100 years of oil?

Spending as much time reading, writing and talking about peak oil and energy as many of us here do I think it's sometimes easy to forget just how small a minority we actually are.

Monday and Tuesday this week I was at the Royal Society in London for their conference Energy... for the future. I had high hopes for this event, expecting it to stimulate a forward looking, rigorous debate between internationally renowned scientific experts addressing the fundamental challenges ahead.

I was wrong.

Despite the description published before the event including this sentence:

This is timely as we face the global challenges of addressing climate change, providing a secure and reliable supply of energy and the depletion of oil.
Oil depletion was mentioned a grand total of three times over two days - twice by myself in questions from the floor and once in a slide suggesting there's enough oil for another 100 years.

Update [2006-4-15 3:47:22 by Stuart Staniford]:

I put this on the front page as it seemed of more general interest.

This slide has to be seen to be believed. It was presented by Professor Robert Socolow from Princeton University. Given his credentials I am amazed he presented such a slide. He holds undergraduate and post graduate degrees in physics from Harvard University, his title is Co-Director, The Carbon Mitigation Initiative and he lists his field as: global carbon management, the hydrogen economy, and fossil-carbon sequestration.

Here is the slide:

Click to enlarge.

The data comes from Ian Vann:

Ian Vann was appointed Chief Technology Officer for BP in September 2001; he is also Exploration & Production Group Vice President. Since joining BP in 1976, Ian has served in a number of roles including Chief Geologist, General Manager of International Exploration, and Technology Vice President, Exploration.
The light green blocks were said to represent unconventional oil, the eagle eyed might also have noticed the spelling of "Hubbert's". How could such an apparently smart guy subscribe to such a position?

It should be noted that Socolow's 10 year, $20 million project is supported by BP and Ford.

The subsequent two mentions of peak oil were mine. In the same session as Socolow, Sir David King, UK government's Chief Scientific Advisor gave a very good presentation on climate change covering the history of how anthropogenic contribution to the green house effect was first theorised 100 years ago when doubling the CO2 concentrations were predicted to create a 5°C increase in global temperatures. We now believe such an increase would create a 5°C ± 2.5°C increase! The physics was basically right 100 years ago.

My question to King was:

Chris Vernon
Do you agree with the growing number of scientists and analysts suggesting oil will peak within a decade, possible by the end of this decade and secondly what impact do you think the inevitable peaking of oil will have on climate change?

Sir David King
I think I'm going to answer that very cautiously. I believe there's a finite amount of oil around and I don't think the two of us would actually disagree with that, the question is how many additional wedges do you get into the Hubbert peak. I don't think anyone is in a real position to answer that, but I personally think the key issue here is whatever we do - for example we could use the Sasol process the Fischer-Tropsch catalytic reaction to convert carbon in the form of coal into oil for using as a fuel for transport systems.

I believe if we went down that route we're heading towards carbon dioxide levels which are unacceptable for our planetary needs. So whatever happens I'm more focused on this requirement, if you like the wedges [a different type of wedge to that in the Hubbert curve above, CV], that we reduce emissions in every way we can and in doing that we ought to move our transport sector away from its current dependence on fossil fuels.

That's part of the whole process, so looking at bio-ethanol production but also looking at the hydro- one of the nice things about being here that's interesting is that in America it seems to be a Californian project and in this country it seems to be a Scottish project, but we tend to focus on the Peterhead-Miller field project. The importance of those two projects is that hydrogen is produced. Now in the first place they're going to use that hydrogen fuelling power stations, that's probably not the most effective use of hydrogen. Hydrogen can be brought forward towards that hydrogen fuel economy that we've all been looking at where in the future cars on the road will be fuelled with hydrogen and we'll have hydrogen fuel cells as the engine of the process. So I see this as a very important potential step and it's a non-linear feedback, it doesn't quite operate in the wedges, where the enabling of the hydrogen technology with zero carbon production may have a massive impact in the transport sector.

Audio clip available here: Sir_David_King.mp3 [1.26 MB]

It seems King also subscribes to Socolow's graph above, wondering how many wedges we can fit into the Hubbert curve. I'm also extremely sceptical about a future transport system running on hydrogen fuel cells.

My second question was to George Couvaras, CEO of Sasol Chevron. His presentation covered the use of the Fischer-Tropsch process to manufacture synthetic transport fuels - the driver being lower CO2 emission and cleaner burning fuels in the vehicle. The main focus was his company's gas to liquids business.

My question to George Couvaras was:

Chris Vernon
I've been listening to the proceedings with a growing amazement that at a conference titled Energy... for the future, the future prospects of our most important source of energy has hardly been mentioned. So to our 2nd speaker, from Chevron, Chevron have recently been running a high profile advertising campaign stating "The era of cheap oil is over". I welcome this public acceptance of peak oil.

Can I therefore ask at what rate do you think that global extraction rate of conventional oil will decline now and how much of this decline can be offset by synthetic fuels.

George Couvaras
First of all I don't come from Chevron side, the joint venture that was formed Sasol Chevron is specifically focused towards the synthetic fuels side and ... the pronouncement that Chevron have made about - there's no cheap fuel around any more, is that correct? And to what extent synthetic fuel will displace the conventional fuels. I did show on my slides that in the next, we're looking at the next 20-50 [maybe 15? CV] years time, I can't see synthetic fuels taking any more than about 10% of the middle distillate markets at this point in time. Regarding the Chevron question unfortunately I'll have to refer back to Chevron parent companies.

Audio clip available here: George_Couvaras.mp3 [1.06 MB]

Unfortunately I miss quoted the Chevron advertising campaign - it actually states the "The era of easy oil is over". There's not much of a practical difference between cheap and easy however. Disappointing that nothing was said on peak oil and decline rates. 10% of middle distillate market isn't very much - another figure given in the slides was 800,000 barrels per day of distillate product from GTL (across the industry not just Sasol Chevron) by 2015 and that is highly depended on availability of feedstocks.

Summary of the papers to follow.

Ummm...who's that Hubbard in the slide? Is that Mother Hubbard? Geez. Is the quality of the discourse so low they can't even spell?
Freudian slip?

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To get her poor doggie a bone,
When she got there
The cupboard was bare
So the poor little doggie had none.

I just flipped over to the site meter on TOD. Roughly 7,500 visits per day, up from roughly 7,000 vpd when I last looked about a month ago. Reckoning that there will be multiple counts, I don't know if clicking between here and there will be counted but I guess most people make a couple of visits a day, say 3,000 odd people visit TOD. I don't know how many are registered. Thus on what seems to be acknowledged as one of (if not the ;)) best sites on the subject we have 3,000 people - not a high percentage of the population. I would also guess that Real Climate has even fewer. The rest of the population relies on MSM. The sad fact is that few ordinary citizens have any idea what is around the corner and will not have an inkling until they are really hit in the wallet at the pump or utility bill or some event close to home actually gets blamed on climate change. The price increases so far and the loss of NO in USA have just not been connected.
I don't pretend to know what the answer is, I guess we just keep plugging away with our own circles and hope something sticks and spreads (can you buy that in the supermarket? ;)) The anger and frustration will unfortunatly be all the greater once the pretence can continue no longer.
My perception is that it's a concept that's very gradually seeping into the public's consciousness.  Although Blogpulse isn't very conclusive, I think the blogosphere (horrible term) is discussing it, if often only in passing.  I've mentioned it frequently on my Livejournal, which, aside from a tiny general readership, is mostly read by friends and acquaintances, I'm sure I'm not the only one.  It's also being picked up by the wider media, e.g. the Independent and Rob Newman's History of Oil on More4, albeit nowhere near the coverage of, say, climate change.  As climate change shows, however, I'm not sure that wider coverage will actually help (rather, it may be neccessary, but it's not sufficient), we're still pumping out carbon dioxide like there's no tomorrow.
Actually, here in Germany it is already becoming a MSM issue. Just last week for example there was a 7 page dossier in the weekly magazine "Der Spiegel" (leading german news magazine) called "Wie lange noch?" (How much time is left?), most of it dealing explicitely with the concept of Peak Oil. King Hubbert was actually mentioned in the very first sentence, and even our favorite doomer JHK was mentioned somewhere in the passing.
In the last two to three years I have talked about peak oil with several people that I know (my colleagues and friends). Generally speaking, they understood the concept of peak oil and agreed with me about the problem. The problem is that they usually resist from doing anything about peak oil. Some of them yelled at me that scientists like me should work hard to solve the problems. Some of them talked about militaristic solutions. If I said something about energy conservations, essentially most of them said that energy conservation wouldn't work and that people would keep on using gas until the price got high enough. I don't think that it will be hard for people to understand the peak oil problems. The difficult part is to start energy conservation before free market forces people to do it.
Jamie touches on the difficulty of raising public awareness of the issues, and this site does a phenomenal job of putting the information out there (with what must be an incredible amount of work by the founders).  And the contributors bring an amazing level of expertise to the discussion much to the benefit of those of us lacking in that knowledge.  Most of the people submitting to this site seem to express conviction of the nearness (either before us or behind us) of peak.  This site helps raise societal awareness of the issue, but if we are at peak, is there really time and financing for large-scale transformations to occur, and, if not, what happens locally and nationally? So my question would be, what are contributors doing personally to prepare for post-peak life?  What concrete steps are they actually taking to provide for food, water, and heat for their families (because I would think this info would be valuable to people wanting to make it through the upcoming times)?  And if the answer is 'nothing', I have ask how that can be if you truly believe peak oil has arrived or will within the next couple of years?
to rwmcalister,

We think that your concerns about immediate preparations for peak oil is the most vital issue humanity is now facing.  Below is the Cloud Forest Institute website.  The CFI site is a "wiki" and we hope that you will use its interactivity to share your thoughts (and critiques) of these attempts to save some proportion of humanity, and the biosphere.


Below are other sites that CFI has been involved in or has found to be of practical use.

http://www.greentransitions.org/WEL/WillitsEconLoc.htm -- Brian Corzelius, a member of the WELL Energy group has posted extensive research about energy use here as well as many other recent writings by Jason Bradford.

http://www.willitseconomiclocalization.org/ -- The present incarnation of WELL

http://www.communitysolution.org -- Community Service is dedicated to the development, growth and enhancement of small local communities.

http://www.postcarbon.org -- Julian Darley's organization, author of High Noon for Natural Gas

http://www.fromthewilderness.org -- Michael C. Ruppert's website, author of Crossing the Rubicon

http://www.museletter.org -- Richard Heinberg's website, author of "Powerdown" and "The Party's Over"

http://www.oilscenarios.info/ -- Five scenarios to help you start thinking.

http://www.wolfatthedoor.org.uk/ -- A British Peak Oil site which is quite realistic.

http://www.peakoil.net -- The Association for the Study of Peak Oil

http://www.theoildrum.com/ -- A blog frequented by some very perceptive people.

http://www.ecotrust.org -- Ecotrust's mission is to build Salmon Nation, a place where people and wild salmon thrive.

http://www.ssu.missouri.edu/faculty/jikerd/ -- Excellent information about sustainable agriculture and community

Thanks for doing your part - we're all in the soup together, the folks at the Cloud Forest Institute

The word is seeping into the MSM.  Here in Los Angeles the most aware reporter appears to be Dan Neil, the Pullitzer Prize winning writer who has a weekly review in the Automobile section of the Los Angeles Times.  This is the same Dan Neil who caused GM to temporarily pull advertising in the LA Times after an unfavorable review.

Check out this commentary in the middle of a review last month of some very large new Mercedes SUV.

Why, in the midst of a slow-rolling energy crisis, an unpopular war in a region of the world made strategic only by its oil, and the globe's climbing mercury, should precisely the wrong kinds of vehicles remain so popular?

One reason is surely the tax breaks associated with 3-ton SUVs: business owners get a $25,000 tax break on the purchase of full-size SUVs (scaled back from $100,000 in 2004) and five-year depreciation schedule. For people taking advantage of this cozy corner of Section 179, the GL -- with a base price anticipated to be about $60,000 -- will be virtually free. That makes your $4,000 hybrid tax break look pretty punk, doesn't it?

The tax code is the most obvious point of inflection between vehicle choice and public policy. Another knee-point is CAFE -- that's Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, in case you forgot, and who could blame you?

Last year, the Bush administration proposed raising the light-truck standard -- long frozen at about 20 mpg -- to 24 mpg by 2011, an incrementalism that is marvelously measured, to say the least. Meanwhile, the administration plans to scrap the current CAFE structure in favor of a size-based regime co-written by the automakers, with larger vehicles required to achieve lower mileage.

Incidentally, some SUVs are so large that they transcend fuel-economy standards altogether. Vehicles with a gross-vehicle-weight rating over 10,000 pounds -- such as the Hummer H2 and the heavy-duty version of the Suburban -- are not counted among fleet ratings that automakers need to hit.

We have been told recently that we are addicted to oil, but we seem to be unable to do much about it. California's clean-air bureaus are trying to regulate carbon emissions from vehicles and are being sued by manufacturers and the federal government for their trouble.

Raising fuel taxes cannot be accomplished, no matter the mood of national urgency and no matter the obscenity of oil companies' profits. Fuel taxes are doubly problematic: For one thing, they are regressive, hurting lower-income consumers; for another, buyers of luxury vehicles are less likely to be dissuaded from their giant purchase.

What about all the alternative vehicle technologies we've been promised? Thanks to a decade-long stonewalling by Big Oil and the trucking industry, it has taken until this year to phase in clean-diesel requirements that will give automakers the slightest hope of meeting 50-state emissions requirements (diesel-powered vehicles can be 25% to 40% more fuel-efficient than gas-powered vehicles). Other technologies -- bio-diesel, hybrids, ethanol, plug-ins, fuel-cells -- can in the near term only nibble at the edges of our 20 million barrels per day of oil consumption.

If we were serious about oil dependence, we would dramatically raise fuel economy standards, impose gas-guzzler taxes on noncommercial light trucks and lower the national speed limit.

None of that is going to happen.

So, in the face of this enormous governmental and regulatory inaction, this paralysis and denial, a curious new market equilibrium has arisen. Call it the marketplace of shame.

Maybe Dan Neil reads TOD!

Since they are making such a big thing of Unconventional Oil and Chavez in Venezuela has been noisy on the subject as well I have been giving this some thought. Starting with a disclaimer: I have no technical background in oil at all and rely on the TOD experts totally.
What seems to be the case is that the UO needs a lot of work to convert it to useable crude. This usually means heat and this means fuel. Thus to say that Ven / Canada has enormous reserves at $60 oil price must include the cost of recovery and the main input to that would seem to be NG. As always the scale is the giveaway. NG is not, as previously discussed, exactly cheap or easily available wherever it is required. My guess would be that once you start demanding the sort of quantities that are going to produce a meaningful amount of UO then you will quickly affect the supply / demand balance in the NG market and have to push up the required crude price to justify it. And that supposes that the NG supply is available. Ah, but suppose having got the process started on gas you can use recovered crude to keep it going? Fair enough, but we need to know how much you burn to recover 1 barrel - dear old EROEI. Keeping the maths simple, if you need 0.5 barrel to recover 1 then the actual NET URR will be halved. If it is more than 0.5, say 0.75 then it is 1/4. Makes the central wedges, not to mention Chavez's boasting, a little less credible I think. I would welcome someone with a real background in this commenting.
From my readings the Tar Sands could use a coking product produced fromt he tarsands themselves and fuel the conversion process to a light crude for pipeline flows.  The result would be about 1 barrels worth of heavy tar to 0.8 barrels of light crude.  If you use NG you need 1,000 cubic feet to make the same 1 barrel of light crude.

The companies are said to be using both processes to see which one is the best for the bottom line.  But You still need to use something to heat the water to steam the tar out of the sands, even if you use the in-the-ground methods.

For every barrel of Oil you extract from surface mining, the damage to water is said to reach 1,000 gallons.  

I do not know if they are trying to recover the water for repeated use, and also cleaning it up before dumping it out.

If they recover it, they will use energy, and if they do not recover it, they polute on a massive scale.  Water and NG is there in the area, but only for so long.  In 10 years they could run out of both those needed items for the processes.  Besides the fact that the world will need them to double or triple their production rates a lot faster than they have said they could.

In my opinion the Confernce was a Feel Good day of the Major players hoping to convince the public everything is fine,  we can put the egg back together, just give us more more and a lot more time.

Here's my hunch about the rosy industry predictions regarding the cost of non-conventional production:  It is still printed in the media that the tar sands are profitable around $25-30 USD per barrel.  Simlarly Shell has predicted that it can produce Shale Oil for around $30-35 USD.  Anyway, my hunch is that they are continuing to recycle numbers based on analyses in the early 2000's when energy and commodity were much cheaper.  They have been, after all, using the same numbers ($25-30 for tar sands and $30-35 for shale) over the last few years despite the several fold rise in energy and commodity prices.  
in other words, Shell did an analysis on Shale oil in say 2003, based on 2002 numbers and came up with a shale oil cost of $35 per barrel.  At that time (i.e. 2002) oil cost $10 less than $35 per barrel, so they could not possibly turn a profit.  Oil then went up to $50-60/ barrel by 2005.  Yet the continued to quote the same number, $35/ barrel, and they started saying it more publicly at that time (bc/ now $35/ barrel sounds good) to try to get private and/or government investment.  but now that energy and commodities went up several fold over the last few years, it is disingenuous to continue to use the 2002 number of $35/ barrel.  Probably in today's market it still costs at least $10 per barrel more to produce shale oil than the cost of crude.  
(All references to the chart are referring to the chart reproduced from the Royal Society Conference that is shown at the post beginning this topic thread)
First, I do not go so far as to claim a "real background" in unconventional oil.  I have studied it for several years, but have no experience actually producing the stuff, but, not that many people do!

On your first sentence, "Since they are making such a big thing of Unconventional Oil...", frankly I was surprised they did not make a bigger deal of it.  This is the first model I have seen that, even if you removed Unconventional oil entirely, still sees no danger of peak until a window somewhat around the year 2060 or 2070, meaning that their "A View of World Oil Supply" chart is very optimistic on Reserves, Reserve Growth, and Exploration.

There are some interesting points in those three areas, to wit:
(a)  Notice that the range on high/low reserves is the same (meaning the medium point is also the same, it would follow!), at 1.0 TB (trillion barrels).
This means they are taking reported reserve numbers as gospel.  It goes without saying that most of the so called "peak oil" projections would debate this strongly, believing that OPEC and others have artificially inflated their reserves. This is the core of Matthew Simmons argument, it is the core of Colin Campbell's argument.

Reserve misjudgment proved very great in the case of the USGS projections used to attempt to discredit M. King Hubbert  (no "d") when he correctly predicted U.S. peak oil production.  Reserve overestimation seems to have already proven to be a real problem in the peak of the Burgen field in Kuwait, and in peak of the British North Sea.

So if we take Reserve estimates to be questionable, it follows we must take reserve growth to be equally so.  These then become "shots in the dark" if you accept the reserve/reserve estimates to be questionable, and one could make a valid case that one of the TB wedges could be taken out if those numbers are suspect, a case that any "Peaker" would make.
But that still puts you out to 2070 before "peak" becomes a major fear.  That's where the remaining pieces of the chart shown become important, those being exploration and non-conventional oil (we will return to the "production" section of the chart in closing)

Non-conventional is a bit of a catch all phrase, usually but not always meaning "tar sand" and "heavy oil".  These can surely be of use in making "heavy oil" products, i.e., asphalt, lubricating oil, certain coking agents for industry, etc., much easier than they can be used for "light sweet" and clean motor fuels, although they can contribute here too, and it would be interesting to see how much "vapor capture" can be used to make the "ane's", that being propane, butane, hexane, etc.  
But our poster Jamie, to whom I am replying touches upon the problematical issue in producing the unconventionals, that being energy put in to get the oil out.

The tar sand industry is already and will continue to be even more so, natural gas intensive.  Projections are that for the tar sands to produce the amount of "oil" they are committing themselves to (which would still be at most 6% of the U.S. motor fuel market) they will need one fifth of Canada's current natural gas production!  This is gas that is badly needed by industry, homes, and electric power producers.  This must put some type of price pressure on North American natural gas, which is already at non-hurricane impact historically high prices.
The "heavy oil" extraction and processing is likewise energy intensive, so much so that in both Canada and Venezuela some have proposed nuclear plants to handle the processing requirements (!), while most accept natural gas and unconventional oil be cycled in heavily to produce the oil.

Either way, this makes unconventional oil as much a "fuel switching operation" as a "fuel production operation", and it is would be somewhat misleading to insert a "wedge" into the chart shown of 1 TB without mentioning you need to remove a considerable sized energy wedge from somewhere else (in the case of Canadian Tar Sand, that somewhere being the Mackenzie Bay natural gas, long awaited in the U.S. and Canada, but now slated to go almost exclusively to the Tar Sand fields of Alberta.  Can it actually be done?  Technically, almost certainly, but the technology, economic and logistical challenges are staggering, given the need to build two complete "infra structural systems" at the same time, that being the natural gas supply and the tar sand/heavy oil facilities.  Overcoming the strain of providing technical staffing, workforce, steel, pumps, valves, cookers and boilers, and most of all, money, would be a monumental undertaking.  Given this, assuming anymore than the "low side" number of .25 TB for many years to come would be a case of hope over experience.

This means taking out another .50 TB, and this moves us backward to around year 2050 when we encounter confrontation with "peak".  

Now we come to the real dark art, estimating "Exploration".  This one could be the surprise in either direction, but it is very dangerous to assume that we will suddenly "luck" into a giant find.  That is not to say it cannot happen.  But, for our purposes, we will be fair, given the vast unknowns here, and take the middle path of .50 TB.  In the last three decades, this would be an extremely generous number.  The improvements in exploration technology have made the Earth a much more "explored" place, but we can pray for luck.

Now we return to the beginning, Production.  As the author of the report that began this strings says, the authors of the chart shown seem to take no interest in "depletion", although it is a historical fact in U.S. 48, Alaska, Kuwait, the North Sea, now seemingly Mexico, and for the moment Canada, plus a few dozen smaller nations.  Instead, the chart seems to hold steady at the 1 TB range, as each of the new "wedges" join in.  However, if we assume the new wedges are having to make up for, as many "peakers " project, a 35% drop in production between now and say 2030 or so, we see the full peaking point coming back into even a baby boomers lifetime, at 2040 or so, and easily in the middle age period for our children.
If there are major holdups of any geopolitical, economic, or technical kind, we see that become 2025 or 2030 rather easily.
If the world economy does what the optimists want it to, i.e., boom times, then consumption shoots further upward, and....(?), we see we would only have about the 20 window recommended by the Hirsch report to make the MAJOR CHANGES needed.  Somehow, with only a few changes at the margins of our projections, 100 years of oil becomes about 20 or 30 at most.  If the Reserve numbers or the Reserve growth numbers are too optimistic, or the production depletion moves as fast as it has in some historical cases (10% plus per year in the North Sea, something like that in Alaska) then time gets very short indeed.

We are leaving out ALL OTHER BIG ISSUES, (greenhouse gas and global warming, the fact that the remaining oil is almost all in hostile or simi-hostile hands, the depletion of natural gas, the logistical problems, investment, etc.)
and simply talking about a straight "no problems", no Murphy's law scenario.  That again is an example of hope over experience.

Still, it would not be as bad as some make it out:  The modified example I give of the projections indicated by the authors of the chart would be somewhat close to the IEA (International Energy Agency), EIA (Energy Information Agency) and Daniel Yergin's CERA (Cambridge Energy Research Associates) view....something along the lines of "o.k. to about 2015 to 2020, then, undulating plateau to peak around 2030", to paraphrase their rather involved arguments.

I do not find that to be completely unbelievable, but it leaves out two MAJOR ISSUES mentioned above in passing, so let's mention those:
(a) geopolitics, and (b) logistics and investment

This is why the words of Christophe de Margerie of  the the French energy multinational Total, in the prior topic on TOD UK ("120 million barrels per day will never be reached, never" by Chris Vernon)  were so important, and why I made a particular case of trying to understand the exact nature of his understanding of the exact "epistemology" of the "peak oil" idea, for lack of a better word...in other words, how did he know what he knew, and why he was sure of it (businessmen seldom use the word "never"), and what he thought the "peak oil" theorists knew.  I was not being argumentative for the sake of an argument.  It is not hard to accept as valid the idea that the real geological limit could be some 20 to 25 years away regarding Peak "oil" (conventional and non-conventional, and the broader category of "all liquids" further confuses the matter) in the geological sense, but we could be MUCH closer to a real crisis in the political/logistical/investment sense.

In the difference in perception between "imminent" peak oil true believers, and the theorists at the Royal Society Conference in London, we see the difference between a purely "geological/physical" view of peak oil (Royal Society) and the "Peak is now" group, logistical/geopolitical/economic view ( of which Christophe de Margerie and Matthew Simmons seem to be allied with)
As a passing note, it should be noted that de Margerie actually had some real suggestions as to how we should proceed given this type of crisis, and in another albeit very controversial way, so does the Bush/Chaney/Rumsfeld group!)

So where does this leave us?  It actually gives us a framework to build with:

(a)  The international strategic game becomes of extreme importance, with little room for clumsiness.
(b)  EXTREME careful examination of the "non-conventionals" should be undertaken.  If I am going to burn natural gas to make tar sand oil, would it be more efficient just to burn the natural gas in CNG cars?  Can we convert conservation in homes (better appliances, better insulation, solar hot water) into transportation fuel, by freeing up natural gas and propane to use as motor fuel?
(c)  Financial arrangements have to become fantastically creative and efficient, i.e., in what ways can investment be leveraged to maximum effect (should we perhaps let the Middle East keep it's natural gas for Asian pipeline use, and spend the money that would have gone to LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) tankers and terminals instead be used to produce more easily shippable propane, and encourage that as a motor fuel instead?  Should U.S. oil companies fund "oil worker/technician schools in India and China to create a smart strong young workforce for the demands of the world oil patch?  Management and Logistical arrangements are going to have to be PERFECT to avoid an emergency.
(d)  Alternatives.  Advanced batteries, hybrids, hydraulic hybrids, propane, CNG, some bio-fuels from waste, fast moving search for the most workable and applicable technology, and APPLIED SCIENCE as the new art form.  (Technical Design as THE STATUS ART, at MIT, at Cal Tech, in cooperative design studios internet connected from Stuttgart to L.A. to to Tokyo to China and India)

The difference between a imminent logistical structural peak that is at hand and a geological peak that is some 20 to 30 years (or if every projection turns out to be on the upside, 100 plus years away!)  may sound like a theoretical philosophical debate, but it is much more pressing than that:  It may be the difference between the life or death of nations and millions of people.
It is not an argument for arguments sake, but a spotlight to find the path on which we should already now be marching.

I am Roger Conner Jr., or known to you as ThatsItImout

Thank you for your interest.

Wow. Nice analysis and commentary.

I am more than a little surprised that Robert Socolow wasn't laughed off the stage when he produced a chart with three nice rectangles [flat production / consumption] illustrating a long plateau between the steeply sloping triangles representing the past rise and future decline of the age of oil. In fariness, if I got the gist of what Chris Vernon wrote, the presenter was actually defining a range. The point remains that a chart of that nature is bound to provide comfort to who believe that the end of oil is not an immediate problem.

I second that - very nice analysis indeed.  For those of you who may have skipped "ThatsitImOut"'s commentary on account of length, I recommend that you may want to take a second look.  Very thoughtful, with some very useful distinctions.

Here are a couple of thoughts that came to my mind in reading it:  First, in 2005, total world liquids usage was 30GB, while total new conventional discoveries were a staggeringly miniscule 5GB (if I remember correctly).  Does this fact alone not severely call into question any optimism regarding future exploration and discovery in the conventional domain?

Second, a thought-experiment involving the "purely geologic vs. logistical peak" distinction.  It seems to me that we have arrived at the logistical peak right now (see Stuart Staniford's continuing tracking of the now-18-month-old "undulating plateau" averaging a bit over 84MB/day).  However, it is useful to think about how different this would be had the US NOT decided to make Iraq an enemy in 1990.  That alone would have significantly shifted the historical shape of the "logistical Peak," because Iraq would probably be pumping at 6MB/day right now following 15 years of aggressive, world-class investment, rather than sputtering along at 1MB/day as it currently is.  Very roughly speaking, this would have had the following effects in reshaping the "logistical peak:"

  1. We would be headed toward an overall liquids peak of 87-88MB/day circa 2009-10, rather than the current one of 84.5MB/day circa 2005-06.

  2. World oil prices would probably have only started their historic run-up from the $12-15/barrel range in 2004 or so, rather than in 1999.  And the world would still at this stage perhaps be awash in relatively plentiful, relatively inexpensive (say, $25/barrel) oil.

  3. On the other hand, crossing the Peak after 2009 under these conditions would have made the subsequent decline from an 88MB/day peak significantly steeper than it will now turn out to be - given that much of Iraq's oil is still in-ground (for political/logistical, rather than purely geological reasons).
Thank you very much, I continue to be amazed at how much knowledge there is here and how much time people are willing to give to explain the issues. It had occurred to me after posting that I missed 2 points which you touch on. First that nuclear could help but given the US government attitude to a democratically elected government in the middle east, who happen to be within missile strike of an American ally they don't like, having enriched uranium I would have a WAG that they might show interest in a similarly elected government, within missile strike of the USA, and not being particularly friendly having enriched uranium. The wider point is as you mentioned, what happens to the climate if you burn, in whatever way, these reserves of UO?
Thanks a lot for your analysis, it's cogent, detailed and well-argued. It's the kind of thing I'd write myself, if I had the time to really get into the 'numbers.'

I keep trying to remain optimistic in spite of everything. Unfortunately, I find it harder and harder.

Personally, I think the 'logistical' problem is real and a relatively well-understood product of 'free market capitalism.' Were talking about 'bottlenecks' here aren't we? There have always been 'discontinuities' in the labour market, witness the cronic shortage of plummers, electricians and carpenters in the London area. We have to import them from Eastern Europe. This is only an illustrative example of some of the evident shortcomings or our 'free market' system. This is meant to be a political or ideological criticism of 'free markets' or 'capitalism' per se. I'm just concerned that these structural problems which afflict highly complex and dynamic systems, could have really serious consequences for are ability to mitigate the worst affects of Peak Oil.

I'm particularly interested in what you term, 'the international strategic game' and how little room there is for 'clumsiness.' I may have said this before. I think our political/social systems will begin to exhibit the 'effects' of Peak Oil long before we actually begin to 'run out of oil' unless one believes were already 'running out of oil.' The general, mainstream concensus, is that we are not running out of oil and we won't be for decades.

I think our 'answer' or 'strategy' in relation to the Hersch report, has not been to 'ignore' it, on the contrary. I believe the 'Whitehouse' has read and studied and understood the report, and they fully understand the need to ameliorate the effects of the decline in oil production well in advance. However, their 'solution' would appear to be to grab as much oil as possible using military force if necessary. Soon the United States will attack Iran, then probably Venzuela will be the next candidate for 'regime change' and 'democracy.' It would be a mistake to underestimate the intelligence or ruthlessness of people like Dick Cheyney and Don Rumsfeld. They regard the American way of life as being 'non-negotiable' and they are deadly serious when they say this. They are fully prepared to fight a decades long war to defend this way of life, even if this means resorting to 'the way of death' for hundreds of thousands of other people.

Anyway, keep up the good work and let's have more of it!

Thank you all for the replies and the information after my long post....which was not intentionally wordy, but I am still trying to resolve several major issues in my own mind, in an attempt to figure out how multiple parties in and associated with the energy industry, and other knowledgable scientists and statisticians can come to  projections so widely at variance one from the other.  It goes without saying that with no real accepted base of information to work with, the public usually accepts the most comforting numbers, and attempts to live their lives without additional worry (most folks already have enough worry to do, thank you)
I wanted to address some questions and points concerning some of the sentences in my post, the points that replies asked about:
My remark:
" (a)  The international strategic game becomes of extreme importance, with little room for clumsiness."
This is simply a reference to the fact that many feel that if there is a real geological peak, the only option is to move to an aggressive game of "Last Man Standing."  This assures that international cooperation on finding and developing energy will suffer.  It even makes all the more possible destructive wars that could further reduce stability in energy discovery, production and price, and keep needed investment capital away from the energy industry.
I want to quote at lenth, in relation to this issue, more from the interview with Christophe de Margerie, of the French energy giant,  Total:

Christophe de Margerie, head of exploration at the French oil giant, talks to our correspondent about going beyond the old petroleum practices
"The oil price has become a monster, he says, feeding on its own entrails. If we want to produce more oil, we need to stop lecturing and take the trouble to persuade producing countries that it is in their interests to do so and let the oil majors through the door.

Why should sovereign nations build more capacity to use up more of their oil reserves just to benefit us when they don't need the money, he asks.

"Definitely, nationalism and the price of oil are linked. At $17 per barrel, nationalism was not there. They were asking us for help and it was easy to explain they needed foreigners because they needed money. Today it is difficult for them to say they need the help of foreign oil companies."
"Offering technology is not enough, de Margerie says,because few countries will admit they lack skills. "Can you imagine a politician in France saying I need help from the UK because they have expertise?" In a thinly veiled reference to the shrill cries in Washington against the regime in Caracas, de Margerie says the harangue against Opec producers can only make matters worse. "Everybody is criticising Chavez. I would criticise some others. How can you order them to produce more. They have the right to do what they want. They have their own people, their own interests. They cannot just take into account the concerns of the West."
"So, what should Total be saying to Venezuela? De Margerie admits the conversation is not going well. "I am not saying it is easy, but it is what we have to do."
"We need to go beyond old petroleum practices, which is different to beyond petroleum." What he means is participating more actively in a country's development, using the project management skills of oil companies in other areas for the benefit of host countries. He admits that it is non-core to the business and potentially very expensive. Beyond old petroleum means coping with the new price of oil, which is not just so many dollars per barrel but complex geopolitics in which small communities, such as in Nigeria, where Total has a large position, can bring operations to a standstill and move global markets."  

What Christophe de Margerie is discussing is international cooperation being very sensitive of the national pride and cultural issues.  This is a great deal different than "Last Man Standing" strategy, and I believe for good reason:
de Margerie is discussing a logistical/economic and development of resource issue, rather than a "geological peak", which could only be confronted with "a fight to the last drop" strategy.  What de Margerie seems to be pointing out should be self evident:  Force can only do so much.  In the case of our current policy in Iraq, it is impossible to demenstrate that our war policy has enhanced Iraqi oil development and production, which would be the developmental logistical goal.  HOWEVER, if you percieved the problem as almost completely geological, then our force sitting on top of the undeveloped oil would be seen as something of a victory (albeit a very painful and expensive one) and we could view the oil as "ace in the hole" in the "Last Man Standing" game.  How we view the problem determines how we plan the solution.  The view of de Margerie is that logistical development is the issue.  Thus, he take international cooperation as a needed condition to develop the remaining resources.
Another point asked about:

"The wider point is as you mentioned, what happens to the climate if you burn, in whatever way, these reserves of UO?"

The Canadians are already confronting this, and frankly, the prospects of Canada ever getting anywhere near making the Kyoto targets that they themselves almost invented are very poor.  The Kyoto agreement was formed when Canada and others were still deluded about the natural gas situation.  With a belief in the theory that "we can always go to gas", they felt the abandonment of coal would be an easy prospect.

I know of NO ONE who claims that greenhouse gas can be reduced in Canada if the tar sand industry reaches the potential full capacity it has promised,
But in the end, this may never be a danger.  Surprising many, Tar Sand Oil production has been going down not up if you count back 5 years.  The profit points are now further away than ever, given the rise in machinery costs, and of greatest importance, the rise in natural gas price.  Without stranded gas in the area (which is peaking fast), there would be no possibility that the tar sand operation would not have already collapsed, and if natural gas prices stay in the $8.00 per M/BTU range (a hair above where they now are) then it would pay the tar sand companies much better to sell natural gas that to waste it trying to produce tar sand.  Personal opinion here, but I think we will never see more than a trickle of tar sand oil, and we may have already seen peak production.  China has recently lost interest, some of the companies that were in early have backed down on their willingness to spend and investors are extremely nervous.

Next point, a replier said:

 "The RS is the heart of the scientific establishment in Britain. When I was a boy I used to dream about being there too, as a member, not an observer!"
"Unfortunately, we've developed increasingly rigid and inflexible social structures that fear change or criticism."

That is somewhat true, however, it is a known fact of history that organizations like the Royal Society are by their very nature extremely conservative.  It is their perception of their role to act as "gatekeepers" of what they see as acceptable social arrangements and alternatives, and their science will often reflect that.  That they had the conference at all indicates progress, even if the discussion was of extremely narrow mindset.  They essentially stated the "accepted" position on energy availability.  Note this:  They see greenhouse gas and global warning as now non-controversial and a subject that must be addressed.  Do you realize how much of a radical difference that is from some 10 to 20 years ago?

In closing, I must issue a caution:  So great is the expectation of catastrophic collapse on the part of many "Peak Oil Aware"  people, that if it does not occur in a VERY BIG WAY, AND VERY SOON, they will be left somewhat lost.
I see on these and other peak oil sites predictions of complete doom literally in a matter of monthes, and remarks such as "stone age by 2030" by even the  most public figures of the Peak Oil Aware, that we must be cautious of being so absolutely certain.  Just as those who believe in a world of plenty in regards to energy can be extremely rigid in their refusal to accept possible errors in their projections, so many "Peak Oil Aware" writers and thinkers simply DO NOT ACCEPT the possibility of error in their thinking.  The recent remarks by certain Peak Oil Aware luminaries predicting crude oil production drops of 35 percent by say 2025 or 2030 but then projecting an "all liquids" drop of only 5% are an example of how hard it is for even the most aware to try to get a grip on exact numbers, and therefore, exact timeframes.

 It would not take a great deal of change on either the demand or the supply side to move so called "Peak" (whatever that is defined as, all liquids (?), crude oil (?) comparable fuel alternatives (?) by a decade or more...and several changes together completely change the projected time points.  In other words, GTL (gas to Liquids) alone depends almost entirely on the investment/logistical/political issues...there is still A LOT OF NATURAL GAS out there...and what if the world just gave up on Kyoto?  There is no  doubt that coal to liquids or coal to gas could be made to work, at least for a couple of decades,  And the heavy oil/tar sand could be done for a while  (the question is why, given the natural gas is more valuable than the oil produced from it, but technically it could be done), Plug Hybrid cars can be done, and if the batteries don't get better soon, hydraulic hybrid can be done, combined with Diesel, promising fair sized vehicles at 30 or 40 miles per gallon (if batteries get better fast, then all projections are out the window as plug hybrids would completely change the demand picture for liquid fuels)

Now do any of the above technologies by themselves "solve" the problem?
Of course not.

Fast moving developments like the ones above could make the most strident "doomsayers" who are now assuring the world that "Peak Oil" catastrophe is ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN, and even more risky to say, ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN VERY SOON (MONTHES EVEN!)  look like complete idiots and destroy the credibility of those who are certain that even if Peak will not occur for 10, 20 or even 30 years, the change must be being made NOW.

Remember the 1970's.  When the predicted calamity did not appear by the early 1980's, people went on a consumption spree, because, LOOK, THEY WERE WRONG, THERE IS NO PROBLEM!  We could make that error again.  If we predict doom before 2010 and it doesn't happen, we will be left completely defenseless in 2015 or 2020 if it does.  And like those who now refer back to the 1970's to prove that predictions of doom are NEVER RIGHT, if we make the error a second time, even the Peak Aware folks will have wandered away from the cause and not accept the alarm.

We must confront the energy issues facing humankind in a long range view.
The core fact remains:  Oil, natural gas, coal, uranium, are finite.
The problem, if it does not cause collapse tomorrow or next month, will still be with us.

Nice job, Chris. I'm glad you were there to ruffle their shirts. I can't believe how bad the quality of the conference was. It almost makes me embarrassed to be an optimist. :-(

So how do you explain the total denial? What did they actually spend the time talking about?

Notes on the first day here. The talks were generally good but they were very narrow - just looking at the speaker's particular area and not considering the wider world. It was clear that an unspoken assumption amongst everyone was that the status quo can and will continue unless we actively change it with the only thing to worry about being CO2. If that's the frame of reference almost everything said was reasonable. If however you subscribe to the idea that we're close to peak oil then the fundamental assumption underpinning the whole event is just wrong.

It's like the UK government assuming that oil will be cheap and plentiful then on the back of that making all sorts of forecasts about aviation and airport expansion etc... The aviation analysis is of high quality - based on the assumption about oil. If that assumption is wrong then the analysis isn't worth the paper it's written on.

It's all about the assumptions and unfortunately hardly anybody assumes anything but continued access to reasonably prices oil for decades to come.

Well done, Chris,

The RS is the heart of the scientific establishment in Britain. When I was a boy I used to dream about being there too, as a member, not an observer!

At times I wish I hadn't turned my back on that dream and become an 'artist' instead. However, I would never have 'made it' as I cannot keep my mouth shut. I never wanted to climb the 'greasy pole' I wanted to cut the damn thing down! or at least grab and shake it!

I think it's a problem that so many of our best scientists have become 'politicians' too. Rather than encouraging 'dissent' we are afraid of it. This is probably natural in all organisations. I think it's also unhealthy and dangerous. The role of the 'court jester' has a value far higher than most of us realize. Closed groups are subject to 'group-think' and they continually need to be 'challanged' by 'idiots' who seemingly 'know nothing'. Unfortunately, we've developed increasingly rigid and inflexible social structures that fear change or criticism.

David King mentioned the Miller Field project.  This is billed (by BP) as the world's first industrial scale hydrogen power project  

I like the project, there is only one problem I have with it -   it requires natural gas, which brings us back to the conferences failure to address depletion in any meaningful way.

I am glad that Chris was present to at least raise the question, it may be that some present will have taken note and dig deeper.  I had thought that with the coverage recently given to PeakOil on the BBC and in the Indy and Gruaniad the subject was becoming more widely known and debated within the UK.  It is worrying that a gathering of  presumably some of the best educated scientists within the field of energy failed to address this issue properly - if only to build a well argued case against it. Instead of that we have that incredible slide presented by Socolow.  Did that really go unchallenged?  Are members of the Royal Society too polite to stand up and question obvious bullshit that probably wouldn't survive in a school classroom?

I think awareness is slowly getting out, the Guardian and the Independent both now mention Peak Oil on a regular basis. Newsnight covered it last year.
Article today (at 321 Oil and Science Daily) about a "break through" in F-T process by Rutgers. Appears that new catalyst use converts previously useless "medium weight" molecules from F-T coal conversion into useful ones, greatly enhancing the economics of coal-to-oil (and other products). Looks interesting and the Rutgers scientist seems to have a lot of creds. Comments?
Well, I guess that means that FT will produce more gasoline and diesel and less jet fuel. That's what they mean, isn't it? Or do they call bunker fuel for ships a "medium weight?"
What the "useless" middle distillate they are refering to is probably naptha, a low btu liquid.
I think I posted an article about that to PO.com this morning.  Is this it?

Chemists find more efficient coal-to-diesel conversion

The small hydrocarbons, such as methane and propane, are useful as "natural gas." The larger hydrocarbons, containing 10 to 19 carbon atoms, are useful as diesel fuel.

But the Fischer-Tropsch process also creates a lot of molecules in between, containing four to nine carbon atoms, which are considered waste products of the reactions.

The new process, described in Friday's issue of the journal Science, uses two catalysts to convert these medium-weight hydrocarbons into useful products.

The first catalyst removes hydrogen from the molecules, converting them into olefins, highly reactive chemicals with carbon-carbon double bonds.

The second catalyst "scrambles" the carbon bonds through a process called olefin metathesis, causing the molecules to rearrange themselves. The discoverers of this reaction, a group of American and French chemists, received the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2005.

The first catalyst then replaces the hydrogen atoms, converting the olefins back into usable hydrocarbons.

I suspect this paragraph is the most important, though:

However, they added that their research is still in the early stages, and improvements to their methods are needed before they can be put into practice.
Sounds like King is focused on GW and greenhouse gasses, and so has put his hopes on hydrogen and stopped paying attention to oil.

Couvaras is living in his niche, and not going to comment on oil.

And Socolow is living in Denial.

Thanks for the report, Chris. It appears the UK has learned nothing from its North Sea experience.

Twilight, looking at Socolow's web page, linked-in by Chris, it would appear that he knows very little about conventional hydrocarbons.

Professor Socolow's current research focuses on global carbon management, the hydrogen economy, and fossil-carbon sequestration.
Furthermore, a $20 million ten year grant does not point towards denial, it indicates that he has been bought and payed for.

Other than Chris, no one in attendance appears to be conversant with peak oil issues. As for David King, he is excellent on climate change on the science side but apparently has paid little attention to IPCC scenarios regarding emissions. It is a pity that the climate change community and the peak oil community do not speak to each other. A few of us on TOD have attempted to intersect the two subjects but that's almost all there is on the web. The RealClimate guys are great but do not base their modeling on anything other than continuous emissions growth. Finding someone who is conversant with both subjects is hard and so is predicting the future. However, the peak of oil (and later, natural gas) takes us into the Coal, tar sands, heavy crude world--which is bad news. Unless you produce hydrogen with renewables (solar, wind), you are right back where you started.

If we do go down the standard "unconventional" hydrocarbons road, then sequestration of CO2 is very, very important. So, the whole conference appears predicated on that assumption. However, it does not address the peaking of conventional oil happening now or in 5 years or, even on the optimistic side, 10 years. When oil is $200/barrel sometime in that timeframe, the "unconventional" sources will kick in but can only ramp-up slowly.

Thanks for giving it the old college try, Chris.

best, Dave

As I look through Socolow's CV, the thing that comes to mind is that he seems to be narrowly focussed on carbon sequestration, and probably hasn't looked in any detail on the supply side issues.  He apparently did a minimal effort to estimate how much oil might be left, and felt that effort to be adequate.

To an extent, this points out the dangers of overspecialization.  My gut says that sequestration is a dead end, but I suppose it still makes sense that people sit down and think through it all to prove it.

It is easy to accuse him of bias because Ford and BP are funding the CMI.  Certainly there is the appearance of bias, I suppose, but we really have no idea what is really going on in his mind.


It amuses me that he has a PhD in theoretical high energy physics.  When I was in grad school, I viewed that specialty as a dead end as far as a career is concerned - it isn't as if the world is clamoring for more high-energy physicists, and on the experimental side of things you end up needing ever more expensive machines with which to test the theories.

Well if anything this shows that if you pay a scientist enough, he will bend over backwards not to lose the funding you gave him by coming up with something you like.
This is a bad meme, perpetrated by the current anti-science crowd.  Science actually has at its core a mission for truth, and a morality about truth.

Really this grows from the same folks who used to complain about "political correctness."  Now they want political correctness in science, surrounding global warming, evolution, and I'm sure a "no worries" position on peak oil.

It's not a bad meme at all. The scientific method doesn't create better humans who are dedicated to the truth - it only stops humans from pursuing their destructive selfish ends once the collection of evidence is large enough to overcome the power of those trying to sweep the facts under the rug.

Since what is happening today is akin to the agrarian elite losing their power to the industrial elite in the 19th century (no one knows who will replace the industrial elite yet, if anyone), there is going to be a stunning amount of misinformation spread as they use their awesome resources and influence to "keep the party going as it is today" as a lot of people here put it.

Your comment was:

"if you pay a scientist enough, he will bend over backwards not to lose the funding you gave him by coming up with something you like."

that is exactly what the anti-science forces out there would like us to believe, that the scientific method is worthless, and the scientists can be casually bought and sold.

I didn't write the comment you are referring to, but I do agree with it. Almost everyone has their price.

that is exactly what the anti-science forces out there would like us to believe, that the scientific method is worthless, and the scientists can be casually bought and sold.

They can be bought and sold. People who use that as an excuse to ignore solid evidence in order to defend their own worldview, though, are largely unreachable by people with our viewpoints on this issue.

I am a bit troubled by your viewpoint - are you stating that people should blindly believe scientists in the same way they blindly believe, say, their priest?

Sorry for the misattribution.

My viewpoint?  I'm in the US, coming into this discussion from a front-page TOD link.  We know we are suffering a "war on science" on this side of the Atlantic, and I have observed within the Religious Right blogoshpere a new meme in that war.  The meme is that public funding corrupts science, and answers are sold to the highest bidder.

Now when you say "they can" do you mean more than normal people?  Do you mean so much so that the entire scientific culture can be questioned? Because that is the meme the RR is selling.

Certainly people who track the scientific news are aware of a few bad apples (mice marked with felt-tipped pens, etc.) but I don't think we are selling that as the norm.

Interestingly enough, though, Peak Oil may wind up escaping that War on Science.  Case in point: Pat Robertson recently interviewed Matt Simmons on his television show, and has otherwise recently been taking public note of a developing energy crisis.

The real interesting question is what sort of political response the Robertson-types will advocate.  What sort of moralistic cloaking device might they come up with to help rationalize the "Savior Nation's" ruthlessly violent pursuit of fossil fuels for its own use?  Anyone care to speculate?

I think you are overreacting. Corruption is present everywhere where there are humans - be it politics, law, science, religion and even education and medicine. A person's profession is hardly a guarantee for his/her moral qualities.

To those attacking science on this ground I'd answer that I want concrete evidence that for example climate scientists have been paid to make up Global Warming. If they can not provide evidence - I'll sue them (or threaten to hold them responsible) for moral damage. It is very easy to attack your opponents with frivolous statements - you don't take any responsibility with your words, but easily affect the public opinion, generaly dominated by stereotypes. It's called demagogy. On the other hand the public gladly welcomes the claim that scientists are corrupt - probably because this avoids the inconvenient question of our personal everyday corruption.

Overreacting because I push back at all?

Well if anything this shows that if you pay a scientist enough, he will bend over backwards not to lose the funding you gave him by coming up with something you like.
I don't mind you pushing back, I object you pushing back with the claim that there is no curruption within scientists. This is very weak point and you can fall in the trap of having to prove the unprovable.

Instead I suggest the moderate position of admitting that there is corruption everywhere, but this is a problem for itself not of the science as such. If we will have to cut funding for science on that base, we need to cut funding for medicine, public media, culture etc. before it, because IMO the corruption there is at a much wider scale. A constructive suggestion would be in the line of finding ways to avoid and distiguish "science for sale", instead of bashing all of it.

Did you miss the part where I said

Certainly people who track the scientific news are aware of a few bad apples (mice marked with felt-tipped pens, etc.) but I don't think we are selling that as the norm.
BTW, here is an essay (written by David S. Oderberg, professor of philosophy at the University of Reading, England) on this idea that public funding of science must be cut to combat this rampant dishonesty:

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/01/15/INGMDGMDSV1.DTL&hw=oderberg&sn=001&a mp;sc=1000

The public funding of science means that the senior scientists choose who gets grants. This is a good idea because then they can't as easily be bribed by the politicians, but is a bad idea because then the senior scientists defund the junior scientists who aren't as invested in conventional views of science.
See "The Emperor Of Scent" for a view of pathological science in action.
My theme is to defend the scientific principle, and not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Any improvement to the procedural mechanisms supporting science, are of course good.
Off track, sorry, but Robert Newman's History of oil
is now on at 11: 15 tonight and not as previously scheduled.
Its on more4.
Here in New Zealand there is institutionalised
denial of reality. Thus, the government takes
grossly optimistic projections of yet-to be-
discovered oil, unconventional oil, or oil in
inaccessible places put out by the IEA or USGS
as gospel and won't have a bar of any
questioning of the reliability of those figures.
Almost all government policy is predicated on
growth of some kind, or economic 'development'
of some kind. Policy is driven by ideology, not
scientific facts. I have just received a letter
from the acting Minister of Energy, assuring me
that supply will meet demand until 2021 and that
peak oil may be as distant as 2067!!!

The state television broacaster is required to
self-fund and return a dividend to the government,
so it is almost totally dependent on advertising
revenue from motor vehicle suppliers, airlines,
importers of oil-dependent consumer goods, and
simply cannot accept that the oil supply will
not continue forever.

All commercial radio stations are dependent on
the advertising dollar, as are commercial tv

City councils are caught up in a growth mentality
that requires the constant conversion of productive
farmland into dysfuctional suburbia in order to
fund themselves (in the short term of course).

The tertiary education sector is dependent on
overseas students for survival.

The tourisim industry is dependent on cheap fuel
to relieve foreigners of their money.

Universities are beholden to commercial
enterprises and the government to keep silent
about energy depletion, otherwise they risk
losing funding.

The public is kept distracted and misinformed
by corporate-owned 'newspapers' and maganzines.
The AA is at the forefront of denial of
reality, demanding construction of more roads,
whilst promoting the hydrogen economy as just
around the corner. Such organisatiosn flatly
refuse to engage in public debate.

When there is public debate on state
controlled media, ususally only those
'experts' who see the most rosy scenarios are
invited. Recent exceptions (such as Matt
Simmons suggesting there could be imminent
problems with oil supply) have always been
followed by reassurances that NZ has a
vast untapped supplies of energy just awaiting

Thus, even though petrol has nearly doubled in
price over the past two years and the nation's
finances are balanced on a knife edge
(current account deficit of 8.9% GDP, oil imports
a substantial and growing portion) the govenrment
continues with the mantra of building more
motorways, more shopping malls.......

As long as the oil supply holds up, so do the
delusions. Thus NZ is failing to deal with carbon
dioxide emissions in any sensible manner and
pretends it does not metter, since other nations
produce greater quantities (though the per capita
pollution generation of NZ is appalling
- there' plenty of wind most of the time and the
Pacific is large).

I assume it is much the same in all western
nations and that government policy is driven by
ideology, rather than scientic facts.

It seems to me that will only be when catastrophe
strikes and the king is seen to have no clothes
that the general public will finally wake up.

Just what that catastrophe will be is hard to
pinpoint at the moment, but for NZ a dollar crisis,
or actual fuel rationing and/or petrol at $3 a
litre (yes a litre, not a $3 a gallon) will
probably be enough to bring the entire house of
cards economy crashing to the ground.  

In the meantime. the number of secondhand
vehicles for sale and vacant commercial
premeses do seem to be increasing, as
current $1.60+ fuel prices start to bite.

I've noticed several references to religion and oil the last few days at TOD. Is this an Easter effect or what? Haven't we got enough nut-cases involved in PO already without dragging religious fervor into it? Well, despite the sad fact that there are nut-cases all over butchering the Bible, this book has to be a prime consideration in any serious study of PO. Why? Let's look at just one obscure but important geopolitical oil prophesy - the one about the city of Babylon.

The proper study of the Bible's prophecy points, in general, to a recentering of the world's geopolitics back to certain rebuilt entities at the geographical beginnings of history. For centuries, Bible students of this proper approach predicted that the nation of Israel would have to be rebuilt and become a major player on the world scene even though, before 1948, there was nothing there for centuries but dust and nomads. But it happened - the only nation in history to totally cease to exist for centuries and come back into existence in their original land with their original tongue. This same interpretational approach has been making another equally bizzare prediction about the city of Babylon, saying that after being just wind and dust for centuries, it would have to be rebuilt and even become a major center of commerce. In 1865, before the world even knew what an oil field was or where they were located, Dr. J.A. Seiss, in his  Bible commentary, wrote of Babylon "I conclude then that such a great commercial city different from all that now exist will yet be and that it will be old Babylon rebuilt." What has happened? Since 1971, Saddam Hussein began a massive reconstuction of this ancient city on its original site between Baghdad and the Strait of Hormuz. This project receives no coverage and hardly anyone (including PO students) even knows about it. There was a 1" article about it in a Tulsa newspaper March 29, 1971 that read "Iraq announced a $30 million dollar plan to rebuild according to its original architectural design the ancient city of Babylon..." Babylon exists today. You can read news stories about it like this. Because of the way the prophesy is presented, it is implied that Babylon will become extremely wealthy via commerce in something that is measured out for consumption (dah, I say it'll be oil).

This methodology of Bible interpretation is fundamentalist as the term was originally used to mean simply adherence to the fundamentals of Bible teaching. The term was coined in response to the onslaught of theological liberalism, which is the "religion" all about explaining away the parting of the Red Sea and Jesus rising from the dead and basically all of the things espoused by Jesus himself. The advent of modern Israel and many other important items are things the liberal scholars never saw coming. In the "religious" debates, count me as a Bible thumping fundamentalist and so proud of it.

Socolow co-authored a rather infamous paper in Science a year and a half ago:


"Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies"

-- the long and the short of it: the authors seem to have no concept of economic, as opposed to technical, viability of solutions, and they seem to be deliberately over-hyping things (like the "hydrogen economy") that may have no net benefit, for climate or fossil fuels, at all.

The Pacala-Socolow paper was a seemingly direct refutation of Marty Hoffert and co-authors' paper in Science two years previously: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/298/5595/981 - "Advanced Technology Paths to Global Climate Stability: Energy for a Greenhouse Planet"
- which strongly argued for intensive R&D to solve the problem. Needless to say, over 3 years have passed with little perceptible growth in research effort.

Socolow somehow believes, or is paid to say, that there's no need for more research, we already know everything we need. When pressed he would probably say that papers like Hoffert's are needlessly alarmist; what we need is just simple steps that are politically palatable. I don't buy that for a minute, and I'm really not sure where he's coming from.

It might be relevant to point out that big oil is a huge sponsor of universities. It is difficult for professors to undermine this resource flow with their research.  Research is focussed on getting more oil out of existing fields, but little research is carried out on lenger term trends. Study of, for example, the effect of technology on global production does not attract big funding.  I know of one MSc project in established UK universities in this area.  Without support from mainstream academics Peak Oil will remain a fringe issue, with fuel shortages blamed on everything except geological constraints.

Non-conventional oil and gas hydrates are ideal research projects as the fuel resource is huge, the demand for fuel is high, but the chances of success are low, but much progress has been made in at least understanding the problems.  An ideal research project provides the researcher with a well funded 40 year career.  

There is talk of using nuclear power to provide heat for heavy oil/shale oil extraction.  One concept being talked about is 'taking the oil refinery underground'.  This is meant to avoid the problem of piping tar or kerogen to the surface and beyond.  I see this as impractical, for a host of reasons but it may well attract research funding in a big way.