When will global oil production peak? Here is the answer!
Part I of a series about Peak Oil
November 1, 2007
Peak Oil will be one of the defining events of this century. Forecasts by professionals in energy-related fields fall in a large range between 2006 and 2025+, with most forecasts by institutions in the later half of this range. Estimates vary widely due to two very different kinds of factors.
FACTOR I: Known Unknowns
We know so little that about many factors that experts can only guess at their effects over the next 20 years.
FACTOR II: Known Knowns: known to some, but not by us.
The above “known unknowns” are dwarfed in importance by these State secrets of the major oil exporting nations:
Typical of the debate about these secrets is the book Twilight in the Desert, written by Matthew Simmons (2006). He reveals a fragmentary but intriguing mosaic of data suggesting that Ghawar’s production will peak soon. On that day world production also peaks. It is good work by an amateur expert. Unfortunately an investment banker – even from Texas – is not the best authority for information on such a momentous question.
To follow-up Simmons’ insights urgently requires work by a team of well-funded professionals. The nature of our crisis is seen by the fact that no such effort has been started – or even publicly discussed by American decision-makers. All we have is lots of guessing and “back of the envelope calculations” by both sides of the debate.
The owners of these fields have the data we lack. The Gulf sheiks and FSU governments can make reliable forecasts (plus or minus a few years) – while we can only guess.
Simmons calls for “transparency.” Oil exporters should share information about their oil reserves, since we are all in this together. The major oil-rich nations see things differently. Rather than all singing together, they see us playing poker together. Rather than showing us their cards, their official response is “trust us, we have lots of oil.”
See both sides of the debate by reading both presentations at the seminar “The Future of Saudi Arabia’s Global Oil Supply” held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on 24 February 2004.
What do the KGB and CIA know?
History shows that secrets sometimes can be kept from the public for decades. For example, the public learned of the WWII allied code-breaking program ULTRA only in 1974 – an impressive accomplishment considering the hundreds of people involved in producing and disseminating this information. But keeping such secrets from intelligence services is far more difficult.
The Gulf states hire geologists and engineers to run their oil industry, a large fraction of who come from western nations. Over the past 20 years that adds up to thousands of people who have learned key data about the world’s great oil fields; many of them probably know their estimated peaking dates.
Have the CIA and KGB obtained these secrets over the past twenty years, or even penetrated senior levels of the Gulf’s national oil companies and governments?
Inductive Reasoning – are these secrets the foundation of US energy policy?
The US government might have good forecasts about the peaking of global oil production, but has not shared this information with us. Can we infer the answer through inductive reasoning? Consider the three possible scenarios.
Scenario #1: global oil production will peak soon, probably before 2017.
Scenario #2: global oil production will peak only after 2017
Scenario #3: gross negligence by either our intelligence agencies or leaders
Scenario #1 is alarming, #2 is comforting, and #3 is terrifying. If #3 is correct, key aspects of our government are deeply dysfunctional. Failure to adapt to peak oil, whenever it occurs, might be the least of our problems.
Draw your own conclusions. This is a speculative analysis, and only time will tell the truth.
Please email me if you have any relevant data or analysis – and say if I can share it with others in a future report.
By the way, geological peaking of oil production is only one aspect of the Peak Oil problem. And perhaps not the most likely or the most pressing aspect of Peak Oil. More on this in Part II of this series.
Are the things reported here good or bad? Please consult a priest or philosopher for answers to such questions. This author only discusses what was, what is, and what might be.
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Fabius Maximus was the Roman leader who saved Rome from Hannibal by recognizing its weakness and therefore the need to conserve its strength. He turned from the easy path of macho “boldness” to the long, difficult task of rebuilding Rome’s power and greatness. His life holds profound lessons for 21st Century America.
Qualifications of the Author?
Read the past articles by Fabius Maximus. A work of intellectual analysis stands on its own logic, supported by the author’s track record.