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Guest Post: Daniel Yergin And Peak Oil - Prophet Or Mere Historian?

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Submitted by John Daly of

Daniel Yergin and Peak Oil - Prophet or Mere Historian?

On 17 September The Wall Street Journal published a fascinating article on “peak oil,” “There Will Be Oil,” written by Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, an energy research and consulting firm and deserved recipient of Pulitzer Prize for his 1991 book, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “There Will Be Oil” “is adapted from his new book, The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World.”

The essay will doubtless have widespread influence amongst prosperous The Wall Street Journal readers, but in his glib dismissal of “peak oil” theory advocates, Yergin glosses or ignores a number of issues fundamental to the larger picture, for whatever reason, and these oversights should be considered in any evaluation of the piece and the peak oil “specter.”

Yergin notes, “Just in the years 2007 to 2009, for every barrel of oil produced in the world, 1.6 barrels of new reserves were added.” But this fails to take into account the following points.

First is that for oil producing nations reserves are like money in the bank and inflated reserve figures are common. Even with the newest technology oil reserve figures remain at best “guesstimates” and should not be taken as hard and fast figures.

Secondly, while the Middle East for the foreseeable future will remain the world’s top producing area, it is unhappily also one of the most politically unstable regions of the world. The “Arab Spring’s” impact is still playing out, much less potential impact of Palestine’s incipient bid at the United Nation’s for recognition, both of which could yet still throw a major spanner in the works.

To recap briefly:

Saudi Arabia, the world’s first or second-largest producer, vying with the Russian Federation for top position, is not immune from either of the two aforementioned effects. Saudi Arabia does not allow foreign oil companies concessions and has adopted a strict conservation policy, so don’t expect to see a massive rise in production there anytime soon. As for Palestine’s impact, last week former head of Saudi Arabian intelligence and ex-ambassador to Washington, Prince Turki al-Faisal in an essay in the New York Times warned that an American veto of Palestinian U.N. membership would end the ''special relationship'' between the two countries, and make the US ''toxic'' in the Arab world.

As for Iraq, eight years after the U.S.-led invasion, holder of massive amounts of untapped reserves, the country remains mired in a low-grade civil war and unresolved political issues between its oil-rich northern Kurdish region and Baghdad. Further east, Iran is most unlikely to boost production significantly anytime soon because of U.S. sanctions imposed in 1979.

Libya remains the wild card, with only 25 percent of the country’s oil potential explored, but it has been wracked by six months of civil unrest, and the irredentist cadre of Gaddafi supporters could easily target the country’s oil infrastructure in the future.

In the Western Hemisphere, OPEC recently announced that Venezuela’s potential reserves could top those of Saudi Arabia, but the deteriorating relations between Caracas and Washington make an increase here unlikely anytime soon.

Many optimists pin their hopes on increased offshore production, from Brazil through Western Africa, the Mediterranean and the Caspian to the South China Sea but these regions’ output will suffer from the twin curses of both greatly increased “lifting costs” in the billions as well as political instability. West Africa is synonymous with corruption and civil war; Lebanon, the Republic of Cyprus, Israel and Turkey are sparring over eastern Mediterranean hydrocarbons; two decades after the collapse of the USSR Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan have yet to reach a definitive agreement on the division of the Caspian’s offshore waters and tension is rising markedly in the South China Sea, where China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei are all pursuing contesting claims.

Of the aforementioned areas only Brazil has uncontested national sovereignty claims over its offshore deposits, and the government is sufficiently concerned about their security that it is considering building a nuclear submarine to patrol its offshore oil platforms. As for the rest, it is difficult to see how the nations involved will be able to attract large-scale investment into potential conflict zones.

Furthermore, quite aside from political wrangles, offshore drilling is both extremely expensive and comes with increased environmental risks.

Interestingly, the word “environment” appears only once in Yergin’s essay, in the sentence, “Environmental and climate policies can alter the timing and scale of development, as can geopolitics and politics within oil-producing countries.”

Given that the majority of the future’s oil production increase will come from offshore developments, the term should have been given greater prominence.

BP’s Deepwater Horizon Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on 20 April and spewed crude for three months in 2010 and was the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, dwarfing the 1979 Gulf of Mexico Ixtoc I oil spill. Since the Deepwater Horizon incident unleashed 4.9 million barrels of oil the Gulf of Mexico suffered another rig explosion and fire at the Vermilion Block 380 A Platform on 2 September 2010.

Across the Atlantic, on 12 August a British subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell announced a leak at a platform flow line in its Gannet field concession in the North Sea.

As for the BP leak, on 12 May 2010 California Democrat Representative Henry Waxman said that the House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee investigation into the Gulf oil spill revealed that the Deepwater Horizon Macaondo oil platform’s blowout preventer (BOP) did not pass a crucial pressure test just hours before the explosion.

Waxman said, "This catastrophe appears to have been caused by a calamitous series of equipment and operational failures. If the largest oil and oil services companies in the world had been more careful, 11 lives might have been saved and our coastlines protected."

The Deepwater Horizon Study Group of University of California’s the Center for Catastrophic Risk concluded in its “Final Report on the Investigation of the Macondo Well Blowout,” released 1 March 2011, “At the time of the Macondo blowout, BP’s corporate culture remained one that was embedded in risk-taking and cost-cutting…”.

Tracking back the signs of incipient failure, on 28 February 2009 the Department of the Interior exempted BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact study after concluding that a massive oil spill was unlikely.

Four months later, on 22 June 2009 BP engineers warned that the Deepwater Horizon BOP’s metal casing might collapse under high pressure. Seeking to spread the blame, in April 2011 BP sued Cameron International Corp., the maker of the failed Type TL 18¾in 15K double blowout preventer on the Macondo well, Deepwater Horizon drilling rig operator Transocean and Halliburton, the well’s cement contractor, saying they were largely to blame for the accident.

There are 3,800 active oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico – how long until another major spill?

So, where does all this leave the world? Older producing fields and nations, such as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia’s massive Ghawar superfield have seen their production decline. Indonesia, which had begun producing oil in the early 20th century, saw its production slide so much that it left OPEC in 2008, seemingly confirming Marion King Hubbert’s “peak oil” theory.

While it is true that Hubbert’s predictions, made in the 1950s, took no account of future energy developments such as Africa, the Caspian and offshore, all of these regions and projects come with increased costs, which ultimately will undoubtedly be passed on to the consumers.

Is the world then running out of oil then? No, but the increase in future global oil production will likely be modestly incremental and production could be thrown off course by any number of possible events, from an Israeli attack on Iran to (another, but successful this time) al Qaida attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil refinery.

Accordingly, it is inexpensive oil that is in terminal decline, a development viewed positively by Yergin, who writes, “Activity goes up when prices go up; activity goes down when prices go down. Higher prices stimulate innovation and encourage people to figure out ingenious new ways to increase supply.”

Many American motorists would disagree.


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Wed, 09/21/2011 - 13:47 | 1693340 BrocilyBeef
BrocilyBeef's picture

Ohh look over here it's your friend PEAK OIL! blaa blaa blaa


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:31 | 1693515 EnglishMajor
EnglishMajor's picture

I am sure that we will find a way to make oil from two to three miles deep in the ocean off the coast of Brazil flow just as quickly and get to market just as fast as we do from a Middle Eastern desert a few miles of pipeline away from waiting tankers, and I am sure it will be just as "sweet" as Libyan oil and just as easy to refine.

In the meantime, don't bogart that Hopium and concentrate on these four words: Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors.

They can even sustain a colony on the moon:


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 18:11 | 1694774 bid the soldier...
bid the soldiers shoot's picture

I'm gonna concentrate on four words: EnglishMajor/MagicalThinking

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 18:11 | 1694775 bid the soldier...
bid the soldiers shoot's picture

Free iPad

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 18:34 | 1694861 EnglishMajor
EnglishMajor's picture

Don't get me wrong, we have a good thousand years worth of Thorium on this planet, but we are still fucked.  Thorium LFTR reactors can be built for under $2 billion dollars, but instead we secure oil fields with extreme prejudice in the name of democracy.  Shit, we experimented with a Thorium reactor at Oak Ridge in the 1950's.  Why the fuck didn't we run with it then?

Oh yeah, Thorium is resistant to proliferation.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 21:25 | 1695339 bid the soldier...
bid the soldiers shoot's picture

I will allow you all your confidence in the effectiveness of Thorium and Thorium reactors. But there is something else beside a replacement for crude oil in play. I'm not saying I know when, but there's a drop dead date by which time crude oil's replacement has got to be on line and not just talked about. Or else.

Arguing for PO is just a fool's errand for another fool's errand.

The impossible task of convincing someone that they believe in the possibility of an impossible event. It would be funny if the stakes weren't so high.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 16:22 | 1694283 MSimon
MSimon's picture

An oil engineer looks at the oil market:


I believe the details may have changed some but the overall view is correct.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 16:26 | 1694303 greyghost
greyghost's picture

well i just don't know. is this about "peak" oil or just maybe "shortages" in the pipeline from time to time? talks about peak oil and than rambles on and on about problems with  supply from the far reaches of the world. my favorite is "even with the newest technology oil reserve figures remain at best "GUESSTIMATES" and should not be taken as hard and fast figures. whoa...DOES THIS GO FOR THIS JACKASSE'S FIGURES ALSO? i think the time has come to ask...who the hell is paying this guy's salary? who funds this clown's work? the only people on this planet that have anything to gain from the "peak oil crap??? IS WHO?????

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 18:24 | 1694833 bid the soldier...
bid the soldiers shoot's picture

The people who want to live in comfort for as long as they can. And squalor when they are so reduced.

Regretably they must assume absolute power to do so. What they gain is that invaluable asset: Time.

Got Time?

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 17:35 | 1694600 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

The first place he falters is when he declares we are producing more oil today than we did 5 years ago - then in his chart to prove it, he includes biofuel and other liquids - which are not oil and do not have the same energy density as oil - as a matter of fact most have only  50% of the energy density as oil.

so we might produce more oil like stuff, but it is more difficult and it produces less energy - even a fool can see where this curve ends.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 21:50 | 1695388 New_Meat
New_Meat's picture

BrocilyBeef: Trav777777777 gonna b mighty pissed that u stole his top spot on a "peak oil" thread ;-)

Better watch out!

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 13:48 | 1693341 Market Efficien...
Market Efficiency Romantic's picture

just pushed his book on Bloomberg.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:30 | 1694017 That Peak Oil Guy
That Peak Oil Guy's picture

There will be blood.  Not so sure about the oil.

TOD rebuttal to Yergin's essay:

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 18:23 | 1694823 That Peak Oil Guy
That Peak Oil Guy's picture

I would avoid any criticism of peak oil that does not include the phrase "EROEI", or "energy returned on energy invested", or does not look at maximum flow rates for these wondrous new sources of oil.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:51 | 1694131 CrashisOptimistic
CrashisOptimistic's picture

Of course he's pushing his book.

His doctorate is from Cambridge.

IT IS NOT IN PHYSICS OR GEOLOGY OR ENGINEERING OR ANY OTHER SCIENCE.  My recall is it's in International Economics or some such blather.. 

He polished up his writing skills, won a prize with that very narrow and irrelevant talent and parlayed the prize into a consulting company that tells the oil industry what it wants to hear (and what it wants its funding sources to hear).

He does not understand BTUs.

He does not understand energy density.

He is safely ignored.


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 13:53 | 1693351 Spitzer
Spitzer's picture

The Russian oil theroy makes a hell of allot more sense then the dead dinosaur fossil fuel theroy. With that considered, peak oil looks like bullshit.

Under the keynesian Bretton Woods 2 system, everyone is led to believe that rising oil prices are the result of a growing economy. That is wrong. During legit economic growth, oil prices fall because there is not only higher demand but also higher supply.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:04 | 1693423 Spastica Rex
Spastica Rex's picture

Your mom looks like bullshit.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:20 | 1693502 kito
kito's picture

is his mama black and highly vicsous?

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:04 | 1693427 Greyzone
Greyzone's picture

Your support of the Russian oil theory is based on what scientific background. State your credentials and the evidence, please.

I work at a large oil company in Houston. Nobody and I mean nobody looks for oil based on the Russian theories. Now if the Russian theories were correct wouldn't some western oil company be using them to get an edge on their competitors? If you believe in the Russian theory so much, go start an oil company based on those theories and tell us how much you lose.

The Russian theory is baloney, regarding oil.


As for peak oil, even if the Russian theory were true, we'd still run out unless the Russian theory creates new oil faster than we use it. But at our current rate of consumption, about 85 million barrels per day, if it had run continuously for the last 5 billion years, the entire earth would be one big ball of oil clear down to the core. You can't have it both ways, Spitzer. Either the Russian theory fails to replenish oil at current consumption rates or the earth must only be a few thousand years old. Or are you a creationist too, believing in a young earth?


So the truth is, this is a finite planet and there is a finite amount of oil we can get out of the ground. The future is thorium reactors, not stored ancient sunlight. Eventually this will be realized. In the meanwhile, prepare for steadily increasing exploration and recovery costs for petroleum. (Note: Natural gas is a slightly different topic.)

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:57 | 1693763 Citxmech
Citxmech's picture

No no, you don't get it - the abiotic hypothesis relies on the "oil gnomes" (close cousins to the underpants gnomes btw).  They control the rate that the Earth produces oil to match our rate of consumption.  They do this by changing the size of the metering orifices they insert into the sweet oil-shitting unicorns that live in the center of the hollow Earth. 


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:49 | 1694119 Spitzer
Spitzer's picture

So everyone here believes the dead dinosaur theroy ?

The Russians got oil out of ground in Vietnam using their theroy. Why has Russia all of a sudden taken over Saudi Arabia for oil reserves ?

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 18:07 | 1694653 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Quit with the bullshit dead-dinosaur strawman..... or if you choose to use it, take it to Yahoo!

And if you talking about the White Tiger field, try this

"Petroleum samples from the White Tiger oilfield contain biomarkers which "indicate a lacustrine organic facies with lipid-rich, land-plant debris and fresh-water algal material," which indicate that it is of biological origin"

Edit: BTW, you played your hand when you confused production with reserves, do yourself a favor and simply STFU.


Thu, 09/22/2011 - 01:26 | 1695791 chindit13
chindit13's picture

I think you just added one more dead dinosaur to the compost pile.


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 18:26 | 1694842 Citxmech
Citxmech's picture

So when will Cantarell or Ghawar replenish back to their peak production rates?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Thu, 09/22/2011 - 12:19 | 1697435 CIABS
CIABS's picture

Spitzer:  please stop writing "theroy".

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 17:40 | 1694626 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

What about the sock gnomes? they are the most prevalent of the assorted gnomes - surely they must be involved perhaps trading socks for oil from the petroleum dwarves?

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 19:23 | 1694989 bid the soldier...
bid the soldiers shoot's picture

If you want to get picky about the gnomes, as you call them, these are a branch of the Nibelungen race who developed an alchemy to turn gold into oil.

It's very expensive, but it's very lite and extremely sweet.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:09 | 1693447 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Lets play a real simple game, since you would not understand the real rules, I'll use the rules for 8 year olds.

The most wildly optimistic estimate of world oil reserves in all their various forms is 10 trillion barrels. The earth is about 4.6 billion years old. That works out to an average production rate 21,000 barrels a year....

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:55 | 1694152 CrashisOptimistic
CrashisOptimistic's picture

That's a good rebuttal.

Another is you still find oil under capped sedimentary rock.  Nobody in a petroleum geology lab staring at seismic studies worries about dinosuars or abiotic origins.  They look for the rock structures that might hold oil and they drill -- and most of the drilled wells find nothing.

Where it comes from is of no interest to the process of finding it.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 18:30 | 1694852 bid the soldier...
bid the soldiers shoot's picture

You did not emerge from your mother's womb making $87,000 per annum, did you ?

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:11 | 1693460 Mr Lennon Hendrix
Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

Yes, Spitz, there is a Santa Claus.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 13:53 | 1693356 UTICA CLUB XX PURE

I'm Going Long Belgium Draft Horses & Short John Deere & Cat..

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:57 | 1694162 CrashisOptimistic
CrashisOptimistic's picture

There are far, far worse investment strategies than that one. 

Wyoming has more horses than people.  Its day as the center of civilization (what little of it is left) is coming.


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 17:43 | 1694637 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

Wyoming also has more nuclear missiles than people, one good reason not to live there since it will be a very big target when the missiles fly. We have never built a weapon we didn't use and I don't think mankind is in danger of changing its ways anytime soon.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 13:53 | 1693358 Rusty.Shackleford
Rusty.Shackleford's picture

Cheap conventional oil is over, and the world can't just keep chugging along on shale oil and tar sands

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 13:59 | 1693393 noobzilla
noobzilla's picture

Why not? Canada has 1.75 trillion barrels in oil sands that are being produced at a cost of $28 a barrel.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:10 | 1693456 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

First off, it is production rate not reserves that count. You are aware that the tar sands currently consumes 25% of Canadian domestic NG production? Did not think so....

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:18 | 1693491 Rusty.Shackleford
Rusty.Shackleford's picture

yeah tar sands production will never exceed 5 million b/pd,

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:23 | 1693511 noobzilla
noobzilla's picture

Production rates are not a problem when Canada's oil sands are the size of Great Britain.  Oil sands already account for half of Canada's production, and hundreds of new projects are being started. New extraction methods are being developed that will cut NG consumption in half over the next 5 years.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:54 | 1693683 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

No, production rates are one problem, along with many other technical issues that engineers are working on.  More to the point of this website, the only thing that matters is the return on capital investment, period.  The two most important forms of capital being money and energy that is already available.  Tar sands require a lot of both and the oil that is recovered very expensive from both the captial and energy prospective.  With real wages going down faster than your mother, I have no doubt that the world will stop using oil with plenty in the ground simply because the energy and capital input will simply make it not worth the investment.  Bring on the fission reactors already. 


Fresh water for numerous applications (including refining) will become a major problem south of the 48th parallel long before oil is.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:14 | 1693474 Mr Lennon Hendrix
Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

Maintaining their watersheds and aquifers should be their number one priority, but no one ever said desperation is pretty.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 13:54 | 1693364 taketheredpill
taketheredpill's picture

Saudi Arabia only has political influence so long as they are a swing producer.  The second peak oil becomes accepted, that is, that the SA output capacity is insufficient to drive prices down, they lose.

Yergin is an oil consultant.  One of his clients, and I would guess largest clients, is Saudi Arabia.

He really has no choice, professionally, than support the status quo.


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:10 | 1693454 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Yergin is a shale shill. Kunstler put it best on Monday:

So, last week Daniel Yergin came out with a blast in the Wall Street Journal affecting to debunk peak oil. His own theory is much like Irving Fisher's economic theory set out October 21, 1929 that "stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." Three days later, the markets crashed and the Great Depression commenced. Yergin says we've hit a permanent plateau for oil production. He is pimping for a bonanza in shale oil, tar sands, and other innovative ventures in picking "fruit" that is not hanging so low anymore.


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:22 | 1693507 Mr Lennon Hendrix
Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

The House of Saud has not been the swing producer for over a year.  Russia is now the world's largest, and Russia peaked production in '89.

The whole reason that Paulson fire bombed the economy was to continue the status quo.  The set the House up to Fall.  They put oil on the bumpy platue by pulling investment. 

But the game of chairs can go on for so long.  Oil is finite.  If you do not understand this then you are stupid, misinformed, or uninformed.  There have been NO large oil discoveries in decades.  Even if there is one made it will not mitigate the problem.

Peak oil is here and it is the only thing the US has at its back.  The New World Order has penetrated the minds of almost all Americans and Europeans to believe in its Democracy.  The US and Europe has the weapons they need to continue to rule.  They have the gold.  The one thing they do not have is the oil, so they have been trying to destroy the wealth of the oil producing states during the last years.  Yet when reality is fought with imagination, in terms of dollars vs. oil, there is oil set to lose.  Care to bet against reality?

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 21:46 | 1695381 bid the soldier...
bid the soldiers shoot's picture

Any real person with a real job would be nuts to argue Peak Oil in public.

You could lose your membership to Costco.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 13:56 | 1693378 The4thStooge
The4thStooge's picture

peak bullshit

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:00 | 1693403 BrocilyBeef
BrocilyBeef's picture

agreed... PEAK DEBT is more likely.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:11 | 1693462 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Don't you get it? Peak Oil implies Peak Debt

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:16 | 1693486 BrocilyBeef
BrocilyBeef's picture

omg flakmeister, that must mean Peak Default!

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:18 | 1693495 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Yep.... is it any surprise that people are rushing into the last bonds that will default?

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:55 | 1693738 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Default is the only way out, funny how folks from all side of the spectrum see this as clear as day.  

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:40 | 1694061 Citxmech
Citxmech's picture

Peak everything (other than peak contraction).

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:54 | 1693718 equity_momo
equity_momo's picture

Peak oil + peak credit (default) = peak population.    Might wanna think twice about having kids.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:10 | 1693874 Citxmech
Citxmech's picture

It baffles me how folks can think an economy can grow in real terms with dwindleing energy resources.  Of course you can try to force "growth" by adding more money into the system - but that's really just a red herring for systemic inflation.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 13:56 | 1693380 Moe Howard
Moe Howard's picture

You lost me at Waxman. Peak bullshit.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 13:57 | 1693382 LivermoreJim
LivermoreJim's picture

Sung to the tune of:

"All we are saying is, give drilling a chance..."

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:02 | 1693417 RobotTrader
RobotTrader's picture



Peak Oil is one of the greatest scams on Wall St. since Y2K.

Want proof?  Check out the implosion in HAL and SLB today.

And check out the unreal strength of SBUX and WFM.

Any questions???

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:07 | 1693440 Spastica Rex
Spastica Rex's picture

I'll bite.

Why has oil production flatlined for 7 years?

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:18 | 1693494 Buckaroo Banzai
Buckaroo Banzai's picture

IMO, peak oil is real but it may be a ways off. There is some evidence that a lot of cheap oil is being sequestered by the major oil companies, in anticipation of higher prices. The east- and west-coast offshore drilling bans are likely part of this strategy.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:21 | 1693505 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Umm.... could you provide this evidence? Why don't you look into the source for these bans? As for the Eastern OCS, while there has not been drilling per se, there have been all kinds of seismic work. Let's just say that the prospects ain't good.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 20:41 | 1695215 FeralSerf
FeralSerf's picture

Because demand for $100/bbl oil has flatlined?

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 21:01 | 1695273 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Maybe $100 oil has not "stimulated" increased production? Hell, a 10 bblpd well gives you ~$300,000 a year (net of royalties and what not), if that isn't incentive what is?

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:25 | 1693983 Citxmech
Citxmech's picture

Confront this:

(Production graphs for 42 oil producing countries over time)

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:03 | 1693419 imapopulistnow
imapopulistnow's picture

Progressive authors cannot write objectively about fossil fuel reserves.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:08 | 1693446 BrocilyBeef
BrocilyBeef's picture

Progressive authors cannot write objectively.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:04 | 1693425 Dr. Acula
Dr. Acula's picture

Peak oilists are like global warmists.

They all predict a catastrophe and tell us we need a socialist agency errected to help control the oil supply, and the weather, 100 years from now.

There may be slightly higher oil prices and a slightly warmer climate in the future, but life goes on.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:07 | 1693441 Greyzone
Greyzone's picture

Actually the peak oilers I know suggest that government get the hell out of the way, including removing subsidies to the oil industry. This will bring oil prices to their true market value based on underlying costs. That, in turn, will make further research into things like thorium reactors more enticing.

Let the price of oil rise! That's how it will get replaced!


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:28 | 1693510 Dr. Acula
Dr. Acula's picture

It sounds like we are of like mind. But I mostly have heard shrill cries for more socialistic interventions and warnings of Malthusian eschatons.

IMHO the proper role of "Peak Oil" theory is the entrepeneurial forecasting of the future data of the market - e.g. supply and demand and prices. This can direct speculation on futures and alternative investments to speed the economy to equillibrium and reap financial gains.


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 17:51 | 1694671 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Do you ever leave your Ivory tower?  You should try to get out at least weekly for Doritos and a case of beer or what ever floats your boat....

I swear that you would find someway to explain the demise of the dinosaurs on socialists interfering with the free market.... 

Thu, 09/22/2011 - 06:50 | 1696101 Dyler Turden II Esq
Dyler Turden II Esq's picture

THAT'S IT! Peak oil was caused by meddling socialist weasels, 200 million years ago!

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:10 | 1693451 Spastica Rex
Spastica Rex's picture

Do you believe the global economy can grow at - oh just for shits and giggles lets say 3% annually - without a commensurate growth rate in FF output? How?

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:12 | 1693466 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:02 | 1693817 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

By actually understanding efficiency. That supports a better life, not necessarily 3% YOY growth ad infinitum.

It's this current paradigm of sub-15% efficient use of pertoleum as a fuel base that is the problem and can be changed. Just like that.


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:24 | 1693976 Spastica Rex
Spastica Rex's picture

If I hear what you're saying correctly, I agree w/you: changing who we are and what we believe could radically change our realtionship with FFs. I do not believe that this will happen, or even can happen within the context of our current global economic constructs. Collectively, we're bacteria in a petri dish. Individually, we can choose a different way. I have, and I wish you the best in what you're doing. 

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 17:15 | 1694506 Mark_BC
Mark_BC's picture

The laws of thermodynamics significantly limit any efficiency improvements we can expect from FF sources.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 18:05 | 1694747 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Something called Jevons Paradox comes into play as well...

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:43 | 1694077 Citxmech
Citxmech's picture

Bernanke seems to think all you need to do is increase the monetary base at the rate of growth you want:  ie crank the printer up to "3" and presto, instant 3% gdp growth.  (no technology needed)

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 17:52 | 1694675 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

Bernanke's printer goes all the way to 11, matter of fact that is the only numbers printed all the way around the dial, the knob only goes to 11 no matter how far you turn it or which direction it is turned in.


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:27 | 1694000 Citxmech
Citxmech's picture

"Satan's bushel" works the other way also.  When the world's demand cannot be met - prices will rise at a rate out of proportion to the shortfall.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:13 | 1693464 Shell Game
Shell Game's picture

Peak Nation States.  Food systems, water systems and monetary systems pointing to a major reversion to the mean. Let's talk peak oil after demand gets a grand smack down..

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:15 | 1693482 Do You Speak Greek
Do You Speak Greek's picture

Peak oil = bullshit.

Or at least so says a Saudi Aramco petro engineer I know.  He claims that OPEC and oil producers love when people scream "peak oil!" because it makes the supply appear constrained (so prices go up) and at the same time, he claims they know of massive deposits which are unreported, and many more massive deposits which are still undiscovered. 

That being said I got long oil today because of the UN veto.  This will rile the Arabs and the Iranians. 

Once again, our perpetual alliance with Israel paying off!   /sarc

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 17:53 | 1694687 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

Infinite oil in Saudi, that's why they are pumping water into the wells to float out the last dregs of sweet crude?

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 17:57 | 1694704 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Ask your buddy about the following:

Why is the Saudi rig count rocketing and why in the past 10 years has the flow rate per Saudi well halved? While you are at it, ask him why they are desparately trying to bring the Haradh trend to "design flow" despite the inferior quality of the reservoir compared to the Northern sections of Ghawar???


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:19 | 1693498 prophet
prophet's picture


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:30 | 1693514 disfiguredskating
disfiguredskating's picture

Just read the book "Life Without Oil" and listened to a lecture by the author. It is a fantastic book and there is little dispute that we are consuming more and more oil and it costs more money to recover it. Regardless of the theory or belief system you subscribe to, our consumption of oil is not only unsustainable, it is going to have disasterous effects.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:32 | 1693517 disfiguredskating
disfiguredskating's picture

Just read the book "Life Without Oil" and listened to a lecture by the author. It is a fantastic book and there is little dispute that we are consuming more and more oil and it costs more money to recover it. Regardless of the theory or belief system you subscribe to, our consumption of oil is not only unsustainable, it is going to have disasterous effects.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:42 | 1693555 malek
malek's picture

Well Daniel Yergin is right.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 17:55 | 1694694 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

He maybe but that would depend on what he is right about?

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 14:57 | 1693756 viator
viator's picture

Peak oil is a misnomer, intentionally I think, since all those peak oil proponents are educated enough to know that oil is only one hydrocarbon and many times hydrocarbons are interchangeable. So do we have "peak hydrocarbons"? Hardly, there have been more hydrocarbon discoveries in the last ten years than discovered previously to that time. Gas, shale oil, tar sands and huge new oil fields. Exploration technology and geology are improving rapidly. The portion of the earth explored by the newest technologies which include comprehensive placement of sensors coupled with massive computing power are yielding new discoveries. The portion of the earth that has been explored in this manner is very, very small. A variety of advanced technologies to develop these new discoveries are available. Then there are new technologies to increase and prolong production from existing oil fields. One of the problems with existing oil fields is many times they are owned by nationalized oil companies (85% of all oil production worldwide) and are run very poorly. The watermelons scream environmentalism but what they really want is to halt hydrocarbon production, just as the Obama administration has done in the US.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:04 | 1693826 Citxmech
Citxmech's picture

It's all about production flow rate and energy return on energy invested.  both will not increase in the future, and the latter is in substantial decline.  Technology will not save us from a permenantly contracting economy.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:08 | 1693864 Broomer
Broomer's picture

Wake me up when these amazing technologies find even one supergiant field with light and sweet crude oil.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:13 | 1693878 Mark_BC
Mark_BC's picture

Firstly, Obama has not halted hydrocarbon production, that is ridiculous. The US is a major oil producer, it's just that its hog car culture guzzles it faster than they can suck it out of the ground.

Secondly, those other hydrocarbon deposits you mention typically have poor EROEI's, like for example tar sands which require 1/2 - 1 times as much external energy (in the form of natural gas) in order to be converted into a usable form, than the tar contains in the first place.

And of course the environmental effects from CO2 are rarely included in these analyses (it's all a socialist plot apparently), but the Arctic is melting at record rates whether the AGW deniers care to look away or not. Building 100,000 miles of levees around the world's coastlines is not going to be a cheap undertaking.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 20:56 | 1695256 FeralSerf
FeralSerf's picture

Why do they need to build 100,000 miles of levees? Can't they just move to higher ground?

Do you think those people would move to lower ground if the level was receding in order to be next to the shore?

This has to be one of the stupidest arguments ever.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:34 | 1694031 malek
malek's picture

"peak hydrocarbons" is also a misnomer.
"Peak energy" also can't be right since the invention of solar panels, and the sun still rising every day.

So if anything it might be "Peak cheap energy".
Which does not automatically imply unaffordable energy in the near future, by the way.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 16:03 | 1694108 Citxmech
Citxmech's picture

"Peak cheap energy" means increasing input costs - which implies lower profit margines and, if the trend continues it will go from slower to negative growth (ie a "contracting economy").

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 17:58 | 1694711 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Talk to me when a solar panel factory can run on off its own production....

Thu, 09/22/2011 - 07:13 | 1696128 Dyler Turden II Esq
Dyler Turden II Esq's picture

That's been technically possible for some time -- i.e. the EROEI is plenty high enough -- but it hasn't happened for reasons unrelated to EROEI. PV costs are falling rapidly. ONE-year energy payback time was recently announced. All of the old anti-solar arguments are being demolished, before our eyes.
Solar price free fall, part deux
By Mark Halper | June 21, 2011, 4:50 AM PDT

Thu, 09/22/2011 - 07:19 | 1696138 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Yes, I am well aware that the EROEI is high enough, but it still has not happened because we are no where near being able to make that transistion yet.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:37 | 1694044 granolageek
granolageek's picture

Claimng that Obama has halted hydrocarbon production in the US is simply delusional. He has somewhat limited exploration, and mostly not opened new areas to exploration as fast as some would wish, but production has not been touched.

No, peak oil is not a misnomer. The issue is oil. Production of plain old oil has almost certainly peaked. Yes oil and coal can be converted to liquid hydrocarbons, at a very significant cost.

And finally, neither the Russian or Saudi state oil companies are mismanaged. Saudi and Russia are each about 10% of world production.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:06 | 1693845 steve from virginia
steve from virginia's picture

Yergin misses the point (and so do most Peak Oilers of which I am one): what matters is not the relationship between the cost of production and the amount produced but rather, the real investment return from USE of the oil.

It's that part, the 'Return on Consumption', that is bankrupting the world and has been for the past few decades. At some point the money to be gained from driving in circles won't be sufficient to afford the high-cost extraction regimes.

I suspect we are already at the point where our money-losing consumption habits are shutting in Yergin's undersea barrels. Keep in mind, if shortages occur because we humanoids cannot AFFORD replacement oil, these shortages will be PERMANENT.

If we cannot afford today, we won't magically afford tomorrow or the next day. Our earning power is dependent on a flow-through of cheap fuel.

Remember, the problem is parked at the end of YOUR driveway. It's also 'hyper-wicked': once the true state of affairs is undeniable it will be long past the point in time where anything voluntary can be done.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:13 | 1693890 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Well said Steve. 


Wed, 09/21/2011 - 21:07 | 1695289 FeralSerf
FeralSerf's picture

I think it's pure unadulterated theft that's bankrupting the the world today -- too many thieves and not enough producers to make up for the theft. It's not $100 oil!

I could easily pay three times as much for fuel without a major shock to my lifestyle and I suspect that I'm not alone. Would I want to? Nope!

$300 oil allegedly has not peaked yet.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:20 | 1693947 Madcow
Madcow's picture

presenting at a recent energy and clean tech venture forum at rice univeristy were at least 3 technology companies who have figured out how to economically harvest deep heavy oil, tar sands, bitumen. 

there are plenty who will say the eroi doesn't work - but that assumes that none of these new recovery technologies for unconventionals can ever work.


so, global deflation - until one of these companies figures out how to dramatically increase the oil supply - or at least converts decades of resources into (proved, now accessible, previously untouchable) reserves -



Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:40 | 1694060 granolageek
granolageek's picture

With luck one of them will fly. For twice the investment and twice the time that was pitched in NO.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:55 | 1694149 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

Accordingly, it is inexpensive oil that is in terminal decline, a development viewed positively by Yergin, who writes, “Activity goes up when prices go up; activity goes down when prices go down. Higher prices stimulate innovation and encourage people to figure out ingenious new ways to increase supply.”


Very good. Lets drop going for the easy fruit and only go for the hard fruit.
Lets go for the most expensive forms of oil extraction possible.

The prices will go up, activity will go up. As activity will go up, more room for employment.

Lets test that thesis.

US cheap propaganda.

And this guy thinks he deserves every single cent he makes.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 15:57 | 1694160 msmith
msmith's picture

CL has further to drop.  The economy still can't sustain oil prices at current levels.

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 18:50 | 1694912 johansen
johansen's picture

This may take a leap of faith for some of you to believe, but, my grandfather worked on an exploratory oil rig for some 20 years.

-Never found a dry spot. Provided: you were more than 5 miles off shore, and drilled at least 5,000 feet below the sea bed. For the most part they drilled from Alaska to Cape Horn, as well as off the coast of Norway

--From what I understand, there are simply not enough drilling rigs to even think about replacing land based oil production, but $200 oil in todays dollars will change this.

---I have no doubt there is enough carbon on this planet to make the atmosphere 10% CO2

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 19:03 | 1694953 bid the soldier...
bid the soldiers shoot's picture

"Never found a dry spot."

I believe in human divining rods. For oil. I do believe in spooks. I do believe in spooks

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 19:47 | 1695062 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Just because a hole ain't dry does not make it economical...

If you spend $50,000,000  on a hole, how much oil and at what flow rate do think it takes to make it viable?

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