Peak Oil

Peak Oil is the concept that global Oil supplies have, or are about to, peak. Meaning that all the remaining known reserves of the blackstuff to which our civilisation is addicted are less than what we have already consumed. This at a time when demand is soaring, especially from China and India. Peak Oil is the driving force behind increasingly serious Resource Wars we are seeing in the world today. Soaring Oil prices are only the beginning... what many believe will happen soon is the total collapse of our oil based economies as demand far outwieghs supply and new exploration and refining capacity stagnates.

Michael C. Ruppert and his website is probably the best source of information and regular updates on Peak Oil that there is. I will post recent and interesting articles here and recommend a visit to FTW for loads more info, recent updates and to subscribe to the FTW email alerts. To start, here is an article about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and it's implications for us all and part of a good article on The End Of The Age of Oil by a Caltech Professor. I have also included a seminal article on Peak Oil written by Jan Lundburg in 2004.

By Michael C. Ruppert
 © Copyright 2005, From The Wilderness Publications, All Rights Reserved. May be reprinted, distributed or posted on an Internet web site for non-profit purposes only.

September 2, 2005 0600 PST (FTW) -- Following these remarks is a brilliant piece of reporting by the American Progress Action Fund. It makes a clear case for what we are all now suspecting and seeing: the Bush administration is horribly mismanaging relief efforts along the Gulf Coast. Several things are now becoming clear. It is unlikely that New Orleans will ever be significantly rebuilt. When we talk about collapse as a result of Peak Oil, New Orleans is an exemplary – if horrifying – glimpse of what it will look like for all of us. In the case of New Orleans, however, it’s happening about two or three times as fast as we will see it when Peak Oil becomes an unavoidable, ugly, global reality. How long? Months. If we’re lucky, a year. As of August 2005 it’s not just a race to make sure that a particular region is not eaten by warfare and economic collapse. Mother Nature is obviously very hungry too. What region will be the next to go? What sacrifices can be offered before the inevitable comes knocking at our own personal door? Who can be pushed ahead of us into the mouth of the hungry beast in the hopes it will become sated?
How low can human beings sink? Keep watching the news. It’s not the first time civilizations have collapsed. This has all happened many times before. This behavior is not new. What is new — but is now dying — is our enshrined belief that there were to be no consequences of our reckless consumption and destruction of the ecosystem. What is now dying a horrible death is America’s grotesque global arrogance, brutality and cupidity.
What is not being discussed rationally by the mainstream media is Katrina’s impact on energy production. They don’t dare. By my calculations and those of oil energy expert Jan Lundberg, the United States has just lost between 20% and 25% of its energy supply. My projection is that it’s not coming back — at least not most of it.
As a result of Katrina, Saudi Arabia has finally admitted that it cannot increase production.  
Many of us knew they’ve been lying for at least two years. The Energy Information Administration has just admitted that global demand has been outstripping supply for several months before Katrina. Nice time to start telling the truth. Nature is finally calling everybody’s bluff. The liars, deniers and mentally ill will be exposed soon enough and they will pay their own price. Daniel Yergin will finally get his comeuppance. FTW’s race is to reach as many people as possible who want to prepare and are willing to prepare for this in local community settings.
You save whom you can.
Gulf energy production has four main components: drilling and production, pipeline delivery to shore, refinery capacity, and then delivery to the rest of the nation. We have heard precious little about the damage to Louisiana’s Port Fourchon which is the largest point at which energy passes from sea to land in the region. It is heavily damaged and mostly inoperable for now, despite optimistic financial reports, intended to calm the markets, stating that “damage is minimal.” I am quite sure that I speak for the maybe 250,000 New Orleans residents who couldn’t or wouldn’t get out when I say, “Screw the markets!”
Production, if and when it starts trickling again, will most likely shift to Port Murphy or to Lake Charles. Sounds easy in the abstract, but the corporate headquarters at which to make and implement those decisions were mostly located in New Orleans. Shifting energy flows will never replace what was lost because those two facilities already face the daunting task of restoring their own output. They can’t handle the additional burden of compensation for what has been lost. As one astute and great researcher put it, “How will the oil companies even find their workers or tell them where to report for work?” Where will the workers live? Where will they buy groceries? How will they get to and from work if the gasoline they’re supposed to produce isn’t there? The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) is also much more seriously damaged than press accounts disclose. It’s here that supertankers from overseas (used to) offload. They have no place else to do it. They’re too big. I have seen video of LOOP damage which doesn’t look anything like the minimal damage that’s been reported. OK, so when the port is fixed what about the damaged pipelines running to shore? How many boat anchors have been dragged over them? In how many places are they ruptured, crushed or broken?
As many as twenty offshore rigs have now been confirmed as adrift, capsized, listing or sunk. Each rig may have as many as eight wells. Where’s the money coming from to replace them? How long will that take?
Bottom line: my assessment is that New Orleans is never going to be rebuilt and that US domestic oil production will never again reach pre-Katrina levels. The infrastructure is gone, the people are gone, and the US economy will be on life support very, very quickly. If people are griping at $5.00 gasoline what will they do when it’s $8.00? $10.00? Start shooting (the wrong people)? How difficult is it to rebuild in that kind of social climate? And if US oil production does not soon exceed pre-Katrina levels then the US economy is doomed anyway. It’s a catch-up game now. I think it’s quite likely that the Bush administration is responding so ineptly in part because it is in a complete crisis mode realizing that the entire United States is on the brink of collapse and there’s very little they can do about it. The Bush administration doesn’t know how to build things up, only blow them up. They aren’t worrying about New Orleans because they’re frantically triaging the rest of the nation and deciding what can be saved elsewhere.
What lingers for all of us is the inexplicably bovine behavior of the Bush administration. And how in the name of a loving God could Louisiana’s Attorney General Charles Foti say on national television that he will prosecute those who loot for survival with the same vigor as those who have looted for profit and greed? Even New Orleans police are smarter and better than this. They’re letting people go who have taken food, water, shoes that fit their feet and clothing that fits their bodies. Those who understand the situation condemn Mr. Foti’s callous and unreasoned position in the strongest possible terms.
And may God have mercy on the Democratic Party if it approaches the 2008 campaign with a platform saying that oil will flow, the prices will fall, and unbridled consumption will return if only we elect Hillary.
I was on ABC network satellite radio yesterday and after the show I repeated an observation that has been clear to me for some time. “Demand destruction” has become a priority not only to mitigate Peak Oil but also to mitigate global warming.  The United States, with 5% of the world’s people, consumes (wastes) 25% of the world’s energy. How do you destroy demand? You collapse the economy. Homeless, unemployed “refugees” (what a cold, depersonalizing term) don’t buy gas, take trips, fly on airplanes or buy consumer goods (made with energy and requiring energy to operate). They don’t use air conditioning because they can’t afford it. They are the embodiment of Henry Kissinger’s infamous term “useless eaters,” a phrase from the Nazi vocabulary. If energy demand destruction, as acknowledged by the Bilderbergers and the CFR, is a priority, then the only – I repeat only – beast that must be tamed is the United States.
What happens when we run out of the poor and “minority” people whom our country has historically regarded as expendable – and the beast is still not satisfied?
The people in New Orleans and Mississippi are being sacrificed just as surely as the World Trade Center, Pentagon and airline victims were sacrificed on 9/11.
The most chilling thing I have heard is that hurricane Katrina fell on the thirteenth anniversary of Hurricane Andrew which devastated Florida in 1992. Hurricanes are named alphabetically. Andrew was the first tropical storm of 1992. Katrina was the eleventh of 2005 and the hurricane season is just beginning. There are more storms forming now. Some of them will most likely become very large hurricanes because water temperatures are so high in our dying oceans.
Go ahead. Tell me we’ve all been wrong about Peak Oil, about climate collapse, and the metastatic corruption of our government and economic system. Now it’s an easy bet and one that we will not have to wait long to settle. I’ll take your wager.
As New Orleans is showing us, and as Groucho Marx once said, “You bet your life!”

 In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

and From:


By David GoodsteinPublished by CalTech News, California Institute of TechnologyVol. 38, No.2, 2004

This article is adapted from a talk that Caltech vice provost and professor of physics and applied physics David Goodstein presented at an April 29 program of the Institute support group, the Caltech Associates. Goodstein’s new book, Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil, was published in February by W. W. Norton.
In the 1950s, it was not Saudi Arabia but the United States that was the world’s greatest producer of oil. Much of our military and industrial might grew out of our giant oil industry, and most people in the oil business thought that this bonanza would go on forever. But there was one gentleman who knew better. He was an oil exploration geologist named Marion King Hubbert.
In about 1950, Hubbert realized that the trajectory of oil discovery in the continental United States was going to be a classic bell-shaped curve, for the decades from 1910 to 1970, in billions of barrels per year (see figure 1, below). He also saw that there would be a second bell-shaped curve that would represent production, or consumption, or extraction. The oil industry likes to call it “production,” but the industry doesn’t really produce any oil at all. It does, however, reflect the rate at which we use the oil up. Perhaps you could call it supply.


Hubbert realized that using what he knew in 1950 about the history of discoveries, along with what was already known about consumption, and a little mathematics, he should be able to predict that second bell-shaped curve. And so he did (see figure 2, below). The red, bell-shaped curve is the kind of curve he predicted. The black points are the actual historical data, and the uppermost point represents what has come to be known as Hubbert’s Peak. Obviously, he was doing something right.

© BP 

The situation worldwide is a little less well-determined. A third graphic provided by the energy conglomerate BP, shows what the world’s known crude oil reserves are (see figure 3, left-hand graph, below). The amount that we have now is a trillion barrels of oil. So people in the industry might say, we have a trillion barrels just sitting there waiting to be pumped out of the ground; we’re using it up at a rate of about 25 billion barrels a year, and so we have 40 more years to go—there’s nothing to worry about. But as Hubbert has shown us, that’s the wrong way of looking at it .
© BP

Before we leave that curve, though, I want to point out that a sudden jump of 300–400 billion barrels of oil in OPEC (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) reserves occurs in the late 1980s (see figure 3, left-hand graph, above). But there were no significant discoveries of oil in OPEC countries during that period. What happened instead is that OPEC changed its quota for how much each country could pump on the basis of what it claimed in reserves, and politicians discovered 400 billion barrels of oil without ever drilling a hole in the ground! This helps us to understand how undependable these numbers are for worldwide proven oil reserves.
As you can see, the curve that traces the historic record of oil discovery peaks around 1960. In other words, Hubbert’s peak for oil discovery came and went 40 years ago.
The curve for oil usage, as you can see, is a rising curve and will become a bell-shaped curve eventually. Note that for the last quarter century, we’ve been using oil faster than we have been discovering it. World reserves should have decreased during that time by about 200 billion barrels. Instead, as we’ve seen, they’ve increased by 400 billion barrels. In any case, it should be possible, given this much information, to make a prediction similar to the one that Hubbert made for the continental United States for worldwide oil production.
One such estimate was published in 1998 in Scientific American. It predicts that we will have a worldwide maximum in oil production just about now—around the middle of the decade 2000–2010. What will happen when we reach that peak we don’t really know. But we had a foretaste in 1973 and ’79 when the OPEC countries took advantage of the supply shortage in the United States and shut down the valve a bit. What happened, as you may recall, is that we had instant panic and despair for the future of our way of life, and mile-long lines at gas stations.
We don’t know what’s going to happen at the next peak, but we do know that those past peaks were artificial and temporary. The next one will not be artificial and it will not be temporary.
Read more of this article at:

Here comes the nutcracker: Peak oil in a nutshell
by Jan Lundberg
The end of abundant, affordable oil is in sight, and the implications are colossal. About now in our hydrocarbon phase of human history, we have pulled out of the Earth approximately half of the available petroleum (crude oil and natural gas). The other half still in the ground is harder to extract and may not - as assumed - fuel the global economy or even provide a transition to another phase.

To hope for an increase in discoveries is to turn a blind eye to the world trend in declining oil extraction which has been relentless for the past four decades. The approximate bell curve of petroleum extraction cannot be changed by any one big new discovery. Yet, the idea of "the Caspian" or any other mega-field du jour is an example of the constant hope for perpetual energy for high living in contradiction with nature.

The same can be said of the dominant assumption that petroleum will be replaced by other "technologies." This ignores the overwhelming petroleum-based infrastructure we have, and neglects to account for the lesser return on energy from non-petroleum sources of energy. But, "they" (scientists, leaders, corporations) will "think of something." Another common assumption popular among "radicals" is that "the ruling elite will refuse" to allow the global economy or the lucrative capitalist system to collapse.

If peak oil means we are at a half-way point, does this mean we now have years to either plan energy use or get used to recession, as claimed by many a writer on peak oil? Before the reader makes assumptions on how society may utilize the remaining store of petroleum, let me repeat what I told The Institute of Petroleum in London two years ago (on February 17, 2003):

"What the world went through in 1979’s oil crisis, which my former company warned of in the U.S., based on our projection of a 9% shortfall in gasoline deliveries, can happen again. The difference will be that global production of oil will be falling instead of increasing."

This means that the next tough oil shortage, even if it is not acknowledged as a post-peak oil extraction phenomenon of diminishing supply, will cripple the globalized economy. Understanding of both the economics and social dynamics of collapse is rare, and even when it is present there is an absence of taking into account the "market factor" in ushering in collapse.

Despite the need to be prepared for imminent, final energy shortage - which could happen now or in several years at the latest - people persist in focusing too much on the likely date of the passing of the peak. It is already clear that the oil industry and OPEC numbers on oil reserves are suspect. So we can simply offer a range of oft-quoted peak-oil arrival times: 2005-2012. Some more distant figures such as 2020 are based on infinite technological improvements on extraction and removing the problematic sulfur, for example. Factoring in the "irregular" petroleum sources, the peak year of world oil extraction is to be 2007, according to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas.

A flurry of peak oil stories hit last fall. But in general, the price of oil is deliberately about where the main players want it, as it is so profitable. So let us not look at the $50 price neighborhood as proof of peak oil being here now - although it may be a factor.

Taking peak oil doctrine further

The bell curve of oil "production" was devised by Marion King Hubbert, a Shell Oil and U.S. government geologist. Although Hubbert has on the whole been borne out except in the minds of fundamentalist-classical economists, what he did not factor in was collapse. Therefore, the curve will be truncated to a cliff just as the gap between supply and demand is felt and hits.

The scenario I foresee is that market-based panic will, within a few days, drive prices up skyward. And as supplies can no longer slake daily world demand of over 80 million barrels a day, the market will become paralyzed at prices too high for the wheels of commerce and even daily living in "advanced" societies. There may be an event that appears to trigger this final energy crash, but the overall cause will be the huge consumption on a finite planet.

The trucks will no longer pull into Wal-Mart. Or Safeway or other food stores. The freighters bringing packaged techno-toys and whatnot from China will have no fuel. There will be fuel in many places, but hoarding and uncertainty will trigger outages, violence and chaos. For only a short time will the police and military be able to maintain order, if at all. The damage that several days' oil shortage and outage will do will soon wreak permanent damage that starts with companies and consumers not paying their bills and not going to work.

After an almost instant depression seizes the modern industrialized world, and nation-states break down, the frantic attempts of people to feed themselves, stay warm and obtain fresh water (pumped presently via petroleum to a great extent), there will be no rescue. Die-off begins. The least petroleum-dependent communities will survive best. These "backward" nations will be emulated by the scrounging survivors of the U.S. and the rest of the "developed" world, as far as local food production will be tried - in a paved-over, toxic landscape by people who have lost touch with the land.

What about renewable energy and other alternatives? They are not ready, and will never be as long as oil is king. This is something not acknowledged by the boosters of the technofix. When oil abdicates, no one can fill the shoes. (See Culture Change Letters on the Technofixsuch as #77)

However, there will be replacement societies, starting with bands, tribes and rural communities that will start cooperating with each other as never before. The age of the bioregional country, based on cooperation and mutual aid will begin. A main job-category will be restoration of the land so as to provide a semblance of the diversity of food that Earth provided prior to petroleum farming. Social structures will no longer lend themselves to overcrowded workforces dependent on the dollar to buy goods and services from huge, distant and unaccountable corporations. Argentina may be a guide to post collapse society, with its egalitarian and worker/citizen controlled systems.

Awareness of the expected peak in global oil extraction is on the rise, but a debate on when the peak will hit has drowned out larger questions: How hard will the loss of abundant oil hit the economy? Can the consumer culture continue if the collapse includes die-off?

The reasons for not asking those questions in polite corporate company - on the mainstream news or in foundation-funded reports - include the blind faith in renewable energy as a cure-all, and the lack of understanding of petroleum's hold on daily lifestyles. Even if these factors are recognized, a news organization does not want to appear alarmist, and at the same time wants to cling to society's myths of progress and order forever.

The prospects of mitigating peak oil or avoiding collapse are almost nil. U.S. petroleum demand in 2004 grew at its strongest rate in five years. In December the daily consumption of refined oil was 21 million barrels in the U.S, a quarter of world use. The U.S. leads the industrialized world in population growth, part of a domestic policy to assure more car and oil sales.

More evidence of insanity by the world's biggest consumer, the U.S., is that the breaking point is flaunted: refinery utilization rate last year was the highest annual rate in six years at 92.8 percent of capacity. Lower 48 output of crude oil extraction declined the most ever in 2004 since 1999, and Alaskan production experienced its largest drop since 2000, declining 5.5 percent - peak oil "production" happened in the U.S. over three decades ago.

With the worldwide oil industry emulating these trends of maxing out, the still surging demand - China is the leader - strains production and hastens the day when the system can no longer accommodate growth. The Earth cannot, as of the world oil peak in extraction, give up ever greater quantities of black gold. Most of the world exporting companies are now reducing extraction rates due to fewer discoveries and depleted fields. Oil production in 18 producer countries has passed its peak and is declining faster than previously thought: at about 1.14 million barrels a day.

"International Energy Agency figures put the total spare capacity of all 11 countries in OPEC at just 330,000 bpd (down from 6 million bpd in 2002). Conventional Saudi spare capacity is zero... An IEA report from August 2004 indicates Saudi Arabia needs up to 800,000 bpd of newly discovered oil each year just to offset declining fields and maintain its current production level." [Al-jazeera] - this can't happen, so watch for the ensuing energy crisis.

More evidence that demand is out of control and pushing up the day of peak oil: "There is no spare refinery capacity, demand has outstripped all expectations." - Deborah White, Societe Generale bank, Paris

The world needs to produce another 2,723,530.2 barrels per day by the end of 2005 just in order to stand still, even by the IEA demand figures considered low by analysts.


We live in strange times: global warming from petroleum and other fuels is acknowledged as a certain and extremely grave threat, but we allow "policy" to continue holding above all else the maximum burning of petroleum. More roads are built for the guzzling coffins on wheels, even though road-repair funds (and library funds) go lacking as a result. The viciousness of the invasion of Iraq and the attempt to foil the designs of the great powers should serve to wake people up to wean themselves off petroleum. Nothing may finally tip public sentiment over to abandoning the oil life. People have already forgotten the huge oil spill off Unalaska Island, Alaska. But neither genocide, climate distortion, nor loss of wildlife habitat and fisheries - or that more nebulous concept of peak oil - have people thinking far ahead in the dominant culture, except in terms of self-aggrandizement. Fortunately, the loss of petroleum will probably mean the loss of the global culture of plastic materialism.

Petroleum is the Great Leveler, in the sense of "leveling" or flattening oil civilization. But petroleum will also be the Great Leveler in terms of equalizing everyone: People will go through a final, grasping petroleum grab with whatever funds and connections they have, before the attempt fails for good. Then all people will have no choice but to work together or perish. Until then, we have skewed values: for example, when a kindly old lady drives to a shop and has her charitable concerns, the use of oil makes her a killer of the planet and she is not pursuing a sustainable form of transportation. Meanwhile, a mean old man who scowls at little children who walks to the shop might be a much more valuable citizen in a practical fashion that matters to the world.

– Jan Lundberg - December 9-20, 2004, Berkeley/Oakland, California
Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas "ASPO" Newsletter No 50 - Feb. 2005
Energy Information Administration (U.S. Dept. of Energy)
American Petroleum Institute
Adam Porter, Aljazeera

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Jan Lundberg has been a voice crying in the wilderness of Northern California for many years. -BA