Fossil Fuel Depletion
 
 
 
 
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Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.    
 
Kenneth E. Boulding 
                         
The Coming Oil Crisis, Colin J. Campbell - Oil Geologists Colin J. Campbell and Jean Laherrère published an influential paper in 1995 predicting that oil production would peak in 2010. This book, published in 1997 is Campbell's effort to present information about oil depletion in a form suitable for non-specialists. Campbell presents a lot of interesting data, but his style of writing is rambling and somewhat hard to follow. A fortunate exception to this statement is his final summary chapter 'Synthesis: What It All Amounts To' which is a concise recapitulation of the information covered in the previous chapters. Another nice feature of the book is the interviews with various other oil geologists which are dispersed throughout the book. Some of them are more optimistic than Campbell about the onset in the decline of oil production, but it is clear that all of them believe that the great age oil discovery is over. The data showing the decline in oil discovery are more convincing than the models which attempt to predict the precise date of the corresponding decline in oil production.  
 
                                                                                                        
Hubbert's Peak and Beyond Oil, Kenneth S. Deffeyes - I will just post one comment for both of Deffeye's books. Deffeyes is another knowledgeable oil geologist trying to writing for a general audience about the analysis of oil discovery and production data. He has been in academia at Princeton University for many years, but he came from an oil industry background. His father was a pioneering petroleum engineer and Deffeyes describes himself as having grown up in the 'oil patch' in Oklahoma. After graduate school he was hired by Shell Oil where he met and worked with Hubbert. Overall his books are better written and easier to understand than Campbell’s, although he never presents the world oil discovery raw data in bell curve or histogram form. This omission is unfortunate since this piece of data is the single most convincing piece of evidence with regard to the demise of oil production. Even the most vigorous critics of an early date for peak oil production do not dispute that oil discovery peaked more than two decades ago. Deffeyes makes a more serious effort than Campbell to make the methods of fitting oil production data to project the peak date comprehensible to the layperson. However, if you are not mathematically inclined you will probably find this discussion hard to follow. 
 
Deffeyes' discussion of potential replacements for oil is not particularly inspired. Being a geologist he focuses on other energy sources which can be extracted from the earth: heavy oil, tar sands, coal, natural gas, oil shale and uranium. His discussion of these subjects is worth reading even though it is rather pessimistic. He is fairly dismissive of such things as organic farming, and solar/wind energy. Also apart from small fuel efficient cars and compact florescent light bulbs, he dismisses conservation as 'doing without'. If you put the separate pieces of his analysis together, you would think that he would be predicting a post-industrial apocalypse. However, he refuses to draw such a conclusion and remains guardedly optimistic about the future even though there appears to be little basis for such optimism based on the information and opinions he has presented.  
 
Twilight in the Desert, Matthew Simmons - Matthew Simmons is the CEO of an investment bank specializing in the energy industry. Predicting oil supply and demand is the essence of how Simmons earns a living. This book contains his analysis of long series of technical papers published by the engineers of Saudi Aramco, the company which is in charge of Saudi Arabia oil production and exploration business. He concludes that the huge Saudi oil production rates, which is largely due to the bounty of a handful of super giant oil fields, may soon enter a decline. This conclusion contradicts the public assertions of Saudi Aramco and the assumptions of most energy planners who assert that Saudi Arabia will be able to maintain and, in fact, increase its oil output until the middle of the century. Simmons comes across as a level headed, knowledgeable person trying to understand the truth about an important economic issue. 
 
 
The real science of political economy, which has yet to be distinguished from the bastard science, as medicine from witchcraft, and astronomy from astrology, is that which teaches nations to desire and labor for the things that lead to life; and which teaches them to scorn and destroy the things which lead to destruction. 
 
John Ruskin
 
 
 
 
Roger Brown 
Rogerkb@theworldisfinite.com