Peak Oil Debunked? (Followed by a debunking of a debunker...)

Matt Savinar over at LATOC has an interesting perspective today where he summarizes where the "peak oil" has moved since he became involved.  

Matt opines:

A year and a half later, and Peak Oil is popping up everywhere.  Which means the subject has now proliferated to the point where the market is ripe for "peak oil debunkers."
When I first learned about these issues, I would have loved for there to have been several "peak oil is cacka" sites.  After all, if there are some sites that claim to "debunk peak oil" or better yet, "debunk individual X", that means that maybe the disturbingly convincing sites like From the Wilderness, Hubbert's Peak, and Die Off, the oft-cited authors like Richard Heinberg, James Kunstler, Ken Deffeyes, Matthew R. Simmons, David Goodstein, Jan Lundberg, and science-trained legislators such as Roscoe Bartlett (who is a trained physicist with over 20 patents to his name) could be wrong in their prognostications of economic collapse, war, and overall doom-and-gloom, right?

To the laymen or "Peak Oil newbie", the existence of "Peak Oil is dog poo" sites creates an illusion that there is still some type of viable "debate" between the optimists and pessimists:

Maybe I can relax, comforted by the hope that the pessimists will be proven wrong, right? Sure, has 1000s of articles archived, most of which tend to prove we are in really, really big trouble, but since some guy who won't give his real name put up a blog claiming to debunk it all, I guess "all is well." With all this commotion on the internet, certainly the jury is still out as to these issues, right?"

Well not really.

(Matt also mentions our community kindly further down in the piece.)

Matt has been called just about every name under the sun, and while I don't always agree with him on everything (if I agreed with anyone all the time, it'd be pretty boring), I admire him for his drive and passion with regard to what I think many of us agree is the problem we need to address in the coming years.  Thanks for taking the fire, Matt.
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I haven't seen an effective "debunking" of peak oil yet - but when the truth hurts, you'll always find shallow liars:


Political hacks always have a prepared list of "Talking Points".
The reason is that it is hard to "think on your feet" when the pressure hits. You need to have a set of scripts prepared ahead of time.

One angle developing on my lemmings page, in response to Tiereney of NYTimes $10,000 fame deals with overfishing.

See "Have you eaten any cheap cod lately?" at:

Tierney's proclamation about natural resources is cod crap. Fresh air "was" (note past tense, now extinct) a natural resource and it used to cost $0.00!!

Here are some more sites dealing with the "collapse" of fishing industry for certain overfished populations, cod being one of them (PBS had a special on this a few nights ago):

Note the link to oil prices at the bottom of this one:

Does the cover image of this next one tell you where US auto companies are going?

Remember when Brits "produced" their own cod for fish'n chips rather than relying of foreign crud(e) cod?

Inquisitive Lemmings Love to Dig Deeper into the Rationale of the Righteous Right.

The debunkers (and unfortunately some peak oil enthusiasts) will always grasp isolated points to paint the idea as extreme without supplying context.

Most responsible thinkers will understand that Peak Oil (Peak*ing* Oil) can be associated with a wide range of outcomes, entirely dependent on when the world recognizes the problem and starts to act.

Prices being what they are you can expect a lot more attack commentary in the very near future.

I would not insist too much on prices as an argument for an imminent peaking of oil.
That's so easy for economists to argue with this... like all the articles about economic bubbles etc (part of there arguments are convincing indeed).

Unfortunately, that's the easiest way to catch hears...

But apart from high prices there are so many obvious evidences in favor of peak oil that we should be able to manage debunkers easily.

Matt Savinar's update to this post is a very long and detailed answer to his  unknown critic.  (This website may be "astroturf" which are pseudo-grass roots movements which are in fact funded by large corporations.)  Now that the news is out in the MSM, it is a perfect time for these kinds of events to take place.  Yesterday on CNBC I heard Larry Kudlow scorn the notion that we are getting short of oil citing Daniel Yergin as getting it right.  He dismissed PO theories as absurd.  It is pretty much the same crowd that does not believe in the power of markets to solve problems.

I think Savinar's lengthy rebuttal is quite good although I have my doubts about some of it.  

It seems to me that The Oil Drum should develop forums with moderators.  One forum could be around the discussion of the effects of Peak Oil on the world economy.  

Mmm, I was bothered by both sides.  I thought that the person arguing with Savinar was weak, and Savinar took down a weak target.  Made himself look stronger that way.

One of the problems I have with Savinar's site, far aside from the doom and gloom, is the detail to which he described the future.  I mean, it's almost as bad as economists, really.  I don't think he really knows how the oil endgame will play out.  I think it's a good idea to keep all his worst-case scenarios in mind, but one of the things I've noticed is that these kinds of prophecies become self-fulfilling: "Savinar tells me I can't do anything about it, so why not just consume?"

I no longer point people to LATOC when I discuss peak oil with them. The reason is that LATOC advertises their "wares" a bit too prominently on its site and one just can't help but get the impression from the layout of the site that the author is out to make a quick buck.

I prefer to send them here or to individual articles or just let them borrow Matt Simmon's book.

LATOC needs to clean up the layout and reduce the advertising or it will be dismissed by those who are always suspicious of being taken advantage of.

dude look to the right.

Now look to the left.

What do you see?


look to the new site...that costs cash-money.
every dime we make on those ads, we spend on development for this site.
ergo, you have indicted yourself, not us.
Speaking of which, did you notice the Google blog ad with the heading "Peak Oil is a Charade" that leads to

I am sure that some of you have probably already read it - this guy is another one of those from the camp of "technology will come up with an answer".

That's the one I had mentioned elsewhere in this thread, maintained by Marshall Brain.
I don't mind the fact that there are ads on ToD. They are the same as any other site. LATOC ads are basically links to its online shoppe making it pretty damn obvious that the author is going ot benefit financially from "spreading the message". It's a huge difference.
As far as I know, the only serious "debunkers" are CERA and Daniel Yergin. Matt doesn't mention them but this is the reason why my posts often do.

Econbrowser provided us with a list of future supply projectionson a country by country basis. But the 33 page report costs $2500 dollars and just more non-transparent data for here in the TOD Community to deal with. Looking at that list of countries and the supply projections by 2010, I am struck by some entries, like:
  • Nigeria +1.27 mbd -- Shell is talking about having to leave the Niger Delta by 2008 unless some political stability is established
  • Russia +1.15 mbd -- Another volatile situation in which real numbers are hard to come by; Putin rules with an iron hand.
  • Iraq +1.00 -- 'nuff said
  • Iran +1.00 -- they're developing nukes and need foreign investment; a totally unstable situation politically
  • Mexico -0.20 -- they've already tipped over into depletion now in 2005. You mean to tell me that this will only amount to 200,000 mbd by 2010?
I could go on but you get the point. Even among those who have read the report, apparently CERA does not cite their depletion rate for existing fields (2%?, 4%?, 6%?). Also, they are big believers in various EOR techniques but HO, J and others have talked about the problems and uncertainties in using them here at TOD.

Yet, we've all had to endure the soothing commentaries in The Washington Post, National Public Radio and the other intelligent MSM outlets that there's no "running out of oil problem" at all. Yergin never explains what peak oil actually means -- it does not mean that we are runnning out of oil -- and completely ignores the work of Matt Simmons on Saudi Arabia. It's clear enough that his main source on the Kingdom is Aramco, which is not credible as even Peter Maass' NYT Magazine piece made clear.

So, the war between the PO community and the smooth-talking MSM favorites continues. But have we been debunked? As Savinar says, not at all.
Dave:  You did it again.   You wrote:  Mexico -0.20 -- they've already tipped over into depletion now in 2005. You mean to tell me that this will only amount to 200,000 mbd by 2010?
  200,000(mbd) million barrels(a)day.  is a lot of oil.  If my zeros added up correctly that works out to 200 trillion barrels of oil.  -:)

the hermit

I can't argue that Peak Oil is not going to happen, but yes I would agree with the previous post that Matt does paint a too specific picture of the future. I think there could be all kinds of mitigating factors such as the   Cheney gang sparking up WW3 that could vastly reduce population & demand or perhaps a longer plateu of peaking due to unforeseen demand destruction. Also I think that alternatives will be developed, but they of course won't come close to the energy needs.
Why does Peak Oil need to be debunked?  I mean isn't the "market" the ultimate debunker?  If Peak Oil is a house of cards it will collapse under its own weight and many of us will appear to be "Chicken Littles".  If people are expending energy trying to debunk this idea, then you have to wonder what they are worried about.
I agree Bubba. And "if people are expending energy trying to debunk this idea, then you have to wonder what they are worried about". Right. This will unfold over time and I believe time and "the market" is on our side.

Which brings up the point that peak oil needs to be taken seriously now but has not been yet. In fact, Jimmy Carter took it seriously in 1979. PO is getting a little more MSM coverage and that's good. But not nearly enough. Which brings us back to the usual discussion of "denial".

Look at the country-by-country CERA projections. And, I didn't even take Asian demand growth into consideration. Nor did I assert as Simmons does that Ghawar is peaking now (despite their ever-increasing water-cut).
People never take things seriously until after they happen. They start fire brigades after big fires, write earthquake codes after big earthquakes, start Departments of Homeland Security after planes fly into buildings etc. The same will apply to peak oil. People will only respond as the price goes high enough. All this debunking is good news. It means peak oil has gone from being ignored to being attacked. This phase will go on for a while, and the next is that everyone will claim it was obvious all along.
I hate to say this Stuart:  But I've been walking around on this land for the last 70 yrs. and you are absolutely correct, People in this country haven't changed a bit  ( well most of them ) in that whole time.

the hermit

As Dave has already stated. The problem is time. By the time the market has figured out there is a problem with oil supply it will be way past time to make effective changes. This site is consistant in focusing on the importance of getting a large percentage of people to recognize (admit?) to peak oil. Only after that point will true change in behaviour take place. Before that time we will continue to hear every lame excuse of why oil prices are high - speculation, oil companies greed, the weather, not enough rigs, not enough refineries, etc. etc. Since these were all predicted at this site months ago, I am more convinced than ever that we are at or very near the peak because the mass media is going from one excuse to another to justify why oil price has gone so high and continues to stay high. Everything EXCEPT peak oil production is listed on a daily basis.
I think Matt is becoming a victim of his own success. I personally discovered PO through his website and it was a good kick in the butt for me! Of course his predictions are sometimes overly negative and I now disagree with some of his analyis (in particular regarding nuclear energy).

It's undeniable that PO is one of the biggest challenge humanity will have to face this century. The more people are aware of it, the easier the transition will be so thanks Matt!

In Savinar's defense, you'll notice that his site is called, "Life After the Oil Crash," not "Death After the Oil Crash."  He writes, "... if what you really mean, "Is there any way I can still have a happy, fulfilling life in spite of some clearly grim facts?", the answer is yes, but it's going to require a lot of work, a lot of adjustments, and probably a bit of good fortune on your part."

Most attorneys I have known are not crusading for justice.  They are more likely to say, "Yes you can spend $3,000 in court, and win, but you'll never collect a dime."  They're pragmatists like Bruce whats-his-name on the radio.  They like to settle things and move on.

Unlike many peak oil gurus, Savinar seems relatively uninterested in the who's-to-blame of how we got to the brink.  He's read, or studied, the various doomsday books and sees no reason to expect anything better than the worst.  He takes the crash as a given, and plans on being a survivor.  He advocates self-sufficiency, which is certainly a better idea than expecting the government to take care of you.

I have problems with Matt's post. I don't know if he is just paraphrasing but when he says this:
Yet there are now exists a plethora of sites accusing Peak Oil pessimists of being everything from "mentally unstable whackjobs" to "fear mongering profiteers of doom" to "Malthusian death-fetish fascists."

And I can't google any of these quoted items for matching web sites, I have to wonder about his methods. We have enough problems without resorting to making stuff up via phantom straw-bogeymen.

He then says "Feel free to peruse such sites and articles. "

Excuse me, Matt, where are they again?

Maybe he is talking about that Marshall Brain techie fellow or maybe Dave McGowan (Ruppert's nemesis)?

The one that he debunks seems to be a single-page web site.

I am quaking in my boots over that one.

In reality, what we have to worry about is when one of the Skeptics sites (like starts railing against the oil depletionists.  So far, so good, they have not gotten skeptical over peak oil. Yea I know, apart from that Freakonomics fellow.

A Northwestern U economist. No worries, the students will keep her honest.
Actually, she says:
"Price increases reflect expectations of future scarcity relative to demand and risk. That is the most powerful mechanism by which we learn both to conserve and to innovate."

So she is not a debunker, but rather a proponent.

This brings up an interesting question:
What is is an "economist"?

By this I mean, what education is required of a young person in order for them to consider themselves an economy major?

Given that you had us pointed to NorthWestern, I took a look at their BS degree requirement page:

I do not see any requirement for an NW "economist" (BS level) to learn the laws of thermodynamics, physics and chemistry. This is very troubling. How can they properly "model" the world if they have no internalized model of some of the phyisical constrints that Mother Nature imposes on everything?

P.s. diggin deeper as we lemmings are sometimes want to do, here is Professor LLK's cv:

it shows a large knowledge base in electric utility structures, examples:
B.S. Economics, 1987, Wrote honors thesis on variations in changes in electric utility rates across user groups in response to oil
price shocks of 1973-74 and 1978-79
 "Investment Incentives and Dynamic Efficiency in Electricity Markets: An Experimental Analysis." Manuscript, October 2004.

But where is the knowledge about the science of electric power generation?