Peak Oil Media IEA 2008 WEO Edition

The 2008 World Energy Outlook recently released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) continues to garner comments. The Energy Bulletin pointed to a video of George Monbiot interviewing Fatih Birol, the Chief Economist for the IEA, on the 2008 WEO. Monbiot asks some rather pointed question about why the outlook presented this year is so much more dire than last year. He asks for an apology. Next is an audio roundtable with host Jim Puplava interviewing Matt Simmons and Robert Hirsch. Topics include the 2008 WEO as well as the current financial malaise and its implications for oil production and prices. Direct links to these are below the fold.

George Monbiot Grills Fatih Birol

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Jim Puplava with Matt Simmons and Robert Hirsch

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Matthew R. Simmons
Chairman, Simmons & Company International

Dr. Robert L. Hirsch
Senior Energy Advisor at MISI & consultant in energy, technology and management

So the OECD countries can send man to the moon, create nuclear bombs, Airbus A380's and stealth fighter planes, innovate and create wonderful cities and buildings with a 1000 pages of zoning laws and building codes, create a vast amount of literature on management and efficiency, staying ahead of the curve, success and foresight!

I mean everything in OECD countries is virtually catered and provided for, healthcare, public education, clean water, electricity for all, social safety nets, the internet etc. All this requires great planning, execution, the right legislation, foresight, management etc.

That some of the best universities in the world can churn out graduates who perform quite well at their tasks and rapidly advance science and technology but can't seem to come up with a coherent understanding of NET energy and climate change?

It would take I believe 15-20 years to prepare for peak oil AND require 60-70% of current energy needs be diverted into creating and building the infrastructure.

That we can't even get people to acknowledge what a huge huge huge problem lies ahead. I think a higher power somewhere is just messing with us. Having a good laugh at us silly fossil fuel dependent humans...

Or perhaps more likely the powers that be are acutely aware of the problem, but consider the situation hopeless and are perhaps even greater doomers than the TODers of the darkest mindset and would therefore prefer to leave the coming disaster to the next administration.

Based on the last government in the US, who promoted policies that allowed their big money allies to simply loot every capital stock in sight (most notably the banks) it would seem there is evidence for the latter rather than the former.

Apocalypse is followed by resurrection and an eternal place in heaven ;-)

Hold my seat.


I would say oil-for-combustion is very much an addiction: it's bad for us, it's bad for the environment, and it wastes a resource with many other amazing chemical qualities (plastic).

Still, it's so cheap and easy to use we can't help ourselves or even acknowledge the severity of the problem.

At least these days people DO acknowledge that something isn't quite right...

The original Limits To Growth studies were funded by senior business and government people, including Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, billionaire David Rockefeller, among others. That was 35 years ago.

If you don't know who the mark is, its you.

Meaning what exactly? That the concept of resource limits are are a conspiracy by a global elite and couldn't possibly be true? Please clarify.

If, as some TOD editors tell us, the idea of human-caused climate change could be a global conspiracy, why not resource limits? :)

What if Communism in Russia was a conspiracy to make capitalism look good?

I’ve read many of the recently published books about energy, climate, and our environment. I have come to the conclusion that fossil fuels will be in short supply in 10 years or so and really nasty climate changes will occur in 20 to 30 years. There seems to be more likelihood that these timeframes could shorten than lengthen. Increasing world population of humans is a significant impediment to mitigating these problems. On the other hand, I see very little evidence that governments (local, state, federal) have come to any similar conclusions. Here in Wisconsin, we continue to plan for all kinds of projects that serve the needs of our car culture – we talk about the need to accommodate the increased numbers of cars that will be on our roads in 10 or 20 years. There is never any truly serious discussion about mass transit or other ways to reduce the number of automobiles.

How can it be that people who can build a spaceship cannot see these problems? If someone could convince me that I’m exaggerating the problems, I’d be happy. But, every time I hear a claim about there being plentiful oil for the next century or sun spots are the driver of climate changes, etc – I find that these claims are the exaggeration or simply a lie. I keep coming back to the same conclusion: we have a problem!

Political party and religions affiliations, for most people, are simply a function of the family in which they grew up – children of a republican catholic family are most likely (rebels aside) to vote republican and attend a catholic church as adults. People will passionately hold to beliefs about spirit worlds and after lives – when there is zero scientific proof. So, is it the case that our car culture and energy usage are so deeply embedded in our view of the world and subconscious beliefs that we just cannot imagine life being any different? We just don’t want to talk about scientific evidence that contradicts our deepest beliefs?

Some authors repeat the story of Christopher Columbus and his ships arriving in the “New World” – for some time the native people could not “see” the ships anchored a few hundred feet off shore because they had zero concept of a “ship”. Some people speculate that the native folks just assumed the ships were clouds or fog or some other familiar object. Are we as a nation just unable to grasp the nature of these impending problems? Regardless of how smart and clever we may otherwise be are we just seeing some innocent clouds that will blow away before long?

Hey Bicycle Dave,

I'm in pretty much the same boat as you. I first learned of Peak Oil in 2006 by reading JHK's "The Long Emergency." I had made of the same reactions that you did. At first, I researched the heck out of it and tried desperately to find some logical argument that the coming energy crisis wasn't going to be a problem. The more I learned, the more I realized that we had a HUGE problem. From energy, my studies branched out to learning about population (overpopulation). The real urgency is that the world can only meet the needs of about 1-2 Billion people on a sustainable basis. With the world population now at just under 7 billion and a projected population in 2050 of 9 billion....It's a simple math problem. 9 billion people competing for 1-2 billion people's worth of food. Not a pretty picture. Like you I was so angry that nothing was being done on a governmental level. I started to learn what drives politics. That was an easy answer...Money drives politics. Every politician who makes it to office has to sell their souls to get there. They are completely bought and paid for. If they don't adhere to the party line, they're out. Ron Paul is a good example.

Then I was thinking...Why are the powers that be (TPTB), the ones with the endless supply of money, concerned enough about this problem. Peak Oil is not hard to understand. In fact, for the longest time, TPTB seemed to intentionally ignore and obfuscate the issue. I couldn't figure it out. What would make them do that? It's just as much a problem for them as it is for us....Right?

Well this lead me to study our money/financial system. I'll preface this by telling you that I have my MBA from Penn State, and I never learned how our financial system truley works until I read "Web of Debt" by Ellen H. Brown. What an eye opener.

You see Dave, our financial/money system is the root cause of the inaction. Money is ONLY created in our country (and most of the world) when someone goes into debt for it. When you take out a mortgage, the bank creates brand new money to give to you. It's not money that they already had. The problem is that you owe all that money back to the bank PLUS interest. Well if the banks only create the principle then where the heck are you supposed to find the money for the interest???!!!

Answer: More and more people must continue to take on debt so that you can get a piece of the funds that they borrowed and siphon that back to the bank. The system is flawed because its ALWAYS short on cash. There will always be bankruptcies with fractional reserve lending. Period. So this dynamic is what causes the "growth imperative." As long as our economy is growing, there will be enough cash out there for most people to get ahold of and make their payments. If the economy stagnates or shrinks, you've got real financial pain felt by many people.

So now we're back full circle because economies run on energy. Less energy means a smaller economy. So we find that it's about keeping the fractional reserve lending Ponzi scheme alive, no matter the costs. TPTB will stop at nothing to maintain "business as usual" because it's about power to them. They control the money supply, they can finance the politicians (who are merely puppets), and these politicians do their bidding. That's why you'll never see meaningful governmental change that acknowleges the scarcity of resources and the need to switch our monetary system towards one that can nuture a sustainable economy that is healthy when it's shrinking, constant, or expanding. Such an economy is possible and actually exists today on the island of Guernsey (spelling?) Lincoln and Hilter both had such economies too.

Realistically, the only way I see our financial system making this radical change is if the current system collapses. We're well on our way to that.

I hope this helps you to realize why you aren't seeing the logical changes that one would surely expect from our elected officials.

If anyone sees where I got any of this wrong, please correct me.


TS - You've got it pretty much right, in my view. I'll second the recommendation for reading Web of Debt, and also recommend Money as Debt as a condensed video version, available on the web. The documentary Zeitgeist (also on the web) and its sequel also speak of this inherent fallibility of our debt-based financial system (cascading into collapse around us as we speak) and of its manipulation by TPBT. It takes putting together the very real physical limits to growth with the ultimate fantasy that is our fiat currency financial system to give one a complete picture of the predicament of industrial civilization. And while I'm spouting recommendations, let me also throw Culture Change by Alexis Ziegler out there, available at

Thanks for those additional resources. I'll be sure to check them out.

Good comment TS. Web of Debt is now on my Amazon wish list. I really hope that you are wrong about a complete collapse of our financial system being needed and also in progress. But, that may well be the case. My guess would be that this whole affair will proceed somewhat in the fashion of a bear stock market - we will rebound somewhat and then hit a new low. This will be followed by another rebound that is weaker and then a another new low......

Hey you can read some of the chapters from "Web of Debt" at

Ellen also published a couple articles per month at this site as well. She uses the principles that she describes in her book and then talks about the current events in that light.

My guess would be that this whole affair will proceed somewhat in the fashion of a bear stock market - we will rebound somewhat and then hit a new low. This will be followed by another rebound that is weaker and then a another new low......

When your focus is zoomed in really closely, and on a short enough time frame, it can look like natural highs and lows. But when you zoom out a bit it starts to look like a rocky downslope. Zoom out even further and it looks like complete collapse. To me, your words are describing a collapse. Most infamous periods in time were never given the labels in real time. It takes hindsight to see a particular period for what it was.

I really hope that you are wrong about a complete collapse of our financial system being needed and also in progress. But, that may well be the case.

I hope I'm wrong too. I've been hoping that I'd be wrong ever since I first learned about peak oil. Time will tell. Strap yourself in, I think it'll be a bumpy ride no matter what happens.


We seriously need to get on with the business of becoming energy independent. While we are doing the happy dance around the pumps with the lower prices OPEC is planning yet more production cuts and will not quit until they achieve their desired price per barrel. The record high prices this past year have done serious damage to our economy and society. It would cost the equivalent of 60 cents per gallon to charge and drive an eelctric car. If all gasoline cars, trucks, and suv's instead had plug-in electric drivetrains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota.WE must move forward with energy independence. We have the knowledge, we have the technology, what America lacks is a plan. Jeff Wilson has a new book out that is beyond awesome. The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence NOW. He walks you through every aspect of oil, what it is used for besides gas, our depletion of it. The worlds increased need ie 3rd world countries becoming more modernized and consuming more. He explains EVERY alternative energy source and what role they can play to replace oil. His research is backed up with hard data and even includes a time frame and proposed legislative agendas to wean America off oil.

He also has a VERY interesting article posted on the Better Place Blog called How Much Electricity Would It Take To Replace Gasoline you can read it at...

Thanks JB for posting the link to the Monbiot/Fatih video. The Guardian has several related articles which are listed here.

This interview has gotten a a number of links and references in the media and on the web (e.g. Scientific American, Real News)

It's funny - you never know what will touch a nerve.

Energy Bulletin

Monbiot is pretty bolshie in the interview, you'd think he was talking to someone with Dubya's attitude and Gore's carbon footprint. He does a lot of deliberate misunderstanding, a lot of rush-to-extremes, if you don't agree with him that we're doomed today then you're a dirty dog who cares nothing for the world.

Did I misunderstand, or are they quoting different figures from IEA in the two interviews? Monbiot is talking about a projected depletion rate of 6.8%, starting a few decades out, but the Simmons/Hirsch interview on FSN seems to project 9.1%, which may well start much much sooner. Do these figures refer to different depletion rates (e.g. all liquids vs. just crude oil)?

That's the deliberate misunderstanding I was saying that Monbiot engages in.

The IEA report talks about a 6.8% decline in individual conventional crude reservoirs; Monbiot assumes that means all oil ever for the whole world. He's confusing the issue, since some conventional crude reservoirs decline more quickly, some more slowly, there's natural gas liquids, tarsands, coal to liquids and so on. And the different processes require different inputs of energy.

Given all that, it's quite possible to have individual conventional crude oil fields declining at an average of 6.8% while the total oil supply declines by 10%, or only 1%, or rises slightly, and so on.

For example, we could imagine Australia producing from the Timor Sea some 500,000bbl/day, which declines at 6.8% annually. After ten years we're down to 247,000bbl/day and get worried, so we build a coal-to-liquids plant. In the first year it can produce 50,000bbl/day, in the second 60,000, and so on. So in
2018 we're producing 247,000bbl/day,
then in 2019 it's 230,000 from Timor + 50,000 from CTL = 280kbbl/day, wow in one year we had a 13% jump!
Then in 2020 it's 214,000 from Timor + 60,000 from CTL = 274kbbl/day, only a 2.1% decline.
In 2021 it's 199+70 = 269kbbl/day, a 1.9% decline.

So did we have a 6.8% decline in supply or a 13% rise or a 2% decline? Well, they were all different things. What it all added up to was going from 500kbbl/day in 2008 to 269kbbl/day in 2021, about a 4.5% decline.

Then along comes Monbiot and says, "but you said your oilfield was declining at 6.8%, howcome you now say it's 4.5%? Why are you lying to us! You should apologise!"

Of course, this is all speculative, what projects Australia will have a decade from now. That's the thing. It's really hard to know what will happen globally, we just look at this oilfield and that coal-to-liquids project and the other tarsands drilling, look at how they go over the years, add up all the different stuff to get an overall picture.

If it were easy to predict then we wouldn't have much to discuss on TheOilDrum. And Simmons would not have been predicting $200 oil by the end of the year, and not been so surprised by $40 oil.

6.8% is probably the average decline rate estimated by the IEA for post-peak fields, it's not the decline rate of the resource base (i.e. including fields that are not declining).