Peak Oil - what is in a pair of words?

"Words shape action" says David Scott in his book Smelling Land.

Unfortunately the Peak Oil movement has settled on a particularly bad pair.

The average person hearing the of Peak Oil for the first time immediately misunderstands this as the same as running out of oil. Peak Oil contrarians will often state that the world's oil reserves grow each time the price for oil rises because more oil is ultimately recoverable.

Yes this is true.

Raise the price far enough and even the hydrocarbon seas on Saturns' moon Triton could be booked as a reserves. However, if you can get to Triton's reserves you probably have already found a better fuel, to say nothing of the fuel you'd be using to pump those reserves into earth bound fuel tanks.

Reserves also grow each time a new oil discovery is made. Peak Oil contrarians use this as evidence that Peak Oil is bunk. What the Peak Oil contrarians fail to mention is that it takes investments, technology and time to convert those discoveries into flows. Furthermore once flows start, those reserves begin to be depleted. Contrarians also fail to mention that not only do reserves deplete once flows start, the flow rates themselves fatigue, peak and eventually slow. Peak Oil is all about flows. Peak Oil is about the difficulties discovering enough new oil to grow a global flow rate of 1000 barrels per second.

Peak Oil should have been called Peak Oil Flows or even better still Peak Oil Export Flows. These are longer phases but they are much harder to misunderstand.

08 May

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