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The Peak Oil Theory Revisited

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In March 2007, I wrote about the Peak Oil theory and posted a pretty alarming video. And now that we’re seeing record gas prices, the whispers of peak oil are surfacing once again.

So, here’s the video that outlines the theory…

Then, here’s a post from the Prometheus: The Science Policy Weblog about the topic and how we need to be mindful of who’s saying it’s coming and how’s saying it’s not…

Much like the climate change debate, on Peak Oil you have two sides with staunchly staked-out positions. Each side includes their own petroleum geologists, resource economists, energy investment bankers and multinational oil companies. Of course it is the latter we’ll listen to most closely, since they ostensibly are in the best position to know about a peak and perhaps to drive policy toward or away from it.

So what are the majors saying and doing about Peak Oil? Chevron is clearly embracing the tactic of warning the public so that when the public eventually sees the light, Chevron can say, “Hey, we’ve been telling you about this for a while!”

But not so ExxonMobil. XOM is taking exactly the opposite tactic: “With abundant oil resources still available … peak production is nowhere in sight.”

This difference in opinion has interesting parallels to how these two companies have approached other environmental issues over the past few years. Chevron has been running ad campaigns touting their environmental stewardship while Exxon has been pouring money into muddying the climate change science waters. Further, many assume that XOM is well-aware of climate change risk, but has their own internal logic and reasons to muddy the debate. If so, it parallels their attitudes on Peak Oil, for while they are running NY Times op-ed ads saying “peak production is nowhere in sight,” they apparently don’t really believe that themselves.

Thankfully, although positions are staked out on Peak Oil, there does not seem to be a Left/Right, Republican/Democrat slant on the positions, which may make political action easier if/when this issue’s time has come. And that might be the best indication that this isn’t a clear “winners and losers” issue. If the Peakists are right, we’re all losers.

Indeed. But as mentioned, this is much like the argument about climate change, and we see how political affiliation can divide opinions on that.

However, what we do know is oil is not unlimited, and the sooner we start realizing that, the better…as well as who’s poo-pooing this theory and who’s saying it’s time for action.