Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Digging in the dirt – searching for facts and figures in the Peak Oil production debate.

A further consequence of oil scarcity is that reserves will be concentrated in ever fewer countries, which could lead to instability. Because of the lack of spare capacity, a revolution in Venezuela causing the loss of 3 million barrels of production a day could cause world oil prices to rise sharply. Hence US involvement in the anti-Chavez coup (Roberts 2004, 254-255). Hallock predicts the number of net-exporters will fall from 35 countries to between 12 and 28 in the next 25 years (1673).

As a signal to begin serious investment in alternative energy sources, rising oil prices will come too late, according to Hallock (1692). Meanwhile, Kunstler has described the hydrogen economy as a &ldquodangerous fantasy.” Michael Moffat writes: &ldquoHybrid cars, while not a strict alternative to the internal combustion engine, would reduce the demand for gasoline as these vehicles can get twice the mileage of many comparable cars.” He does not appear to have considered the amount of gasoline burned to produce the hydrogen used in hybrid cars. Even Roberts, whose book is subtitled &ldquoThe Decline of the Petroleum Economy and the Rise of a New Energy Order,” neglects the energy equation somewhat, referring in passing to British scientist John Haldane, who in 1923 described a hydrogen-powered civilisation, the hydrogen being electrolysed from electricity generated by huge windmills (Roberts, 74). This would more properly be called a wind-powered civilisation – and Campbell in 1997 surmised that sailing ships (the most powerful machines on earth before the mechanical age) might make a comeback.

I asked Colin Campbell if the dangers of oil depletion were being taken seriously. He criticised the International Energy Agency, which Kunstler described as &ldquofucked in the head,” as a group of economists pumping out bland &ldquoscenarios” (not forecasts). &ldquoBut I would say that it's changing because in this last edition … once you read on and read in detail, and look at the footnotes, they amply demonstrate that their scenario is in practice unattainable. So they even now accept the concept of peak in 2030.” The scenarios envisaged in the report make very generous assumptions of technological advances, reserve growth and investment, he says. The World Energy Outlook 2004 report of the OECD (of which the IEA is an autonomous component) reads &ldquoConverting the world's resources into available supplies…will demand cumulative investment of $16 trillion from 2003 to 2030” (30). For reference: annual US GDP is around $13 trillion.

At the Energy Security of Supply conference Campbell called for Ireland to sign a depletion protocol, which commits signatories to cut oil imports to match the depletion rate (2-3%), at the ASPO International Workshop in Lisbon this May. This meeting will be followed by a gathering in Rimini in October to which world leaders have been invited in an attempt to push the issue higher up the agenda.


Adelman, M.A. The Genie out of the Bottle: World Oil Since 1970, 1995.

Campbell, Collin. The Coming Oil Crisis, 1997.

Deffeyes, Kenneth Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage, 2001.

Hall, Charles. &ldquoHydrocarbons and the Evolution of Human Culture”

Hallock, J.L. et al. &ldquoForecasting the limits to the availability and diversity of global conventional oil supply,” Energy, vol. 29, nr. 11, Sep. 2004.

Jorgenson, Dale W. &ldquoEnergy Prices and Productivity Growth” in Lars Matthiessen, ed. The Impact of Rising Oil Prices on the World Economy, 1982.

Lynch, Michael. &ldquoClosed Coffin: Ending the Debate on 'The End of Cheap Oil',”

Lynch, Michael and M.A. Adelman. &ldquoFixed View of Resource Limits Creates Undue Pessimism” Oil & Gas Journal, 1997, April 7th, vol. 95.

Lynch, Michael. Crying Wolf: Warnings About Oil Supply,”

Moffat, Michael. &ldquoWe will never run out of oil”

Nye, David. Consuming Power: A Social History of American Energies, 1998

Odell, Peter. &ldquoThe Global Energy Market in the Long-Term: the Continuing Dominance of Affordable Non-Renewable Resources,” in Oil and Gas: Crises and Controversies 1961-2000: Studies and Commentaries by Peter R. Odell, volume 1: Global Issues, 2001 (originally published 2000).

Odell, Peter. &ldquoThe Future of Oil: a Complex Question,” in Oil and Gas (originally published 1983).

OECD. World Energy Outlook 2004

Ohanian, Hans C. Physics, 2nd edition, 1989.

Roberts, Paul. The End of Oil: The Decline of the Petroleum Economy and the Rise of a New Energy Order, 2004.

Salameh, Mamdouh G. &ldquoHow Realistic are OPEC's Proven Reserves?” in Petroleum Review, August 2004. (in Spanish)

Chaos in the City. Architecture, Modernism and Peak Oil Production – James Kunstler in Interview

The Smoking Gun? Oil in Iraq as a motive for war.

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