The Peak Oil Story — A Mea Culpa

The Peak Oil Story — A Mea Culpa, by Gail Tverberg at Our Finite World. The peak oil story was that oil production had peaked and from here on it we were going to increasingly run out of oil and oil prices would grow. Obviously oil prices fell substantially  from 2013, and there is a glut.

The peak oil people point out that they said that conventional sources of oil would be unable to keep up with demand. They were correct. A bumpy plateau of conventional oil started in 2005, and in fact conventional oil production in 2005 was slightly higher than in later years.

The current oil glut is due to greatly expanded “unconventional” oil. But the critics of peak oil always said higher prices would spur new production both using other methods, and there was no actual imminent shortage of oil. So the critics were correct too. All just a semantic misunderstanding, apparently.

Unconventional oil production

The amount of oil (or for that matter, any other resource) isn’t a fixed amount. If the price can be made to rise to a very high level, the quantity that can be extracted will also tend to rise–in fact, by a rather large amount. …

In the early 2000s, the story that Peak Oilers came up with (or perhaps the way it was interpreted in the press) was that the world was “running out” of conventional oil, and that this would lead to all kinds of problems.

In my view, this story came about through over-reliance on models that likely were accurate for some purposes, but not for the purpose that they later were being used. One of these over-extended models was the supply and demand curve of economists.

Models schmodels. Trust empirical reality over models. The whole global warming scare over carbon dioxide is due to a modeling error — the climate scientists use a model evolved from the first model in 1896, and it simply omits one of the two big feedbacks, resulting in an overestimation of the sensitivity to carbon dioxide by a factor of about 5 to 10.