Op-ed in NYT Claims Peak Oil is Bad Science

Energy consultant Michael Lynch argues that there are upwards of 10 trillion barrels of oil out there, as opposed to the 2 trillion that peak oil proponents recognize.

Says Lynch, "A century ago, only 10 percent of it was considered recoverable, but improvements in technology should allow us to recover some 35 percent - another 2.5 trillion barrels - in an economically viable way. And this doesn't even include such potential sources as tar sands, which in time we may be able to efficiently tap."

Lynch also claims that new sources in Latin America, Africa and the Dakotas will ensure that prices are kept low and the U.S. is not beholden to the Middle East for supply.

"Like many Malthusian beliefs, peak oil theory has been promoted by a motivated group of scientists and laymen who base their conclusions on poor analyses of data and misinterpretations of technical material."

Thanks to W.Davis

Full Story: ‘Peak Oil’ Is a Waste of Energy

Comments

Comments

Peak oil already happened

Looks like peak oil already happened:

http://localfuture.org/charts/20080301/20080301WorldOilProductionWissner...

Peak oil is simply the point of maximum oil production. So, unless the line on that graph starts going up again, *we have already reached peak oil*.

Note that oil production peaked before, not after, the current recession.

Also note that gas prices have returned to post-Katrina levels even though demand for gas has been reduced due to the recession.

I'm not so sure of that

I can't argue what is meant by the term "peak oil" because I don't really know. But, I would argue the point that we have already achieved maximum oil production forever. It's true of course that is has declined because demand has been reduced due to global recession and so suppliers cut back, but as emerging markets continue to grow and consume more energy, I would expect production to increase in the future.

Retail gas prices are certainly lower than the peak of around $4.00/gallon, but higher than they were early in the decade. Oil is going to be a very tricky commodity in the future. Many investors are using it as a dollar hedge right now propping up the price. While I see the price potentially going down in the short term, we may have quite a run in price in the long term if the dollar really does tank as many expect it will. Then, we won't be able to blame the oil companies or oil shortages. We can just look to our fiscal and monetary policy leaders.

"inconvenient Truth"

And even if peak oil is decades, or centuries away in the future, there is still the "inconvenient Truth" of climate change to deal with.

Peak Conventional Oil

Note that his predictions were ludicrously wrong in the past:
http://climateprogress.org/2009/08/26/michael-lynch-peak-oil-bet/

The moderate view seems to be that peak oil will occur in about 10 years - but this only refers to conventional oil, not to tar sands or liquified coal.

The real limit is not the supply of fossil fuels but the level of CO2 emissions. If we keep the fossil fuel economy going until the oil, coal, and other fossil fuels are burned, that would raise CO2 levels to 800 to 1000 ppm - far above the 350 to 450 ppm maximum needed to avoid catastrophic global warming.

Charles Siegel

Response to Lynch's article from The Oil Drum

The energy blog The Oil Drum has posted a counterpoint to Lynch's article, for those interested.

Daniel Lerch's picture

NYT was plain stupid on peak oil

I don't normally throw around labels like "stupid", but the fact that the Times not only published Lynch's piece but placed it so prominently (it took up a huge chunk of the 2nd page of the Editorial section, with a big graphic to boot) despite its poor arguments and faulty reasoning I think earns an exception.

The article has been soundly critiqued and debunked at the NYT site and on other sites, including theoildrum.com and our own site at postcarbon.org. I'll simply add, from a planners' perspective, that Lynch's view is not only incorrect but incredibly unhelpful as it suggests we don't need to plan for the future any differently than we've done in the past.

Above all else, the Peak Oil concept means this for planners: we can no longer make planning, policy, and investment decisions with the assumption (which has held for the last 60+ years) that fossil fuels are going to be affordable and available in the foreseeable future. It's a different world now, and the sooner planners --and the New York Times-- recognize that, the better.

Daniel Lerch
Post Carbon Institute
postcarboncities.net

Turtles all the way down...

"A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"

Stephen Hawking - A Brief History of Time.

Substitute 'oil' for 'turtles' and.....

"I can't argue what is meant

"I can't argue what is meant by the term "peak oil" because I don't really know. But, I would argue the point that we have already achieved maximum oil production forever. It's true of course that is has declined because demand has been reduced due to global recession and so suppliers cut back, but as emerging markets continue to grow and consume more energy, I would expect production to increase in the future."

That's why I pointed out that production leveled off *before* the recession. If the recession played a significant role in the leveling off of oil production, then the leveling off would have occurred *after* the recession started.

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