Monday, September 14, 2009

ignore the optimists - peak oil is real

Foreign Policy | Last week, four of the world's most outspoken oil aficionados waded into the controversy of peak oil, publishing articles packed with myth and distortion. This "Gang of Four" all claimed the issue was silly, moot, or simply a myth. The four pieces were Pulitzer Prize-winning author Daniel Yergin's seven-page article in Foreign Policy, energy analyst Michael Lynch's three column op-ed in the New York Times, analyst Edward Morse's essay in Foreign Affairs, and scholar Amy Jaffe's paper published by the Baker Institute at Rice University.

Here is a quick synopsis of the views expressed by all four writers:

1. Oil will remain an extremely important part of the world's economy throughout the next century as its main base of users shifts from prosperous countries to the teeming mass of humanity in Asia that previously used only tiny amounts.

2. Oil markets are now far more transparent and far more liquid given the fact that existing oil contracts allow investors to trade three to five times more oil than the world uses every day. This transparency will flood capital into oil markets, keeping the price low which, in turn, will encourage even greater demand.

3. The world's endowment of oil has never been so large, despite 150 years of constant oil use coupled with the fact that the world now consumes more than 85 million barrels of oil daily. This "fact" is why all four authors took aim at the Peak Oil worry-warts who they feel are intent on trying to convince the world that it is running out of oil.

4. The emergence of spectacular new technology will enable the supply of oil to flow far easier than ever. And, this new technology boom is just getting started. Over time, it will improve by leaps and bounds.

Thus, these four global oil authorities mused that oil, celebrating its 150th birthday last week, has never been in better shape. How terrific the world's outlook would be if these four myths had even a touch of reality! Sadly, if one ignores opinion and simply adheres to a body of well-documented -- if ugly -- facts, it quickly becomes clear that these four assertions are utterly without substance.