Read This If You Believe in Peak Oil …

… and there’s a chance you no longer will. In a trenchant Times Op-Ed, Michael Lynch explains, point-by-point, why the “peak oil” concept is so wrong. This comes one day after we wondered about the oily future of Brazil, where a massive underwater petroleum find is reshaping that country’s energy thinking. After his takedown of the peak oil argument, Lynch makes perhaps the most important point: that just because oil isn’t running out any time soon is no reason not to develop alternatives.


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  1. Nosybear says:

    So… Oil is an infinite resource? If it is not, there will come a time when half of it is consumed, peak oil. So again, the debate is not if, but when.

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  2. Kevin H says:

    I think you have a mischaracterization of the argument that a lot of people do and strongly degrades the quality of discussion.

    Peak oil at it’s most reduced is a very modest proposition. There will be a peak in oil _extraction_ someday. You would pretty much need to bend the rules of physics to escape this. When people say peak oil exists or doesn’t exist, they should be dealing with this most conservative and literal definition.

    It is slightly debatable if this peak will be reached because of falling supply or falling demand, but the known evidence is pretty strong on the supply side of things.

    The highly debatable point is when peak oil will be, which is what this op-ed is really about. He, and unfortunately you, put up a straw man of the peak oil argument saying that if it isn’t happening today, there is no ‘Peak Oil’.

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  3. Professor 101 says:

    Lynch’s arguments are as full of holes as a Texas oilfield. Despite his unsupported claims, it is evident that production is falling in field after field. The fact that we can suck the very last drop out of old fields by using technology undreamed of in the past, (and at undreamed of cost) can not be held up as evidence that more and more technology will continue to rescue us. Yes, oil prices moderated in recent months – but what did it take to make that happen – not new technology or new finds, but the worst world wide economic downturn in many decades. It was not increased supply that rescued us from high oil prices.

    Lynch, and other pollyannas can sing ‘Don’t worry, be happy! Nothing will ever stop the flow of oil.’ while giving the merest faint lip service to alternatives. But a better theme would be ‘Let the sun shine’

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  4. Mike says:

    Michael Lynch clearly has no idea what he is talking about. Technologicial advances can (and do) result in more oil being pumped out of the ground than if those advances never occured. The rate of technological advances can alter the shape of the oil production curve. One can find many arguments to argue one way or another on what year the peak will hit, but since oil is a finite resource there will be a peak. Maybe it will be a gradual plateau. Maybe we keep increasing production until we get the last drop and the shape is more like a cliff. But either way there is a peak.

    His statement “peak oil theory has been promoted by a motivated group of scientists and laymen who base their conclusions on poor analyses of data and misinterpretations of technical material.” has no basis in world where the rate of oil creation (from natural processes) is negligible compared to the rate at which oil is consumed.

    As a side note: The best reason to invest alternative energy? To keep oil cheap. Since OPEC is essentially a monopolistic cartel, they will always sell oil for just less than it costs to use an alternative. By lowering the costs of alternatives they have to sell us oil for cheaper.

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  5. Skip says:

    So Hubbert’s accurate projection of the ’70’s US peak was, um right but actually wrong? 2005 looks like the global peak to me and is within a decade of Hubbert’s prediction of the global peak. Geologically speaking, a decade is a nano second…

    And the IEA’s depletion projections and warnings are also wrong?

    And even though Chantrell production is dropping it is not actually in depletion?

    And the depletion trends showing up in BP’s Annual Year in Review are also well, wrong?

    To Nosybear’s point, what in the world makes people believe oil is an infinite reserve?

    Michael Lynch states in his article current reserves will last another 100 years. That’s a misleading statement because he doesn’t describe how production will drop year after year for that 100 year period.

    Peak Oil is not about the end of oil, it is about the end of cheap oil. Remember $4 gas and the ensuing economic collapse – that was a bad thing, right?

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  6. John S. says:

    Oil could be an infinite resource, in the sense that as supplies get scarce, the price will go up and the demand will go down. At some point, it won’t be economically feasible to extract the remaining oil, so it will remain in the ground forever.

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  7. Jon says:


    Oil isn’t infinite, but it’s not quantitatively finite either. There are more and more oil discoveries all the time, mostly discovered using new technology. There are also older oil fields which are now becoming economical to exploit based on the future price of oil.

    So, as we “run out” of oil, the price goes up, allowing for new and better exploration techniques, which then increases the amount of oil available.

    Eventually this will become quantitatively finite, but for now we don’t know so much that its foolhardy to choose a peak.

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  8. Joewp says:

    Let them think what they want. If they all went out and bought preparations, the prices of them would skyrocket. I’m fed up with trying to convince people of the obvious. If they want to continue constant growth in a finite environment, let them.

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