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Seven myths used to debunk peak oil, debunked

By Andrew McKay - posted Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Peak oil is a fact, not a theory.

From US conventional oil production peaking in 1970 to global conventional oil production peaking in 2006 the figures are indisputable. Even institutions such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) and publications like The Economist that are not known for alarmism have admitted that oil production from conventional sources has peaked.

So why are there still commentators who refuse to believe peak oil?


Similar to the phony global warming "debate," many, but not all of the most vocal deniers are politically conservative, pro-business. And, by their refusal to take into account basic statistics, they're anti-science. In terms of reduced energy use per capita, and the inevitable downsizing of the global economy, deniers are ideologically opposed to what happens now that we're living in a post-peak world.

So what are their arguments, and why are they so wrong? The top seven are listed below:

1. Peak oilers say oil is running out, it's not

At best this is a misunderstanding; at worst it's a straw-man fabricated to cast doubt on the assertions of those concerned with the realities of peak oil.

No peak oiler worth their salt has ever argued that we're running out of oil. Sure, there may have been a couple of fringe bloggers arguing the case alongside conspiracy theories about alien abduction cover-ups and laser guided death unicorns, but no one takes them seriously.

The issue isn't when oil will run out. It's about when conventional oil extraction peaks, which happened in 2006 according to the IEA's 2010 World Energy Outlook. Unconventional oil has filled the gap for now (along with decreased use), but there's much skepticism as to how long this can last.

2. Fracking will save us from peak oil

While it's certainly true that the massive increase in hydraulic fracturing of natural gas was largely unforeseen by the peak oil-aware, it's merely a game extender, not a game changer.


The small amount of oil that arises as a byproduct of fracking accounted for less than 5 percent of daily US consumption last year. This is even after a 750 percent increase in tight oil production since 2003. Clearly there would need to be an unprecedented increase in exploration and drilling for oil from fracking to even begin making a dent in the wider scale of things. But that's before we consider damage to the environmental commons - land, air, and water - from the fracking process.

The other trouble with fracking is that production figures for individual wells commonly decline 60-80 percent in the first year followed by a more gradual decline. This means new wells must constantly be drilled to avoid production for a whole area dropping off very quickly.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that domestic production of tight oil will max out at 1,325,000 barrels a day by 2030. This is only 7 percent of the current US daily consumption. No one seriously believes that the US economy can grow without increasing oil consumption. The numbers don't stack up, it's as simple as that.

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This article was first published on Transition Voices.

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About the Author

Andrew McKay is a trained ecologist currently working as fisheries observer in New Zealand. When not out on the ocean he blogs about peak oil and related issues from a New Zealand perspective at Southern Limits. Follow him on Twitter@southernlimitnz.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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