Non Peak Oil Update


In 2006 I wrote a little op-ed piece for Lew Rockwell about the fallacies of Peak Oil. I asserted that proven oil reserves seem to go up every year in spite of both the warnings that we are running out, and that we are consuming it at an every increasing rate. Let’s Google a little and see what the state of the reserves is at the end of 2007.

In June of 2006 I asserted: "According to oil industry sources, the commonly accepted proven reserves are 1.226 trillion barrels of oil." What do we find today (December of 2007)?

Radford University offers up a nice comparison of "proven resources and recoverable resources". The high is 2272.5 billion barrels with a low of 981.4. This gives us a median of 1060, an average of 1343, a variance of 386, and standard deviation of 621. Not exactly accurate data, but these are government statistics and may be prone to some inaccuracy. I can interpret this data as either proving or disproving my assertion depending on whether we like the mean, high end of the low end. A variance of 25% of the average might be considered unsure. This is an elegant web page that even Edward Tufte would be proud of.

The Department of Energy has web data on oil reserves. One of them states that total world oil reserves at the end of 2007 is 1.317 trillion barrels of oil. I am a clear winner on this one, assuming we accept the statistics as factual.

Canada is a major producer of oil. This Canadian web site (not official) has a nice, albeit hodgepodge, compendium of statistics that can be found here. This site represents that Saudi Reserves could be as high as 900 billion barrels of oil which is more than half the currently accepted figure of 1.2—1.3 trillion barrels of oil. Graphics representing the difference between proven, probable and contingent resources, which hint at the fact that market forces will determine capacity as a function of price and recovery techniques.

The Oil Crisis is a Chicken Little (the sky is falling, i.e. wells are drying up) web site that advocates solar energy as a savior for civilization. This clearly demonstrates that they have no understanding of the concept of energy density. Energy density shows that fossil and nuclear (fission/fusion) are the only feasible techniques given current technology.

Nature depends completely on fusion from gravitational collapse for thermodynamic energy input on a planetary scale throughout the known Universe which is a very broad statistical sample. Solar is nice for heating your pool, and good for plants with several hundred million years of technology development via evolution, but will not cut it for our technological society. We need the higher-density deposits from planetary collapse (abiogenic oil source interior to the planet seeping into rock caps that we drill holes through and suck out). I find the biotic theory which is based on a single fact (chirality) to be specious.

This site asserts that the concept of proven oil reserves is meaningless, given that many of these statistics are from governmental agencies and are prone to institutional bias, that is, prevarication. This is not an unreasonable concept.

The critical reader might comment that I am only using web resources which run the gamut of credibility from high, to questionable, to silly. This is a point well taken, but most reliable sources of information now post to the Internet, and the Internet has hundreds of millions to billions of "fact checkers" that the diligent reader can quickly consult for guidance.

I am inclined to agree with the proven reserves concept being meaningless. The statistics of proven oil reserves are largely from government agencies, petroleum industry concerns, and cranks like oildrum, peakoil, and hubbert. It is my opinion that history has demonstrated they are wrong, that proven reserves go up over time, and currency-adjusted prices go down. However, the sad commentary is that our society is becoming reactionary: dramatic adjustments occur through crisis which lead to poorly planned and executed government programs (Iraq and Katrina come to mind). Oil cartels have little incentive to admit that their product is a low profit margin commodity item whose supply is increasing thus forcing prices down.

In closing I offer up two facts: first that oil is denominated in dollars worldwide, and second that the dollar has lost more than half of its value against gold during the Bush II Presidency. This extrapolates that oil is actually getting cheaper. During the past eight years the price has basically doubled to the American consumer, yet purchasing power has decreased at a greater rate. Ron Paul talks here about purchasing power of the dollar with respect to gold.

At years end of 2007 it looks like my assertion that oil supply is increasing and not decreasing is more credible than Dr. Hubert’s peak oil. My facts are unchecked and statistically insignificant which puts me on an equal footing with government agencies and cranks. So let your wallet do the talking at the pump and rely on the dispassionate market to iterate through supply and demand via the price mechanism (billions of daily fact checkers here). It sure works better than the Synfuels Corporation!

P.S. Ecologically conscious drivers of hybrid cars, they do not cut down CO2 emissions they just change the location of where it is emitted (tail pipe or electric power plant) when fossil (oil and coal) fuel fired plants are concerned.