News & Analysis
America's New Production and the Farce of Peak Oil
Recent Discoveries Put Americas Back in Oil Companies' Sights ... New Fields May Propel Americas to Top of Oil Companies' Lists ... Brazil has begun building its first nuclear submarine to protect its vast, new offshore oil discoveries. Colombia's oil production is climbing so fast that it is closing in on Algeria's and could hit Libya's prewar levels in a few years. ExxonMobil is striking new deals in Argentina, which recently heralded its biggest oil discovery since the 1980s. – NY Times
Dominant Social Theme: The world is running out of oil. Renewables are the ticket. People will have to make do with less.
Free-Market Analysis: It wasn't supposed to be this way. By now, Peak Oil was supposed to be a fact of daily life. People were supposed to be lined up at gas stations, struggling to buy US$10-a-gallon gas. Solar and wind companies were supposed to occupy prominent places on the Big Board instead of going out of business right and left.
People were supposed to have diminished expectations – resigned to shivering in the dark. Free markets, a flawed system of commerce, were to be exposed as a misleading theoretical construct, incapable of providing for people's needs. The Invisible Hand, while real, could not combat an equally real and disturbing fact: The world was running out of resources.
But not according to this recent article in the New York Times. Yes, THAT New York Times, the newspaper of record that has spent the past decade banging the drum for Peak Oil – the idea that the world is running out of energy and that people will have to lower their expectations about how to live and perhaps abandon modern society altogether.
Now, suddenly, there is a different tale to tell. And the Times is up to the task. Up and down the Americas, we learn, there is an Oil Boom. Suddenly, we have gone from enforced austerity to an unheralded plenty. Middle East, watch out! Here's how the article puts it:
A Chinese-built rig is preparing to drill in Cuban waters; a Canadian official has suggested that unemployed Americans could move north to help fill tens of thousands of new jobs in Canada's expanding oil sands; and one of the hemisphere's hottest new oil pursuits is actually in the United States, at a shale formation in North Dakota's prairie that is producing 400,000 barrels of oil a day and is part of a broader shift that could ease American dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
Petrobras is investing more than $200 billion to help make Brazil a major oil player. Technology has made Canada's oil sands easier to tap in recent years, creating foreign interest as well as a demand for workers. For the first time in decades, the emerging prize of global energy may be the Americas, where Western oil companies are refocusing their gaze in a rush to explore clusters of coveted oil fields.
"This is an historic shift that's occurring, recalling the time before World War II when the U.S. and its neighbors in the hemisphere were the world's main source of oil," said Daniel Yergin, an American oil historian. "To some degree, we're going to see a new rebalancing, with the Western Hemisphere moving back to self-sufficiency."
The facts revealed in this article are startling. Venezuela and Mexico, despite their reserves, are relegated to the back of the pack because of government inefficiencies. Nonetheless, the New York Times makes the following startling statement: "Venezuela is now considered to have bigger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, putting it at the top of OPEC's rankings."
There is some hedging, of course. The Middle East can still influence oil prices greatly, the Times reports, and its oil fields are generally cheaper to develop. But advancements in technology have suddenly made the Americas – from Argentina to Brazil to the US and Canada – an energy powerhouse. Imagine that!
Shale oil and fracking may soon help the US produce two million barrels of oil a day. While discoveries of Brazil's new offshore fields could yield even more. "Brazil will become an oil power by the end of the decade, with production in line with that of Iran," the Times quotes Pedro Cordeiro as saying. He is an energy consultant for Bain & Company, who sees the country's oil production climbing to 5.5 million barrels a day by 2020.
Is this idle chatter, or is OPEC really being challenged? Canada, we learn, is already the top gas exporter to the United States, ahead of Mexico. Canada's oil sands may produce 3 million barrels a day by 2020. Such production increases have already helped the US cut OPEC imports by more than a million barrels a day. Brazil and Colombia now surpass Kuwait as oil exporters to the US.
We have been writing about the economic illiteracy that supports Peak Oil for nearly a decade now. We have always believed it to be a kind of propaganda – a dominant social theme advanced by the Anglosphere power elite for purposes of control and further exploitation.
The great Western banking families always float scarcity memes as a way to consolidate control and further expand global governance. In fact, if the Peak Oil meme is now going out of fashion, this may only mean that some other kind of propagandistic measures is about to be initiated.
We don't know what it is but we can guess, as it seems obvious and evident that the powers-that-be are trying to form pan-national building blocks for world government. The EU is supposed to be one and the North American Union – a merger of Mexico, Canada and the US – is supposed to be another.
This sudden "discovery" of the Americas' potential for energy sufficiency may be a way of tying together North and South American economies. By making energy available within the Americas, a certain degree of continental solidarity may be fostered, along with a number of binding political and economic ties.
Of course, from our point of view, the great banking families that want to run the world have been retarding North and South American oil exploration and production for at least 50 years. What is perplexing and condescending about the New York Times article is that the "newspaper of record" has been a willing tool of this promotion for at least that long.
Now all of a sudden, the New York Times is reversing its editorial policy – but without a single apology or mea culpa. That's how it works, of course. The Times is not a reportorial device; it is a propaganda outlet for power elite memes. When the time comes for a meme to be discarded it will be. The Times will reverse decade's worth of reporting in a single day and never even bother to acknowledge the editorial shift.
One of the Forbes brothers (of magazine fame) was quoted some months ago as saying the US itself, even in the lower 48, might contain enough oil (not to mention coal and natural gas) to provide for its needs for the next 1,000 years. And that's with the current technology.
Conclusion: We happen to believe oil may be abiotic – that it occurs naturally over time. But whether or not this is so, it is increasingly indisputable that oil and other energy resources are NOT in short supply. The scarcities are managed ones, intended to ensure that people must turn to national and global solutions for what should be local and entrepreneurial solutions. The Times is getting around to admitting this is so. Perhaps the Peak Oilers shall not be far behind.
Editor's Note: This meme seems to be gaining momentum! The Wall Street Journal recently published an article by Daniel Yergin taking on Peak Oil and its Oilers. In the article, "There Will Be Oil," Yergin writes that, "For decades, advocates of 'peak oil' have been predicting a crisis in energy supplies. They've been wrong at every turn." Yergin even blasts the ludicrous M. King Hubbert and his Peak Oil theory often referred to as "Hubbert's Peak." Even more astonishingly, Yergin mentions Hubbert's nutty theory of "Technocracy" in which scientists and engineers should rule the world using mathematical analysis. Of course, what Yergin doesn't mention is that Smart Meters are now being installed around the world to monitor every aspect of people's energy consumption, on the theory that the world is running out of oil and corporate and government monitoring is necessary to survival. You can see a DB article on Smart Meters here: Google "Smart Grid, Edge of the Authoritarian Wedge."
Posted by jakob on 12/11/11 01:09 PM
Have you even researched the cost of producing hydrocarbons by such means? It's like the biofuel situation, where only afterwards they realised it cost so much more and then had the side effect of pushing up the cost of other agricultural products making it a net loss, and only subsidy kept those going for a short while.
Of course you can produce hydrocarbons from other hydrocarbons... .but its about cost.
Yes if the cost of oil shoots up, other ideas may be tried if they are $1 a barrel cheaper, but what tends to happen is the law of unintended consequences, where it may restrict increases in the oil price, whilst pushing up the cost of agricultural products, or reducing nett world food production.
Oil has lasted so well BECAUSE it is so efficient.
Then we have the nuclear lobby, forgetting perhaps that the supplies of high grade uranium are even more parlous than that for oil.
Then the renewable lobby where photocells will be the answer... ... forgetting that one substance crucial to their production has an equally finite nature... .gallium arsenide.
Peak oil is here, and has passed, and if any of you wanted to take the blinkers off and actually start looking at REAL DATA you would see it.
For example, some years ago SOUR OIL was not even commercial, waterflood techniques did not have to be used, and that light sweet crude flowed from Saudi wells, with the depletion curve exhibiting its normal momentum, in a gradual be ever accelerating decline rate.
Now THE MAJORITY of all oil produced is produced as SOUR OIL and using waterflood techniques to eek out those supplies, and the recent world depletion figures were in excess of 9.1%
That means a new saudi super giant needs to be found very regularly indeed, but those finds are not keeping up with the depletion, even if there is plentfiul oil to be found, the fields are nowhere near as large as the ones depletiong, whilst inexorably more and more energy requirements will ensue as the undeveloped countries seek the same commodities as the rest of us have enjoyed for decades.
Shale gas won't solve much, its far too expensive, and the Austin Chalks are only commercial by virtue of the very high liquid to gas ratio, and not many other shale formations have that characteristic.
The depletion rates on shale gas wells is dramatic, and what happens if we try to run vehicles on gas, or power stations on gas... ..THE PRICE GOES UP as more and more of it is used, and the dubious statistics then of how long it will last, based on existing usage, go straight out of the window.
Reply from The Daily Bell
Ha, we are all doomed! Maybe government will save us ...
Posted by jakob on 12/11/11 12:57 PM
How poor your research is. Abiotic oil was debunked soon after it was suggested. How many commercial oil finds showed any evidence to support abiotic oil. Its not even a theory, as a theory has to have a basis of arguable quality, abiotic oil does not. The markets in the coring demonstrate its fossil formation.
To others who think shale gas means no peak oil, think again. IN the main the only reason one particular formation is doing well in Texas, is not because of the gas, but because the Eagleford has a very high condensate to gas ratio, otherwise it would not even be economic to drill. That condensate may not even be found in other formations, so the idea it is the panacea for energy problems worldwide is just nuts.
Likewise, the depletion rates are awful, with some $10m wells lucky to last 18months.
The problem is not the 'myth' of peak oil as some would like you to believe, but where the US military are not amongst that group, as they believe fervently in Peak OIl. The problem is those who don't even talk about the depletion rate of the super giant fields.
Posted by monk on 10/03/11 09:32 PM
"Three strikes and you are out? - commentary"
Click to view link
Posted by monk on 09/24/11 09:12 AM
Two responses to Yergin:
Click to view link
Click to view link
Even as more oil is found, we discover that they're mostly heavy-sour oil, which have much lower EROEIs. At best, as the IEA reveals, we will get a 9-pct increase in energy production during the next two decades, even as demand rises faster. Fatih Birol argues that we will need the equivalent of one Saudi Arabia every seven years to maintain current global economic growth.
But the "easy oil" is hardly available, with discoveries peaking in 1964. Meanwhile, new discoveries are being negated by drops in Cantarell, the North Sea, and elsewhere. The EROEIs for hemp and other sources of energy, including algae biofuels and shale, might not be enough to meet the demands of a growing global middle class, esp. in BRIC and emerging markets.
Finally, as the latest BP report reveals, we are meeting increasing demand by using biofuels and other sources of energy, which is one reason why food prices are going up:
Click to view link
And then there are the reports from the German military, Lloyd's of London, Morgan Stanley regarding spare capacity, etc.
Reply from The Daily Bell
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! The sky is falling.
Posted by Nathan Kussman on 09/23/11 06:47 PM
I'm a bit concerned no others here thought to just hit Caps Lock and punch in HEMP! with a nice exclamation point next to it - isn't it fundamental to the "free-market" approach to start with simple, common-sense ventures??? K.I.S.S. ~ 'Keep It Simple Siblings'
FUEL was of course a major reason for the 1937 Popular Mechanics article titled Hemp - The Billion Dollar Crop. Rudolph Diesel invented his engine to be powered from oil seed crops which could be grown by practically every farm within the temperate to tropical regions. Dr. Paul himself routinely mentions Hemp Stalk as great feed-stock for bio-massic ethanol production as well. With ethanol and diesel coming from one nitrogen-fixing, carbon-sucking, pesticide-less, easy growing weed that had it's virtues expounded many times by America's Founders, what more does the free-market energy advocate really want? And yes, it certainly carries around plenty of dominant social themes for you all to deconstruct... .
A must read is: America, Russia, Hemp, and Napoleon by Alfred W. Crosby, Jr. You can really see how long an "elite" has distorted our understanding of this abundant world around us.
Reply from The Daily Bell
Posted by Robert Eastman on 09/22/11 05:07 PM
Petroleum based fuels are "hydro-carbons"... hydrogen and carbon... the 2 most abundant elements in the universe/earth. There NEVER has to be a shortage of hydro-carbon fuels. Germany in WW2 and South Africa, during the trade embargo, both produced "superior liquid fuels" from coal... (Fischer-Tropsch process). Gasolines/jetfuels can be made from coal as cheap or cheaper than the present cost of crude-oil, including the amortization of the capital costs necessary to build a "F-T process" plant.
Fuel can be made out of anything that's made of carbon, which is found in all "living matter!" Somethings are easier/cheaper to use as "feed-stock" for the carbon needs of the "mix" than others... (ie: it's probably cheaper to get carbon from coal than from "old wood office furniture").
The Oil Companies buy-up / block attempts at implementing the Fischer-Tropsch process... obviously they don't want to lose their "price-gouging" leverage!
Posted by Dilence Sogwood on 09/22/11 10:53 AM
We've been using oil quite effectively for about 150 years and we won't run out for another 100 at least. I'm not sure what the problem is.
There are bigger technological issues behind intergalactic travel in the meantime!
Of course there can be advancements in solar and other such technologies. However when governments pump money into picking the winners that end up being losers, massive capital is unnecessarily destroyed. Furthermore, it discourages innovation, because the producer never has to get marginal cost below marginal revenue. This is the free-market dynamic that led to shale-gas production this decade. Now we have 100 years or so of natgas - no thanks to the governments.
Posted by judgea on 09/22/11 10:40 AM
I was actually thinking it would probably be discovered at an elementary school science fair.
I don't care who discovers it, or where they got their money, but I think there NEEDS to be a new energy future for us. The alternative is limitation of progress no matter how you define it. Either by lack of resources, pollution, or limited capability.
For things like intragalactic travel, rocket fuel just doesn't cut it.
Posted by Dilence Sogwood on 09/22/11 10:16 AM
You want two hard, free-market-type facts?
WTI (landlocked Midwestern) oil = $81
Brent/Lousianna Light Sweet (seaborne) = $106
This says OIL GLUT to me, and it should say it to you too.
Reply from The Daily Bell
Interesting price relationship ...
Posted by ralph schindler on 09/21/11 10:56 PM
Look up Russian deep oil drilling; Peak Oil myths??????????? ralphschindlersr@Click to view link
Posted by Pete 8 on 09/21/11 09:02 PM
Geoengineering sulphur and various compounds being pumped into the atmosphere by the rent-a-breath crowd of chippers, will acidify and/or be preconditioning for some other dump to react against to provide a stage.
Remembering how rain cloud is also caused in part by incoming high energy particles, one could be forgiven for seeing a 'stage' being prepared, or at least tested. Was the launch last week really a projector array? Will it be running Microsoft Surface Computing, can we touch it? Or will it be android and laden with ads?
The most convincing and dynamic shows require smoking out the venue just as entertainment-(a psyops term)-lasers do, everyone get your 3D glasses ready.
Ever noticed how when driving along in view of a rainbow, that the 'end of the aforesaid illuminatory effect (rainbow, and thus pot of gold inferred)' will not only move along with one, provided the atmospherics remain a stage, but the rainbow is also rendered a 'movable shared vision' for all in it's (the stage's) midst?
A canvas signage for a new deity.
The shape scribed by a sweeping laser, appears pyramidal to the user.
Posted by jkluttz on 09/21/11 08:55 PM
Who is we? If you mean the government, then we disagree. Private entrepreneurs will lead us to the new energy future if there is one. Government action in the energy area is particularly dangerous
Posted by gabe on 09/21/11 04:54 PM
"the left"?!! come on, enough with false left-right paradigm garbage! The right and the left used scarcity memes to consolidate power... the right uses it to justify war and the left uses it to jusify taxes.
Posted by Friend_of_John_Galt on 09/21/11 04:47 PM
The "abrupt" price changes are more a factor of politics rather than economics. Discoveries of new oil/natural gas fields immediately put downward pressure on prices -- because the future offers more supply. Political action, like a knee jerk ban on deep water drilling when there is a single case of a well blow out, causes prices to spurt, not from fear of supply shortage, but rather the dangers of political fiat.
Price is the signal, when the market is left alone, to bring forth new supplies and substitutes/alternatives when the economics dictate. When butter became too expensive, synthetic margarine was developed -- and politicians, trying to protect their butter industries spent many years screwing consumers by making margarine hard to obtain.
Oil is no different than any other commodity. When iron ore becomes too expensive, it then becomes economic to re-process scrap iron and steel into new metal products. The "minimill" was developed in the 1970s and 1980s in recognition of that circumstance.
Aluminum scrap is valuable and sought after, because it can be recycled into new metal products more cheaply than it is to process ore into metal.
Newspaper scrap is of low value and is often in surplus, because it is cheaper to use newly grown trees to turn into paper than it is to reprocess the recycled papers. If/when trees become difficult to obtain, then paper scrap becomes more desirable to recycle.
The major failing of the "green job" mantra, is that most of the "green industries" are not economically viable without subsidies. If subsidies are provided, the don't "jump start" the alternative/green industries, but rather they politically misdirect investment into processes that may or may not work. Indeed, subsidies distort the capital markets and often cause the failure of real alternatives that may not have the political support to be subsidized.
Posted by Friend_of_John_Galt on 09/21/11 04:34 PM
The left tends to have a shop keeper's understanding of economics. That supplies of whatever commodity are limited by what is on the shelf (or closet, or back room) and once that supply is exhausted, then there's nothing left.
But real supply and demand economics explains that the available resources are only available at a particular price. $2.00 oil and only a few middle eastern countries can provide supply (due to very cheap production cost). When oil prices remain above $80-$100, then all sorts of supplies become available because the (much) more expensive sources are now economic to produce.
Price sends a signal and at each level, new resources become economic to exploit -- coupled with improvements in technology that make that which was more expensive less so -- and more able to be exploited at a particular price level.
So long as the government doesn't interfere with the markets (and sadly, the current administration is doing its best to hold new production off the market), then the economics of supply and demand will provide us with all we need for a very long time to come.
Is it possible that the world will run out of oil? Perhaps -- but long before it does, the price signals coupled with emerging technologies will have identified many substitutes and replacements to fill our energy needs.
Posted by gabe on 09/21/11 03:47 PM
Yergin has been consistently against the "peak oil" theorist. His clients are the super wealthy bigget energy companies in the world. These big oil companies do employ intelligent people and most of these people are not big on the peak oil theory. It is hard to make consulting fees if you can't make convincing coherent arguments to these smart people.
Greenspan had Yergin do his interviews for the opening of his big book. You can be sure that a outsider was not going to be interviewing greenspan.
Click to view link
Yergin has Saudi Aramco as a client and is close with Kissinger and Kissinger Associates... I met a person that worked for all three. Yergin is not a outsider and he is not blowing up a meme.
Yergin is big on telling companies that climate change legislation is inevitable therefore yu nee to get in front of it for your companies benefit. Help write the legislation, create your carbon strategy etc.
Yergin was awarded the 1997 United States Energy Award for "lifelong achievements in energy and the promotion of international understanding." According to a biographical note in the March/April 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs, Yergin is currently at work on "a new book on oil and geopolitics."
Daniel Yergin also wrote and hosted a PBS production called "Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy," based upon his book of the same name. This 3-part television production was a documentary about the economic history of the 20th century. Yergin interviewed many high profile people such as Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and Robert Rubin, as well as economists such as John Kenneth Galbraith, Milton Friedman, and Jeffrey Sachs. The series presented economic history as a battle between centralized command economies and free market economies.
Here is clip with Yergin on Charlie Rose:
Click to view link
One thing you will notice if you follow Yergin and his affiliated experts, they never talk about central banking or monetary policy as a driver of oil prices... it is always excusively "supply and demand" they will do their best to not address monetary policy.
BTW if you want more evidence of the rockefellers trying to limit production over 50 years ago just look into the founding of the "Texas Railroad Commission" it was the same thing as modern day OPEC... and TPTB are just as involved in the Saudi government support as they were in founding the TRRC(cough rockefeller).
Posted by tone-bone on 09/21/11 11:41 AM
In actuality a gallon of gas costs US consumers 10 cents. 1 thin dime buys you a gallon of premium. That is of course dependent on you using a dime made in 1964 or before.
Take a 1964 dime to a coin or silver dealer and trade it in for cash and he will give you $3.90 [price at time of posting]. It isn't because that dime is a collector's piece, but rather because of its 90% silver content.
Taking us off the gold-standard was one of many death blows.
Posted by scousekraut on 09/21/11 11:39 AM
I have a friend who is a lawyer at a major oil company. I have been trying to talk to him about Peak Oil being a manipulated theme for some years but he wont have any of it.
Posted by Kelly on 09/21/11 10:59 AM
There is an oil boom in south Texas and it centers around shale oil found in the Eagle Ford formation. It is costly to lateral drill and the wells aren't high pressure so they stop up and have to be 'swabbed' often. However, any time the price of oil is above $60/Barrel, there is profit to be found. This formation is huge. New pipelines are being built. Drilling permits went to over 1200 in 2010 from nothing in 2006.
The ideas behind 'peak oil' and 'fossil fuel' are impossible to understand and clearly false. Rather than find a new expert to depend on to tell you what to think, consider the ideas until you form your own fact based opinion!!!
Posted by judgea on 09/21/11 10:23 AM
Even if our oil consumption is sustainable in the near (or distant) future, I think we should be looking fervently for a cleaner, more sophisticated source of energy. I am content with the prevailing meme. Although it may be flawed, it keeps the emphasis on finding an alternative.
Even if the Earth is producing oil like our bones produce blood, does that mean we should continue sucking it out and burning it as fast as we can?
Perhaps it is an oddball perspective, but I am disgusted with a state of affairs which places humans in a role of geo-vampires, sucking the lifeblood of the Earth so we can keep the cogs turning. Human society should aspire to a higher degree of energetic sophistication. At best, our current methods are inefficient and sloppy. At worst, toxic and deadly. Shouldn't we be promoting alternatives?