"Deeply Troubling" (or, wanna have a laugh/cry...?)

...then all you need to do is check out this BBC article from 15 FEB 2000 and then look at the CLQ06 chart (or graph) in the right sidebar. OPEC thought everything was fine then too.
Wow, oil was cheap "back" then, eh? Fascinating to read the price news from that time. I recall worrying about the rising cost of fuel in early 2000, mainly because I had to drive from Portland, OR, to Eureka, CA (about 410 miles) on a routine basis every few weeks... At least my rig got 25 to 30 mpg...

I've kept a complete account of my fuel fill-ups since the mid-1990s. Here's a graph of the price data (sorry about the small text in places on the graph--the embedded summary's not that important, though, for I'm sure everyone knows the details):

Location is primarily northern CA from 1996-early 2000, then Oregon since. Mix in a little WA and ID for good measure.

Looks like I paid $1.15-$1.20/gal or so as recently as early 2003. And that was it. Prices have been climbing since. Definitely volatile, but on a clear upward trend that appears to be accelerating (a hint of exponential growth in price, I think).

The spike in 1999 was supposedly due to a refinery explosion in the SFO Bay Area.


What order of poly did you use to fit your trend line?
2nd order... Just threw that on at the last moment...


Try a third order and see if you get a better fit...
This is America, man...nothing short of a 50th order will do!
I have a friend that worked high up in management at a NG utility and during the Clinton years until he got the "package" as a gift for years of loyal service. I called him the other day and he still believes that there is plenty of oil. He says the peakers' were peaking back then too.

He would look at this and insist the same thing today. He would say, "Companies can't gouge and that with the greenies no wells are being drilled. Take the East coast there is plenty of oil there but they can't drill for it thanks to those protestors!"

The symptoms all point to true hardship. Things are getting beyond desperate and even wise men want to keep everything as is at all costs. The denial is more powerful then even the greed that is creeping around out there.

Thanks for posting this as it shows how much can be forgotten in only a few years. It also shows that nothing changes except the numbers grow and grow!

AO, please do put "wise" in quotes...
This really takes me back.  2000 seems like ancient history.  We had just gotten through Y2K.  I worked over that weekend on an IT-Y2K team to watch all the systems at my company and be ready for the calls to come in.  We ended up going home early on Saturday due to it being a non-event.

2000 was before the tech bubble burst and September 11.  Peak Oil was not even on the radar of the public psyche.  Times change quickly.  

Now I'm starting to sound like a grandfather talking to his grandkid (I remember the days when we used to use cassette tapes in our cars and we'd call people on regular phones...not these new-fangled gizmos).

Thanks for the flashback!

PG, what am I doing wrong?  There is no CLQ06 chart (or any other kind of chart) in the right sidebar.  I only see the price graph in the article itself.

Any chance you can post a copy of the image?

This chart?
Oops! I had a blonde moment, didn't I?

I thought PG meant that there was a graph in the right side-bar on the BBC page!  I was assuming that it was a prediction of what the price would be in 2006 (six years out from the article).

As you were.

backdated oil futures hit new all time highs today

Dec 09 contract

Still backwardation but a hell of a lot closer to contango than 2002/2003.
Hi Everyone.

I am new to this and I have a question that may have been asked before:

I understand that the Americans and Brits have satelites capable of reading the headline on a newspaper. Why don't we just put them over Saudi Arabia and have a look at where the rigs are, what they are doing and how fast they are moving across the oil fields? Would this even help?


If they had such satellites, wouldn't they have found that nasty Osama by now?
Hello HKT - I'm pretty new to this too.

A week or so back TODers started posting lots of links to satellite images - mainly on Google Earth - where you could see some of the KSA and Kuwait oil fields - easy to spend weeks analyisng this stuff.  If you have time, look back through the posts from around 4th July.

Cry Wolf - thanks very much.
although the point I was trying to make is - wouldn't our governments have systematically monitored this and have a good idea of what is going on?
Not necessarily. We don't always do the obvious...
I think national governments and oil super majors have a very clear idea of what is going on.  However, rather than offending Arab pride, they continue to pretend that all is well with the world economy -  in the hope that they may get invited to explore for and develop oil and gas in the ME at some future point - even though oil production is probably right at or just past peak and U mining may go over the energy cliff around 2066.
I tend to agree - the governments would have an idea. It's also hard to believe that they didn't go through the oil records in Iraq over the last couple years and also kuwait in the first gulf war...
Considering the strategic importance of oil it would be almost impossible for me to belive that any state with an intel. svc. would not be using whatever means it had at it's disposal to figure out "the truth".

This would not only include sat. images of fields, rigs, and tanker traffic, but could also include, in the case of the U.S. for example:

Human assets i.e. spies, within Aramco and its contractors, the SA Gov't etc.

Sigint i.e. they can listen in on all the cell phone, sat. phone, and telefax conversations in the oil fields and elsewhere

We also know that they have access to SWIFT and most other banking networks, so they can track the financial flows that support the industry  

We learned how sophisticated our Government is at intelligence shortly before the Iraqi war.  Colin Powell, I believe brillaintly demonstrated our ability to see what was going on in tractor trailers, for Chrissakes.
A decade ago I heard of an old agreement between the Saudis and the US that the US agreed not to snoop on Sadui oil.  Seems *VERY( odd, and why would the US agree, or keep the agreement ?

But I did hear of this, then old, agreement, before oil became a hot topic.

For obvious reasons, I cannot mentions sources.

The U.S. snoops on everything, everybody, everywhere, all the time.

We may never get Osama (or Usama) because he lives in caves and moves by night, when we cannot see him. This pisses off Rummy and crowd no end.

BTW, Castro also figured out in 1962 that satellites have greatly reduced vision at night. It is SO easy to fool satellites (and also reconaissance aircraft).

Thanks Everyone. It is pretty clear the governments know more than they let on. It's a little dissapointing though that they haven't been warning and preparing us. I guess in general, if isn't happening before the next election they probably don't care. The Chinese seem to be getting more serious about replacing oil than we are.
What I am about to say is complete speculation, so take it with a huge grain of salt. I have heard that Valerie Plame was not working on WMD issues in the Middle East when her cover was blown by the infamous White House leak. Rather, what I have heard is that she was actually involved with a front company getting hard data on whether Matthew Simmons charges against Saudi Arabia's reserves were true or not. Blowing her cover was then not an attack on Joe Wilson but rather, Valeria Plame was thrown to the winds by the Bush administration when the Saudis discovered she was leading spy activities against them by the CIA. However, by that point, the Bush administration had most of the data necessary to determine that Saudi Arabia was indeed lying about reserves and future production. So, in short, Valerie Plame was sacrificed, along with whatever in-country contacts she made inside Saudi Arabia, in order for the Bush administration to pretend that they did not know what the CIA had been doing and to show the Saudis that they did not approve. Joe Wilson just was convenient political collateral damage according to this line of thinking.

As I said, I have never seen this mentioned elsewhere but it came to me through the grapevine of friends who still live and work in Washington, DC, and who I believe have a reasonable chance to be telling me the truth. I certainly cannot prove it so I would urge you to not necessarily believe it outright but to possibly consider it as an alternative explanation for events we have seen in recent years.

I think Mike Ruppert of FTW has claimed something similar, though not as detailed.  He had an article at his site claiming that Plame was not a WMD expert.  Instead, she was working on trying to figure out Saudi Arabia's true oil reserves.  
Hello TODers,

Speaking of back to the future...

The world's biggest meeting of Antarctic scientists has heard trees could be growing on the continent within a century.

More than 850 delegates are in Hobart this week for the combined meetings of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs.

US Professor Robert Dunbar, from Stanford University, says it is likely that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are set to double in the next century or two.

The last time levels were that high was about 20 million years ago.

Professor Dunbar says Antarctica could return to how it looked then.

"There were trees, there were bushes, there were fields of grass," he said.

"In fact, the evidence of pollen fossils is that much of Antarctica was vegetated and these were plants that were able to adapt to periods of darkness.

"But the key is that it wasn't cold enough to freeze water."

...And Antarctica could be the new frontier:


Oil expert says industry might use Antarctica

An international oil industry expert who says global oil supply has reached its production peak has warned places like Antarctica may not be safe from oil exploration.

Dr Ali Samsam Bakhtiari has given evidence to a Senate committee about his calculations that crude oil demand will out-strip supply within five or six years.

He says one polar region in the Antarctic is already close to being exploited.

"I hope that the oil industry will not go into Antarctica but when the price will be $200 or $300 per barrel, then anything can happen," he said.
My question is how did they geologically investigate this prospect?  Did some of our subs covertly map offshore areas with high power sonar?  Or did the oil companies investigate gravimetric data from environmental research satellites--would that be highly ironic?  My guess is this first area is offshore, but there are a few land areas devoid of snow and ice--unless the oil cos. have figured how to drill on a moving glacier.

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

The 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, also known as the Madrid Protocol, entered into force in 1998 and serves as a mechanism for ensuring the protection of the Antarctic environment. The Madrid Protocol goes further than the original treaty as it designates Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science and places a moratorium on mining and drilling for oil for a minimum of 50 years. The Protocol sets forth basic principles and detailed, mandatory rules which apply to all human activities in Antarctica.

Is this another international treaty that will be bent or Ignored by America and probably others?

Hello TODers,

The Law of Diminishing Returns helping to force Olduvai Gorge is kicking-in into Abaco and Greece:

Blackouts Damaging Abaco's Economy

Ivar Unhgem, proprietor of Scandi Homes & Scandi Woodworks in Marsh Harbour, Abaco yesterday told the Bahama Journal that his business suffered a power outage from 11am to 4:30pm Thursday, which he said is generally "an everyday occurrence."

"It is a disaster. It is bad. When the power goes out we have to shut down..... People have started having problems with their freezers and refrigerators and so this is really is a problem. And we have a lot of tourists here who are basically packing up and leaving to go back home because they just cannot deal with it."

At the time, he pointed out that the two principal electrical generators were both down, one with "very serious problems," which could take upwards of two weeks to resolve. "The problem appears to center on poor maintenance and upkeep."

Greece may be next:
Greek consumers of electrical power should brace themselves for a difficult summer. Yesterday's accident at the Ptolemaida power plant in northern Greece will intensify pressure on the already-strained electricity supply. Power blackouts, which were already expected, will become more common and problems with Greece's power grid should increase by the year. Consumer needs are growing and the gap between supply and demand is deepening. The Public Power Corporation has shied away from investments in electricity production as well as distribution. At the same time, plans to deregulate the country's energy sector, which could ease demand on the state-controlled corporation, have stalled.

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


Go see a doctor. You've got chronic confirmation bias.

The Greek case you point to, once again, has absolutely nothing to do with peak oil. There was an accident in a power plant and the country did not invest in transmission infrastructure. This is what has always caused blackouts and always will.

On the other hand, yesterday I saw a cloud shaped like an oil drum which then vanished and the bird entails I examined did indicate that the bird was dead. Maybe you are right.

Hello Jack,

Thxs for responding, you are entitled to your own opinion, of course.  I am merely pointing out the trees in the energy forest that might be heading into potential jeopardy.

This is entirely in keeping with Duncan's Olduvai thesis that eventually, directly due to the loss of cheap FF energy, that insufficient funds, over time, will be applied to try and maintain the electrical grids.  The blackouts will become longer and occur more often in a positive feedback loop.

This is exactly the kind of gradual complexity collapse that Tainter and Diamond write about.  If you can disprove their writings--you have got a potential best-seller on your hands.

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

Diamond? Jared Diamond? He wasn't an olduvai true believer last time I checked.
On the contrary:

"Collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.
Competitors who evolve as peers collapse in like manner." -- Joseph A. Tainter

"Energy has always been the basis of cultural complexity and it always will be. The past clarifies potential paths to the future. One often-discussed path is cultural and economic simplicity and lower energy costs. This could come about through the 'crash' that many fear -- a genuine collapse over a period of one or two generations, with much violence, starvation, and loss of population." - Joseph A. Tainter

Two Tainter quotes. I don't know who he is, really, and it wasn't him I commented about, but Diamond. I've read Diamond, and I don't think it's reasonable to take him to support a doomsday scenario (such as Olduvai), although he is concerned, as any decent natural scientist should be.
Ah, right you are!
Thanks Bob. I don't mean to harrass you on this issue. As you know I do think many of the proofs of peak oil posted here do not stand up to strutiny.

I think we may have made a breakthrough here. I understand from your post that the events that you refer to may not be indicative of peak oil, but rather are consistent with other theories, such as Olduvai and complexity collapse.

I still think that you asre stretching the point. I see the Greek case indicating little more than that the country needs to improve the management of their electric system. I do think several of the more ethusiastic peak oil propoents do take minor incidents that would occur in any environmnmet and read them as confirmation of impending doom.

However, we can agree to disagree. I don't mean to be oppositional and my post was meant to be humorous, not insulting.

Hello Jack,

LOL! No harm, no foul--I am really an easy-going chap myself.  I agree that determining primary versus secondary reasons for decline can be difficult to clarify, but I still think Duncan's reasonings are sound, but who really knows what are the correct timelines?  We will just have to wait for the 'rear-view mirror' to come into focus at some later time, but hopefully we first take a good look out the front windshield and steer for the mitigation exit.

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

Jack:  "There was an accident in a power plant and the country did not invest in transmission infrastructure. This is what has always caused blackouts and always will."


The above link takes you to a story by Megan Quinn on how Cuba survived a localized oil peak.  Cuba couldn't afford to buy all of the oil they needed on the open market after the Soviet Union collapsed.  As a consequence, Cuba's oil fired generators were shut down for hours at a time.  The blackouts--because of a shortage of oil--lasted for up to 16 hours at a time.  

IMO, we will see increasing examples of this (initially) in developing countries as we go through progressive cycles of demand destruction.

In regard to infrastructure question, when a country has rolling blackouts because the generators are not being maintained, an interesting question is why are the generators not being maintained?  Could it be because the utilities are deferring maintenance because of the amount of money they have to spend on fuel, and they have nothing left for maintenance?

Also, oil consumption is up in the US and China, and increasing rapidly in many oil exporting countries (up 5.6% year over year in the Arab countries), while world crude oil + condensate production--as predicted by the HL method--is down 1% since December.  Someone is being forced to cut back, and I suspect it is primarily the developing countries that are being forced (for now) to cut back on consumption.

I think perhaps that Jack fails to see peak oil as part of a larger problem - human population and its resulting pressure on finite resources. The Olduvai theory grows out of this overall limits to growth mindset as much as from just peak oil, with the point being that peak oil is one of a few key trigger events that push the costs of complexity further along that slope of diminishing returns, to the point where the returns can no longer be justified or supported (resulting ultimately in collapse). Thus, many doomers don't see certain things as confirmation of peak oil, but rather see the side effects of peak oil as being confirmation of the wider collapse thesis. I believe that this is how Bob interprets these events.
I can't speak for Bob, but I am a doomer.  In my case, I view things mostly from the perspective of the Club of Rome in that there are a number of interrelated issues such as energy, population, aerable land, etc. coupled by a series of feedback loops.  Therefore, something like peak oil is going to impact a large number of areas both positively (a search for greater sustainability) and negatively (consumer society collapses).  

Given my philosophy, I view events from the perspective of whether an event and the resulting "reality" is logically tied to a feedback loop and whether this new reality will be coupled to another feedback loop in some other area.

In very simple terms, I anticipate cascading cross-defaults that grow exponentially.

Sometimes a tree falls simply because it's old and rotten, without need of some grand overarching abstract philosophy about peak oil, or some remote gorge, or anything else. Greece is not a developing country, it is quite well developed. Let's apply Occam's razor.

It appears that the utility in Greece is publicly held. That instantly suggests a simple and utterly common explanation: they are probably deferring maintenance due to political pandering over rates. Perhaps someone who knows Greek can expand on this. But it goes without saying that a voter should never, ever, be expected to pay for what he or she uses, whether that is electricity in Greece, gasoline in Nova Scotia, a subway ride in New York, or a highway lane almost anywhere.

To paraphrase Russell Long, don't charge you, don't charge me, charge my consumption to the guy behind the tree. This

A fairly famous example was the gross failure to maintain the New York subways in the 1980s, in part because no one would allow what was and still is one of the cheapest fares in the developed world to be raised to a sustaining level. The result was fires, injuries, lengthy delays, and other problems. When it finally got to be awful enough, politicians began to somewhat fix it. No grand abstract theoretical explanation was required - one needed only to know that foolish cheapskates vote, and politicians pander.

"It appears that the utility in Greece is publicly held. That instantly suggests a simple and utterly common explanation: they are probably deferring maintenance due to political pandering over rates"

I didn't post the missive on Greece, but it seems to me that your comment supports my theory, i.e., the Greeks are probably postponing maintenance because of a lack of cash.

Sheesh, yeah, in a tautological sense, of course it's a "lack of cash". But it's the usual sort of totally gratuitous and voluntary "lack" created by grandstanding populist politicians looting ordinary capital assets in order to purchase votes from social parasites who expect everything in life to be "free" - which tends to lead to trouble since it's a pretense that rarely can be kept up for long. (In the USA, campaign finance laws are said to have reduced some varieties of corruption, but those laws cannot and do not prevent politicians from simply looting public property instead.)

So the "lack" is readily remedied once the people involved decide they feel like remedying it, without reference to any larger problem. And that's basically what happened with the New York subway - when people became more scared of getting caught in a fire than they were upset about a minor increase in their ultra-cheap fare, they started to feel like fixing things (somewhat).

This sort of thing probably goes back to time immemorial and it certainly goes back millennia - so it occurs routinely without particular reference to peak oil, Olduvai theories, or anything else new and contemporary.

More significant sorts of "lack" can be seen in some poor countries - but Greece is not one of those.

Yes. Good points.

I guess what I want to say is that it is very easy to point to an energy problem and say it proves peak oil. Although it is axiomatic that there are some energy problems that have independent causes.

I do get frustrated when posters just throw up a negative story and claim it as proof.

As you know, I do believe in peak oil and do believe that evidence of it emerges every day. I just think we need to be a bot more careful about the underlying cause of events and not to just assume that every bad thing proves that everything is bad.

My reading of Jack's statement was that blackouts do not prove oil shortage.

I think you really agree that they don't prove shortage, even as you remind us that they are a plausible cause.

WRT to "confirmation bias" I guess it comes down to when we jump out of the starting blocks - on the blackout, or on some more direct indication of an oil/energy linkage.

has anyone tried to model the oil price. there might be a model already or you could just invent an ansatz and test it against historical data and tweak as needed and then extrapolate forward to see what might happen going forward.

Say we start with

OP = A (D(t)-P(t))+B
OP is oil price
t is time in years from today
D(t) is theoretical unconstrained demand
P(t) is production
A and B are constants.

say you assume a trend growth in demand of 1% per annum you set D(t)=85*(1.01)^t in mbpd and P(t)is given by your best fit logistic model of production, which I think Stuart had already worked on. Then you find A and B by fitting to historical data of the oil price. If demand is exactly balanced by production, OP = B, so it might be 30 USD. I guess the problem is that the price has been driven by lots of geopolitcal factors which cant possibly be captured with your ansatz - maybe you would try to fit to a period of time where (a) your P(t) fit is good and (b) there were few geopolitical tensions driving the oil price.

Anyway just curious if anyone tried it? I would probably do some work on it myself but being new to this Id probably make some errors.

actually you might be better using actual production data for P(t) rather than the model, so that you capture the actual effect on the OP when production deviated slightly from the perfect curve. Then when projecting forward use your model for P(t). I am guessing this all too hard in practise.
If you wish to have another laugh/cry, go to the EIA website and look up all those short-term (1-year out to 5 years) forecasts for oil and gas prices.  

It should convince you of one thing, the EIA may be good post-mortem bookkeepers, but as prognosticators, their record over the past decade is pretty poor.

Forcasting commodity prices is a gamble because you have supply and then you have demand and then you have the elasticity and then you have potential substitutes for the commodity.  But, more fundamental the EIA seems to say that production of oil can keep increasing out to 2030.  I can;t find the chart, but heard Guy Caruso, the Bush-appointed head of EIA say this on Australian TV.


How can he say that and then Matt Simmons says something quite different and both of these seem to be affiliated in some way with Bush ? Its all very confusing.  

You will find the International Outlook Link here:  


The US outlook will be found here:  


Historical Annual reviews can be found at:  


The really short-term archive (looking only one-year out and produced monthly) can be found at


I just gave a talk to a Rotary Club this morning and watched as the glazed look overcame but the one issue they seemed to respond to was that oil prices have increased 35% per year, on average, for the last 6.5 years( a total of 750%) and that only two more years puts gas at over $6 per gallon ($3,50 here now). I did not even mention that the runup the past six years was prior to the apparent plateau we are currently seeing. It was basically in anticipation of it. The rise from here on out should be exciting, until we hit the economic consequences. In addition, if the people who buy oil futures are anticipating any reasonable ROI then they are betting oil will be well over $100 in a few years. And they are generally conservative.