To Peak or Not to Peak? That is the question.

by Mike Jonas, April 8, 2019 in WUWT

A lot has been written about Peak Oil recently – perhaps more in comments than in WUWT articles themselves – and the “Not to Peak”-ers seem to be in the ascendancy. In other words, the opinions that “Peak Oil” is a fantasy and/or oil production will keep increasing for a century or more seem to be dominant.

But just how realistic are the “Not to Peak”-ers?

I had a look back at my article of 4 years ago (Peak Oil Re-visited), and I’m pretty comfortable with what I said back then. NB. I defined “Peak Oil” as When the rate of oil production reaches its maximum. With this definition, Peak Oil is not when we run out of oil, and it is not when we can’t increase the rate of oil production. If you want to use one of those other definitions then different rules apply. And I’m only talking about oil, not about oil and gas, and not about fossil fuels generally.

What I said in 2015 was:

  • The reason for oil production reaching its maximum is not specified.
  • Peak Oil is not necessarily a disaster, it could even be a positive.
  • One idea which surely is not open to argument is the fact that oil production will peak.
  • Predicting Peak Oil has always been an unrewarding exercise. People have predicted Peak Oil for over a century and have been wrong every time.
  • The principal factors affecting oil supply are: Geology, Politics, Demand, Price, Technology.
  • In spite of economic booms and busts, oil demand has been relatively inelastic.
  • Although Peak Oil may occur after say 2040, it could well be much earlier.

The third bullet above (oil production will peak) was justified by this graph, which looked at past and likely future oil production on a scale of thousands of years:


The shale revolution (as BP calls it) has made a difference, but it still can’t dramatically alter the shape of the graph in Figure 1. Basically, it can push the peak up, and it can elongate the tail, but it can’t move the peak very far to the right.

Figure 1. World Total Fossil Fuel Consumption, past and predicted – the long view.