Guest Post: Peak Denial About Peak Oil

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform

Peak Denial About Peak Oil

It is par for the course that with oil hovering between $70 and $80
per barrel Americans have continued to buy SUVs and Trucks at a rapid
pace. Politicians don’t have constituents screaming at them because gas
is $4.00 per gallon, so it is no longer an issue for them. They need to
focus on the November elections. It is no time to discuss a difficult
issue that requires foresight and honesty. It is no time to tell the
American public that oil will be over $200 a barrel within the next 5
years. Anyone who would go on CNBC today and declare that oil will be
over $200 a barrel would be eviscerated by bubble head Bartiromo or
clueless Kudlow. Bartiromo filled up her Escalade this morning for $2.60
a gallon, so there is no looming crisis on the horizon. The myopic view
of the world by politicians, the mainstream media and the American
public in general is breathtaking to behold. Despite the facts slapping
them across the face, Americans believe cheap oil is here to stay. It is
their right to have an endless supply of cheap oil. The American way of
life has been granted by God. We are the chosen people.

A funny thing happened on our way to permanent prosperity and
unlimited cheap oil. The right to prosperity was yanked out from
underneath us by the current Greater Depression. The worldwide economic
downturn has masked the onset of peak cheap oil. Therefore, when it hits
America with its full fury, it will be a complete surprise to the
ignorant masses and the ignorant politicians who run this country. A
Gallup Poll in August asked Americans about our most important problems.
Where is the concern about future energy supplies? It isn’t on the
radar screens of Americans. They are probably more worried about whether
The Situation will hook up with Snookie on the Jersey Shore reality


It is not surprising that the American public, American politicians,
and the American media don’t see the impending crisis. The organizations
that have an interest in looking farther than next week into the future
have all concluded that the downside of peak oil will cause chaos
throughout the world. The US Military, the German Military, and the UK
Department of Energy have all done detailed studies of the situation and
come to the same conclusions. Social chaos, economic confusion, trade
barriers, conflict, food shortages, riots, and war are in our future.

The U.S. was warned in 2005. Its own Department of Energy
commissioned a report by Robert Hirsch to examine peak oil and its
potential consequences to the US. The introduction stated:

“The peaking of world oil production
presents the U.S. and the world with an unprecedented risk management
problem. As peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices and price
volatility will increase dramatically, and, without timely mitigation,
the economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented. Viable
mitigation options exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to
have substantial impact, they must be initiated more than a decade in
advance of peaking.”

The main conclusions reached by the experts who worked on this report were:

  1. World oil peaking is going to happen, and will likely be abrupt.
    World production of conventional oil will reach a maximum and decline
  2. Oil peaking will adversely affect global economies, particularly the
    U.S. Over the past century the U.S. economy has been shaped by the
    availability of low-cost oil. The economic loss to the United States
    could be measured on a trillion-dollar scale. Aggressive fuel efficiency
    and substitute fuel production could provide substantial mitigation.
  3. The problem is liquid fuels for transportation. The lifetimes of
    transportation equipment are measured in decades. Rapid changeover in
    transportation equipment is inherently impossible. Motor vehicles,
    aircraft, trains, and ships have no ready alternative to liquid fuels.
  4. Mitigation efforts will require substantial time. Waiting until
    production peaks would leave the world with a liquid fuel deficit for 20
    years. Initiating a crash program 10 years before peaking leaves a
    liquid fuels shortfall of a decade. Initiating a crash program 20 years
    before peaking could avoid a world liquid fuels shortfall.
  5. It is a matter of risk management. The peaking of world oil
    production is a classic risk management problem. Mitigation efforts
    earlier than required may be premature, if peaking is long delayed. On
    the other hand, if peaking is soon, failure to initiate mitigation could
    be extremely damaging.
  6. Economic upheaval is not inevitable. Without mitigation, the peaking
    of world oil production will cause major economic upheaval. Given
    enough lead-time, the problems are soluble with existing technologies.
    New technologies will help, but on a longer time scale.

The Hirsch Report clearly laid out the problem. It urged immediate
action on multiple fronts. It is now 5 years later and absolutely
nothing has been done. In the meantime, it has become abundantly clear
that worldwide oil production peaked between 2005 and 2010. The Hirsch
Report concluded we needed to begin preparing 20 years before peak oil
in order to avoid chaos. We are now faced with the worst case scenario.

The US Military issued a Joint Operating Environment report earlier
this year. They have no political motivation to sugarcoat or present a
dire picture. This passage is particularly disturbing:

A severe energy crunch is inevitable
without a massive expansion of production and refining capacity. While
it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and
strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce
the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds.
Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions,
push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse,
and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India. At
best, it would lead to periods of harsh economic adjustment. To what
extent conservation measures, investments in alternative energy
production, and efforts to expand petroleum production from tar sands
and shale would mitigate such a period of adjustment is difficult to
predict. One should not forget that the Great Depression spawned a
number of totalitarian regimes that sought economic prosperity for their
nations by ruthless conquest.

Here is the summary of their analysis:

To generate the energy required worldwide by the 2030s would require us to find an additional 1.4 MBD every year until then.

the next twenty-five years, coal, oil, and natural gas will remain
indispensable to meet energy requirements. The discovery rate for new
petroleum and gas fields over the past two decades (with the possible
exception of Brazil) provides little reason for optimism that future
efforts will find major new fields.

present, investment in oil production is only beginning to pick up,
with the result that production could reach a prolonged plateau. By
2030, the world will require production of 118 MBD, but energy producers
may only be producing 100 MBD unless there are major changes in current
investment and drilling capacity.

2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as
early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD.

production and distribution infrastructure must see significant new
investment if energy demand is to be satisfied at a cost compatible with
economic growth and prosperity. Efficient hybrid, electric, and
flex-fuel vehicles will likely dominate light-duty vehicle sales by 2035
and much of the growth in gasoline demand may be met through increases
in biofuels production. Renewed interest in nuclear power and green
energy sources such as solar power, wind, or geothermal may blunt rising
prices for fossil fuels should business interest become actual
investment. However, capital costs in some power-generation and
distribution sectors are also rising, reflecting global demand for
alternative energy sources and hindering their ability to compete
effectively with relatively cheap fossil fuels. Fossil fuels will very
likely remain the predominant energy source going forward.

Just this week, the German magazine Der Spiegel obtained a
confidential study about peak oil that was done by the German military.
According to the German report, there is “some probability that peak oil
will occur around the year 2010 and that the impact on security is
expected to be felt 15 to 30 years later.” The major conclusions of the
study as detailed in Der Spiegel are as follows:

  1. Oil will determine power: The Bundeswehr
    Transformation Center writes that oil will become one decisive factor in
    determining the new landscape of international relations: “The relative
    importance of the oil-producing nations in the international system is
    growing. These nations are using the advantages resulting from this to
    expand the scope of their domestic and foreign policies and establish
    themselves as a new or resurgent regional, or in some cases even global
    leading powers.”
  2. Increasing importance of oil exporters: For
    importers of oil more competition for resources will mean an increase in
    the number of nations competing for favor with oil-producing nations.
    For the latter this opens up a window of opportunity which can be used
    to implement political, economic or ideological aims. As this window of
    time will only be open for a limited period, “this could result in a
    more aggressive assertion of national interests on the part of the
    oil-producing nations.”
  3. Politics in place of the market: The Bundeswehr
    Transformation Center expects that a supply crisis would roll back the
    liberalization of the energy market. “The proportion of oil traded on
    the global, freely accessible oil market will diminish as more oil is
    traded through bi-national contracts,” the study states. In the long
    run, the study goes on, the global oil market, will only be able to
    follow the laws of the free market in a restricted way. “Bilateral,
    conditioned supply agreements and privileged partnerships, such as those
    seen prior to the oil crises of the 1970s, will once again come to the
  4. Market failures: The authors paint a bleak picture
    of the consequences resulting from a shortage of petroleum. As the
    transportation of goods depends on crude oil, international trade could
    be subject to colossal tax hikes. “Shortages in the supply of vital
    goods could arise” as a result, for example in food supplies. Oil is
    used directly or indirectly in the production of 95 percent of all
    industrial goods. Price shocks could therefore be seen in almost any
    industry and throughout all stages of the industrial supply chain. “In the medium term the global economic system and every market-oriented national economy would collapse.”
  5. Relapse into planned economy: Since virtually all
    economic sectors rely heavily on oil, peak oil could lead to a “partial
    or complete failure of markets,” says the study. “A conceivable
    alternative would be government rationing and the allocation of
    important goods or the setting of production schedules and other
    short-term coercive measures to replace market-based mechanisms in times
    of crisis.”
  6. Global chain reaction: “A restructuring of oil
    supplies will not be equally possible in all regions before the onset of
    peak oil,” says the study. “It is likely that a large number of states
    will not be in a position to make the necessary investments in time,” or
    with “sufficient magnitude.” If there were economic crashes in some
    regions of the world, Germany could be affected. Germany would not
    escape the crises of other countries, because it’s so tightly integrated
    into the global economy.
  7. Crisis of political legitimacy: The Bundeswehr
    study also raises fears for the survival of democracy itself. Parts of
    the population could perceive the upheaval triggered by peak oil “as a
    general systemic crisis.” This would create “room for ideological and
    extremist alternatives to existing forms of government.” Fragmentation
    of the affected population is likely and could “in extreme cases lead to
    open conflict.”

Even the International Energy Agency, which has always painted a rosy
picture of the future, has even been warning about future shortages due
to lack of investment and planning.

Americans think that the discovery of oil on our soil in 1859 has
entitled us to an endless supply. It is not so. We account for 4.3% of
the world’s population but consume 26% of the world’s oil. As China,
India and the rest of the developing world become economic powerhouses,
they will consume more and more of the dwindling supply of easily
accessible oil. As the consumption curve continues upwards, the
production curve will be flat. The result will be huge spikes in prices.
It will not be a straight line, but prices will become progressively
higher. As the studies referenced above have concluded, the result will
be economic pain, social chaos, supply wars, food shortages, and a
drastic reduction in lifestyles of Americans. They won’t see it coming,
just like they didn’t see the housing collapse coming or the financial
system collapse coming. They’ll just keep filling up those Escalades
until the pump runs dry.


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doggings's picture

peak cheap oil will do wont it? as I understand it once we get to $5 or $10 a gallon (like much the rest of the developed at the moment btw) suburban America becomes a death-trap and the population starts the long-awaited thinning process anyway?

thats good enough for me.

- particularly if those with a little understanding and foresight are a little better prepared it'll be like filtering out defective genes by intelligence, modern day Darwinism at work



mogul rider's picture

Peak scam of the century you should say.

Duh, we have about 5 billion barrels in the oilsands doh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We only have another 2 provinces to explore.

Stop trying to create a short or long where there isn't one.


If anything US peak power was 5 years ago more like it. Now you are a banana republic

Bueno dias and adios

SheepDog-One's picture

I agree mogul rider! This is OBVIOUS BS driven by the oil companies themselves to create total monopoly and price control!

Blindweb's picture

EROEI.  Oilsands is lower quality oil, resulting in less net energy. 


You know because it doesn't cost more to pump oil from the middle of the Golf of Mexico than from Texas.

ZackAttack's picture

Maybe 1.1/1 energy return positive. I am recalling that Canada's experience with Athabasca was that it used 1% of the world's natural gas per year to produce 100K bpd, plus brown water that is practically unrecoverable.

hedgeless_horseman's picture

Not to mention that there maybe isn't enough water in the Colorado for Shell to operate it's shale project AND provide agricultural water for much of the Western United States.  Choices, choices, choices.

Of special concern in the relatively arid western United States is the large amount of water required for oil shale processing; currently, oil shale extraction and processing require several barrels of water for each barrel of oil produced, though some of the water can be recycled.

One of the representatives whom some sellers have identified, Craig Burbage of the Denver area, apologized and said: "I'm not at liberty to discuss this."


"They have promised at some point that they will come and let us know what they are doing," said Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis. "It's all speculation at this point."

ZeroHedge T-Shirt to anyone who can get Craig to let us know what they are doing?

Craig Burbage

5400 Beach Rd.

Bow Mar, CO 80123-1508

(303) 795-5400's picture

colorado has it's HEAD up it's ASS. just now in western colorado are the landowners raising hell. they leased out their land or had the land they thought they owned, being exploited. look at a lot of the deeds of trust documents, rights, underground are already owned, grandfathered in, by these gas companies, get to come in, use all the water they want to explore for minerals, gas whatever. they are ruining the colorado river with this run off, and their health. they thought they wouldn't mind having the rigs set up in their backyards for money exchange. OH yeah, sure, NO cause and effect, ying or yang, Murphy's Law. brilliant thinking, people. money for nothing and the returns for free.

BearOfNH's picture

They're not "oil sands", they are "tar sands". At least up North; in the Gulf Coast you might find some oil in the sandy beaches...


SheepDog-One's picture

Peak scam of the century, right, and the sheeple lap it up! 'Ooo please regulate me and control me more and korn hole me, govt'!

Greyzone's picture

The world consumes about 30 billion barrels per year. The US consumes almost 7 billion barrels per year. We are not discovering 30 billion new barrels each year. Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like the US government spending $3.6 trillion each year but only taking in $2 trillion each year? What happens in financial circles when you spend more than you make? So what happens in the real world when you burn more oil than you are discovering? In both cases, you burn your savings and then you are broke (out of money or out of gas). The key difference is in the financial world you might find some fool to loan you money even after you are broke, but in the real world, physics, thermodynamics, won't let you "spend" negative energy.

Mother Nature always bats last. And Mother Nature is a bitch who carries a 2x4.

Let them all fail's picture

$2.60 to fill the Escalade, more like $3.25 here on the west coast

Almost Solvent's picture

Which illuminates the fact we could preserve some of this oil by mandating $7.50 gallon of gas, with the excess above the actual cost to go into some trust fund for future beneficiaries, such as the SSTF. That way there will be a trust fund accumulating all those tax dollars.

Or,  ummm, ok, no.

CoverYourBasis11's picture

Peak oil until oil rises to higher levels.

Then it will be economically feasible to mass produce alternative 

fuels or increase investment in traditional sources.

The market will find a way to make this transition profitable.

The "intellectuals" or the choosen ones think we need to centrally plan this.


Millennial's picture

The market wont find a way to make this profitable for the same reasons drinking heavily and not waking up with hangover is impossible.



trav7777's picture

You guys don't get it, do you?

Money is irrelevant.

profit is matter how profitable it might be to break the laws of physics, they cannot BE broken.

If oil rises to some insane price, it will be because energy is SCARCE.  The monetary "profitability" of some other activity vis a vis oil won't make the energy any less SCARCE.

Millennial's picture

I was being sarcastic dude?

I don't care about peak oil i got other concerns.

Are venereal diseases addictive? I just cannot seem to stop getting these things.

trav7777's picture

I wasn't replying to you, dude?

Note the lack of indent on my post with respect to yours

Citxmech's picture

What's the alternative?  NatGas?  If we try to run everything that runs on oil now on NatGas - supplies would be decimated quickly.  Check out the depletion curves on NattyGas.  F'n things fall off a cliff.

That's the big 800lb. gorilla:  There is no substitute for cheap oil.

Shooter Mcavin's picture

People will ride bikes, downgrade, start new small business (local). This will be good for our fat ass country.

SheepDog-One's picture

Hey you first man! Trade in the BMW and buy a mountain bike! Set the trend!

Millennial's picture

the single drop doesn't blame itself for the flood. 

Citxmech's picture

If we had a smooth downward transition already going, maybe we could pull it off.  Instead we've set the stage for rationing and food riots.  That's the whole point of the Hirsch Rept.

bada boom's picture

Can we get Matt Simmons current opinion on this?

I guess not.

SheepDog-One's picture

Yep Matt Simmons also said peak oil is BS, lets get his comments on this Big Oil produced article...oh wait they drowned/heart attacked him already.

Citxmech's picture

Er, Matt Simmons was one of the biggest proponants of Peak Oil there has ever been.

DaveyJones's picture

you really crowned your ignorance with that one

VK's picture

You can, he wrote an entire book on peak oil called Twilight in the Desert.

bada boom's picture

I am aware of his book. 

The power and intent of the message slowly dies with the deceased.

Regardless of the manner of his death, his message will be altered and diluted.


Gully Foyle's picture

Jose: Well, all's well that ends well. Though that's easy for Shakespeare to say... he'll be around for another millennium. But what of our own millennium? Will it all end well? No one can know, but that of course doesn't stop anyone from guessing. And the nature of those predictions always revolve around the usual suspects: salvation and/or self-satisfaction. With that in mind, I humbly add my own prophecy of what the dawn of the new millennium shall bring forth: one thousand more years of the same, old crap

SheepDog-One's picture

Right, we're in for the same old crap because only a couple hundred people control billions of people, who are to spinless and sheepish to do anything about it. Its the failed human experiment, humans- the most worthless thing God ever created.

SheepDog-One's picture

I hear Leo is already starting up his seashell and bead trading hedge fund! He's ahead of the curve.

SheepDog-One's picture

You people dont have to worry about peak oil! The TPTB are ready to depopulate 80% of the worlds population soon, as planned, so just buy a bike and trade bananas or something!

Gully Foyle's picture

Abiogenic petroleum origin

Abiogenic petroleum origin is an alternative hypothesis to the prevailing theory of biological petroleum origin.

The abiogenic hypothesis argues that petroleum was formed from deep carbon deposits, perhaps dating to the formation of the Earth. Supporters of the abiogenic hypothesis suggest that a great deal more petroleum exists on Earth than commonly thought, and that petroleum may originate from carbon-bearing fluids that migrate upward from the mantle. The presence of methane on Saturn's moon Titan is cited as evidence supporting the formation of hydrocarbons without biology.


VK's picture

Gully, even if abiotic oil was real. How long is the timeframe? Does it take millions of years to replenish? How about centuries? Or decades? Because even 1 decade of a prolonged energy crunch and we are fucked. Everything in the world economy depends on energy. Even if new oil was being formed at an annual rate, if ever our rate of extraction exceeds the replenishment rate, we have effectively peaked. As we'd need to downshift all our economic systems and way of life. Liebig's law of the minimum.

SheepDog-One's picture

RIGHT, VK! What we need is $15 gasoline, permission slip to buy from the gubmint, and massive new BS carbon tax! Youre a FINE gubmint sheeple, you believe 'we' need to massively downgrade OUR lifestyles, while those feeding you this BS massively UPgrade theirs!

VK's picture

They'll downgrade their lifestyles. There won't be a choice. Complex societies are built on energy surpluses and over time the marginal returns of civilization fall and their marginal costs rise. The collapse of civilizations has been well documented by Jared Diamond and Joseph Tainter.

One of the most interesting examples of collapse came from 4th century Britain, in archaeological digs, they have found that peasants in the 1st century had better pottery and dinner ware than the King in the 4th century, as Britain in the 1st century had been a part of the Roman empire, and thus were able to import fine pottery from Spain and other parts of the Kingdom due to well established roads and a mechanism for exchange of those goods. Post collapse of the Roman empire, the skills to make fine pottery were non-existent and thus only rudimentary pottery and dinner ware was found in the King's remains.

So no, the elites are not exactly going to prosper when peak oil hits as global complexity will be in decline, we call that collapse. Try spending some time in failed state to see how far you can enjoy yourself with 10 million dollars, you might be the richest man but can you get anything for it? 

SheepDog-One's picture

OH sure VK, the elite will downgrade their lifestyles, what a complete gulifoyle.

VK's picture

History teaches us a different lesson. The elites might still manage to remain top dogs but they won't be able to maintain their previous lifestyles as society simply breaks down. It's called catabolic collapse.

SheepDog-One's picture

Oil has been discovered to REPLENISH, and its not a finite resource at all? SHHHH youre letting the genie out of the bottle! Everyone wants to believe we NEED $100 oil, $15 gas, permission slips from the gubmint to fill your tank, and massive new taxes!

ZackAttack's picture

Ah, the theory of abiotic theism. I hear that from the religious wingnuts that own RV dealerships too. Gawd will provide.

drheywood's picture

Abiotic oil you say?

*Takes pipe out mouth*

Very well. Let's say it replenishes. Then the question that is of outmost importance is: At what rate does oil replenishes? A barrel a month? A million? A billion? A trillion?

*Points the pipe at SheepDog*

What have your sources, that we'll assume are reliable, told you, dear SheepDog? Also, I would like to know what implications you think this has, that virtually infinite amounts of carbon are to be extracted from the earth and burned. At what levels of O2 and CO2 do you think human life is still sustainable? Both are important, as the carbon binds the oxygene, n'est pas? And we all know we need oxygene.

*draws a round circle in the air with the pipe*

Please, indulge us is this new exciting model of how the Earth might work, and of how our future might play out!

EscapeKey's picture

LOL! How many bullshit theories will you spawn in a single thread alone.

Anyway, please educate us as how the North Sea is NOT a largely tapped resource, and Cantarell has in fact NOT collapsed in terms of production profile.

SheepDog-One's picture

Of course all Zerohedgers can do is marvel at their captors anyway, Ive been writing for months we should do something. Pool resources to interrupt their volumeless pumping...but NAH lets just bask in our USA Stockholm Syndrome some more, and bathe in admiration of the criminals destroying the country day after day...YEA thats it!

Millennial's picture

"Pool resources to interrupt" sounds pretty commie to me.  j/k


I enjoy basking in my own unwarranted attention of self importance with all my diggs, tweets, facebooks posts, stumbls, /b/awing, linkedin updates, and myspace bands. That was the best gift my grandpa gave to me after we won WW2, notice how I said we and not they. 

As I sip on my vodka and orange mocha frappachino (sp?) latte purple drank I can't help but wonder if Snooki actually blew Vinny with his "it's like putting a watermelon through a pin hole" man meat.

As I anticipate that tonight's concert will consume lots of energy I know that deep down inside that I don't care about the people who work to make this happen as I am only concerned about my own selfish needs and means. 

I care about most people in the same way that I want to learn the taco bell waitress's name. I don't. I want her to make my taco which I will drunkenly consume and then fart out within 24 hrs of the purchase. 

As I reflect on these thoughts I fart out my nacho laden bell grande of yesterday and I continue to slurp on my alcoholic beverage and not giving a damn about the world beyond my windows because that where the poor people live; outdoors and I hate poor people, because they smell and don't have money. 

However, I do enjoy people with little clothing like dancing women who have "tramp" stamped above their butt, sometimes their kid's names. It's fun to call her by her kid's name when doing it doggie style because I forgot her name as I drank it all away while I slipped green debt tickets into her crotch because really the pleasure is mine not hers, I'm scoring and putting debts on others to repay to uncle ben or uncle sam. 


in the famous words of Ram burps* "I am all that is man."

SheepDog-One's picture

OH! Its now 'COMMIE' to say 'HEY, why dont we all pool together about $10 million bucks to slam the volumeless pump' like they did on Monday? Thats COMMIE? What a total waste of space all of you are, youre not brainiacs youre full-on retarded sheeple.

Millennial's picture

God damn are you some idiot to not see I wrote j/k after that remark?

Talk about "full-on retards" but look in a mirror dude. 


besides I fail to think that having a masters at 22 makes me retard. Maybe not the best decision in the world, but talk to me about finance and I'll show you up.

Rusty Shorts's picture

 - what are you, 11, maybe 12 years old?

drheywood's picture

Does anybody know how much oil has been swapped for sea water, theoretically? So much that it could affect the sea level?

curbyourrisk's picture

Peak wack jobs.......

I love this wackiness for lunch.  Gives me a good laugh over my soup.