Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Greg Palast is Apparently Retarded

Jeez. Usually I love his stuff, but this is just stupid. Via HTWW:
In his 1956 paper, Hubbert wrote:"On the basis of the present estimates of the ultimate reserves of world petroleum and natural gas, it appears that the culmination of world production of these products should occur within a half a century [i.e., by 2006]."

So get in your Hummer and take your last drive, Clive. Sometime during 2006, we will have used up every last drop of crude oil on the planet. We’re not talking “decline” in oil from a production “peak,” we’re talking “culmination,” completely gone, kaput, dead out of crude—and not enough natural gas left to roast a weenie. In his 1956 treatise, Hubbert wrote that Planet Earth could produce not a drop more than one and a quarter trillion barrels of crude.
It's really bizarre that someone could read anything - literally, any single thing - about Hubbert's Peak and declare that Hubbert predicted that we'd run out of oil yesterday. You'd have to be a moron. Seriously.

Palast doesn't believe in geology, you see. Palast believes that the current high price of oil is driven not by supply-chain constraints, but by oil cartel manipulations.

There is so much stupidity in the next few paragraphs:
Have we peaked? Worldwide oil reserves continue to rise even faster than America and China can burn it. Since 1980, reserves, despite our binge-guzzling, have risen from 648 billion to 1.2 trillion barrels. Yet, weirdly, despite the rising flood of discovered crude, its price quadrupled between 2001 and 2005.... The oil squeeze tightened after the Bush Administration, beginning with the energy bill of 2001, abandoned conservation and encouraged a monstrous jump of two million barrels a day in U.S. oil consumption.

So please don’t slander Mother Earth and say she’s run out of oil when it’s man-made mischief to blame. Evil, not geology, has a chokehold on energy; nature is ready to give us crude at $12 a barrel where it was just a few short years ago.
So we've got a number of dumb assertions in these sentences:

1) Reserve size is a linear determinant of oil production. By this logic, Canada should produce more oil every day than Saudi Arabia.

2) Reserves have grown faster than consumption. Palast says reserves have doubled since 1980. We consumed 64 million barrels per day in 1980. So at first, it looks like Palast is right. Of course, by accepting these numbers without qualification, Palast is inadvertently giving a lot of credit to the rulers of OPEC, all of whom multiplied their stated reserves severalfold during the 1980s, usually with no explanation. This oil magically appeared on the ledgers, and has never left or been explained. Palast mentions this nowhere in this piece. (I confirmed Palast's numbers at the EIA website of the US Department of Energy.)

3) If it weren't for Exxon, we'd be at $12/barrel oil. This is simply idiotic. The price of production for a large chunk of the world's oil is higher than $12/barrel. I'd have to check, but I'm relatively certain that if oil dropped to $12, all production in Alberta and Alaska would stop, most of Russia would stop exporting, and maybe a solid chunk of places like Venezuela and Iran, too. All told, $12/barrel would cut several million barrels of production from the world market, meaning - yup - the price would go through the roof again.

All of this is simple economics, but Palast needs to ignore Econ 101 if he can make a case against the Exxons of the world.

(Let no one ever say that I'm unwilling to criticize idiots on the left. Damn it, I want the people on our side to be angry and right, not just angry.)


Anonymous said...

It makes a great deal of sense that Oil would run out far quicker than Coal because as you know Coal is made from fossilised trees but not a lot of people know that Oil is made mainly from fossilised dinosaurs - not T-Rex but microscopic plankton and planktonic crustaceans. It also makes sense that through out history there would be far far fewer of these animals than trees...i think there's a great case for peak oil..its's very likely happening, not surprising then that Palast has fallen out of favour with the left wing environmentalists.He should take more notice of what world-class geologists like Colin Campbell and Ken Deffeyes have written

Anonymous said...

Concerning point 3, Palast suggests that nature gives oil at 12 dollars a barrel, which assumably means it is gotten out of the ground at that price. But in the rebuke, you say exactly this, which i assume means you misread the meaning of the original words. If this is the case, according to your criticism of Palast being inaccurate about somethings, it suggests you need to be a little careful as well because, as you indicate, it opens one up to criticism in various ways.