October 22, 2007

Monks Died For ... Oil?

The Guardian reports on dropping oil production over the last two years and argues that the declines will accelerate from this point forward. That seems debatable, but the hysterical approach taken by the newspaper doesn't lend it a lot of credibility. As a consequence of production declines, the Guardian warns of terrible unrest, but uses a strange example:

Global oil production is currently about 81m barrels a day - EWG expects that to fall to 39m by 2030. It also predicts significant falls in gas, coal and uranium production as those energy sources are used up.

Britain's oil production peaked in 1999 and has already dropped by half to about 1.6 million barrels a day.

The report presents a bleak view of the future unless a radically different approach is adopted. It quotes the British energy economist David Fleming as saying: "Anticipated supply shortages could lead easily to disturbing scenes of mass unrest as witnessed in Burma this month. For government, industry and the wider public, just muddling through is not an option any more as this situation could spin out of control and turn into a complete meltdown of society."

Mr Schindler comes to a similar conclusion. "The world is at the beginning of a structural change of its economic system. This change will be triggered by declining fossil fuel supplies and will influence almost all aspects of our daily life."

The monks died by the hundreds because of a lack of oil production? Of course not. They oppose a tyrannical regime and died because they chose to peacefully protest the oppression of the military junta. The protests had nothing to do with oil production, and the Guardian and Fleming know it. It's nothing more than scaremongering, something at which the Peak Oil advocates excel.

Many different issues can cause production declines other than a reduction in the resource. War can impact production, as can political instability. One major producer, Iran, has significant economic sanctions against it that impacts their production capacity. Another producer, Venezuela, has conducted a nationalization policy that has also reduced its overall production. Producers that form cartels such as OPEC artificially set production levels for economic purposes, which renders these declines as analytically unreliable for purposes of determining resource availability.

It also doesn't account for the willful lack of production where known resources exist. That primarily applies to the US, where reserves exist on both coasts and in Alaska that we refuse to touch. We could deflate global oil prices and get more energy independence in the near- and mid-term simply by pumping our own crude. The US refuses to do so, however, for reasons of politics and not of potential supply.

Perhaps we need to adopt the same scaremongering as the Guardian. "No More Monks For Oil" makes a great slogan for opening up ANWR, doesn't it? How about "Give Offshore-Oil Peace A Chance?" We could always fall back to "Domestic Power To The People!"


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