DOE sidles up to peak oil
from Lewis L. Smith
Traditionally, the US Department of Energy has denied the existence [or at least the imminence] of a peak in world production of crude oil. In this regard, it has faithfully followed the traditional oil-industry line, frequently referring to such an event by the pejorative phrase, “the theory of peak oil”.
Suddenly, however, DOE seems to be sidling up to the possibility that this alleged “theory” might actually become a reality. In a recent, largely ignored, semipublic meeting, the US Department of Energy presented, as one of its scenarios of the future, the most pessimistic scenario in the agency’s history, apparently without assigning it any probability .
DOE warned that due to inadequate investment in exploration and development, production might reach an all-time high between 2011 and 2015. This would be followed by an “undulating plateau” of unspecified length and then by an irreversible decline.
Although DOE appears to regard this scenario as having a chance of less than 50%, it is noteworthy that that the possible starting date is one of the earliest in the peak oil community, whose fearless forecasts nearly all fall in the range 2010-2032, well within the planning horizon of most electric utilities.
[Personally we abstain from precise predictions requiring the use of oil statistics. For us a range of 2020-2030 is good enough. While not as bad as those in the wine industry, oil statistics are full of errors, omissions and bald-faced lies !]
For those of us who have followed the peak-oil controversy over the years, the fact that DOE would even admit to the possibility of such a scenario represents an astounding change of attitude.
For the details, see >>
[Courtesy of Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, London.]
However, note that the link contains two errors >>
 “Peak oil” in the 21st Century is NOT a theory. It is a highly probable forecast.
The King of Saudi Arabia has spoken. Saudi Aramco has spoken. The UKERC has spoken et cetera. The debate is over. The pessimists won. The only uncertainty is as to WHEN this event is going to occur.
 An “undulating plateau” scenario is NOT incompatible with any of the peak-oil forecasts, contrary to what DOE and Le Monde may believe. In fact, such a scenario is entirely compatible. Moreover, none of these forecasts depend in any way on the shape of the decline curve.
On this latter issue, there is no consensus but probably a majority of those who do take a stand believe that the curve will be steep rather than shallow, which could bring on a worldwide depression and possibly, regional wars over energy sources, according to the proponents of a steep decline curve.
Although the 2011-2015 scenario does not appear to be DOE’s favorite, the fact that the agency is even willing to consider such an early peak, should be a wake-up call for energy planners, legislators and public officials everywhere. As someone told a Babylonian emperor long ago, “The writing is on the wall”.
As a result, we must accelerate our efforts to install energy conservation measures and replace petrofuels by renewable sources of energy, above and beyond what is already planned.