WASHINGTON Proponents of "peak oil" -- the
theory that global crude oil production has hit its zenith and
is headed for a steep decline -- are steamed with a U.S. oil
industry group's findings that the world has plenty of oil.
Next week the U.S. National Petroleum Council -- a board of
high-level U.S. oil industry executives -- releases its study
titled "Facing the Hard Truths about Energy," conducted at the
behest of Energy Secretary Sam Bodman.
According to the report's executive summary obtained by
Reuters, the world is not running out of oil but there are
"accumulating risks" to securing supply through 2030.
Peak oil theorists say such findings gloss over Bodman's
request to study the issue in detail.
"They've labored mightily and come up with a mouse," said
Randy Udall at the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and
Gas, whose group dismisses the report as "petro Prozac."
"Give me four college students and two weeks, and I could
do better," Udall said.
With crude oil futures prices in London at 11-month highs
above $77 a barrel, the International Energy Agency, adviser to
26 industrialized countries, predicts a supply crunch in 2012.
The IEA now expects global demand to reach 95.8 million
barrels per day (bpd) from 86.1 million bpd in 2007, assuming
average global GDP growth of 4.5 percent annually.
In a draft letter to Bodman outlining its findings, the
National Petroleum Council says, "The world is not running out
of energy resources, but there are accumulating risks to
continuing expansion of oil and natural gas production from the
conventional sources relied upon historically."
Those risks include "political hurdles, infrastructure
requirements and availability of trained work force," according
to the findings of the panel, which includes executives of oil
companies like ExxonMobil Corp. and Chevron Corp.
The council, chaired by former ExxonMobil Chief Executive
Lee Raymond, could not be reached for comment.
There is no shortage of rhetoric in the debate.
One U.S. oil executive hires people to don chicken suits
and hand out flyers at peak oil conferences, calling its
advocates "Chicken Littles" - most recently in Italy in 2006.
"The abundance side of the debate needs something that
grabs attention too," said Alex Cranberg, chairman of
Denver-based Aspect Energy LLC, an independent oil company,
referring to the chicken suits. "It is almost equal to, but not
equal to, the power of fear."
Daniel Yergin, chairman of oil consultancy Cambridge Energy
Research Associates and the panel's vice chairman of demand
issues, has dismissed the idea of peak oil.
Instead, Yergin's group has predicted an "undulating
plateau" of crude oil production over several decades, followed
by a slow decline.
Such findings irk Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, the Maryland
Republican and co-chairman of the Congressional peak oil
caucus, who has hounded the Bush administration on the peak oil
"I don't think (the council) did what they asked them to
do," Bartlett said in his office this week, brandishing a
closet-full of charts and graphs that map out various world oil
consumption scenarios. "We're disappointed."