Peak Oil News: We will never run out of oil

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

We will never run out of oil


By Jerome R. Corsi

In 1865, Englishman William Stanley Jevons, one of the greatest social scientists of his day, wrote an exhaustive study titled "The Coal Question: An Inquiry Concerning the Progress of the Nation, and the Probable Exhaustion of our Coal Mines." Jevons' argument was that England was about to exhaust all available coal resources, which inevitably would mean the collapse of the industrial enterprise upon which Great Britain's mighty empire depended. He wrote:

It will appear that there is no reasonable prospect of any relief from a future want of the main agent of industry (namely, coal).

We cannot long continue our present rate of progress. The first check for our growing prosperity, however, must render our population excessive.

In contemplating his form of the Malthusian nightmare, W. Stanley Jevons was the M. King Hubbard "Peak-Oil Production" theorist of his day. Like the "Peak-Oil Production" theorists of today, Jevons' work is filled with detailed analyses of coal mines showing – mine by mine – the estimated amount of coal, the annual consumption of that coal (depletion ratio), and the duration of the supply, anticipating with uncanny precision the "bell-shaped curve" typical of M. King Hubbert's "peak-oil" graphs.

In his classic 1996 book, "The Ultimate Resource 2," debunking many different "doom-and-gloom" resource scares that abound in popular and scientific thinking, University of Maryland's professor of business administration Julian L. Simons, explained why Jevons was flat wrong:

What happened? Because of the perceived future need for coal and because of the potential profit in meeting that need, prospectors searched out new deposits of coal, inventors discovered better ways to get coal out of the earth, and transportation engineers developed cheaper ways to move the coal.

Insightfully, Julian Simons documented a series of authoritative predictions dating back to 1885, all warning that the United States would soon run out of oil.

* 1885, U.S. Geological Survey: "Little or no chance for oil in California."

* 1991, U.S. Geological Survey: Same prophecy by USGS for Kansas and Texas as in 1895 for California.

* 1914, U.S. Bureau of Mines: Total future production limit of 5.7 billion barrels of oil, at most a 10-year supply remaining.

* 1939, Department of the Interior: Oil reserves in the United States to be exhausted in 13 years.

* 1951, Department of the Interior, Oil and Gas Division: Oil reserves in the United States to be exhausted in 13 years.

When did Julian Simons think we would run out of oil? "Never!" was his answer. With 1.28 trillion barrels of oil in proven reserves today – more than ever in recorded human history, despite oil consumption in the world nearly doubling in the last three decades – we should seriously consider that Julian Simons might well be right.

"Peak-Oil Production" believers regard Shell Oil geologist M. King Hubbert as their theoretical deity. In 1956, Hubbert drew a bell-shaped curve that he said showed U.S. oil production would peak in the 1970s and decline from there until U.S. oil would in 2050 be nearly depleted. Subsequently, Hubbert's adherents have expanded his analysis into a worldwide prediction that we are running out of oil. Again, "Hubbert's Peak" theorists have serious critics, including prominent oil and gas analyst Michael C. Lynch. In a paper titled, "The New Pessimism about Petroleum Resources: Debunking the Hubbert Model (and Hubbert Modelers)," Lynch argues that Hubbart's initial analysis was anything but rigorous or scientifically formal:

The initial theory behind what is now known as the Hubbert curve was very simplistic. Hubbert was simply trying to estimate approximate resource levels, and for the lower-48 U.S. he though a bell-curve would be the most appropriate form. It was only later that the Hubbert curve came to be seen as explanatory in and of itself, that is, geology requires that production should follow such a curve.

Indeed, for many years, Hubbert himself published no equations for deriving the curve, and it appears that he only used a rough estimation initially. In his 1956 paper, in fact, he noted that production often did not follow a bell curve. In later years, however, he seems to have accepted the curve as explanatory.

Supporters like to argue that U.S. production "peaked" in 1970. To counter this claim, critics argue that U.S. production has only declined since 1970 because environmentalists and the political Left have aggressively blocked oil production in Alaska and offshore, where oil exploration has generated new finds.

In writing "Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil," Craig Smith and I have presented a 7-point plan we believe would allow the United States to increase domestic oil production to the point where once again the U.S. could approach oil independence.

In the first paragraph of his 2005 book, "Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak," Kenneth Deffeyes, professor emeritus at Princeton, boldly predicts that world production of crude oil will peak in just a few days, on Thanksgiving Day 2005. What happens when crude oil production statistics show increases well into 2006? Will Kenneth Deffeyes eat crow for Thanksgiving Day 2006 if he is wrong? Probably not.

Most likely Deffeyes will simply readjust his theory and pick a new day for "peak-oil production," either that or he will assert he only meant the prediction metaphorically, not empirically. At any rate, Craig Smith and I are inclined to agree with Julian Simon. When will we run out of oil? "Never!" we too argue. The world has never had proven oil reserves as large as we have today and the trend shows no sign of reversing.

Jerome R. Corsi received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in political science in 1972 and has written many books and articles, including co-authoring with John O'Neill the No. 1 New York Times best-seller, "Unfit for Command – Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry." Dr. Corsi is an expert on political violence and terrorism and founder of the Iran Freedom Foundation.


At 6:26 AM, November 09, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank heavens, someone with a facts-based perspective. To add to it, the geological data, of which we have copious amounts, clearly under-write your conclusions. Further the increasingly sophisticated well control and yield data in respect to known reservoirs (whether new or mature) under-write your conclusions.

It should be added that "never" has a particular and important meaning in this context. The first 10% of discovered reserves are generally cheap to the party that finds them. The second 10% can be cheap if luck and technology fully come into play. The third and subsequent 10% parts of most reserves become more expensive at an exponential rate until the last 20% is usually so expensive that almost anyu alternate source of energy is cheaper.

It is possible therefore to chart the cross-over points of economic viability transferring between energy sources. Of course some forms of energy are not suitable for certain purposes. It will be a long time before we can consider solar power for aircraft for instance.

A geo-thermal heat-cool system in mid-latitudes costs around $20k US or $25k Cdn. For the same home a conventional high-efficiency oil or gas heat system would be less than half. Those who buy houses with the intention of selling them (most people) would not pay the difference. Even at the current and expected high gas price context it would take a long time to recover the difference in energy costs.

A used gas-guzzler is much cheaper than a new gas-miser.

Economic considerations with respect to oil production costs are influenced by the cost of making use of alternatives. Right now this influence suggests that the change-over will trail behind the direct influence of high oil/gas costs by five years or more.

These and other considerations all together lead one to the very logical and highly probable conclusion that we will be going through a long and interesting age of transition in respect to petroleum.

Americans should pay attention to their public news and information media. There is ample information today that a continental energy policy and practice will be a reality within a year. Americans currently rely on imports for around half of their energy needs. Canada is not only self-sufficient, it is USA's biggest current and convincingly largest practical future source of make-up to this huge shortfall.

Canada is the largest watershed flowing into the United States. It is the corridor through which Artic gas and oil will flow to the lower 48. Canada has arguably the best oil recovery technology in the world. Canada is the only technology source with competent means for exploiting bitumen and other heavy oil. Canada is way ahead of anyone in the world with at-source clean production methods. Canada's atomic energy technology is the safest in the world by a 50-year track record. Canadian reserves of energy-grade uranium are the largest, best and most well-known in the world. Canada's water shed produces and can increasingly produce huge quantities of clean hydro-electrical power. Canada has capturable tides off the east coast and the technology to capture energy from that source. Canada has some incredible wind corridors already producing economic and material quantities of wind power (so-called "chinook winds" in the Rocky Mountain passes north of Montana).

Canada is 140 years old and for most of its life has been the biggest, most beneficial and faithful trading partner of the United States. Nobody in the USA has had to consider firing a shot at Canada to induce good business terms.

It seems long over-due for America to look next door for peaceful solutions to its energy requirements.

At 7:35 AM, November 09, 2005, Anonymous duran said...

I'm having a real hard time taking this author seriously.

Jerome R. Corsi received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in political science in 1972 and has written many books and articles, including co-authoring with John O'Neill the No. 1 New York Times best-seller, "Unfit for Command – Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry." Dr. Corsi is an expert on political violence and terrorism and founder of the Iran Freedom Foundation.

First, he has a degree i n Political Science. not geology or anything relating to pulling oil out of the ground.
Second, he wrote "Unfit for command"!!!
His position within the neo-conservative establishment is firmly proven by this fact alone. His book was one of the key parts of the GOP attack on Kerry before the 2004 election. (The details of that book and its bullshit are discussed elsewhere much better then I can relate.)

Anything written by him should be seriously considered political propoganda by the neo-conservatives in an effort to sway public opinion on the matter.

Compare his credentials to someone like Matthew Simmons, and ask your self which "expert" would you rather listen to?

I'd also like to know why he doesn't even mention Simmons? It's easy to attack a dead man who was detracted by many in his community 40 years ago, its a lot harder to attack someone who GWB+Cheney have used as a paid consultant and is now one of the most well informed proponents of peak-oil (or at least "slowing oil") out there.

To the editors of this website: I VALUE the content you have here, but some editorial content leading in to the story is needed to help alert readers as to what they are getting in to.

Thank you.

At 11:31 AM, November 09, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Problem also is that the current President Bush in his first year as president indicated "America would hit an energy shortage wall arount 2010". Note - not sure of the exact wording as it seems not to be found on the white house web site anymore.

This was said sometime after the private energy summit with the VP way back when.

I am going with what the President said and that the counrty (and world) is moving to a crisis in our around 2010.


At 10:57 AM, November 11, 2005, Blogger and i said...

It saddens me that you would post this rubbish on a Peak Oil News blog. WorldNet Daily has zero credibility, and Corsi is a neo-con trying to sell a book. His basic premise is that since we've never run out of resources before, we never will in the future. The abiotic oil theory has been soundly debunked as a siginifigant source of commercially viable oil production by geologists far and wide. Your proliferation of Corsi's bullshit is reprehensible...

At 6:38 PM, May 16, 2006, Blogger Richard Walling said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:55 PM, January 02, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I realize this is old as hell, but I thought I'd chip in -- if we'll never run out of oil, that either means:

1) the Earth contains an infinite amount of oil (this is clearly not the case), or

2) more oil is being produced (this is also not the case; more precisely, there is no evidence supporting this idea).

So, uh, that pretty much kills the idea that we'll "never run out of oil". It may be a long, LONG time before we run out (or rather, before oil becomes too expensive to bother using), but "long time" != "never".


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