Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Part of the Concept of Peak Oil Does Bush Have Trouble With?

President Bush in Saudi Arabia today called on OPEC to increase production before the world economy goes into recession. Of course this assumes OPEC and the Saudis have the ability to increase production. But if the idea oil production has reached its peak is true then OPEC and the Saudis do not have this ability.

The idea of oil production reaching a peak and then declining has been around in circles frequented by petroleum geologists for over thirty years. A petroleum geologist named M. King Hubbert correctly predicted oil production in the United States would peak around nineteen seventy. By the time I was in graduate school petroleum geologists were speculating on when world oil production would peak. Most experts in the field believe world oil production has either already peaked or is about to peak. If so then there is very little OPEC can do to increase oil production.

The time to begin thinking about the change to alternative fuels was thirty years ago. Unfortunately we turned our fate over to a devotee of austerity and when austerity became unpopular we turned to market idolatry. But markets simply do not reward really long term planning. Profit maximization requires concentrating on the short term. So we continued to remain dependent on oil because oil was cheap and plentiful. And now that oil is neither cheap nor plentiful we are in big trouble. And the lesson we can learn from this is simple: sometimes government is the solution rather than the problem.

In answer to the title question Bush has problems with the entire concept of peak oil. That is obvious.

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