access at all during the 30 year transition or do we nations who over consume make a more vigorous effort to reduce or oil dedepndent consumption.
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        Sep 27 2011: What you write I know.
        I meant this
        ‘Oil is a primordial material of deep origin which is transported at high pressure via ‘cold’ eruptive processes into the crust of the earth,’ concluded by Prof. Vladimir Porfir’yev '
        Do you believe that?
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          Sep 28 2011: Frans,

          I am not a scientist or a geologist so I have no opinion on the origins of oil. I'm a policy wonk.
          Oil companies are not going to regulate themselves and they are not going to move away from oil on their own accord. The societal and econonmic shifts we need to make over the next 30 years toward sutainable energy isn't going to to be lead by oil companies. It will be lead by policy what governments, from the tiniest villages to the..most powerful inter governemnetal alliances say they want , through law and "we the people" contribute to shaping that policy.

          The keystone pipeline project is a perfect example of the stage against which this policy shft will play out everywhere in the world..It's about private interests trying o drive public policy and draw government investment into oil instead of into sustainable energies. Government suppprt for Alberta Tar sands, for the complex refinery in Port Arthur Texas, and for a 1700 mile piepeline through the heart of America to connect them is all about the profits of a few companies at the expense of the world.

          Both projects, the Alberta tar sands SAGD project lead by Exxon Mobil and the Port Arthur complex refinery in which Shell Oil and the Saudi National oil comoany have partnered are about a future that continues to rely on oil, that will expect government to help pay, throgh subsdies and tax credits for trial and error of new technology and for the capital invetsment in these ventures.

          "We the people" need to drive policy. Policy is what will shape our global transition to sustainable energy.
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        Sep 28 2011: Lyndsay
        You are right all the way in your story about to mobilize the voice of the people.
        Yet you don't need to be a geologist or any other scientist to know that the thought of oil being made other than by sunlight that's captured in the biosphere is a way to fool the people. In my view everyone can know that much.
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      Sep 22 2011: Ed,

      It's not at all off some ways 'misninformation" and incomplete accounts are at the very heart of th entire oil issue and at th heart of what it will take to get us moving with greater commitment towards the inevitable transition we have to make in the next few decades to sustainable energy. Andrea in her talkon facts called it the "Mis-Truth Go 'Round"

      I'll wager a handful of folk who wanted to get facts free of ideology out could do that with a collaborative blog on oil that brings inks to global media with open commentary as well as commentary about what is conspicuously not in the media, not being considered at the national government level .

      Right now the public in the U.S. only knows what they are paying for oil at the pumps and how much it will cost to heat their homes this winter( fuel guy just offered me a pre-pay buy in at $3.90/gallon). and the Shell Oil Ads and public leader references to how good the pipeline for hevy oil through out wetlands, lake and national forest areas will be for us and for the world.

      How do you happen to be so well informed on oil and tuned in to the polictics and economics of oil? What do ou thnk about a blog dedicated to oil?
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    Sep 22 2011: Bert,

    I see that your company D Square N.V. specializes in "data mining" to stream line production efficency and that the parent from which you spunoff in 2009 had quite a bit of emphasis on global or international cooperation.

    I wonder if you could speak a bit to us fromyour wisdom and from "real data" on how international policy and collaboratives might work in application to issues like peak oil. Does the reality of peakoil ( increasing costsof recoveryto a point of non feasibility). It seems to me that the reality of peak oil world wide requires a very different relationship between nations and private companies than we have had in the past and it requires new kinds of international co-ventures.

    For example, in the context of process for oil wouldn't both a buyers cartel and a producre cartel built on international coalitions of private-public partenerships vstabilize rhe price of oil and maybe even fund our transition globally to other more sustainable energy sources and also incrase production efficiencies.?

    In a way what seems to be contemplated beweet the U.S. and Canada on Tar Sands oil seem to be a a model of that, although very incomplete and lacking many important components. Our refinery capacity will enable Canada to more efficiently bring its heavy oil to market (and maybe make it more effcient for us to develop our own heavy crude and bring that to market. Sharing existing wordwide infrastrcture and technology has to have impacts on efficiency.

    In terms of bringing new energy sources to market, making development and utiization feasible, even possible, isn't it wiser and more effcient to shift our whole approach to national suvbidies and tax credits ( all of usover consuming r nations do that) so that what we put in at the front end in exploration and development of resources we take out at the other end in taxes on profits reinvested in new energy instead of allowing the system to drive itself to complete exhuastion of oil ?
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    Sep 20 2011: For me it is obvious that no one can prove Crystal clear that human activity is the cause for climate change. That it is happening can't be denied. This allows people to spread misformation to confuse the public and serve their interest.

    Oil is limited however and any well thinking person can understand this. That there is more oil that's harder to get isn't an option. The price is too high and not only in money but still more the environmental devastation it brings on great parts of the earth.

    Solar energy can replace oil as energy source. The reason that this option gets little attention is because those that gather great riches from oil aren't eager to look for other businesses.

    It isn't a question of argument because they're all there. But who want to look at it, that's the problem.
    Public opinion can change overnight if some head line somewhere suddenly shout another sound. People like to believe what serves them best.
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        Sep 22 2011: Distribution and storage problems are solved long ago. Still this is ignored in some countries.
        Germany has a solution to send energy across to Sweden to reverse hydropower lakes.
        With an extensive plan for solar power from the Sahara desert the idea for storage is to produce Hydrogen as fuel.
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      • Sep 21 2011: According to this article in Wired:

        There is "300 billion recoverable barrels and another trillion-plus barrels that could one day be within reach using new retrieval methods".

        If the choice is between letting people starve or harming the environment I personally choose the latter, though, I would qualify that with doing the least amount of enviromental damage possible while shifting to more sustainable technologies as they becomes available in a cost effective manner. Oil sands are kicking the legs out from under the peak oil theory because it follows in the same vein as increasing food production kicked the legs out from under Malthus's theories, both warned innovators of potential future problems motivating innovations and adaptability that would be necessary to overcome what could happen. These Neo-Malthusians may very well be proven wrong again and again because they are the warning bells that get a response going that heads off their prognostications. So the hype of peak oil may very well be what prevents it from happening.
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          Sep 21 2011: Hi's not barrels in the ground that is at issue ( although until the recent discovery of a lrage new reserve in Libya we haven't found any new sources for a awhile).

          The "Peak oil" arguement is about the place wher the cost to extract after the first cheap easy to get oil is many times market price and continulaly rising.. Can you afford $32/gallon for oil or the 9 or 10 fold incresae in the price of virtually all goods that would result if we simply accept the costs of post peak extraction and stay wedded to oil globally?
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          Sep 21 2011: Interesting article.your link...2004 I note..what has happened since where are the numbers now.?

          . I see the big political push on tar sands and the big pipeline down from Alberta to our gulf is clearly in the political pipeline and moving forward with or with out most of us really understanding it or having any idea what the environmental risks to usin the US are and whether it will help reduce our oil costs and by how much.

          The 2004 article, to me really underscored "peak oil production" ( the point where extraction costs make extraction infeasible) as something on a near term horizon..Are tar sands really a feasible and cost competitive way to crude oil on the market? Is it useable for all the normal things we use crude for globally?

          In another current market analysis ( I will bring the cite here) the magic proce of crude that open the path for heavy oil refinery in global markets is $100/barrel. Price today is down in reponse to to FED moves and resultant strengthened dollar to mid $80's


          Is heavy oil feasible if the $100/barrel isn't hit at a sustained level? And by definition don't we have to consider that to be an outfall of "post peak" production globally. In other words is currently global prices are that close to the $100 doesn't it mean we are already globally post peak or very close to it? Tar sands wouldn't be feasible unless we were at peak oil production..isn;t that right?
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          Sep 22 2011: John,

          Aren't false promises as dangerous as false predictions?And if you are suggesting that genetically modified crops have overcome peak production..that is not the record or the truth world wide. In fact these crops and the politics of them have actually resilted in the loss of local seeds and soils world wide without being able to feed more peopl eon the land available or creating more viable growing land. It was apaniced response to the reality of peak agricultural production...which already happened. It was a false promise that we bought out of fear because we didn't take the time to think it through, acted insted out of fear and panic.

          Wisdom never comes from fear and panic.
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          Sep 22 2011: @ Ed Schulte.."A political push,yes.."

          So amazing..only at TEd..two comtemplatives pondering the gobal politics of peak oil...

          I hope you are right hat the big Oil Company campaign now boradcasting here ( Shell mainly) is only an attempt to captitalize on fear and uncertainty and win public support
          for the pipeline and for tar sands in general. I would like to think it is not a done deal politically but my sense is that is not the case. Too many voices of eleceted leaders, including our own preseident also paving the way. It is, I fear, already public policy for which they are trying to build public support.

          Maybe we the responsible citizens of the wolrd need to create a counter camapign.. a truth campaign..that explain that investing in these difficult to recover oil reserves is not, as they thunk a way to increase supply and ower is a way to add to supply and keep prices at their current high levels.If TAR sand oil, heavy oil and the post peak reserves can't be brought to market at closer to the pre-iraq war prices of about $30 per barrel in 2008 adjusted $, then we are agreeing as consumers to permantly higher costs and we are saying we are willing to have a primary commitment to our own oil, the oil of our allies even it means a higher price.

          I think oil is the perfect issue to strat to build a global citizens truth commission.. a move for oil that is citizen driven.
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          Sep 24 2011: John,

          If we can all agree fossil fuels originated from plant and animal matter like Dinosaurs then they are finite. Thanks to modern technology mankind has pretty much discovered all deposits, half already consumed. In what year we hit the peak of the Bell Curve distribution is moot. Marion King Hubbert was laughed out of his profession in 1956 when he projected 1970 as the peak year for the U.S.

          Looking in the rear view mirror, U.S. oil extraction peaked around 10 million barrels per day.
          Per the U.S. Energy Information Administration, today we extract about 5 MBPD.
          The key question is what are we going to do about it?

          Climate Change is another topic and outside scope of my comment.
          Notice I used the word deposit and not reserves. Who knows what reserves the world has left. Technology, politics and prices can manipulate reserve numbers but not energy return on energy invested, EROEI. I have not confirmed, but the Canadian oil sand extraction consumes 2 to 4 barrels of oil to extract 1 barrel of oil.
          In my humble opinion this is like feeding your dog your steak so you can eat his can of Alpo dog food. Applying rear view mirror observations, I believe the world peaked in 2007 just under 86 million barrels per day.

          It is difficult to dismiss the findings of half a dozen famous Peak Oil specialists and continue business as usual.
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          Sep 26 2011: @Ed Schulte

          Further to your "a political push yes"

          As I have contiued to develop more info on the Keystone pipeline your comment that it won't happen now, can;t happen nowcomes to the fore.' In a cCanadian aryticle 2 days ago ( I'll bring the link here) it was noted that the Canadaian part of the permit expired in March and needs to be re permitted. Is that what you were referring to? And why is Harper still speaking past that? Why are the oil companies..Shell..Exxon- Mobil still running their big campaign ads here in the US on all the wonders of Tar Sands..

          Who is the Saudi partner to Shell in Texas for the proposed refining of this heavy oil?

          Tar Sands, the pipeline, the rhetoric both Harper and Obama have used ( more from Harper) is all like an emeperors new clothes makes no sense to me especially as none of the processed oil is for consumption in Canada and the U.S.

          Can you fill some of those information gaps for us?
    • Sep 21 2011: In the oil industry "recoverable" has a very specific meaning. The cost to extract the "recoverable" oil in the Alberta oil-sands is well below $50 a barrel. In the past the 300 billion barrels was "unrecoverable" at the costs of the day using the technology then available just like the trillion barrels is "unrecoverable" at today's costs using today's technology but as extraction technologies advanced the 300 billion barrels became cost feasible and there is no reason to believe that will not be the case for the trillion barrels in the future.
      If direct and indirect subsidies, externalizations such as petrodollar wars, are directly factored into the cost of gas today the real cost is probably closer to $10 gallon, most of which is hidden in income taxes and inflation. If those hidden externalized costs were shifted directly into gas prices much more of those trillion barrels would immediately become "recoverable" at the same price we really pay today, If peak oil were to occur the main cause would be that the real cost of gas was hidden in indirect costs, without that price indicator motivating capital investments into recovering the vast amount of oil that would become cost feasible peak oil could occur but it is not due to a shortage of "recoverable" oil as much as it is due to distorted apparent prices. Another problem is geopolitical and is owing to a lack of capital investments in risky oil plays because of unstable governments. The cause of the hypothesized peak oil is not an unsolvable supply problem but solvable economic and geopolitical problems and therefore it is not as dire as many neo-Malthusians claim it is.
      Peak oil is not going to occur in a vacuum. As resources are invested into other areas, including oil that is hard to recover, innovation will gradually drive those costs down just like what has occurred at the Alberta oilsands.The peak oil idea of an abrupt end of civilization as we know it is nonsensical fear mongering and that part is hype.
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        • Sep 22 2011: This article from the economist dated Jan 2010:


          "The cost of production has fallen: a few years ago most firms thought the break-even price was $75 per barrel, but now companies such as Shell say new developments are economical at $50. The provincial and federal governments are unsurprisingly supportive."

          This is from a year and a half ago but I cannot see it being too far off the mark and according to the above statement the projected production cost necessary has dropped from earlier projections. Most of these figures are likely highly malleable due to the acceptable time frame to recover capital costs being subjective. Depending on the time frame one is willing to wait to get their capital outlays back the price could vary widely but according to shell in 2010 $50 a barrel was enough to be "economical", in their opinion, so that must be a high enough price to recoup capital outlays and provide a profit, so in their opinion the production costs, not so long ago, must have about $50 a barrel.

          edit: I just realized that what I wrote verified what you stated about today's oil prices and you were questioning the "well below" part which, from a corporate viewpoint anyway, is not true. It would be interesting to know what the cost of day to day operations are when the capital investments are not taken into account. I wonder because the cost of capital investments per barrel go down in proportion to the number of barrels produced while operating costs, generally, only go down with innovations that increase efficiency. The average day to day operating costs, how long an oilsand operation will run before depleting the bitumen and the estimated time for a running oilsand operation to recoup it's capital outlays would give a better idea as to how they will, in the future, compete with conventional oil drilling platforms, particularly those that have already recouped capital outlays.
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          Sep 22 2011: Ed( nice to see you..long time no see), John.

          .The Gulf Oil Spil ocurred from public policy that was/is almost desperately eager to develop any useable marketable oil we can within our own territorial borders or our close ally Canada's. Russia is already also in the technological race to bring heavy oil to market and also has huge reserves

          .I would rather see what we do globallly and nationally, in the U.S. and in Canada, and Russia, ocurr in the framework of a global policy along the lines Adriaan Kamp is advocating ( see Energy For One World) where we wisely and equitably use what we have for the next three decades, whether in heavy oil or sweet crude ( is that the correct distinction???) while we collabortaively and wisely build and switch our production and economies and goods over to renewable and inexhaustible new energy sources.

          SAGD sounds great but water is becoming more valuable than oil wolrd wide. the accumulations we live on took millions of years to build worldd wide water tables and resevoirs have been drained through over utilization to below the rate of recharge ( the water that falls from the sky is most the water that has evaporated from the earth),,no sustainable..does SAGD chage the rate of utilization of water reserves? Is the right global plan to sell this water under private ownership or return it to the earth where it can contribute to recharge? or maybe even to redistribute it to those countries whose water has been depleted through exploitation ina global restitution plan?

          I would like to see what my nation does about SAGD involve a complete re examination of oil subsidies and tax credits. Don't we want a national policy where the value of our national resources and our susbidy through credits better serves all the people of our nation? Can we be in the business of oil and water for profit? Shouldn't we get a return on invetsment at theother end through higher taxes on profits pf things we have subsidized?
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          Sep 22 2011: @ Luigi "Oil is ot the real issue"

          Yes global shifts to suantainble energy is clearly the goal..but oil and this new propaganda that technology has made it feasible to refine heavy oils and post peak pil rserves is overhsadowng that..overshadowing our global commitment to making this transition, as we have to, to sustainable energy in 30 years. Adiaan Kamp ( Energy for One Wolrd) believes this will come of its own accord..but I am not sure that factored in this fear propaganda directed at getting us to believe we don;'t' really need to worry about making that difficult transition..
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        Sep 21 2011: John ,

        It sounds like you know a whole lot more about oil than me, so muchmore that I may be missing or not fully understanding what you are saying.

        So are you saying that what is pointed to as "peak oil" in U.S. for example ( in the 70's) was not really peak oil because technology and consumer tolerance to pruce keeps chnaging..that what is peak oil at one moment .

        You don't seem to think peak oil is inevitable globally..correct..Are you saying that technology,ibcreased political tolerance for enviornmental risks and incread consumer willingness to tolerate high and higher prices will keep pushing the date for peak oil forward?

        And finally, could you give us a definition f what you ean when you refer to peak oil.?

        • Sep 22 2011: Peak oil is definitely going to occur one day, my main objection is to how it is generally framed, the idea that it will be a sudden catastrophic shift to poverty in society as a whole. This view, I believe, is due to viewing sweet crude oil supply decreasing within a vacuum, without considering that it will necessarily create innovation in other areas. Historically the decreasing supply of oil in America was offset by increased production in the Middle East and other areas. The sudden need for increased capital costs to do that may have induced shocks because the 1st barrel of oil represents all the capital investments made, but by the time that cost was divided by billions of barrels the capital cost per barrel is negligible. The same process will occur in the shift to oilsands, shale, solar power, wind power and whatever other new source of energy is discovered. These shifts are gradual for the most part, though price shocks may arise especially when the real price of oil/gas is distorted, but over time, due to productivity increases, the cost for energy will at worst remain stable keeping pace with inflation, once the rough spots have been smoothed out. I am not saying the oilsands are the end all be all just that they will hold things steady as efficiency increases and new technology in renewables are improved to the point that they eventually take the place that fossil fuels currently supply. I also believe that at this point in time the main contributor to a possibility of peak oil in the near future, the next 20-50 years, has more to do with geopolitical and economic problems and distortions than it has to due with a shortage of "recoverable" oil left on the planet. The oilsands are just a current example of the long term gradual transition from one energy supply, sweet crude, to another energy supply, bitumen in oilsands, without major price shocks occurring, this trend will most likely continue on in other ways as future technology develops.
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          Sep 22 2011: Carissima The oil is not the real issue. Energy is the clue. We have to read again "Small is Beautifull" from Fritz Schumacher. The energy cicle is off right now and the "oil peak" is just an terminal manifestation from our very ill economic system.