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Roger Helmer: Peak Oil or false summit?

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: March 21, 2013

By Roger Helmer MEP

Comments (9)

The doomsters have spoken. We're facing "peak oil" – a point of maximum production, followed by an inexorable decline, when oil prices will skyrocket, and petrol and diesel cars will rust by the road-side.

In 1922, a US federal commission predicted that "production of oil cannot long maintain its present rate".

Back in the sixties, Professor Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University said that by the 70s, hundreds of millions would starve. He predicted that "within ten years" all major life in the seas would be gone.

By 1985, mankind would enter an age of scarcity, as resources were depleted. By 1999, the population of the US would drop to 22 million. Oh, and by the way, we'd run out of oil.

A good rebuttal of all this nonsense comes from Matt Ridley's "The Rational Optimist".

He points out that when resources run short, or become more expensive, we find more. Or we find alternatives. Or we find totally new technologies.

Of course, the amount of fossil fuels in the world is finite. No question. But it is also rather bigger than we imagine.

Currently, the American economy is being transformed by low-cost shale gas.

America's industrial renaissance poses a real threat to European competitiveness, as we agonise over our green credentials and ignore energy prices and security of supply.

In fact, the USA could well be self-sufficient in energy by 2030, and may by then be the world's biggest oil producer, ahead of Saudi Arabia.

Where there's shale gas, there is frequently oil as well. This is a geo-political game-changer. The US may be less enthusiastic about keeping the peace in the Middle East, and defending the straits of Hormuz, when it doesn't need Saudi oil. Europe should take note.

Some estimates in the UK suggest we may have gas reserves for 1,000 years – and there may be oil here as well.

In the eastern Mediterranean, major new oil and gas fields are being discovered. We may see some jockeying between Greece, Italy, Cyprus – and especially between Israel and the Palestinians – but either way, there's a lot more oil and gas about than we realised.

We have fossil fuel availability for the foreseeable future.

There are also 1,200 new coal-fired power stations in the global pipeline. So if you think that continuing carbon dioxide emissions will lead to a calamity for the human race, despair now.

On the other hand, you may prefer to wake up and smell the coffee.

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9 comments

  • leonidas24601  |  March 23 2013, 1:49AM

    Cheap oil is gone. The US is "lucky" to have thousands of fracking wells that together have bumped up our nation's oil production but that has little effect on world production, which has plateaued at about 80 million barrels per day for the last seven years. The story points to near- and long-term shortages because there are simply more wells in decline worldwide.

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  • Luke_Siragusa  |  March 23 2013, 1:08AM

    Mr. Helmer would do well to remember a little knowledge is a dangerous thing–a healthy dose of skepticism would serve him well. Regarding Peak Oil: it's an economic as well as a geological thesis. That is, with declining production the price of petroleum increases and the economies of industrial societies organized on readily available, *cheap* oil become increasingly precarious. To wit, ever wonder why, in the midst of a shale gas/oil boom gasoline prices are still crippling for Americans? Or, in Mr. Helm's mischaracterization, "America's industrial renaissance" is barely affecting the unemployment rate and flatlining GDP growth? The cost of energy extraction facilitates energy consumption which fosters economic growth begetting the creation of money through credit: when the first falters the consequences ramify down the chain. Read about the capital costs and depletion rates of shale oil wells; the expense of developing these marginal reserves requires a petroleum price that's proving inimical to robust economic growth. Peak Oil is proving to be among the most coherent accounts of what's transpiring today, albeit with qualifications and variations. Meanwhile the proponents of energy substitutability are grasping about for candidates. You know: wind, hydrogen, ethanol, biodiesel, fermented cow patties, etc. The list is growing and I suspect before long the UK's alleged1000 year supply of natural gas will be added to it.

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  • ghung321  |  March 22 2013, 3:56PM

    I suggest readers check out this week's TheArchDruidReport. Methinks Greer has this MEP's number: "The Illusion of Invincibility" http://tinyurl.com/bnolu3n

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  • skintnick  |  March 21 2013, 5:12PM

    I'll try again with that video link: http://tinyurl.com/c2s3ot5

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  • skintnick  |  March 21 2013, 5:08PM

    He won't, of course, be interested (because he's in denial) but if Mr Helmer were to view these comments and watched this video (null) he would be less blase about "the smell of coffee" and join the realists in their battle to avoid despair.

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  • UniverseWeAre  |  March 21 2013, 3:14PM

    The shale oil bubble in North Dakota is less than 3 years from popping. Roughly half the resource has been drilled already and the number of increasing wells must by up by at least 3% each and every month in order to keep production going up. At 3% growth per month the number of producing wells will double within 24 months. If half is already drilled then doubling that half will consume all that is left. If we keep in mind that the best spots have been drilled first then it looks like North Dakota production will plateau and decline well before the 24 month mark. http://tinyurl.com/cmvlw6b

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  • BeeryUSA  |  March 21 2013, 2:21PM

    This is essentially the same article that has been passed around for distribution by the cornucopian lobby groups over the last few months. It's just oil and gas industry propaganda meant to prop up stock prices. The reality is that since 2005, the world has been on the bumpy plateau of oil production. We can probably stay on the plateau for 10 years, 15 years tops, before we enter an inexorable decline. And if anyone thinks the recent great recession was bad, just wait until the price of oil starts to rise again as we hit the next supply-driven oil shock.

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  • skintnick  |  March 21 2013, 1:27PM

    "if you think that continuing carbon dioxide emissions will lead to a calamity for the human race" I'm astonished that you allow this lunatic to voice an opinion.

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  • skintnick  |  March 21 2013, 1:24PM

    This is, to be blunt, ********. The economics of shale-gas are such that early investors can reap quick rewards when prices are high but later investors see prices and income plummet just as the fast-depleting wells dry up and more finance is needed to keep the scheme alive. It's boom-bust, bubble-burst ponzi finance of the worst kind and leaves a terrible legacy of environmental destruction both above and below ground level. The movie "gasland" makes the case very well. Tight oil is equally hungry of both finance and natural resources needed to exploit. Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI or net energy) is way down for this technology and any fall in oil prices below the $85 break-even point will lead to a collapse in this area too. (Just wait for the next financial crash with falling global demand to see that happen). I could go on, but have to go visit a friend.

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