Debunking the Debunkers

November 21, 2006 at 12:00 am
Contributed by: Chris


Last week, we were treated to another dose of don’t-worry medicine by our favorite “purveyors of petro-prozac,” Daniel Yergin and Peter Jackson of CERA.

I’ll let the ASPO explain the gist, from their newsletter today:

Last week Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), the most prominent opponent of the idea that world oil production will peak in the next ten years, issued a “new” report with the imposing title “Why the ‘Peak Oil’ Theory Falls Down — Myths Legends, and the Future of Oil Resources.” As the 16-page report sells for $1,000, the company issued a lengthy press release describing the report’s contents in much detail so the media could afford to publicize their “new findings.”

The thesis of the CERA report is that world oil production will increase steadily from the current 85 million b/d to a high of 130 million b/d in 2030. After that world production will decline slowly for the rest of the century as the technology is found to convert non-conventional sources of energy into affordable liquid fuels.

Within hours of the press release, a storm of criticism arose pointing out various shortcomings in the report and noting that CERA said nearly the same thing in its testimony to Congress last December. Among the critics were Representatives Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Tom Udall (D-NM).

The press release was picked up uncritically by several wire services and newspapers, thereby assuring their readers that the world’s supply of liquid fuels was in good shape for the foreseeable future. Other papers added some balance to their coverage.

That was actually a very charitable description of the media’s coverage, I’d say, because in the many reports I saw, I found scant reference to the other side of the debate. Most reporters just gobbled it up.

It’s an unfortunate disservice to the public. Let’s be clear about this: CERA may be the media darlings, but in the universe of solid scientific opinion about peak oil, CERA’s view is in a distinct minority. Their rosy projections about global oil production require the production profiles of oil fields to start behaving in a way that they never have before; they require technology that has not been invented; they require very strong growth in unproved, unscaled, and unconventional sources; they require the best of all possible geopolitical situations; in short, they require the inverse of Murphy’s Law. Perhaps we should dub it CERA’s Law: everything that can go right, will.

Well that’s not the kind of meat we dine on here at GetRealList. So here are three selected links to other sites, where knowledgeable observers and geologists have debunked these debunkers point by point, and what’s more, done it for free. (I wonder how many copies of that $1000 report CERA will sell?)


Dave Cohen’s post at the Oil Drum is a solid bit of scholarship, and delves bravely into all the important details. Long but worthy if you’re a peak geek.

the Peak Oil “Myth” Just Fall Down? — Our Response to CERA

The Oil Drum

Posted by Dave Cohen on
Thursday November 16, 2006 at 9:04 PM EST

The ASPO’s response was both pithy and comprehensive, targeted less at the geeks and more at community leaders and policy makers.

Peddling PetroProzac: CERA ignores 10 warning signposts of peak oil

Energy Bulletin
, 15 Nov 2006

by Randy Udall, Jeremy Gilbert & Steve Andrews

And finally, the basic short newspaper article version:

Peak-oil debate crackles anew

Houston Chronicle, Nov. 15, 2006, 12:42AM

[See the CERA press release here.]

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