Is Peak Oil a lie?

Alaskan oil pipeline at PaxsonI’m going to shamelessly crib from io9 and link to the Cleantech Group’s write-up of a talk by an environmental futurist named Peter Schwartz, because he has a pretty provocative point to make. In a nutshell – Peak Oil is a lie, and it’s a lie that could make things worse rather than better.

Peak oil is wrong. We really don’t know how much oil there is in most of the oil reservoirs of the world. Oil reservoirs are complex geological structures, and most of the data is in private hands, or in state governments, and they are not particularly forthcoming about how much is there.

However, he’s far from denying that climate change is a problem:

We are not going to run out of oil before the issue of climate change drives change. It’ll be costly oil. But it’ll be climate change catastrophes [such as sudden, unexpected displacement of large numbers of people, and massive property damage], and more expensive oil, not the fact that we’re running out of oil, that will drive change

Of course, Schwartz is just one man, and an awful lot of people seem to be pretty convinced that Peak Oil is real, so I can’t argue that either way because I don’t have the knowledge or evidence to do so. But it’s interesting (and refreshing) to hear someone deny Peak Oil without denying climate change at the same time. [image by Steve Deger]

2 thoughts on “Is Peak Oil a lie?”

  1. SchNEWS had a piece on this a few weeks back:

    The argument is made that there is actually a glut of oil supply at the moment, and what is lacking is refining capacity, which hasn’t increased to match increased supply. I meant to tie this argument in with the post I made about Saudi Arabia walking out of OPEC the other week, but I couldn’t remember where I’d read it and Google was no help!

    As SchNEWS put it, “The real problem isn’t that we’re going to run out of fossil fuels. The problem is what happens when we don’t… “

  2. More expensive oil, that is, “costly oil”, IS what peak oil is about, not the date at which oil “runs out” (which is likely “never”, since oil will eventually get so expensive or scarce that nobody would bother mining the last drop.). The economy isn’t dependent on just “oil” but CHEAP oil. Thus it is the end of CHEAP oil, not the end of oil, that is the key point. If we suddenly magically got 100 trillion bbls of oil dropped into our lap from On High but it cost $10,000/bbl to use, we might as well not have it at all. From this view, even “peak oil” is not really the most important event, but “gap oil”, where demand outstrips supply enough to cause big trouble.

    When we run out of CHEAP oil, it’s like having the pillars kicked out from under our economy. What happens when oil costs $400/bbl? We saw what $147/bbl did. Wanna try $400?

    If he admits oil ain’t gonna be cheap anymore, he has conceded the main point of peak oil theory, even while simultaneously “denying” it.

    The point behind peak oil is NOT, I repeat, NOT about “when oil runs dry” (which as I said will likely never happen for the reason given) but “when oil ain’t CHEAP anymore” (which WILL happen and IS happening). People like to think “peak oil” equals “zero oil”. Actually, it’s just the opposite: maximum oil, or more precisely, maximum oil availability.

Comments are closed.