Thursday, May 23, 2013

Just Wait! Who's predicting now?

This is well done.

Just Wait! Who's predicting now?
Postby Pops » Wed 22 May 2013, 18:21:08
It dawns on me that Peakers are no longer the one's saying "Just wait!"

Once upon a time the idea of peak oil was all speculation. Around here it was a crystal ball prediction with a bunch of charts put together to show that some time in the future the easily extracted oil would become scarce and the world would need to turn to harder and more expensive sources. Then, went the prediction, production would not only stop increasing no matter how high the price but would eventually begin to fall. "Just wait" cried the Peak Oilers.

But those who believe desire creates resources said peak oil prediction was as old as oil production itself and that the day oil production can no longer grow would never come. Just look at the facts they said, production always increases, prices always fall, newer, easier oil is always found. PO Doom is just "fate" and Peakers have no faith that humans can cheat the inevitable, like the old saw: "The Stone Age didn't end for lack of stones."

But now, that whole situation has been turned on it's head. Now the basic events predicted by Peakers; stalled global production growth, even in the face of high prices, is the reality and no longer in the realm of speculation or "fear mongering". Now it's the cornucopians forced to say a return to the good old days of oil abundance is just around the corner; "Just Wait!" say the frackers.

The old argument against peak oil was, "Look, oil production is increasing". Now production of actual oil has been treading water for going on 8 years even at the highest average prices since oil production began. The only way to continue the illusion of increasing production has been to change the definition of oil to include stuff never counted as oil previously and even to quit calling it oil altogether. Now the stock line is "Look, All Liquids are increasing!" I guess the new saw will be the Oil Age didn't end for lack of oil, it was replaced with "Liquids".

But back out all the things counted in All Liquids that aren't oil and the reason to stop calling them "oil" becomes clear. Counting biofuels as oil for example double counts the oil used to make them, once when oil is produced and then again when the biofuels are produced using oil.

Then there is Refinery Gain, which aren't really gains at all in energy terms, the are simply volume increases that happen as oil is split into various finished products, it isn't an increase of energy and in fact it also ignores the energy used to split oil into finished product.

The biggest non-oil counted in All Liquids is "natural gas plant liquids" which counts things that never were counted as oil until true oil production ceased growing. They were never a part of the crude oil stream to begin with and for the most part never go into the crude oil stream now. And in any event, they contain significantly less energy than oil by volume so counting them as oil equivalent on a volume basis is like counting the buzz in Budweiser as equivalent to Wild Turkey on a volume basis.

So now that peak oil is all but in the history books (except for some shale bound oil that was not profitable until the plateau) we are in the funny situation that it's no longer Peak Oil that is the unbelievable forecast but the idea that somehow all the overcooked, undercooked, deep, arctic, extra heavy, tight, etc, etc, will be able to provide not only the same flow rate and net energy to replace the old continuous pressurized reservoirs but that they will continue growing forever more! The funnier part is that even after 7 or 8 years 80% of all tight oil in the world comes from just 2 fields and the CEO of one of the biggest frackers said the growth rate has already peaked.

But we see press releases, OilCo financed papers from prestigious institutions and ad campaigns all touting the new oil that is going to make America the next Saudi Arabia (if we can manage to cut our use in half). People here post every imaginable excuse and convoluted bit of logic trying to convince someone that they shouldn't believe their lying eyes, that the economy is in great shape, that oil prices are (variously) not that high or not a record or not a problem for consumers or if they are high it's because of [insert whatever non-supply-related excuse] and that the oil is (variously) perfectly matched to demand, no longer required to operate the economy, and above all that tight oil production is set to explode, any minute now.

"Just Wait!" they holler, frantically attaching wheels to the goalposts, "The good old days will be right back!"

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