Some Thoughts on "Peak Oil" as a "Disinformation Campaign"
I always hesitate to spend too much time covering the "Peak Oil" issue. For one thing, there are already so many sites doing so very thoroughly. And for another, there are so many other, more immediate crisis issues which are curiously convening upon the human race at this particular moment in history.... However, a reader posted a comment recently which ended in this passing remark regarding the Peak Oil concept that I wanted to respond to more publicly:
"It is obvious from this information that indeed the "crisis" is created and you all have apparently fallen for the bait OR are in on the scam and just trying to keep it going."
In this instance, the reader had heard about the huge amounts of oil sands and oil shale deposits thoughout North America, and naturally wondered whether the whole "peak oil" crisis was simply just a load of hooey...or even possibly a conspiracy being propagated on the public by Big Oil. And in one way or another, this same suspicion has been coming up time and again in many places. So I thought I'd take a moment to simply offer up my own thoughts on this question about "peak oil" as a "disinformation campaign".
First of all, the Peak Oil argument is not new, by any means...it has actually been around for many decades (I somewhat remember a reference to it being posited "in theory" even prior to the turn of the 20th century), but has been steadily gaining a weight of evidence and popular acceptance only recently. If it appears to have suddenly "burst" onto the scene it's due to two principle factors: 1) the "tipping point" is only now fast being realized, and 2) the rise of the internet has given the public a comprehensive, responsive and uncensored media forum in which to recognize it. The former factor stems from the prevalent human characteristic for ignoring undesireable signs and warnings until they can no longer be ignored. But the latter is, I believe, the key to the whole question....
For 99.9999% of the people now "waking up" to this concept, it is 100% due to public investigation and dissemination of information on the internet. The word "public" here may be misleading, because much of this "public" participation actually includes highly knowledgeable and recognized "experts" in various fields. But in this manner the case for Peak Oil has been slowly pieced together by a kind of open committee of researchers--some admittedly dubious or ill-informed, but many quite well-informed and highly regarded. This kind of "research by consensus" is probably unique to the advent of the internet, and often submits a new piece of "evidence" to an immediate "trial by fire". And in the past two or three years that I've been aware of the "peak" issue, I've seen how it has actually been a fairly hard-fought battle to build the case toward even the minimal level of acceptance it now has. And as the "awareness" grows, it brings with it greater and greater numbers of skeptics and critics. Which is why people like Matt Simmons and Matt Savinar and James Kunstler have made it into a profession to go over the same material again and again and again....
"Disinformation" or "misinformation" tactics practiced within this type of forum could at best only aim to "muddy the waters" a little bit, but they could not effectively "create" an issue of this scale where none existed. There are simply too many people involved in the "processing".
Also, it's important to remember that the internet as an information and news source is still primarily an elitist medium: it demands a certain degree of experience and savvy, and an active desire to educate oneself. The vast majority of the population does not "get their news" from the internet, and likely never will...and is therefore almost completely unaware of what their future holds.
For these reasons, the internet is hardly the medium of choice for spearheading an effort toward perversely influencing broad public opinion. If there were governmental or corporate agencies interested in this type of tactic, they would most efficiently do so through the more centralized and broad-reaching mainstream media. And in fact, what we typically see is actually the contrary effect: that the issues which "break out" from the free-press that is the internet to the more mainstream media are issues which were being suppressed from public knowledge. In these cases, the internet serves to build a critical-mass on an individual by individual basis, until the popular media can no longer ignore it (and certain issues are so inflammatory that even this is not sufficient...).
Are profits up for oil firms? Yes, they're up monstrously. But this would have been the case regardless of whether Peak Oil is a "scam" or an immediate reality. And certainly, if you "follow the money" in other ways to see who ultimately profits by all this, you can find a myriad of reasons why, as a colleague of mine remarked once, "if peak oil didn't exist they would have been forced to invent it". But "they" didn't. We did. The concerns over oil depletion were not "leaked", they weren't "rumored", they weren't "reported" or "purported"--they were built from the ground up by
Of course, it makes perfect sense that with an issue of this magnitude one would generally require a kind of "stamp of approval" by recognized "authorities"...and absent that, it's difficult to believe that the "faceless" internet could be a trustworthy informant. But then when I look into the subject and see the large amount of research contributed by people with recognized knowledge in varying fields and backgrounds, and when I see that these people have so little to gain (but perhaps a bit of fleeting "cyberfame"), I begin to realize that it more rightly becomes a question of asking why is it that our "authorities" continue to ignore these concerns?
But then, of course, if "they" did address the issue...if a President's Council on Peak Oil was assembled, or if mandatory Reserve Accounting Report filings were demanded from the large U.S. oil firms...could any benefit possibly come as a result of "giving the issue over to them"? Or would this simply filibuster the issue permanently and completely, thereby destroying any chance that we, the individual members of American society, might make the vital decisions and begin adopting the pivotal changes that the mere "concept" of Peak Oil is asking of us?
I'm certainly not the first person to point out that, if the peak moment of the Oil Age does not come--and come very, very soon--then the planet itself will ultimately collapse under the burden of "Peak Human Progress".
About the author:
My name is not Steven Lagavulin. Lagavulin is the name of my favorite Scotch. When ordering Lagavulin, it's pronounced "la-ga-VUH-lin". But I prefer the more Americanized "la-GAH-ve-lin". I feel it has a more poetic meter.
I'm not using a pseudonym out of any desire to be deceitful; but there are a number of reasons why I've chosen to do so. The primary and most pressing one is that I was (until recently) an Investment Advisor with a top-10 tier financial firm. I say "until recently" only because, while I am still with the firm, I recently left that position for one more agreeable to me. After fifteen years engaged in an active study and interest in the investing world, I found I could no longer accept responsibility for allocating peoples hard earned (or even easy earned) savings in markets that I earnestly believe are stumbling toward a cliff. I left because I couldn't stomach the lying anymore. I couldn't "push the product" when I knew those products were little more than a conglomeration of illusions. The things I felt that people should be doing to secure their future had nothing whatsoever to do with the things that I made a commission on. Not that Financial Consultants or Investment Advisors are any more reprehensible in their duties than people in any other field--they're not. It's the Business that lies. It has to lie--most especially when there are no longer any products to sell. So now I peddle whatever advice I have for free....
However, due to investment industry licensing issues, anything I say--whether it is on a weblog or at a party--is assumed to reflect the official opinion of my firm, even when I am not actively consulting. Therefore I'm restricted from saying anything under my real name that has not been previously approved by my firm's "Compliance" department.
Deconsumption. This is where the developed world is heading. The products (resources) are dwindling, and the buyers (the Western world) are over-burdened with debt. It's not conjecture any longer, because the script has already been written. The party is over. The Age of Deconsumption is dawning upon us all.