Why We'll Never Run Out of Oil

The notion that world oil production had reached its summit and would soon begin a decline was in great vogue not so long ago.

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Remember the term "peak oil"? Whatever happened to it?

The notion that world oil production had reached its summit and would soon begin a decline—bringing with it shortages, economic collapse, resource wars, and general ruination—was in great vogue not so long ago. 

"Is global oil production reaching a peak?" asked the BBC in 2005. "We are approaching peak oil sooner than many people would have guessed," said The Houston Chronicle three years later. Two years after that, The New York Times reported on a group of environmentalists who "argue that oil supplies peaked as early as 2008 and will decline rapidly, taking the economy with them."

Government agencies also bought into the idea. In 2010, the U.S. Joint Forces Command warned that "by 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day." Just this spring, seemingly every other report warned that $5-a-gallon gasoline—or worse—was just around the corner, and certainly would arrive by summer. 

Well, here we are at summer, 2012. The Chicago Tribune reports that the nationwide price for a gallon of regular "has fallen well below $4 a gallon." The term "peak oil" seems to have been completely forgotten. Not only that—it is beginning to look as though the U.S. could largely cease to depend on the Middle East as its principal supplier. 

The Washington Post reports that U.S. imports from OPEC countries have declined by 1.8 million barrels a day. Last year the top American source of crude oil by far was Canada, which supplies 29 percent of U.S. imports. By contrast, the No. 2 supplier, Saudi Arabia, supplies only 14 percent. "Production has risen strikingly fast in places such as the tar sands of Alberta, Canada," The Post says, "and [in] the 'tight' rock formations of North Dakota and Texas – basins with resources so hard to refine or reach that they were not considered economically viable until recently. Oil is gushing in once-dangerous regions of Columbia and … Brazil."

But that's not all: "A host of new discoveries or rosy prospects for large deposits also has energy companies drilling in the Chukchi Sea inside the Arctic Circle, deep in the Amazon, along a potentially huge field off South America's northeast shoulder, and in the roiling waters around the Falkland Islands." 

So what the heck happened? It's no great mystery. As supplies tightened and prices rose, producers were motivated to find new sources and develop new technologies. When you hear that only X trillion barrels of "recoverable reserves" of oil exist, remember: The term does not refer to all the oil that there is. It refers to those reserves that are neither too costly to tap at present, nor off-limits because of government policy. Both of those factors can change.

And how. In just the past six years, North Dakota has shot to the No. 2 domestic source of oil, thanks to improved horizontal drilling techniques that have tapped the Bakken and Three Forks fields. Thanks to the oil rush the population of Williston, N.D., has roughly doubled. Unemployment is 1 percent—with 3,000 jobs are still open—and average pay has shot up from $32,000 to $80,000. North Dakota's oil boom also has been made possible by a new technology, fracking (short for hydraulic fracturing). Fracking has drawn criticism from environmentalists, but it works. 

This shows why it is a mistake to judge oil reserves by guessing how much is in the ground. First, that omits the most important factor: human ingenuity. While resources are limited, ingenuity is not. So when, in 1989, Colin Campbell—the founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil – claimed that the peak already had been reached, he might have been correct given the technology of the time. But then, more than a century before Campbell, Henry Wrigley—head of the Pennsylvania Geological Survey – also warned that oil production had reached its peak, too. People have been warning that we're about to run out of oil not just for the past few years, but for the past few decades.

Yet as Donald Boudreaux, an economics professor at George Mason University, explained a couple of years ago, running out of oil "is not as much a question of physics as it is one of economics. And economics assures us that we will never run out of oil."

Never?

Yes, never: "My colleague Russ Roberts explains why in his book The Invisible Heart. Imagine, Russ says, a room full of pistachio nuts. You love pistachios and can eat all that you wish as long as you throw each empty shell back into the room whenever you eat a nut. You might suppose that you'll eventually devour all of the nuts in the room. Their number, after all, is finite. But…the more you eat…the more difficult it becomes to find uneaten nuts among the increasing number of empty shells. Eventually, it will not be worth the time and effort required to search amidst the empty shells for the relatively few remaining nuts. You'll voluntarily leave uneaten pistachios in the room."

What will you do then? Go find another source of energy, of course. Just as we will with oil.

A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where this article originally appeared.

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  1. Someone around here was really flogging the “Peak Oil” thing a few years ago. I would appreciate the opportunity to mock and abuse them, if anyone recalls who it was.

    1. A lot of people were flogging peak oil. I, however, was not one of them. I have always considered it bunk.

    2. Jennifer is a fan of the theory…

    3. There’s no basis for it. Proven reserves have increased faster than current extraction for as long as we’ve been monitoring. Every time the extraction/reserve trend inverts, people go out and find another giant field that is exploitable by technologies coming online.

      It is a logical fallacy based on the idea that discovery and extraction are static technologies.

      Addendum: IF it turns out that oil is only being generated off of mass extinction events that allow billions of tons of vegetable matter to decompose anaerobically, and exploiting oil in the ground remains cheaper than other methods, there must be a Peak Oil event. But it is at least 150 years in the future based on present trends.

      1. Do you guys even have a clue what the Peak Oil is about? All it says is that there comes a point in time after which production can no longer increase because depletion is faster than the new production that is brought on line.

        American production peaked more than 40 years ago and is not going to be surpassed no matter how much capital is destroyed by drilling for tight oil in shale formations. Global production of light sweet crude peaked in 2005 even though hundreds of billions have been spent since then.

        Now you may argue that if we spend a pile of money on substitutes such as biofuels, heavy oils, tar sands, etc., we can keep increasing production for a while. But that will not change the math. With a depletion rate of more than 6% for conventional reservoirs and more than 25% for deep water and shale there is no way to avoid a peak.

        Those who want to take advantage of the dumb money should wait until demand declines and heavy short sales in the futures pits take the price much lower and buy cash rich marginal conventional producers with reserves in politically safe areas of the world. After price declines force a wave of bankruptcies in the uneconomic shale sector those companies with decent conventional reserves should do very well.

        1. “American production peaked more than 40 years ago and is not going to be surpassed no matter how much capital is destroyed by drilling for tight oil in shale formations. Global production of light sweet crude peaked in 2005 even though hundreds of billions have been spent since then.”

          It’s obvious that cherry-picking is paying enough to keep bozos in computers.

        2. “American production peaked more than 40 years ago and is not going to be surpassed no matter how much capital is destroyed by drilling for tight oil in shale formations”

          Oh, you mean like BEFORE productivity-strangling bureaucracy ever fucking came into existence?

          Try again.

    4. Unless the oil supply is infinite, there has to be a peak in availability.

      1. Sure, but the problem is that nobody has really quantified at what rate oil is produced in the crust. We assume that it is not produced at the same rate it is withdrawn because very few fields simply continue producing at high levels over long times. Although there is evidence of at least one field whose production was initially 15000 bpd, fell to 4000 bpd over 15 years, and rose back about 10000 bpd, without any further drilling or change in extraction technique.

        1. Actually, we have a very good idea. It takes a long time for a source rock to migrate to depths and pressures that will produce oil. To make this oil useful you need all kinds of conditions and any one that is not present destroys the viability of recovery. This is why a planet that has so much source rock in so many locations has so few places that contain prolific fields.

  2. Not only that?it is beginning to look as though the U.S. could largely cease to depend on the Middle East as its principal supplier.

    The Middle East is not the U.S.’s principal supplier; Canada is, followed by Mexico.

    Canada (18.2%)
    Mexico (11.4%)
    Saudi Arabia (11.0%)
    Venezuela (10.1%)
    Nigeria (8.4%)

    1. After I posted I realized this info was from 2007. However, Canada is still our largest supplier, followed by Saudi Arabia and then Mexico as of 2011.

      1. ^ this.

        Reducing the percentage of the world market’s oil coming from the Middle East would be a better statement.

      2. Yes, of course. This is because OPEC now sells to China. Expect the US to get a smaller and smaller share of OPEC oil. This is not energy independence, however. The Saudis can produce oil for as little as $40 per gallon. The US, on the other hand, can only go as low as $80 before production isn’t profitable. If OPEC ever decides to increase production and sell for under $80, US oil production screams to a halt. That’s not energy independence at all.

    2. Reason has long since ceased to believe in doing basic research (aka, 5 seconds of googling) so as to not look like a bunch of idiots in print. Call it the Dalmia Effect.

  3. I am going to watch a talk by Dr. Steven Chu today. Does anybody have any good questions they think he should be asked?

    1. Given his track record in handing out DOE loans, does he plan to go into venture capital after he leaves government service?

      1. Did he really fuck up that bad all on his own, or did Obama make him do it?

        1. You are assuming Obama has been actively supervising him. I doubt Obama has made him do much of anything. Some of his staffers may have decided to weigh in, but I doubt Obama himself has been any more engaged with DOE than he has with the other agencies.

          1. at the very least, it is a good bet that Chu had Obama’s tacit approval. Come on; no administration hires people whose thinking is at odds with the president’s. On the rare occasion that this happens, those people gain a new title: ex-Cabinet Secretary.

            1. Ask him why anyone should give a shit about single molecule biophysics.

    2. Ask him where are water fueled cars are?

    3. What the fuck is wrong with Chu?

  4. “When you hear that only X trillion barrels of “recoverable reserves” of oil exist, remember: The term does not refer to all the oil that there is. It refers to those reserves that are neither too costly to tap at present, nor off-limits because of government policy. Both of those factors can change.”

    The term is even more limited than that.
    Assume you run Mega Oil Co. You spend money to prospect for reserves that assure your supply for the next 15-20 years. You don’t waste money trying to find sources for the next 100 years; who knows what’s going to be used then?
    So we always seem to have “ONLY 20 YEARS OF OIL LEFT!” How amazing (or not).

    1. And that term also assumes the current state of technology. So anytime technology reduces the price of extracting oil, that number goes up.

      1. the continuing advance of technology basically means that the more oil you find, the more oil you find.

      2. And trust me when I tell you we’re working on reducing that cost every single day.

        1. I am sure they are. I am always amazed at how people don’t realize that. There are people out there who think businesses will never look to cut costs or get more efficient unless the government tells them to. No kidding. There are actually people out there who want CAFE standards for commercial trucks. As if it never occurred to trucking firms that cutting their biggest cost, fuel consumption, might be a good idea.

          1. But, but, but…. I am assured by my MA liberal friends that no businessman is capable of thinking past the next quarterly earning report!

          2. The irony here is that it’s the trucking firms that are lobbying congress for the CAFE standards. Instead of waiting for technology to catch up, by creating the CAFE standards, the trucking companies use the government to force truck manufacturers to non-efficiently invest in better fuel efficiency technology, while hiding behind the government so that their costs don’t significantly go up.

      3. So far. Unless the supply is infinite, that can’t go on forever.

        Well, technically it could, but at some point you’d be down to supply increases of 0.00000001 barrels of oil.

        1. Yeah, in like 1,000 years.

  5. Its where these “small planet” types always go wrong. They forget that what controls the amount of recoverable resources is our intelligence and ingenuity. While those certainly have limits, I don’t think we have any idea yet what they really are.

    1. While those certainly have limits, I don’t think we have any idea yet what they really are.

      If there is a limit, we’ll certainly *never* know what it is. Or at least not for a million years.

    2. On the other hand, we’re absolutely certain that there is no “Peak Stupid”. Its headroom is apparently infinite.

    3. Like the Buddhist monk said, “So far.”

      Be careful not to make the same mistake Krug Co. make when they point to the lack of hyperinflation in the fiat money era as evidence that it will never happen.

  6. “Drill, Baby Drill!”

    Didn’t that idiot Sarah Palin claim there was oil in the ground somewhere? Stupid bitch lied and said food prices were rising too. I believe Suderman or Moynihan put the latter ridiculous claim to rest.

    1. But she didn’t go to the right schools and all of their girlfriends hate her. So she just can’t be right.

      1. That and she’s attractive. We all know attractive women are dumb. And that annoying voice. Nobody with a voice like that could be right about anything. And her hair is always perfect. That’s a sure sign of being stupid. Her accent too. Definite sign of stupidity.

        Remember, it’s not what a person says that makes them wrong, it’s who they are.

        1. That is right sarcasmic. BTW how did you miss this in the Daily Mail today?

          http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvs…..ttoms.html

          I think Kylie gets the nod. Middleton was no doubt wearing underwear to make her ass look better whereas Kylie in that photo is just showing what is there.

          1. I tend to skip over Middleton stuff.

            1. Something about the worlds most famous rich bitch that always makes me curious. I honestly can’t even imagine what a rich bitch Middleton must be. And for that reason I always have to look.

          2. Kylie Minogue still looks fine. FINE.

          3. So Kylie Minogue is trying to move beyond her gay male fan base?

          4. No such thing as the “perfect” ass for all men. Value is inextricably subjective, and that applies to buns, too.

    2. Re: SIV,

      Didn’t that idiot Sarah Palin claim there was oil in the ground somewhere?

      She claimed that it belonged to all the people that lived somewhere where the oil was, and so she was making sure the monetary benefits of such wealth went back to the people that happened to live in or around the same place where the oil is. You know, by taxing the companies that extracted the oil that is under the ground somewhere.

      (I’m talking about her appearance in Stossel yesterday evening on FBN.)

      I cannot say if she’s dumb or not, but she’s definitively a collectivist.

      1. I call shenanigans on that. I can’t get the stream to come up. do you have a link to a transcript. I think you are more than likely taking it way out of context. When she says “all of the people who live there” she is talking about who live there meaning the ones who own the mineral rights. I defy you to show me where she says something else or has in the past ever claimed some sort of collective ownership over mineral wealth.

        Why does Sarah Palin make reasonable people deranged?

        1. Re: John,

          I call shenanigans on that.

          I believe Fox News will do a repeat on Saturday. But I recorded the whole thing and she said that the oil in Alaska is owned by all Alaskans. Her comments were later (and deservedly) panned by a Cato economist during a QA session in the 2nd half of the show, correctly pointing out that she was talking like a collectivist and warning people of such talk from politicians.

          1. I think CATO is picking nits. The oil is owned by “all Alaskans” in the sense that everyone benefits from its extraction and no one has a right to come in and tell the owners they can’t use it. She was being metaphorical not literal. And CATO knows that. They are just getting their Cosmotarian on.

            1. Re: John,

              The oil is owned by “all Alaskans” in the sense that everyone benefits from its extraction and no one has a right to come in and tell the owners they can’t use it.

              John, it would be better if you watched the show. She said that the oil belonged to all Alaskans by Constitutional mandate and that she made sure the benefits of oil extraction did not go all to the oil companies. I can tell you: My jaw literally dropped.

              She was also blabbering about how the Obama administration did not have an Energy plan. The CATO economist was quick to point out that the US does not “need” an Energy plan just like it doe not need one for onions or cars or pogo-sticks.

              1. Constitutional mandate

                That would be the Alaska State Constitution, not the US Constitution.

          2. Show me where she has openly advocated for the nationalization of mineral rights. If you can’t do that, then she clearly was speaking metaphorically not literally.

            Again, I call Shenanigans. Something about Palin causes people’s brains to shut off, even at CATO.

            1. Alaskans get an annual check for about $2,000 from oil revenues, plus an another $1,200 pushed through by Palin in 2007. The idea is that everyday Alaskans should get a piece of the oil pie. I have no idea whether she’s for “nationalization” of mineral rights, as you say, but she’s already done it on the state level.

            2. Everyone in Alaska currently gets a share of the oil wealth.

              No one said nationalization, she is talking about the, um, Alaskinazation, that is already in place.

        2. Every Alaskan resident gets a check each year ($1174 in 2011, $3200 in 2008) for their share of the states oil revenues that year, it’s called the “Alaska Permanent Fund”.

          I’m not from Alaska but I would assume it’s rather popular there and most Alaskan politicians would be committing political suicide by speaking against it.

  7. I’m pretty sure Krugman says that if we want more oil we should burn more oil.

  8. Mind your spelling! This article stated “Oil is gushing in once-dangerous regions of Columbia and ? Brazil.” Columbia does not exist; it’s Colombia.

    1. Columbia does, it is just on the Potomac river rather than the Caribbean Sea.

      1. The Austin-American Statesman, a fine journalistic establishment (/sarc), once referred to Colombia as a small South African country.

      2. and is a huge source of gas.

      3. Nobody calls that Columbia.

        -2 for not knowing the capital of South Carolina, btw.

        1. Fewer people call that Columbia than the one on the Hudson.

  9. “Fracking has drawn criticism from environmentalists, but it works.”

    Should that not read “Fracking has drawn criticism from environmentalists because it works”?

    1. This environmentalist is in favor of frakking. I’m also for drilling.

    2. If they were only pumping water down there, environmentalists wouldn’t complain, and it would work.

      1. Yeah, Josh, we’ll take your word on that, since mud-momma whackos are so reasonable.

      2. Don’t forget – Josh tutored physics back in the day so if he says water-only would work the same as present techniques then I have to assume all those geo-engineer-types just have it wrong.

        /WTF?

  10. So what the heck happened? It’s no great mystery. As supplies tightened and prices rose, producers were motivated to find new sources and develop new technologies.

    Well, sure, of course. But the easiest explanation of why journalists, politicians and environmentalists were totally wrong about “peak oil” is, simply, that they’re stupid.

    1. Or dishonest. You don’t think there’s any “green” political motivation here?

      1. Occam says it’s not dishonesty.

  11. Yet as Donald Boudreaux, an economics professor at George Mason University, explained a couple of years ago, running out of oil “is not as much a question of physics as it is one of economics. And economics assures us that we will never run out of oil.”

    A looong time ago, whe I was posting some comments on a Mexican forum (owned by a well known Mexican cartoonist) I presented the same argument that Donald presents: You will never ever run out of oil. It may become MORE expensive as years come by, but that does not mean we’ll run out of it.

    The brother of the cartoonist (and forum administrator) replied with something like “yeah, but what is being said is that the era of cheap oil is gone.”

    I told him that he was foolishly talking about something that is relative: “cheap” compared to what? The dollar? Greenbacks? The soon-to-become more available than toilet paper?

    And that’s the problem. People make these mistakes because they think money is fixed.

  12. One of the key reasons “peak oil” has been postponed has been various technologies that have appeared in the past few years to increase the availability of oil. If people had not been alarmed at the impending shortage of oil, those technologies would not have been developed, and we would have run into a sudden shortage.

    Disaster has been averted so far, we should still continue developing new technologies and work to conserve the current resources.

    1. It has nothing to do with “alarm”. It’s just basic economics: if oil gets more scarce, the price goes up and producers are eager to cash in on the higher price.

      The producer who is the first to bring new supplies to the market is the winner, and gets to cash in on the higher price for a small amount of time.

      Then other producers get their supplies out, and the price starts to go back down to where it was, and we are all happy.

      Repeat. To what’s close enough to infinity to not worry about it.

      If prices stay high long enough, and no new supply comes in, this will motivate people to create different sources of energy. And this will happen gradually.

      1. Re: Libertymark,

        It has nothing to do with “alarm”. It’s just basic economics: if oil gets more scarce, the price goes up and producers are eager to cash in on the higher price.

        It also becomes pertinent to mention: If an when oil becomes less available (which a FREE MARKET price would tell you) it would make other sources of energy that more affordable and attractive to investors and developers.

        Ergo, the environmentalists’ preoccupation with peak oil is, for all intents and purposes, a total waste of time. This idea that we need to “conserve” oil is based on economic ignorance – people will conserve oil because accurate market prices TELL THEM TO DO SO. People will conserve oil without even realizing they’re doing it, just like when people gather and conserve firewood before winter because they know firewood (especially air dried firewood) becomes really difficult to gather during the winter and NOT BECAUSE they make conservation an end to itself.

        1. OM: all absolutely true and well stated. But, I mentioned the concept in my last little paragraph.

        2. We need to conserve oil because the current replacements are more expensive. To assume that a replacement will show up just when we need it is ignorant. We can save ourselves some pain later by consciously conserving now.

          1. Peter L, you will never get enough people to consciously conserve to make a dent.

            So, ever more government force will be deployed to make it happen. And then that won’t work either. Meanwhile, all this meddling in the market will hinder the natural process of switching over to a new energy source.

            What’s ignorant is your lack of understanding of economics. You need no central control to make an energy source “show up”. There is no “just when we need it”. This will be a gradual process with price pressures and increases that will signal the market. And smart people will figure out what to do.

          2. I meant to mention one more thing. What OM said is absolutely true: people will automatically “conserve” when the price increases.

            This will happen without any prodding by do-gooding scolds who tell people how to live.

            And, at the present moment, yes, other energy sources are more expensive, but that is a purely static moment in time.

            They are more expensive because we are still swimming in cheap oil and the new stuff is not very mature. But all that will change a lot over time.

    2. Peter L|6.1.12 @ 12:58PM|#
      “One of the key reasons “peak oil” has been postponed has been various technologies that have appeared in the past few years to increase the availability of oil.”

      Yep, happens all the time, so long as the government doesn’t mandate some foolish ‘solution’.
      And I’m betting you’re just dying to do so, right, Peter?
      You are dumb enough to think *you* know what is right and equally dumb enough to presume forcing it on people is the correct thing to do, right Peter?
      Dumbass.

  13. Crying wolf about oil running out has been done now for decades. I cannot claim to be an oil expert, but don’t blame me for not believing any of these peak oil theories anymore, my bet is that even in 2050 there will be people saying that oil will run out by 2070 and the world will collapse soon.

    1. People were saying the exact same thing in the 20s and 30s. Not even kidding here, Herbert Hoover warned about running out of oil when he was the Secretary of Commerce.

      There is nothing new under the sun people.

  14. It would be nice if you included in the article the total world production of oil for the past few years. If oil production has not peaked, there should still be a rising production level. The only data the article cites is the price, which is affected by both supply and demand, so it does not actually show that peak oil is not occuring.

    1. Don’t confuse peak production with peak availability. Just because a factory is putting off fewer widgets in a slower economy, doesn’t mean we’ve passed Peak Widget.

    2. Peter L|6.1.12 @ 1:02PM|#
      “If oil production has not peaked, there should still be a rising production level.”

      Uh, and?

      1. The article is claiming that “Peak oil” was wrong, the best way to show that it has not happened yet is to show that the production is still increasing. If production of oil has already peaked, then the “peak oil” people were right.

        1. Peter — production has little to do with how much oil is in the ground. The whole point of the article is that proven reserves — the amount of oil that can be produced — continues to increase at a faster rate than production, thus we are not at/near Peak Oil.

          1. But the entire Peak Oil argument is about production. It is based on discovery of oil fields and on how much oil is in the ground. We actually have good data on the first point. And that is not very good because we have not discovered as much oil as we have produced in any year since 1985. (Reclassification of old discoveries does not count or matter.) On the second point we simply plot annual production divided by cumulative production against cumulative production and see at what point we hit zero. Peak Oil should appear somewhere around the 50% mark, which is pretty much where we are now.

            And keep this in mind. We don’t use crude oil but its products. Substituting a barrel of heavy crude that produces mostly asphalt is not enough to offset a barrel of light sweet that produces mostly useful light products like gasoline and kerosene. And the return on energy investment matters. A typical investment of a barrel of oil in a conventional formation yielded 100 barrels of oil. For tar sands that number is less than 5 and for the typical tight sands formation like shale oil the investment produces a loss.

            1. VangelV|6.1.12 @ 5:20PM|#
              “But the entire Peak Oil argument is about production.”

              Bring those goal posts back, please.

        2. Peter L|6.1.12 @ 2:59PM|#
          “The article is claiming that “Peak oil” was wrong, the best way to show that it has not happened yet is to show that the production is still increasing.”

          Uh, no. That’s all.

  15. Wow.

    The dumbest article ever posted on Reason.

    And that’s like having the biggest boob job in Las Vegas.

    The only people who speak of “running out of oil” when discussing Peak Oil are people who know NOTHING about Peak Oil.

    Okay. So, Peak Oil is fake? When is Pennsylvania going to surpass its previous production peak?

    When will the United States surpass its previous production peak?

    When will the North Sea do so?

    When, for that matter, will Mexico do so?

    Oil production peaks happen to every well, every field, every country … and every planet.

    Anybody who thinks that oil is as inexhaustable as bauxite on this planet is delusional.

    1. These guys don’t seem delusional.

      1. Oh my god.

        Abiotic oil.

        One step above the lizard-people invasion and one step below the moon-landing-was-faked-on-a-soundstage conspiracy theory.

        1. Sources, please.

          1. Start with Google, Brett. You know how to type in the search box, right?

            1. Yep. That’s where I found my source. Smug may feel good, but its unenlightening. What I’ve found in about 30 mins of googling is that a)no one knows what the rate of oil renewal in the crust is and b) some of it is happening and c) methane in the crust is definitely the result of a mixture of abiotic and biotic sources, thus d)while little evidence exists for abiotic oil as the primary source of petroleu, the only refutation is that most of the oil we’ve drilled so far is old, but some of it is younger than it should be based on a purely biotic process.

            2. Shut up Mary.

    2. Re: Registration at Last,

      Okay. So, Peak Oil is fake? When is Pennsylvania going to surpass its previous production peak?

      So far it seems like intelligence or reason are not attributes that describe you, R.

      When will the United States surpass its previous production peak?

      “Previous” production “peak”?

      Oil production peaks happen to every well, every field, every country … and every planet.

      What the author of the article is saying is that the concept of so-called “peak oil” stems from this idea that technological advances do not exist, not that there is not a finite quantity of oil.

      Anybody who thinks that oil is as inexhaustable as bauxite on this planet is delusional.

      Nobody mentioned anything close to inexhaustibility.

      The only people who speak of “running out of oil” when discussing Peak Oil are people who know NOTHING about Peak Oil.

      Or those that are irony-impaired.

      1. “Previous” production “peak”?

        *****************************

        Every time I think Old Mexican has reached “peak retard,” he digs the well a little deeper.

        You’re trying to be a part of this debate and you are not even aware that U.S. oil production peaked under Nixon, are you?

        http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hi…..RFPUS2f=A

        1. “You’re trying to be a part of this debate and you are not even aware that U.S. oil production peaked under Nixon, are you?”

          Uh, and?

          1. Clearly there is empirical evidence that regions experience peak oil. (The examples of Pensylvania, the US, Mexico, etc are given) It is reasonable to assume that the same thing will happen on a global scale.

            1. Perhaps. But what are the proven reserves of Penn? Peak oil has nothing to do with production, its about retrievable oil in the crust running out, and the trend is, at best, not heading towards the inflection point.

              1. Let’s assume you’re right, Brett (which is like assuming that Elvis is still alive).

                We started drilling oil around 1850. How much of the oil that we have drilled since 1850 has been replaced by the “abiotic process” to date?

                1. I don’t claim to know. Nor do I know the distribution of biotic to abiotic oil either locally or globally. If you’ll look up top, I’m freely admitting that if all or even more than we extract annually is produced biotically, there WILL be a Peak Oil event. But we aren’t close. Since 1850, proven global reserves have continued to increase at a rate greater than production. We find more oil than we drill. Until this stops, its silly to talk about when Peak Oil will occur. Not in our lifetime is the current answer, and a more specific one is unknowable.

                2. Registration At Last!|6.1.12 @ 3:19PM|#
                  “Let’s assume you’re right, Brett (which is like assuming that Elvis is still alive).”

                  Sorta like trying to imagine you with a brain cell.

            2. Peter L|6.1.12 @ 3:02PM|#

              Clearly there is empirical evidence that regions experience peak oil. (The examples of Pensylvania, the US, Mexico, etc are given)”
              Yes.

              “It is reasonable to assume that the same thing will happen on a global scale.”
              Maybe. Not proven, simply presumed.

    3. “Okay. So, Peak Oil is fake? When is Pennsylvania going to surpass its previous production peak?”

      Wow.
      The dumbest post ever posted on Reason.

      1. the word is that while fracking in PA for natural gas low and behold they found oil instead…
        what was that about a production peak in PA?

    4. Registration at Last is clearly Rather/Wyatt Engine. Don’t feed it.

  16. I doubt there will be a peak oil event — there will be a gradual increase in the cost of extraction and a tightening of supply, such that (coupled with cheaper and more efficient and useful renewables, particularly photovoltaics) it will become less favored.

    It still might be useful in transport, just because there is currently no better way to carry around large stores of energy. If a chemical process is invented to use photosynthetically produce a substance with similar properties (especially energy density), it would be an excellent way to continue using ICEs while also regulating carbon (just produce more than you consume, and pump the excess into the ground).

    1. You just described one possible play-out of peak oil: a gradual increase in the cost, a tightening of supply, it will become less favored as alternatives are developed.

      The other possibility is that the alternatives are not as cheap or do not make up the difference. Everything will get more expensive. It might happen suddenly as different factors provide positive feedback. The economy might come to a screeching halt. Will you be ready?

      It has some resemblance to hyperinflation (price of everything goes up), are you ready for when that hits? Will it matter if the underlying cause of the crisis is government printing too much money or the cost of oil spiking?

      1. “The economy might come to a screeching halt. Will you be ready?”

        Ah, yes. It might happen, so let’s demolish the economy now instead!

      2. It has some resemblance to hyperinflation (price of everything goes up), are you ready for when that hits? Will it matter if the underlying cause of the crisis is government printing too much money or the cost of oil spiking?

        It’s not about supply. It’s about price. Isn’t that pretty much it?

  17. Books have been written challenging the notion that oil is a fossil fuel and that it is finite. Oil is being found 15-20 miles UNDER the artic where no forests ever existed. The Notion that it is a fossile fuel is an old unproven RUSSIAN scientists’s conclusion. There is no proof that oil is NOT UNLIMITED and is naturally created by the planet in the deep recesses of the lower crusts.

    1. Oh lord save us. Oil is from micro-organisms, not dinosaurs or forests. You are in birther/truther territory here, pal.

    2. Ok, let’s assume abiotic is true – it’d still be limited, though far less than if it’s from biotics. However, even if AGW is not *currently* true, burning oil faster than the biosphere can absorb the resultant CO2 is going to cause a lot of problems before too much more oil is burned.

  18. I have an oil and gas lease on some land at the moment. They are drilling wells just north of where it is. Hopefully they come along and build a well on my land. Fingers crossed.

  19. What a bullshit article that completely misses the idea that most people care about in regards to peak oil PRICE.

    Sure as oil keeps going higher and higher more oil will become economically attractive to get out, but that’s of little comfort to someone pay $3-4 at the pump.

    This is because increases in supply have not kept up with demand (a feature of peak oil).

    Stop trying to confuse the issue.

  20. Kroneborge|6.1.12 @ 4:19PM|#
    “What a bullshit article that completely misses the idea that most people care about in regards to peak oil PRICE.”

    No, they don’t.
    They care about what it costs to live as they please. If oil prices go up, they’ll find ways to economize or substitute activities.
    Oranges too expensive? Why, those peaches look pretty good.

    1. Energy is very difficult to substitute, much more so than fruit. The infrastructure in the U.S. is set up to support oil (and to a lesser degree electricity/coal).

  21. Is global oil production reaching a peak?” asked the BBC in 2005. “We are approaching peak oil sooner than many people would have guessed,” said The Houston Chronicle three years later. Two years after http://www.ceinturesfr.com/ceinture-bally-c-9.html that, The New York Times reported on a group of environmentalists who “argue that oil supplies peaked as early as 2008 and will decline rapidly, taking the economy with them

  22. Yes, never: “My colleague Russ Roberts explains why in his book The Invisible Heart. Imagine, Russ says, a room full of pistachio nuts. You love pistachios and can eat all that you wish as long as you throw each empty shell back into the room whenever you eat a nut. You might suppose that you’ll eventually devour all of the nuts in the room. Their number, after all, is finite. But…the more you eat…the more difficult it becomes to find uneaten nuts among the increasing number of empty shells. Eventually, it will not be worth the time and effort required to search amidst the empty shells for the relatively few remaining nuts. You’ll voluntarily leave uneaten pistachios in the room.”

    That is functionally equivalent to running out.

  23. The only thing that really matters in regards to oil reserves is EROEI (Energy returned on energy invested) if there is no return it doesn’t matter how much oil is available.

    1. Exactly. While oil may still be extracted at an energy loss for use in plastics or due to it being a more convenient form of energy than what’s invested, it won’t be on any scale approaching what currently exists.

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  25. The key point you’ve missed is that the energy return is diminishing, so we’re at the point of “cheap peak oil” as some call it. There’s lots of oil left, but it’s harder and more expensive to get that. That’s the rub.

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