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Countering peak oil skeptics: a proposal

We have a small group locally in Finland, who are facing the exact same issues as everybody else talking about PO:

How to deal with the counter arguments (and for us: also how to learn from them).

For our own use, we've gathered an initial 'Frequent Counter Arguments' or FCA:

Here is a quick draft / summary. It can and should be extended.

Also, all counter arguments should be analysed based on proven information and disproved, IF possible. If it can't be disproved, it may have some validity (even if only partial). We try to take an analytical approach.

If somebody knows already of a similar list in one place with proper counter arguments, using graphs for illustration and calculations from proven data, we'd sure be glad to read it.

We've seen many pages dealing with one or more of the below, sometimes using data or even helpful illustrations, but not a single place, that does it all:
- all counter arguments in logical order
- disproof against each counter argument (if possible)
- ... using proven data and calculations
- with illustrations to show the magnitude and help people understand
- all in clear, concise English. Easy for anybody to understand
- no shouting, no blaming, no doom scenarios (these can't be proven)

We think it would be immensely useful. At least in the climate/culture we face here locally.


Frequent Counter Arguments against Peak Oil and its significance

0. How come it's not all over the front page - it can't be true
- i.e. 'crackpot conspiracy' argument

1. Oil is a renewable resource, hence it will not run out (ever)
- i.e. 'abiotic oil' argument

2. Estimates about the timing of Peak are wrong, because:

2.1. There's more oil than pessimists (or even optimists like IEA or CERA) claim. Hence, PO is at least 50+ years away - with plenty of time to find alternative sources for all uses of oil.
- i.e. 'cornucopia' argument

2.2. Oil peaking or reserves/resources estimates are inaccurate and cannot be trusted, because there is such a huge range of variance in the reserve & peaking estimates between various sources. Hence, PO is probably just an inaccurate event some time in the future, which is likely to be very far into the future.
- i.e. 'estimation is inaccurate' argument

2.3. People in the PO community are untrustworthy and they're estimates cannot be trusted. Either because they've been wrong before on the date of peaking or because they have a hidden agenda.
- i.e. 'ad hominem' argument

2.4. Technology of prospecting, drilling, recovery and refinement is advancing so rapidly, that we will find more, get more out of what we find and even improve recovery of the wells already in decline. Hence, all of this combined will just push the peak so much further into the future that we have again enough time to switch to alternatives.
- i.e. 'oil technology will fix it' argument

3. Free market mechanism of supply and demand will prevent oil from becoming a critical scarce resource. When the demand is too high for the supply to meet, prices will rise so high that alternatives become profitable to be produced or even invented. Hence, any long enough supply side slump will cause alternative energy source supply and new invention to substitute the amount of oil market is demanding.
- i.e. 'market will fix it (overnight)' argument

4. Alternative energy sources are will replace oil (continuation from 3)
- i.e. 'easy replacement' argument

4.1. Hydrogen cells will be in every car
- i.e. 'hydrogen revolution' argument

4.2. We can grow bio-diesel to substitute for oil
- i.e. 'we'll just grow the alternatives' argument

4.3. We can process ethanol (out of farm produce or food) as a substitute
- i.e. 'we'll just process the alternative fuels' argument

4.4. We'll make oil from coal
- i.e. 'Fischer-Tropsch' argument

4.5. We'll make oil from (natural) gas or use gas as a substitute
- i.e. 'we'll use gas - plenty of it' argument

4.6. Electricity will replace oil - it's cleaner too (no electricity source specified)
- i.e. 'we'll switch to batteries and electric motors' argument

4.7. Solar energy is the future
- i.e. 'more light arrives on earth every day than we can use' argument

4.8. Wind energy is the future
- i.e. 'if we could harness all the winds...' argument

4.9. Biomass (burning) is the future
- i.e. 'wood pellets, felt, etc.' argument

4.10. Unconventional oil of Venezuela and Canada will meet our needs
- i.e. 'tar sands and oil shale' argument

4.11. We'll build more nuclear energy power plants (fission)
- i.e. 'we'll build hundreds of new fission power plants' argument

4.12. We'll just use hydrogen nuclear energy (fusion)
- i.e. 'isn't the ITER almost ready and it provides endless amounts of clean energy' argument

4.13. Geothermal energy is plentiful
- i.e. 'we'll at least heat our houses using geo-energy' argument

4.14. Tidal wave energy is the future
- i.e. 'we could just tap into all those wave' argument

4.1x. New source of energy X will solve it - somebody will invent something
- i.e. 'energy out of nothing' argument

5. We will conserve as much energy as the oil production depletes. We can do this easily, while national and global economy still keeps growing healthily and climate becomes greener (less CO2 and methane to air). We can do this without big, systemic and significant change to our culture or economy.
- i.e. 'business almost as usual' argument

6. Oil not used directly to energy production (e.g. fertilizers, pesticides, plastics, medicine, etc.) will be replaced by synthetic/biological sources, or completely new materials from materials science.
- i.e. 'technology will solve the raw material problem' argument

PS Just to make sure people understand we are not trying to re-invent the wheel. There's plenty of books, ASPO slides, presentations, videos, web sites and articles about this, but it's spread all over and when put together it is generally way too much for any single individual to dive into. If we want more people to understand this, we need clear, understandable and approachable list of counter arguments with data against them. This really needs a Wiki page, if it doesn't exist already.

Editorial Notes: This comment appeared in the November 28 "Drumbeat" at The Oil Drum. It had been reposted by Substrate, who wrote: :
This is a post from a few days ago by SamuM.  I'd intended on reposting it to the next days' drumbeat because it'd gotten buried down the thread, but that didn't happen so here it is.  I think it'd be a swift idea to introduce one or two of these topics into a thread each day, collect the data, and have some volunteer organize the data into something coherent that can be put into some sort of FYI page.  Cross referencing to TOD main articles (i.e. Stuart, Khebab, et al) and others (i.e. ASPO, etc).
We have been thinking about a similar proposal at Energy Bulletin - a Wiki perhaps. The recent CERA report was a wake-up call. CERA got great press coverage with a report that was full of holes. Even though Peak Oil writers quickly countered the CERA arguments, we were hampered by a lack of public relations resources. For an example of a possible format, see How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic by Coby Beck at Gristmill. -BA

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