RE: Middle East oil supply (fwd)

From: Preston Garrison (
Date: Thu May 23 2002 - 00:17:00 EDT

  • Next message: Glenn Morton: "RE: Middle East oil supply"

    >Joel wrote:
    >>Wouldn't it be nice if you could somehow make President Bush and Vice
    >>President Cheney aware of this---and get them to respond to it by
    >>telling the people of the United States the truth.
    >Both parties lie. THe Republicans claim that we will become energy
    >independent again, which is absolutely false.They claim that we don't need
    >to conserve. The Democrats tell the American people that they don't need to
    >worry hydrogen, wind, solar etc can solve the energy problems.And because o=
    >this we won't need the energy out of ANWR. Both positions are totally false=
    >We need to conserve and we need to find more supply. If we don't work both
    >ends, we will make the problem worse.

    Just to stir the pot a little, here is a recent book review from
    Science with a different point of view. I don't have any expertise on
    this topic. However, I suspect it is a question on which well
    informed people can arrive at very different conclusions.

    Preston G.


    Volume 295, Number 5559, Issue of 22 Feb 2002, p. 1470.


    Locating the Summit of the Oil Peak
    A review by Ronald R. Charpentier*

    Hubbert's Peak The Impending World Oil Shortage
    Kenneth S. Deffeyes
    Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2001. 220 pp. $24.95, =A317.95. I=

    =46rom 1956 to 1982, geophysicist M. King Hubbert published a series of pape=
    about the trends of oil discovery and production in the United States (1).
    Through his work with Shell Oil and later with the U.S. Geological Survey
    (USGS), he was one of the first to provide a quantitative basis for
    understanding oil production in the United States and for estimating how
    production trends might change in the future.

    In Hubbert's Peak, Kenneth S. Deffeyes, an emeritus professor of geology at
    Princeton University and a former colleague of Hubbert's from the Shell Oil
    research laboratory, writes about oil, how it is discovered and produced, an=
    what the future may hold for its production. Using Hubbert's methods, Deffey=
    projects that world oil production will peak sometime around 2004 to 2008, t=
    quickly for world economies to escape disaster as supply is unable to keep u=
    with increasing demand.

    The first half of Deffeyes's book is a primer on oil occurrence and
    He explains, in a folksy manner, the origin of oil deposits and methods of
    exploration. Spiced with many personal anecdotes, his account concentrates o=
    contributions from himself and his colleagues at Shell and Princeton. The
    remainder of the book presents Hubbert's methods, some of the calculations
    Deffeyes has derived from them, and an outlook for the future of fossil fuel=
    The focus throughout the book is on oil, with relatively little discussion o=
    natural gas.

    Deffeyes's projection of an imminent drop in world oil production is based,
    however, on a questionable methodology. Proponents of Hubbert's methods are
    always quick to point out his success in predicting that U.S. oil production
    would peak in the early 1970s. Deffeyes does so and, like other advocates of
    Hubbert's approach, he does not discuss the failures of the
    methodology in other
    cases. Hubbert's unsuccessful prediction curves for natural gas in the Unite=
    States and for oil on a global scale go unmentioned. Colin Campbell, current=
    the best-known user of the Hubbert methodology, has had to repeatedly
    revise his
    predictions because the forecast date of the peak has passed (2).

    There are good reasons why Hubbert's methods worked for oil in the
    United States
    but have failed elsewhere. Trends in petroleum discovery and production are
    affected by much more than just resource depletion. They are also shaped by =
    large variety of economic, technologic, and political factors. Hubbert's met=
    is best suited to circumstances of rapidly increasing consumption and
    little restriction on exploration and production. That situation is
    more closely
    approximated by onshore oil production in the United States than by natural =
    or by oil in the rest of the world. Since Hubbert's time, a
    considerable body of
    work has developed more sophisticated assessment methods, but of these Deffe=
    seems to be unaware.

    Hubbert's method retains some popularity for two reasons. First, it requires
    only modest data and human resources. This endears it to those
    practitioners who
    are retired from academia, the petroleum industry, or (like Deffeyes) both.
    Geological analyses at a more detailed level can have very large data and st=
    requirements. For example, the 1995 USGS national assessment (3) and the 200=
    USGS world assessment (4) each involved about 100 person-years of effort.
    Second, the Hubbert method is popular with some because it tends to suggest
    relatively low limits on resources and production. Just as high
    estimates can be
    used to promote certain social and political agendas, so can low predictions=
    One would instead hope for a public that is open to the assessments
    supported by
    the best possible science, regardless of preconceptions.

    Many smart and experienced people have tackled the difficult problem of
    estimating the extent of still-undiscovered petroleum resources, with quite
    different results. Future oil (and natural gas) production capabilities will
    have an immense impact. For many consumers, the price of a gallon of gas at =
    filling station is the only effect that they consider. Deffeyes is correct i=
    pointing out the serious connection between oil production and economies of =
    world. His subject affects all our futures. The public, though, could use a =
    more balanced treatment than the one he offers in Hubbert's Peak.

    References and Notes

    1.Many of these papers are difficult to find, but a relatively easily
    example is M. K. Hubbert, Am. Assoc. Pet. Geol. Bull. 31, 2207 (1967).

    2.For example, a 1989 peak was used in C. J. Campbell, Noroil 17, 35 (1989).

    3.D. L. Gautier, G. L. Dolton, K. I. Takahashi, K. L. Varnes, U.S. Geol. Sur=
    Digital Data Series 30 [CD-ROM] (1995).

    4.U.S. Geological Survey World Energy Assessment Team, U.S. Geol. Surv. Digi=
    Data Series 60 [4 CD-ROMs] (2000); also available at

    The author is at the U.S. Geological Survey, MS 939 Box 25046, Denver Federa=
    Center, Denver, CO 80225, USA. E-mail:


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