Don’t worry, be happy, there’s plenty of oil, natural gas, & coal left

These posts and links rebut the studies of cornucopians like Magueri and Daniel Yergin at CERA, who say there’s lots of oil left.

Richard Kerr. 10 Aug 2012. Are World Oil’s Prospects Not Declining All That Fast? Science vol 337 p633.

Magueri’s “upbeat message depends on more than confidence in that fancy—and expensive—new technology. Overall, output from the world’s producing oil fields is always declining.”

Other scientists have found that the “decline rate of all currently producing fields is at least 4% per year,” twice Maugeri’s estimate. 

“A decline rate of 4% per year would mean that new production equal to that of Saudi Arabia—currently about 9 million barrels per day—would have to be added every 3 years just to maintain production at current levels”. 

And it gets worse: once the giant fields discovered decades ago go into steep decline, the rate could go even higher, and smaller fields or offshore oil won’t be able to make up for it.  

“Maugeri has made some very optimistic assumptions about global average decline rates, failed to provide adequate justification for them and misrepresented the estimates made by others,” Sorrell and Christophe McGlade of University College London wrote in a 6 July online posting (

Another damning statistic: “non-OPEC crude production has been flat since 2003.”

Jeffery J. Brown. 19 Jul 2012.  Maugeri on peak oil. Econbrowser.

Stephen Sorrell. 10 July 2012. Response to Leonardo Maugeri’s Decline Rate Assumptions in “Oil: The Next Revolution”.

Kurt Cobb. 8 July 2012.  How changing the definition of oil has deceived both policymakers and the public. Resource Insights.

Everyone knows that world oil production has been running between 88 and 89 million barrels per day (mbpd) this year because government, industry and media sources tell us so. As it turns out, what everyone knows is wrong.

It’s wrong not because the range quoted above can’t be found in official sources. It’s wrong because the numbers include things which are not oil such as natural gas plant liquids and biofuels. If you strip these other things out, then world oil production has been running around 75 mbpd this year. The main thing you need to know about the worldwide rate of production of crude oil alone is that it has been stuck between 71 and 75 mbpd since 2005 (calculated on a monthly basis). And, that has already had huge negative effects on the world economy and world society through high energy prices that are partly responsible for our current economic stagnation.

But because natural gas plant liquids production has been growing rather rapidly due to recent intensive drilling for natural gas and because those liquids are misleadingly lumped in with oil supplies, people have been mistakenly given the impression that world oil production continues to grow. Not true! What’s growing is a category called “total liquids” which encompasses oil, natural gas plant liquids, biofuels and some other minor fuels. Total liquids are growing only because of large gains in natural gas plant liquids and minor gains in biofuels. And, this is why it is so important to understand what natural gas plant liquids are.

19 Nov 2012. Tad Patzek. Peak, What Peak? theoildrum

6 July 2012. Olivier Rech. Peak Oil Reloaded. Energy Funds Advisors.

5 July 2012. Richard Heinberg. End of Growth Update: Blowing in the Wind. Post Carbon Institute.

James Howard Kunstler. 19 Sep 2011. The Rainmakers. Kunstler is always the most fun to read, here’s an excerpt from this column:

“This much can be stated categorically about the USA these days: the more distressed our economy gets, the more delusional thinking you will encounter. People want to assign the cause of their misery to this or that (socialism, abortion, Jews, the New World Order). People want to believe that their world is a safe place with bright prospects (climate change is a myth, we have a hundred years of shale oil). The realm of oil is especially ripe for misunderstanding, since we depend on the stuff so desperately, and the world’s geology is complex indeed, and then you have to bring math and money into the picture. But it’s another thing when professional propagandists take the stage and attempt to systematically mislead the public.

Such is the case with two ersatz bombshells zinging across the web-waves this past week, fired off by two of the foremost professional liars on the scene. The first comes from the oil industry’s leading prostitute, Daniel Yergin of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), … the main public relations shop for the oil industry. Its mission is to blow smoke up America’s ass in order to keep investment dollars flowing into oil companies because oil companies prefer to use other people’s money to perform their risky operations. They make a lot of money themselves, and accumulate it diligently, but they are not so foolish as to squander it on dry holes and adventures in alchemy.

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.

He says: “Meeting future demand will require innovation, investment and the development of more challenging resources. A major reason for continuing growth in petroleum supplies is that oil previously regarded as inaccessible or uneconomical is now part of the mix, such as the “presalt” resources off the coast of Brazil, the vast oil sands of Canada, and the oil locked in shale and other rocks in the U.S.”

Spoken like a true PR whore. Translation: give us money. Calling all investors. Give your dollars to the folks working the Bakken play, or Eagle Ford down in Texas. These shale plays represent oil that is trapped in “tight,” low-permeability rock that has to undergo fracturing operations (“fracking”) before you can drain it out. It costs a lot more to get oil this way than by sticking a pipe in the ground and running a pump-jack to get it out the old-fashioned way. There are more than a few dirty secrets about the shale oil plays, but the biggest one is that you have to throw a huge amount of capital and steel at it to keep it running as an ongoing enterprise, and that money – other people’s money – will be in shockingly short supply in the years head.
Those troubles distant rumblings you hear in places like Greece, Portugal, Italy, Spain – that’s the sound of the world’s money whooshing into a black hole, which is what happens when debts are not repaid. Something very similar is happening in the USA, where all the unresolved mega-borrowing of the past thirty years is whirling down the drain, never to be seen again, and a craven corporate oligarchy (there, I said it) is working tirelessly to hoard the last remaining vestiges of money before it either deflates across that event horizon, or inflates away to nothing by digital multiplication. In either case the result is the same: you’re broke.


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