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The swift-boating of peak oil

Stuart Staniford, The Oil Drum
Browsing late at night, I came across the following interesting specimen at Rigzone, of all places. Dr Jerome Corsi writes:…

Several interesting questions arise. Firstly, as a political science major, Dr Corsi can perhaps be forgiven for his inability to judge relative sizes very well, and for his allegiance to the abiotic theory which has roughly zero support amongst working exploration geologists (who need to be good at identifying source rocks, etc, in order to find oil). But what on earth are the editors of Rigzone thinking?

Secondly, given Dr Corsi’s recent history of involvement with well-funded extreme right-wing causes, are we seeing the start of a comparable campaign against peak oil? I wonder is he acting alone here? Besides the Swift-boat attacks on Senator Kerry, the Asia Times reports on his work attempting to undermine the Iranian government (not that I’m any fan of that regime), for which he was thanked by both President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Part of Dr Corsi’s agenda seems to be to suggest that Peak Oil is a left wing movement (a point he expanded on last night). This simply is not the case. While there certainly are left wing peak oilers such as Richard Heinberg, believers in peak oil include the conservative republican Roscoe Bartlett, good capitalist economists such as James Hamilton, republican investment banker Matt Simmons, and that’s not to even start on the neofascists. Peak Oil totally crosses the political spectrum, and I don’t think Dr Corsi is going to make that particular framing of the debate stick, though I think we can expect him and whoever his allies turn out to be to make a vigorous effort.

If indeed the Swiftboating of Peak Oil is beginning, it is striking that the arguments are so very weak, and the champion so lacking in credibility. Is this really the best they can do? If so, it suggests things might be about to get very ugly, as mud is thrown in all directions in a desperate attempt to disguise the paucity of their position.

*Update [2005-11-15 14:29:31 by Stuart Staniford]: Rigzone has deleted Dr Corsi’s article, and fired the editors responsible for posting it (hat tip Mike A.).*
(15 November 2005)
An excellent dissection of an anti-PO argument. Personally, I think that Dr. Corsi is a marginal figure, and that Peak Oil won’t be the subject of vicious attacks. As Stuart points out, Peak Oil people come from all parts of the political spectrum. Also, the stakes are too high. What will happen, I think, is that various lobbies will attempt to use Peak Oil to advance their own agendas. -BA

A Conversation with Matt Simmons

Stuart Staniford, The Oil Drumy
While at the ASPO-USA Denver World Oil Conference, I managed to buttonhole Matt Simmons in a corner for a while. Here’s what we talked about…
(15 November 2005)
Much more in-depth than the usual interview with Simmons. (Again, the blogosphere scoops the mainstream media!) -BA

Global oil depletion: stop chasing dreams

Patrick Moriarty, OnlineOpinion (Aus.)
The present debate on global oil-depletion is built around two implicit assumptions. First, no oil is to be left for future generations. Our justification for this theft is, of course, that technical progress will make oil obsolete. I’ll say more about this below. The second assumption is that the oil-exporting countries – the most important of which are grouped in OPEC – should put other countries’ immediate interest in ever-increasing imports of OPEC oil ahead of their own interests, whether economic or social. When considering their own interests, OPEC nations might also want to consider their future generations: Indonesia, for example, is still a member of OPEC, but is now a net oil importer because of declining production plus rising domestic demand. …

So what can Australia do about oil? First, stop chasing dreams. I’ve suggested that alternatives will take several decades to appear in useful amounts – if they ever do. We can’t wait that long. So we’re all going to have to get used to the idea of using less oil – and sharing it more equitably with industrialising countries. Cutting back will not only cut greenhouse gas emissions and import bills, but can also help end oil-related turmoil and wars.
In Australia, it won’t be so easy finding substitutes for either urban freight or passenger travel for non-metropolitan residents. Reductions will therefore have to come mainly from metropolitan motorists. It needn’t be a huge problem – our major cities mostly have very good public transport infrastructure. Public transport was the dominant means of travel in our major cities until the 1950s. And no one thought of themselves as transport-deprived.
(14 November 2005)

PO group in Arcata, Calif
Global politics of oil

Sara Watson Arthurs, Times-Standard (Calif. N. Coast)
ARCATA — Wars have been fought over it, fortunes amassed from it, and it’s even in our shoes.

Oil, that is. And oil was the subject of a panel discussion at Humboldt State University on Monday afternoon. Former HSU President Alistair McCrone, a geologist by training, spoke along with community activist Suzanne Simpson and Toyin Falola, professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin. Falola was also scheduled to be the guest speaker Monday night for HSU’s International Education Week.

While we may think of oil solely as something that fuels our automobiles and heats our homes, it’s also been used in medicines, and petroleum products are everywhere, from plastic packaging to the rubber in our shoes, Falola said.

”It’s one of the most strategic minerals in world history,” Falola said.

…Simpson is involved locally in the Peak Oil Action Group, which is working on conservation. Since so much of oil has to do with transportation, the group is emphasizing local food. Simpson said Humboldt County once produced a larger share of the state’s food, but now local residents often buy food that’s grown in California’s Central Valley and transported by truck.
(14 November 2005)

Oil on the curve
Association hopes research will lead to better use of fossil fuels

Tim Scordato, Northern Star (US)
The peak oil theory explains the production of oil along a bell curve. Oil is cheap and plentiful on the upslope, but scarce and expensive on the downslope. America is currently on the downslope, which normally isn’t a problem, except the demand for oil has grown rapidly.

American geophysicist Marion King Hubbert devised the theory when he predicted U.S. domestic oil would peak in the 1970s, which it did in 1971. Since then, oil production has decreased and Hubbert’s followers still wait for the peak of global production, which was predicted to occur in 2000.

The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas also predicts the future of oil extraction but uses up-to-date information that may affect oil production such as the recent hurricane strikes.

The ASPO predicts global production will peak anywhere from 2009 to 2015, but urges the date is not important as is the immediate change of consumer behavior toward a more conservative ideal. …
(15 November 2005)