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Nine reasons the peak now looks more imminent

When Richard Heinberg wrote The Party's Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies he expected that global oil production peak would most likely to fall within the window of 2006 to 2015. These days (18 months after the book was finished) he's more likely to say 2006 to 2010. Here's nine events which explain that, extracted from an e-group discussion:

Since the publication of THE PARTY'S OVER we've seen:

1. Sharply declining discovery figures for 2002 and 2003.

2. Increasingly pessimistic assessments from ASPO (Colin Campbell) pulling projections of the peak for all liquids back from about 2015 to 2007.

3. Evaporation of spare capacity throughout the entire global production/distribution system, leading to the recent run-up in oil prices.

4. Matthew Simmons's dire assessments of the state of Saudi Arabia's reserves.

5. Statements by Roger Blanchard and others about the major projects coming on line in the next couple of years (mostly in deep water off the coasts of West Africa, Brazil, and in the Gulf of Mexico) that are likely to boost total global production temporarily--but that will play out rather quickly. There seem to be few big projects further out in the 2008-2012 frame to replace or supplement these.

6. The peaking of production in ever more nations--now including Norway, Great Britain, and Oman; Richard Duncan reckons that, of 44 significant producing nations, 24 are past their individual all-time peaks.

7. Statements by industry representatives (e.g., Jon Thompson of ExxonMobil) that, given current depletion rates, huge new replacement projects will be needed as soon as 2010 in order to keep up with rising demand.

8. Soaring demand from China, Japan, Korea, and the US.

9. Increasing instability in the Middle East, fomented in large part by the unwise and spectacularly bungled US-British invasion and occupation of Iraq, but threatening now to spill over into Saudi Arabia and other nations.

I'm a writer, not a number-cruncher, but to me all of this suggests that the peak will come sooner rather than later. Increasingly the arguments of the optimists seem to be mere hand-waving, with nothing solid to back them up. Where are the countervailing trends?

--Richard Heinberg Santa Rosa CA

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