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Monday, December 20, 2004

Peak Oil--The Department of Energy Knows

The DOE recognizes and basically validates the idea that world peak oil production will occur soon (by 2020 at the latest), if it hasn't already. In a March, 2004 report on oil shale, DOE included the following graph:

DOE later quotes or cites several of the leading "depletionists" who have been trying to sound the peak oil alarm for years:
Campbell and Laherrère, in a 1998 Scientific American paper titled "The End of Cheap Oil," pointed out that:
"About 80 percent of the oil produced today flows from fields that were found before
1973, and the great majority of these are declining." (Ref. 15)
Discoveries did peak before the 1970s as shown in Figure 6. This figure also shows
that no major new field discoveries have been made in decades. Presently, world oil reserves are being depleted three times as fast as they are being discovered. Oil is being produced from past discoveries, but the reserves are not being fully replaced. Remaining oil reserves of individual oil companies must therefore
continue to shrink. For example:

“Royal Dutch/Shell Group, one of the world’s largest oil companies…failed for a third year to find as much oil as it pumped” (Ref. 16).

The disparity between increasing production and declining discoveries can only have one outcome: a practical supply limit will be reached and future supply to meet conventional oil demand will not be available. The question is when peak production will occur and what will be its ramifications. Whether the peak occurs sooner or later is a matter of relative urgency, but does not alter a central conclusion; the United States needs to establish a supply base for its future energy needs using its significant oil shale, coal, and other energy resources.
Now obviously I think that the central conclusion should be that massive and immediate conservation steps need to be taken, not that we should rip up what's left of the American west to squeeze every burnable drop of oil out of the ground. I haven't finished reading the report--I'll have to see what their take is on the potential of oil shales, both in terms of providing energy and in terms of environmental impact.

The key here is that an official report from the Republican administration has validated the peak oil concept and that it is likely to occur soon. Dismissing Richard Heinberg, Michael Ruppert, Kenneth Deffeyes and other peak-oil prophets should be harder for wingnuts to do. Then again, they never let facts get in their way.

Thanks to Cyndy for the link.