Open Letter to Duncan Clarke

Earlier this year two books were published, The Last Oil Shock by David Strahan and The Battle for Barrels by Duncan Clarke. Both books address the question of future oil supplies but came to dramatically differing conclusions; Strahan arguing global oil production will soon peak and go into terminal decline, Clarke highlighting complexities concerning the evaluation of how much oil remains, historical mistakes in production forecasting and suggesting a more abundant view of our energy future.

The Last Oil Shock and The Battle For Barrels

David Strahan has today published an open letter to Duncan Clarke, full text below the fold.

Dear Duncan,

I suppose advocates of peak oil should be flattered that they are now taken seriously enough for someone to launch such a laboriously researched attack as The Battle for Barrels: Peak Oil Myths & World Oil Futures. The idea that global oil production will soon ‘peak’ and go into terminal decline, with potentially catastrophic results for the world’s economy, has struggled to gain significant traction in the mainstream policy debate, but you are clearly alarmed at its progress. If we are to believe your book, what you characterise as the peak oil “movement” is evidently doing something right.

Peak oil forecasters should welcome the attention, and not simply because it publicises their work; you have correctly identified some obvious weaknesses. Unfortunately your analysis is undermined by factual errors, out-of-date or partial reporting of oil depletion models, a failure to examine the planks in your own eyes and – in contrast to your self-professed industry expertise – an extraordinary blindness to the significance of key events in the real oil world. All of which prevents you from tackling the bigger question raised by your critique, which is how much difference does this all make to the peak oil argument? And the answer, after all the huffing and puffing, is surprisingly little.

Although you start by claiming yours is genuine attempt to present the arguments fairly, you quickly dispense with the niceties, and for the first third of your book you ignore the real issues altogether. Instead, under the pretext of analysing peak oil’s “social model”, whatever that might be, you spend almost 60 pages deriding it as a delusional cult whose advocates are compared to “millenarians making their survival plans; occult groups searching for final redemption; even alien encounter schools promising lift-off to distant planets for the chosen and the faithful”. As a concept peak oil is obviously swivel-eyed and writes in green ink, you insinuate, because of the kind of people who attend its conferences.

On the fringes there may be some peak oil campaigners who evoke such caricature, but you smear a widely divergent group of people and approaches with the same tarry brush. And if you attack peak oil by the company it keeps, I am entitled to defend it on the same terms. So lets list some of its supporters that you forgot to mention: Bill Clinton, George Soros, William Rees-Mogg, former UK ambassador to Washington Sir David Manning, and Britain’s chief scientific advisor Sir David King, who told me in 2005 that the global peak would arrive “in ten years or less”. Worse, you also fail to acknowledge any of the senior oilmen who support the analysis: Richard Hardman, former head of exploration and production at Amerada Hess; former Shell chairman Lord Oxburgh; and Thierry Desmarest, the current chairman of Total, who last year declared the global peak would arrive “around 2020” and urged governments to find ways to depress oil demand growth to delay the event. None of these endorsements ‘proves’ peak oil is correct, of course, but it does make it rather harder to dismiss the idea as self-evidently deranged. Perhaps that’s why you left them out.

When at last you turn to the substantive issues, some of your arguments are well taken. It is perfectly true that a number of predictions of the global peak have come and gone without the sky falling in; that some peak oil forecasters have adopted apparently overly-conservative estimates of ‘ultimately recoverable resources’, the total oil that will ever be produced from the crust of the earth; and that one reason for both these failings may be a reluctance by some to acknowledge the role of ‘reserves growth’, the observed tendency for oil fields to yield more than originally expected, through some combination of technological advance and conservative initial estimates. I can agree with all of that in principle, but the world has moved on. The critique seems damning at first, but only because you ignore or misreport a slew of depletion models from forecasters such as Jean Laherrere, Energyfiles, Richard Miller at BP, and PFC Energy, which have already addressed these and other issues that you raise, and still produce a peak before or around 2020.

In any event, picking away at the forecasting record does nothing to disprove the concept of peak oil itself: the idea that global oil production will peak and decline at about the midpoint of depletion, which is to say when at least half the oil that will ever be produced is still underground. This pattern has been demonstrated repeatedly the world over; PFC Energy’s analysis shows that countries peak on average when they have produced 54% of the oil discovered so far. But by fixating on past forecasts you manage to avoid confronting the elephant in the room: the obvious facts that suggest the peak is close, with or without the help of any depletion model.

There are 98 oil producing countries in the world. Around 60 appear to be in terminal decline already – including once mighty producers such as the United States, Mexico, Norway, Indonesia and the UK, where North Sea production peaked in 1999 and has already fallen by well over 40%. Aggregate oil production in the OECD peaked in 1997 and has been in decline ever since. It is almost unanimously agreed that oil production in the entire world except for OPEC will peak soon after 2010. This view is held not only by ‘peak oil’ forecasters, but also major oil industry consultancies such PFC Energy, and even by notable opponents of the idea of an early global peak: the International Energy Agency, Shell and ExxonMobil – whose CEO Rex Tillerson told me recently that non-OPEC growth would be all over in “two to three years”. From early in the next decade, by common consent, the only thing standing between us and the conventional oil peak is the OPEC cartel.

This matters because there are severe and well-justified doubts about the true size of OPEC’s reserves, buttressed last year by the leak of internal documents from the Kuwait Oil Company. The documents revealed that although Kuwait has for two decades been telling the world it has about 100 billion barrels of proved reserves, the KOC’s internal assessment in 2002 was just 24 billion, confirming the widely held suspicion that the reserves of many OPEC countries were falsely inflated in the early 1980s when members were vying for larger shares in the new quota system, and they have been stuck with the falsehood ever since. Yet you dismiss this evidence out of hand as “peak oil mythology” solely on the basis that it “was rejected by the oil minister”. Such credulity is laughable, and not widely shared in the oil industry. No senior oilman I have spoken to privately believes OPEC’s claimed numbers. Even the oilfield database run by your former employers IHS Energy discounts the reserves of the big-5 Middle East members by 100 billion barrels. In 2005 PFC Energy briefed Dick Cheney that on a more conservative reading of OPEC’s reserves, its production could peak in 2015. So, this is apparently not an obviously absurd view. When OPEC peaks, so must the entire world.

In this context your other arguments pale into insignificance or are simply wrong. You persistently mistake oil company exploration activity for evidence that lots of oil will be discovered. You claim that the bigger estimates of the global oil resource produced by United States Geological Survey and others somehow trounce peak oil – without apparently realising they are perfectly compatible with a peak before 2020. You somehow regard current geopolitical difficulties as positive for future oil production without ever being specific (when exactly do you expect peace to break out in Iraq, the Russian authorities make nice with international oil companies, and the Nigerians to stop attacking production platforms and kidnapping foreign oil workers?) And you insist without evidence that a rising oil price will transform the supply picture. But at no point do you quantify how much difference any of this might make to the date of the inevitable peak – but then peak oil deniers never do.

Yours sincerely,

David Strahan

Excellent letter. It just shows how weak the late peak argument is.

If only such logical argumentation made as much difference as it should.


Peak oil refuters often claim that peak oil proponents are cassandras, histrionic, etc. However, histrionics rather than reasoned argument seem to be common to many in this debate. I have yet to see adequate refutation of the main peak oil evidence: patterns of increased production, followed by peak and decline in nation after nation. Peak oil is not "just a theory." There is empirical evidence. It is ok to admit that some peak oil proponents have been premature or have made faulty prediction based on inadequate evidence. Despite apparent peak of C & C in 2005 and all liquids in 2006, it is unclear whether or not production can be increased in the future. I believe it is not warranted to declare peak as there have been plateaus, declines and subsequent increases in production in the past. There is a range of predictions for peak with the vast majority between 2005 and 2020. I don't know about you, but I consider 13 years as an outside figure to be rather imminent, requiring urgent response. The price of being wrong is much higher when one goes with peak refuters than with peak proponents. If you respond as if what the peak oil proponents suggest is a likely outcome, then you will most likely choose a course which will deter climate change. The evidence for human contribution to climate change is clear and convincing. If you respond as if the peak oil refuters predictions are accurate, you risk being wrong on both energy and climate change. Overcoming denial requires more than evidence: the only thing I can think of is to keep beating the drum.

Peak oil refuters often claim that peak oil proponents are cassandras, histrionic, etc.

Ad hominems are the last resources of denial.

Cassandras? I call myself a Cassandra, and proudly so. Cassandra was never believed but she was always right! Calling peak oilers cassandras is to pay them the highest complement. It is an admission that they are correct but nevertheless not believed.

Ron Patterson

"It is ok to admit that some peak oil proponents have been premature or have made faulty prediction based on inadequate evidence."

I prefer to err on the side of caution mainly because the infrastructural changes will take so long to incorporate.

As an anology, imagine a sinking ship.

If the ship is sinking and one person says it will remain afloat for an hour and one person says it will remain afloat for 10 hours, assuming all other variables equal, when do you board the lifeboat?

And if there aren't enough lifeboats, when do you start making more: immediately or at 9:59?

Let add in a large storm that is approaching. Do you leave in the boats for the safety of the shore now or when the storm arrives?

It is sad to see that people erring on the side of caution are being used by Cornacopians as a way to discredit caution.

Those interested in hearing an extended interview with Clarke reguarding this book can find one here:

Point, set, match

I must first acknowledge that I have not read either of these books. I have produced leases, some with significant cumulative production numbers, past their "economic limits of production" so I know of the possibility of growing reserves. I also produce some leases which I bought to scrap which, with these higher prices, are making decent money. I do, however, realize that we are dependent on some sources for our energy needs which are, to say the least, shaky. Mexico's giant (super-giant?) Cantarall field/complex and Norway are prime examples of what we have to fear in the way of post-peak supply and suppliers.

My thought is that it makes little difference in the great scheme of things whether peak oil has already occured or occurs in a year, five years or ten years. We do not have the opportunity to replace those sources of energy in any case since the powers that be, meaning governments, do not have the cohones to step up and acknowledge the problem in a serious fashion. If we started now, and the oil peak would hold off for ten years, we could seriously mitigate the effect, but that is not going to happen.

Sorry if I misspelled cohones.


Cojones (in Spanish the j is pronounced as an h)

"...since the powers that be, meaning governments,
do not have the cohones to step up and acknowledge
the problem ..."

Rant: I've seen this reasoning and finger pointing before.
I think it is time we (peak oilers) acknowledge the
reality the no one in government has the least idea
what to do about this problem. And, frankly, we don't
have any real technically valid ideas either. Why
should anyone in government have any useful ideas?
They are not geologists or practical oil people. And,
is geology and oil knowledge really what we need? With not
enough oil available to support business as usual,
what is needed is some really different ideas. What
country has a really top notch government bureau of
innovative thinking? Really! (end rant)

This letter really gets at the heart of the matter, but Clarke's role is not to make his side look right but to make the other side look insane and hopeless. We really can't use logic in dealing with this mindset because it makes us realists look weak and accommodating.

This part in particular is the most difficult damage to undo: you spend almost 60 pages deriding it as a delusional cult whose advocates are compared to “millenarians making their survival plans; occult groups searching for final redemption; even alien encounter schools promising lift-off to distant planets for the chosen and the faithful”.

As long as they can put outlandish straw-men out there, enough people will gasp in unison at the horror of hippies and pagans and anti-social deviants that they will retain a sizable chunk of the cornucopian view, just so they can feel safe and disconnected from the insane peak oil believers.

I don't know really how to deal with this problem of instrumental learning but to say that Duncan Clarke remains a pompous ass.

Hi David.

I was handed a flyer for your book at PeakSpeak2 in London last year. I've only recently got a copy of it and I am now part way through it.

I get the impression that you have seen something in Peak Oil that you think is incredibly important to the public and have taken care not to slip up on the technical details which might leave you open to misinterpretation by peak oil deniers.

The political implications of some of the things you point out in your book make my hair stand on end!

Good book! I will be lending it out.

Carbon - Coventry

So there I was, reading along, enjoying a nice little tit for tat between Strahan and Clarke, when I hit these sentences:

This view is held not only by ‘peak oil’ forecasters, but also major oil industry consultancies such PFC Energy, and even by notable opponents of the idea of an early global peak: the International Energy Agency, Shell and ExxonMobil – whose CEO Rex Tillerson told me recently that non-OPEC would be all over in “two to three years”.

Well I damm near fell out of my chair! Tillerson, THE Rex Tillerson of ExxonMobil SAID THAT?!

Well, not exactly, in fact, not nearly.

Here is the actual whole page from Strahan’s website:

Here, according to Strahan himself, is Mr.Tillerson’s arguement, given in quotation marks by Strahan:

“We don’t do peak oil calculations, because the problem with the whole peak oil debate is that people have to assume they know how much is in the container in order to calculate the peak. And as we’ve learned over time, over the last 15 years, the estimates of what’s in the container, largely by governmental agencies, have gone up three times.”

“I think the ability to continue to grow volumes of non-OPEC production substantially is very challenging. So the question is more how long can you sustain with some modest growth, because we do in our outlook see some continued growth in non-OPEC in the near term, the next two to three years. So then the question is how long can the non-OPEC supply maintain a plateau so to speak, and that in some sense is a function of access to non-OPEC countries”.

Mr Tillerson insists that if access to resources improved - particularly to federal lands in the US, or in a more stable Russia - the situation could be transformed.”
So Tillerson takes the traditional oil industry line, that (a) it’s about access, and (b) no one knows how much oil your starting with, so estimating the how much is left in the ground is not workable i.e., all the conjecture about being 54%, 42%, or 20% through the world supply is conjecture, educated conjecture perhaps, but conjecture nonetheless. Due to the volumes of oil we are discussing, small amounts of measurement error could mean several decades of difference in peak timing.

This is interesting by the way, because it is very close to arguments I brought about almost a year ago on TOD, regarding the URR numbers, which were of course ignored. Then Robert Rapier made a set of arguments about HL modeling, and even given his very high standing on TOD was pretty much chopped to pieces with no real answer to his arguments, centering around HL modeling.

Now of course, Strahan declares Tilerson wrong on all counts, which is his right, but makes his case with an astoundingly arrogant sentence,
“Apparently Mr Tillerson has not yet read The Last Oil Shock, where I explain all this.”

We will lay aside how likely it is that a major oil company executive is going to accept Mr. Strahan as his guiding source for information about the status of world oil supplies (pardon me while I roll on the floor) but it is also apparent that Mr. Strahan has never read “How To Win Friends and Influence People.”

Let me make it clear that I take no interest in the spitting contest between Duncan Clarke and David Strahan except as entertainment value. If I had to bet my money, I would bet they will both be wrong by considerable margins.
And despite Strahan's assurance that all answers reside in his book, the arguments concerning URR and how to extablish them rage on.

But the insertation of a wild claim such as “non-OPEC would be all over in “two to three years” into the mouth of a major oil executive is exactly the kind of thing that will cause people to percieve you as, what were Strahans words, quoting Clarke?, “a delusional cult whose advocates are compared to “millenarians making their survival plans; occult groups searching for final redemption; even alien encounter schools promising lift-off to distant planets for the chosen and the faithful”. As a concept peak oil is obviously swivel-eyed and writes in green ink, you insinuate, because of the kind of people who attend its conferences.”

It also explains why people who have risen to the standing that Rex Tillerson, love him or hate him, has in the oil industry are usually clever enough not to talk to writers such as Strahan.

Of course, book titles such as “The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man.” can’t help....gee, nothing millenarian or survivalist about that huh?

Remember, that on Strahans OWN website, he is talking peak, which means around half through the known URR if you accept his model, right? How soon is “Petroleum Man’s imminent extinction if we assume that much (about half) remaining oil in the ground? Sure, it may get very hard to get, it may get very expensive, the poor may be driven or starved out, but Petroleum Man with money and power is going to be with us for the rest of our natural lives, peak now, peak later or no peak (in our lifetime).

Why do the loudest spokespeople for the Peak cause always take the most hyperbolic and radical positions, and essentially put a beany with a propeller on their head for the adversaries to easily poke fun at?

I used to recommend friends to come over to TOD, but I am being honest, I stopped doing it. These are people I do business with. I couldn't afford the risk that they would run into some of the over the top weirdness. Now, if they would land on the good stuff, Stuart Staniford, Robert Rapier, or some of the brilliant technical work, yes. so I send them the original sources of the good stuff. :-)

Guilt by association is a real thing, at the conferences and on the web.

And the day that Rex Tillerson actually says out of his own mouth " that non-OPEC would be all over in “two to three years”, even if he KNEW it was the absolute truth, I will throw a copy of Strahan's book in the ole knapsack and head for the hills.

Remember we are only one cubic mile from feedom
(post not spell checked or carefully proofed, I have wasted too much time already)

Much as I sympathise with your position, in this case I believe it was a simple (but quite dramatic) word omission - the word "Growth" after "non-OPEC".

Strahan's previous sentence is "It is almost unanimously agreed that oil production in the entire world except for OPEC will peak soon after 2010." It's clear that the context of the Tillerson quote is the end of non-OPEC growth soon after 2010, something he's mentioned several times. Whether growth is arrested for above ground factors or geology is largely immaterial.

I also don't give much weight to arguments of "plateaus". A plateau is a peak, the highest level attained. Whether the peak rate is maintained for 6 months or 6 years is again largely immaterial. The key point in my mind is an end of energy supply growth.

Why do the loudest spokespeople for the Peak cause always take the most hyperbolic and radical positions, and essentially put a beany with a propeller on their head for the adversaries to easily poke fun at?


...oh sorry, was havin a bad dream :)

luis, don't burn through all your popcorn before the show starts.

That's the best damn one-liner I've heard in a long time.

Crap, if the show is about dying anyway, why shouldn't I eat all my popcorns first?

Cuz you might choke, and I don't want to do the Heimlich on my day off.

Cassandra D Rat

...although Kuwait has for two decades been telling the world it has about 100 billion barrels of proved reserves, the KOC’s internal assessment in 2002 was just 24 billion...

I'd also nit pick this quote as well. The original Petro Intel Weekly report mentioned, I believe, 49 billion barrels of proved & probable.

Indeed but that isn't the source of the quote.

"According to reports in al-Qabas and al-Rai al-'Am, veteran Popular Bloc leader Ahmad al-Sa'dun tabled a KOC document stating national oil reserves at just 24bn barrels and demanded this be reconciled with the figure of 51bn barrels stated by Finance Minister Badr al-Humaidhi. Since Kuwait's official oil reserves figure of 101.5bn barrels was challenged by the industry press in early 2006 (MEES, 30 January 2006), the government has been under pressure to present an accurate picture of national oil reserves to MPs.

Former minister Shaikh 'Ali al-Jarrah in mid-2006 promised MPs a full report on reserves but later went back on this commitment. Neither of these latest figures (51bn barrels or 24bn barrels) has been officially endorsed, but the 24bn barrel figure, if true, represents a 75% reduction in officially-stated Kuwaiti reserves. As such, it represents a political bombshell that will undermine the government's credibility and have major reverberations outside the country."

Thank you for the clarification on that. It was my understanding that last year's KOC report was proved & possible (and was the source for the open letter) with the 24 billion barrels representing proven... or something like that. I do know that I can hardly wait to see what OPEC comes up with at their September meeting. Sure looks like SA will keep production flat. Guess I shouldn't have bought that used Hummer (just kidding).

I Wonder what a 75% reduction in all the OPEC countries that cook booked their entries would mean....

Well, it's very nice that we get to have a solid sociopath's reply to this letter. I will remind everyone with this gem of a quote from this friendly fellow.

'the poor may be driven or starved out, but Petroleum Man with money and power is going to be with us for the rest of our natural lives, peak now, peak later or no peak'

I stopped reading what you wrote right there. Your attitude disgusts me, and I cannot believe it pays to listen to the wishes, or arguments, of those without conscience.

I can only guess that you dream die Nacht and der Tag away, contemplating how wonderful it will be to be the Uber Peak Oilman standing on your Hummer while the poor retches kneel before your will.

So many people, far too often my fellow US citizens, minimalize the reality of mass starvation, and slavery, that will likely occur if we do nothing.

For those who don't mind that they could have aided to avoid that suffering, all the talk in the world on this topic cannot be useful. May famine and disease pass you and yours, but to minimalize it when it happens to others is simply inhuman.

I stopped reading what you wrote right there. Your attitude disgusts me, and I cannot believe it pays to listen to the wishes, or arguments, of those without conscience.


You talk bigmouth, but I can see you can't even detect sarcasm and irony on your own radar.

The statement I made which upset apwall21 was this:

"the poor may be driven or starved out, but Petroleum Man with money and power is going to be with us for the rest of our natural lives, peak now, peak later or no peak'

I see that not as a moral judgement on my part but a statement of fact. It will be true. What I think of the fact is a seperate argument. But the fantasy that petroleum is going to disappear overnight is just that, a fantasy. The fantasy that the power and wealth aspect of petroleum is going to disappear is just that, a fantasy. Make of it what you will.

You want to be the moralist? Then what can we do that is moral, and not only that, good for the world, AND good for the United States? I have said it many times. For me, the goal is not about "proving" peak, or disproving peak. It is not about getting to crow "we were right, see, we were right!"

The goal is reducing consumption of fossil fuel. That is IT. That is THE HOLY GRAIL for my purposes of the whole discussion.

I drive a 1982 Diesel. I am in Kentucky and have not turned on the air conditioning once this year despite 102 degree weather. I need to do more. MUCH more. But my current financial situation for the moment limits me to the above. My current financial situation ALSO limits my fossil fuel consumption. But I am doing better on reducing fossil fuel consumption that most of my friends and associates. I need to find ways to do MORE. The Americans TALK about what someone else should be doing. But the United States can help relieve the burden on the poor, the burden on the environment, the burden the world, and the burden on the United States nation by REDUCING FOSSIL FUEL CONSUMPTION. THAT'S IT. Technology, city planning, and design of products and homes can all be directed to that goal. It's the one thing that can be good for us, and also the right thing to do.

Dream of the "Extinction of Petroleum Man"? You keep dreaming. I don't need to see his extinction. I have a taller mountain to climb, and so does America and the world in SIMPLY REDUCING CONSUMPTION. Reducing the first 10% is hard. The second 10% gets harder. By the third and the fourth 10 percentile, make no mistake, we are talking REAL WORK.

That is what will "have aided to avoid that suffering" as you call it. Idiotic titles depicting a fantasy neo-primitive dream by writers like Strahan will have contributed nothing.

Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom

Good post and response. However, you did not address the question of whether or not you "you dream die Nacht and der Tag away, contemplating how wonderful it will be to be the Uber Peak Oilman"


David - a nice letter, I have not read either book, though I'm told yours is rather good. I'm still waiting for a complimentary copy!

Those who doubt peak oil soon need only look at this picture of Ghawar. The yellow areas are swept - water wet. Ghawar accounted for around 6% of Global oil supplies - and the north end production sweet spot (and Abqaiq) are looking decidedly depleted.

Linux Clusters driving step changes in interpretation simulation. (pdf).

This picture from the Norewegian Energy Man (NGM2) shows 23 countries already past peak.

And last year I did this article on the IHS Energy view of Kuwaiti reserves - they were anxious to distance themselves from the official Kuwaiti estimates.

IHS Data Suggest Kuwaiti and Global Proved Oil Reserves Significantly Lower Than BP Estimates

I'll see you in Cork and Houston?

All the best, Euan

Hello Euan,

Yep, I look at that Saudi Aramco oil-saturation graphic often myself. When I initially found that just googling around--I flat couldn't believe that KSA might have handed us TODers the 'Rosetta Stone' for Peakoil.

I posted it to TOD just a quick as I could fearing that the weblink would disappear. I even had to ask Leanan to post it visually because I did not know the HTML code to do it myself, and I wanted someone besides me to eyeball-appraise it. I am very glad that you, Fractional_Flow, Stuart Staniford, and other TopTODers immediately recognized its importance. I consider that graphic find my best-ever TOD posting, and I am absolutely thrilled that so much has been expertly written about it, commented on, then shared across the WWWeb.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Bob - it was a great find. TOD at its best. Stuart and I are just finalising a paper on Ghawar. And following that our attention will turn to other fields.

I just posted that graphic here becuase it is such a striking visualisation of oil depletion on a scale that matters for global oil supply.


Hello Euan,

Thxs for the reply. When you and SS turn your attention to other fields: I sure hope it includes NPK fertilizers being inextricably-linked to depleting FFs. I have been posting quite a bit on this topic lately, and Bart at EnergyBulletin has been helping flog this subject along too. But I sure would appreciate the expertise that you and Stuart could bring to bear on this subject matter.

My latest post on fertilizers is at the very bottom of R-squared's latest keypost on the Ethanol Debate on TOD/USA.

I speculate on mining-induced seismicity removing 43% of our global fertilizer supply practically overnight by a cascade of small earthquakes causing a Canadian mining disaster. My latest feeble effort at reaching for the very high bar of TOD writing excellence.

Dedicated to the trapped Utah miners, and their hopeful rescue soon.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Re Global Oil Peak: IMO, most people are not interested. Having said that, if you took all the known info re global oil depletion and provided it to 5 books in Vegas to digest, at this date you would get odds of approximately 4-1 if you wanted to bet that the May 2005 peak would be surpassed. Obviously as each month passes the odds would increase. Comparisons to 1983 or 1933 would not be considered relevant by these guys in Vegas if they were interested in this subject matter. At this point the situation is relatively clear- Peak "deniers" are selling products, plain and simple (they don't believe their BS).

I read the book..and it is rubbish.

I thought the open letter should have just addressed the technicalitis and avoided the confrontational tone..but its hard to argue against a book that doesn't through up much in the way of technical arguments.

In essence the book is a wordy "attack on the man".

I suspect that with in 5 years this sort of POV is just going to be so obviousily wrong its almost pointless making the effort to challange it. Perhaps events will still blur the issue so YMMV.


I have not read either book (although I have Mr. Strahan's). But the summary of the "no peak" argument once again looks to be (1) peak oilers are lunatics, (2) prior predictions of peak were wrong, and (3) there are plenty of reserves left. If that is the argument, it seems to me that the debate is over, as none are logically sound or factually supported. I am beginning to feel like Dave Cohen described in a one of his Ghawar (I think) posts . . something like it is nice to be proven right about this stuff, but I am sick at my stomach thinking about what it really means. ,

Yeah, it would be so much more reassuring if the critics of PO could mount at least a semi convincing argument. Instead they essentially prove the case for PO by defaulting.
There are well defined rules of argumentation in play here. Peak Oil advocates have the burden of proof, because they are advancing a point of view that runs counter to the prevailing presumptions of the organizations involved. Ok, but, in response to the evidence and arguments advanced by the PO faction, there is a burden of rejoinder which means those who disagree must respond to the arguments and counter them with evidence and logic of their own. When the burden of rejoinder cannot honestly be met, it is often the case that faulty arguments are put forward instead - red herring, straw-man and ad homonims are some common types.

Arguments that follow proper rules go back and forth until one of several possible things happens:
1) The two parties find common ground and come to an agreement that is satisfactory to both
2) a higher power decides on the issue one or the other
3) circumstances change and either the argument becomes obviously true for one party and false for the other
4) circumstances change and the argument no longer has relevance
4) the argument remains unresolved and the disagreement continues.

So, obviously, the PO argument is not over yet. I think it's very important to pick apart the arguments on both sides to make sure that they are valid.


30 Gb of oil per year at $20 each = 600e9 dollars. But supply gets tight by a few percent and prices rise to $75 and that sum turns to 2,250e9 dollars. A trillion and a half extra dollars pulled from consumers through the oil production chain. Why? Because consumers didn't realize supply was going to go scarce and start preparing early.

There are people willing to do a lot more than make repetitive arguments for a trillion extra dollars a year. Expect more books and anti po media.

Jon Freise
Analyze Not Fantasize -D. Meadows

Perhaps Duncan Clarke will read my brief but telling survey of Russia — For Russia, An End to Growth is In Sight.

For the record, I have had no alien encounters, am not a millenarian making my end of the world plans, have looked at the occult literature and rejected it, was not part of the Hale-Bopp cult, and believe that "intelligent" life such as we have on Earth is extremely unlikely elsewhere in the Milky Way Galaxy (if not the entire Universe).

My article did note that 10.6 million barrels per day seems to be an upper bound on Russia's output, but it seems more likely that their post-Soviet peak will come in somewhat lower.

I am sorry to disappoint Mr. Clarke, for it would seem that my analysis is far too dry, straightforward and scientific to satisfy his wildest imaginings of what some of us "peakists" think and do for a living.

That said, Mr. Clarke can go screw himself.


LOL! Dave, I love that kind of sarcastic writing combined with hard-hitting facts--Keep that dry wit going forever!!

I'm just finishing up Strahan's book, and it is excellent! Best PO book I've read since "The Party's Over". Interesting note and sign of the times: It's not available in the US due to a lack of a publisher (hope that's rectified soon!), so I had to order it through Amazon Canada. The Postal Service wouldn't leave it in the mailbox, I got a slip and I had to go the Post Office to show an ID and sign for it.

BTW, I won't be reading Clarke's book. Clearly a waste of time.

Facts. So necessary. As Goose recognises so malleable.

I could be 12 or 125 years old, I might have a decent education, or not; but I have been reading PO for 3+ years.

Strahan is a journalist who thought he saw a golden ticket, OR he thought he could make a difference?

PO is the GW bandwaggon - again.

US needs 60 odd % oil imports = x.

Poor nations can consume x less for many decades, as x rises.

I have done Simmons, Campbell, Heinberg, Laherre, Deffeyes,
Brown et al...

I am now on Tertzakian. Less alarm.
More convincing of the same thing.

However, hyperbole, lying, context, hide PO behind
a screen of separation.

MSM - TPTB the Iron Triangle must save us -
for their own wealth - or bail out.

But I could grow my wealth for 0 - 15 years. PO Now IS the question.


Not being a geologist or petroleum engineer, the view from 50,000 ft. tends to be more useful. That is, debating URR to determine PO timing is a moot exercise. If the data is that questionable, then what's the point. Let the production do the talking.

All market manipulating conspiracy theories aside, if the rate of All Liquids production becomes less and less elastic to price, then that is about as clear of a market signal one is going to get. As stated by others before me, just the fact that development in the Alberta tar sands going at breakneck speed ought to be enough of an indicator.

These major changes tend to reveal themselves to us in whispers and not major events.

Global oil production soon peaking or past peak?

I haven't read either book, but I can tell you I wouldn't waste my time with Strahan's.

There are 98 oil producing countries in the world. Around 60 appear to be in terminal decline already

Strahan is clearly new to this topic. Or he is lying. Or he is twisting numbers to the point of bearing no resemblance to reality. So he can sell a book.

I opt for all of the above.

I've been reading this site for some time, but couldn't keep my mouth shut on this one. Either nobody else caught it, or the propeller-heads(as ThatsItImOut terms them) are running the show here.

Yes, there are (about) 98 countries that produce all the oil. Let's look at that in more detail. (about) 50 produce 98.5% of the oil. Another (about) 25 produce another 1.25%. The final 23 produce 0.26%.

So he doubled the amount of nations in his sample and added 1.5% of world oil production. The fact that he went near the final 23(spots 76-98) is laughable.

This is a major point in his open-letter.

Let's now look at a more amazing part. I count 17 of the top 50 top be in verifiable decline. I know there will be arguments on this point. Bring it.

So to get 60 - he is using 43 of the last 48.

He is quadrupling his "terminal decline" group with 1.5% of total production.

It gets better. I went through the last 48. I did it quickly, but I only came up with 14, where he (through inference)claims 43.

I'm claiming fraud.

I'd like to see what Stuart Staniford or Dave Cohen have to say about this.

Perhaps the difference be in that he claims 60 to "appear to be in terminal decline already", while your numbers refer to "be in verifiable decline". There's a subjective factor in it. But of course, it is misleading.

I appreciate you pointing that out. I actually wanted to tackle that, but figured it would be too pedantic a point.

For the first 50, I say 17 are verifiable. And I still have noone disputing that (though it is early). I would say you can make the case for 23 "appearing."

Of the second 48, I'll just guess that we can add 10 onto my 14 to make 24 "appearing."

Luis Dias, you know as well as I do that "appearing" is nonsense(it fits every available interpretation). If you are a journalist making money off of a book, then you need to be more than verifiable.

Stachan can write me an "Open-letter" any time he wants. I'll even answer it. He can either post here, or if he is shy he can write Professor Goose or Leanan. They have access to my registration email and can contact me.

His "60 of 98" is a blatant distortion. Reading his book won't change that.

Forgive me for being dense, but if I understand your argument correctly:

Strahan sites a source and reports that 60 out of 98 countries are declining (probably Energy Files since that is what is linked).

You use some other source (not his) and do a separate analysis (not specified) and come up with a different total number of countries in decline.

And thus Strahan is lying and thus there must be many fewer than 60 out of 98 countries in decline.


Well, without the two analysis side by side, it is hard to judge. But what do we know? We know that world crude oil production fell 1.21 mbpd from 2005 to 2007. So if the number of countries (by produced volume) NOT in decline was greater than 50% then a decline would NOT be possible. Since the decline did happen, it must be that at least 51% of countries by volume declined.

As you rightly point out, what happens in the 1% tail does not matter much. But your position still supports Strahan's main point: most of the world is in decline. It seems to be splitting hairs to argue that someone is right, but should be dismissed because they were right by 1% instead of 0.5%.

Also we know that non-opec production declined. One might argue that opec production declined by quota (as people are fond of saying about Saudi Arabia). But non-opec production is also down.

Looking at the top 10 exporters, most are declining in exports. From 2005 to 2006 only 2 showed export increases: UAE and Angola. Looking at the HL estimates, all top 10 are at 50% or greater depletion. Those top 10 produce nearly all the exports world wide. And total exports have declined the last two years.

Data from:

HL Estimates taken from:

World oil production decline

Jon Freise

Analyze Not Fantasize -D. Meadows

I have read the Strahan book which strikes me as quite reasonable.

The numbers on the depletion atlas come from

If you have better numbers I suggest you contact them.

Can I suggest that arguments about the minutae of peak oil are missing the main point.

The reality is supply problems of all kinds have forced the price up to the $70-80 range. Geology and common sense suggest that non- conventinal oil and alternative fuels won't be ready in time.

The facts are there have been 3 major oil shocks already in 1973, 1979 and 1990. The next one will be much worse if we keep on denying there is a problem.

It is much better just to get on with planning what we can all do to minimize the risks from even higher prices just as the National Petroleum Council and many others are doing right now.

The 117th meeting of the National Petroleum Council was held
in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, July 18, 2007.

Approved Report: Facing the Hard Truths About Energy check the exec summary or the slide show.

350 experts and 1000 people altogether involved in the NPC report from all political viewpoints. Not PO advocates but they do all admit there is a serious problem with oil.

Of course if the US goes into recession from a little thing like bad credit that could drop demand and as we speak oil prices have dropped $3 - but that is a pretty tough way to do it.

Much better to get informed and make sensible plans based on reasonable projections which all see oil going much higher in the near term.

I took a look at the figures that the EIA give in their IPM downloads section and counted 23 countries whose production peaked before 2006 (the figures go up to 2006). The figures are a little varied (so not quite comparing oranges with oranges, for all countries) but only 15 countries showed increases to 2006. This is by no means a comprehensive analysis of the data, and some countries that "peaked" in 2004 or 2005 may yet exceed that peak, but perhaps is an indication that Strahan is on the right lines.

I’m glad my letter seems to have provoked a lively debate while I’ve been away, but irritated to realize that the most vitriolic attack was prompted by my silly mistake: omitting the word ‘growth’ from the sentence ‘…Rex Tillerson told me recently that non-OPEC [growth] would be all over in “two to three years”’. This was nothing more than a typo. With the word reinstated – it was always intended to be there - the sentence does accurately reflect Mr Tillerson’s meaning, as reported in my blog. Nor is his view that surprising, actually. Even back in 2005 Exxon’s Energy Outlook was forecasting non-OPEC supply to peak by the middle of the next decade (, see the slide on page 18 of the pdf) and things have hardly improved since then. You could accuse my blog ( of rehashing old news – although I thought it was noteworthy coming from the CEO himself - but not of distortion. 60 of the world’s 98 oil producing countries are indeed in post-peak decline according to numbers and country-assessments from Energy Files.

Mr Strahan, you do realise that it's not an insignificant typo. I could say: you're a pathetic loser. But hey, what I really meant was "you're [not] a pathetic loser!"

Hey, don't be irritated, it was only a typo, hehe!

I never use the X number of countries are in terminal decline argument. I think it's weak because most of the oil is concentrated in a few places. It's geology that counts, not geography.

It stands to reason that the easy oil has been found and tapped and it will get harder and more expensive to find other sources. The arctic flag that Russia planted brought out the idea that the north pole may have 25% of the worlds hydrocarbons, but they are two miles down under the sea. By the time people get to them, the major oil fields will be well into decline.

So I see a peak as a very likely reality and even if it is not soon, the world demand is rising rapidly and shortages will be inevitable. I favor rationing, with a mag stripe card that allows you to only buy so much. That way if you want to car pool, mass transit or other method, that is your choice based on your circumstances. Not a popular view point, but one that should be considered soon.

I heard Duncan Clarke's interview on Financial Sense. I'm surprised that Jim Puplava didn't ask him when he thought oil production would peak. However, one of the noticeable features, for me, was that he thought the peak oilists were misguided and yet proceeded to talk about all of the unconventional oil and alternatives to oil. As we all know, the flow rate of the unconventionals (including oil shale and CTL) are unlikely to get anywhere near those of conventional crude. So his arguments were particularly unconvincing; if there is so much conventional crude to be had (and he talked about uncharted territories, in that respect), then why did he attempt to reel off so many unconventional oil and alternatives?

He did come across as sounding sensible but his arguments were based more on belief than any sound evidence, at least no evidence that he offered on the interview.