Peak Oil Discredited

Hubbert was a geologist in the oil industry who developed a curve based on the decline of oil production in Texas. That curve has been the basis for Peak Oil theories ever since.

Many have said the world was running out of oil, and that we had consumed half of the available oil. They have speculated that production would fall rapidly after we reached the peak of oil production.

Some people have said we have passed the peak, while others predict the peak is just around the corner.

Hubbert developed his curve when technology was still primitive and never took into consideration how new technology would affect his peak oil curve.

Since publishing his curve, several advances have been made in oil exploration and production, advances he couldn’t foresee in the 1950s.

For example:

  • Enhanced production techniques have increased the amount of oil that can be extracted from an oil field. This means there is more oil available.
  • Improved three dimension mapping of geologic formations has improved geologists’ ability to identify potential oil fields.
  • Deep water drilling was not envisioned as a possibility in 1950. Now we are drilling in thousands of feet of water and have discovered huge new oil fields.
  • It was believed that producing oil from tar sands was uneconomical, but now large quantities of oil are being produced from tar sands.
  • Oil locked in shale was never expected to be released and made available for production. Over the past year or two, fracking has been used to release oil from shale, thereby significantly increasing potential reserves.

All these advances were not known to Hubbert in the 1950s.

In spite of these advances, some people cling stubbornly to Hubbert’s curve and peak oil theory.

One of the most respected forecasting organizations, CERA (Cambridge Energy Research Associates), published a paper at the end of 2009 stating that, at least until 2030, “there was no evidence of peak supply”.  They went on to say, after 2030 they foresee “an undulating plateau, rather than a dramatic peak”.

CERA forecasts worldwide production of 115 million barrels per day by 2030, which compares to our current worldwide production of approximately 85 million barrels per day.

While we will eventually run out of all minerals and oil, there’s no reason to base energy decisions on an imminent collapse in the availability of oil. In addition, there will be new advances in technology, some that could unlock the billions of barrels of oil locked in shale in the Wyoming, Utah and Colorado area that’s currently too tightly locked in the shale for existing fracking technologies to reach.

There’s no reason to believe we can’t produce significantly more oil in the US, for decades to come.

Fear of peak oil is another reason being used by those who oppose drilling, to prevent more drilling in the US.

We have the oil, and the sooner we embark on a serious campaign to produce more oil, the sooner we can mitigate disruptions in production in foreign countries.

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