2006/03/05

ExxonMobil Says, "Peak Oil Is Fiction"

In Friday's NY Times, and presumably in other prominent papers around the country, ExxonMobil placed an advertisement that is designed to call into question the public's perception of "peak oil," the point at which oil production starts to decline as we exhaust the supply.

I've included a link to the PDF here and will use excerpts below, but let's start with the basic fact. This is a piece of propaganda, filled with distortions and omissions, that has a single purpose: To convince people that we can, and should, continue to use oil as our primary energy source as wantonly as we do today.
Contrary to the theory, oil production shows no signs of a peak... Oil is a finite resource, but because it is so incredibly large, a peak will not occur this year, next year, or for decades to come.
Well this is true as far as it goes, but what they fail to mention is that demand is escalating far ahead the discovery of new sources. So sure, the peak may not come for decades, but so what! 20 years? 50 years? It's irrelevant because affecting a full transition away from oil in the time remaining may not be possible unless we start now.
As a large scale, broad-based transportation fuel, oil currently has no equal. Demand for it is increasing to support economic growth worldwide. Thankfully, there is enough potential supply to meet this demand.
Though they are correct in stating that oil, in this limited context, has no equal, they ignore three critical indictments. First, using oil is not the problem. How we use oil, by pumping it individually into our gas-tanks, is the problem. Second, with the exception of coal, no fossil fuel is more damaging to the environment than oil. So a fuel that costs twice as much to produce for the same energy output but with half the emissions, might be a better choice in order to help us avoid environmental catastrophe. Third, the last sentence is quite simply disingenuous bullshit. Big Oil routinely includes economically infeasible sources such as Canada's tar sands as a "potential" supply. Finally, notice the scary implication: Oil is necessary to sustain worldwide economic growth.

So why would Big Oil embark on a campaign to discredit "peak oil" theorists. Well, consider the source. ExxonMobil, of all the major suppliers, has the smallest reserves and infrastructure devoted to natural gas, the most likely "bridge energy" that we'd use while transitioning to something new. Thus, ExxonMobil will push oil use even if it means pumping and processing every last drop. But don't let yourself be fooled. The reality of "peak oil" is undeniable. In your lifetime? Maybe not, but then certainly in your children's, and in the meantime if we let Big Oil pull the wool over eyes, we may fail to make the preparations that are necessary to transition the world to a new energy infrastructure.

(Updated 2006/03/05, 12:07 pm)

In the comments for this post Helen Wheels provides a reference to an interesting article on the subject of Iceland's going "fossil-free". Though a similar approach probably not practical for the US in the short term, it demonstrates the type of commitment that we could learn from. Conversely, in German where wind provides a significant and growing share of nation's energy needs, the tide may be turning against renewables.

16 Comments:

They are slugs, kvatch...weasely slugs.
Predictions of when peak oil will be reached are all over the map. I read recently that the more optimistic opinions include oil resources that are yet to be found, but are "assumed" will be found once the technology for locating new fields improves.

To me, it doesn't matter if peak oil is reached ten years from now or 50. It's inevitable. It's going to cause an enormous upheaval in industry, the economy, and society. We need to start real preparations for the inevitable now. I can't believe we're being so short-sighted about something so fundamental to our day-to-day lives.
Until they can own the sun and the wind, big oil will never admit to another energy source available.
And as long as they can con people into continuing their squanderous ways, they will never admit to peak oil.
It's going to cause an enormous upheaval in industry, the economy, and society.

Abi, if the transition began right now, and by that I mean this very instant, we might be in a position to reduce the upheaval. Some companies, like ChevronTexaco are looking seriously at a gas infrastructure, but we're still decades away.

Until they can own the sun and the wind, big oil will never admit to another energy source available.

Ron, of the major Big Oil players, BP seems to be genuinely interested in alternate energy investment, but then BP has the smallest reserves of any of the majors.
Why can't we be like Iceland???

They plan to be totally oil-free by 2050.
Oh and GREAT post - thanks for the head's up. I can't get over how horrible these thug-co's are. If they would just put some money into other sources of energy, we all would win.

Hey - Lily: I tried to do a link to pop up in a separate page, but blogger doesn't like the "target" code - so that's probably why most folks don't do it, FYI. I know you had asked about that a couple of times.
I asked about it???? Did I? The target code works in the post editor but not in a comment window. That tag is not allowed in comments. I use the target tag in blogger though quite a bit. Hmm. Consider me confused.
Why don't we all go back to using windmills? They were a fixture of the American landscape prior to cheap electricity.
Why don't we all go back to using windmills? They were a fixture of the American landscape prior to cheap electricity.

Interestingly, that's exactly what's going on in Germany, subsidized wind-turbines that almost anyone with the land can put up. But...when the penetration in the electricity market passed 5 percent on it's way to 10, the power companies got worried and started putting pressure on the German parliment to end the program.
There's been a flap about a proposal to use windmills off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Folks there are upset that it ruins their expensive ocean view, which is understandable. Hopefully there's some compromise there, because it's a good idea.
>a peak will not occur this year, next year, or for decades to come

Bartkid sez,
What they don't mention is how much more prohibitively expensive the remaining oil reserves will be to drill.
It costs only cents or a few dollars per barrel for Saudi crude and more than $50 per barrel for Alberta Oilsands crude.
What they don't mention is how much more prohibitively expensive the remaining oil reserves will be to drill.

That's also an excellent point. By the time we get to those reserves we're going to need our petroleum for lubricants more urgently than as energy.

Abi, many countries are looking at putting wind farms on floating derricks, an idea that I really think has a lot of merit.
So, Exxon says peak is a fiction while shell and BP say it's real?

Which megacorporation should I believe?

Mike
Ghawar
Call it "crude self interest"
By all means possible, suck up another gallon of the black, by sitting for 11 hours a year in drive through. Exxon is going to always encourage consumerism. That is their business...

Add a comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link