Monday, September 28, 2009

Scitizen | As the troubling realities of future oil supplies begin to penetrate official circles, the oil optimists are making even more outlandish claims. Last month the pugnacious Michael Lynch, an independent energy analyst and perpetual oil supply optimist, told the readers of The New York Times that the world's total endowment of oil is actually around 10 trillion barrels of which we have only discovered 2 trillion so far. That leaves 8 trillion to be extracted.

Lynch admits that with current technology only 2.5 trillion barrels of what remains can be produced though he believes future advances in technology will greatly increase the recoverable amount. He adds that he is not even including production from tar sands or other nonconventional sources. He writes all this as if it were a matter of settled fact and without citing a single piece of evidence for his views.

Lynch's most recent boast is part of a series of ever-escalating estimates by oil optimists starting a decade ago. Today, such estimates carry with them a tone of desperation as the evidence mounts that we are approaching a worldwide peak in the production of oil. The timing of peak oil production is important because there is currently no viable substitute for oil. A nearby peak would raise havoc with a global economy addicted to ever-increasing supplies of cheap oil to fuel its growth. If oil supplies begin to decline soon, that growth may be difficult and perhaps impossible to achieve.