Thursday, May 22, 2008
Today's front page story (it's free!) in the Wall Street Journal describes how the International Energy Agency has taken one step closer to embracing peak oil:
The world's premier energy monitor is preparing a sharp downward revision of its oil-supply forecast, a shift that reflects deepening pessimism over whether oil companies can keep abreast of booming demand.Not coincidentally, for those of you new to the subject, the folks at The Oil Drum are re-running their series Peak Oil - Whom to Believe?
The Paris-based International Energy Agency is in the middle of its first attempt to comprehensively assess the condition of the world's top 400 oil fields. Its findings won't be released until November, but the bottom line is already clear: Future crude supplies could be far tighter than previously thought.
But the direction of the IEA's work echoes the gathering supply-side gloom articulated by some Big Oil executives in recent months. A growing number of people in the industry are endorsing a version of the "peak-oil" theory: that oil production will plateau in coming years, as suppliers fail to replace depleted fields with enough fresh ones to boost overall output. All of that has prompted numerous upward revisions to long-term oil-price forecasts on Wall Street.
If you're like me, you might have spent a moment or two in recent months pondering how billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens, oil banker Matthew Simmons, and many others are suggesting that the world is reaching Peak Oil now, and at the same time, Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) headed by Pulitzer Prize writer Daniel Yergin, and others such as Exxon Mobil, are not predicting a Peak in global oil production until circa 2040 followed by a slow gradual decline. How can such smart and successful people disagree by decades on a topic so vital?Both are worth taking the time to read - much of the explanation for the $130-$135 now required to buy a barrel of oil is contained therein.
Is it possible they use different data sources? Do they mean different things when they say "Peak Oil"? Do they get different secret handshakes from Saudi princes? Do they have different agendas? Are they using different boundaries of analysis? Is one of them kidding? This 3 part post will address how people can differ so much on something so important as a peak and subsequent decline in world oil availability, addressing both factual and psychological reasons. Does the world have plenty of oil? Maybe, but as I will discuss below the fold, this is not among the questions we should be asking.