Can we finally bury the Hubbert curve? It keeps getting more wrong. Peak Oil #20

Check out this great graph from The Economist: Peak oil.

I don’t understand the copyright rules well enough to include the graph in my post. In case their article goes away, you can also see the graph at Carpe DiemChart of the day: Peak oil.

Let me describe the graph.

Take the standard Hubbert curve, which is a smooth bell curve peaking in 1970. Production then falls off rapidly, always going down, and flattens out at around 10% or 15% of the peak.

That is the Peak Oil dogma in one graph – we hit the peak in ’70, oil production will fall off consistently and permanently, and then we will run out of oil at a date that was calculable in the 1950s.

Overlay that with the graph of actual production and a forecast by BP through 2030.

Then try to restrain the chuckles.

Professor Hubbert underestimated the high point by more than 10%. He missed the curve moving up and to the right  in the 1980s. He missed the even bigger increase underway now.  He missed the plateau that will run for 2 decades.

So today we are running about three times more oil production in the U.S. than the professor calculated. In 2030 we will be producing around seven or nine times more oil than he calculated with exact precision.

Off by a factor of 3 in 2012. Off by a factor of 7 or 9 in 2030. Can we finally call that concept busted?

Just in case you think I’m being too hard on the good professor and his disciples, please remember that he precisely calculated the total amount of oil on the planet out to two or three signficant digits. That means he knew within a couple of percentage points accuracy the total amount of oil that would ever be produced. Though the concept is denied by some today, one of the core concepts is we will run out of oil – Dr. Hubbert said we will use up the last drop of oil on the planet.

If you wonder whether Peak Oilers have lost their faith, check out the comments at either of the above posts. Peak Oil true believers are alive and well as of yesterday afternoon.

I use the words dogma, disciples, faith, and true believers intentionally. Didn’t bother to weave the word doctrine into this post.

Why use those words? That’s the topic for another post someday soon.

Why is the Peak Oil curve so phenomenally, astoundingly, completely wrong?

Dr. Hubbert made an extremely long list of wrong assumptions that are fatal to his argument. The first five that come to mind are:

  • Explorers would never, ever find a new oil field.
  • Scientists would never develop new technology to get more oil from existing fields.
  • Geologists would never find out that oil fields were bigger than what was known when the field was first drilled.
  • We would never develop new technology to get out oil we couldn’t touch in the 1950s.
  • Nobody ever changes their behavior when prices change, either on the demand side or the supply side.

When can we get rid of the Peak Oil concept?

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