The Reward for Being Right About Peak Oil: Scorn Heaped With Derision

The Reward for Being Right About Peak Oil: Scorn Heaped With Derision Article by Stephen Hren Right before the end of the millennium, the clues started piling up. The...
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The Reward for Being Right About Peak Oil: Scorn Heaped With Derision

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Right before the end of the millennium, the clues started piling up. The world had been scoured many times over in the quest for the ultimate bounty, gushers of light sweet crude. Discoveries of new oil had peaked in the decade of the 1960s and had been falling ever since. Supergiants, the oilman’s term for those wells capable of pushing out a million or more barrels a day, were no longer being found, and the ones in extraction were starting to accelerate in their decline, from Prudhoe Bay to Ghawar Field to Cantarell Field. Sure, there was other “oil” out there, but it was trapped in very deep water, or stuck in tight rock formations that had to be fractured at great expense for the oil to come out. These plays could be worked, but only if the price of oil stayed very high, and even then the flow rates would never match those of the supergiants and giants that the world depended on for its tens of millions of barrels required each day for the economy to keep humming.

So former oil geologists like Colin Campbell and Ken Deffeyes started ringing the alarm bell. “Hey!” they shouted at the top of their lungs, “we can’t maintain this flow of oil forever! Even if we use all the non-conventional sources like tar sands, Arctic oil, etc the amount is going to get less and less over the course of this century. And those other kinds of oil are a lot dirtier and carbon-intensive than the oil we’ve been using!”

What did they predict? And how close were they to being right? Let’s take a quick look, lest we get overwhelmed with the cornucopian hyperbole that bombards us every day.

The price of oil will rise dramatically, possibly by an order of magnitude.

Check. Got that one right. Oil went from $10/barrel in 1999 to about $100/barrel today. Suddenly that made all that hard-to-extract oil that we’d known about for decades in places like Alberta and North Dakota look attractive.

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