STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Let Us Remember the Apocalyptic Rhetoric of Peak Oilers
By Staff News & Analysis - November 21, 2012

Peak Oil And The Olduvai Gorge … Commodities / Crude Oil … The Olduvai Gorge theory of Richard Duncan was that human society would be forced back to the anthropoid ape stage of evolution by peak oil and energy scarcity, and would live like Tanzania's "Lucy" the best known precursor or human ancestor, taxonomically called "Australopithecus afarensis", of about 2 million years ago. Duncan's angle, developed in the late 1990s, was that peak oil and energy resource depletion would firstly make inevitable, then speed up this retreat and defeat of Humanity, as human society was forced back to hunting and gathering. An Internet search with Olduvai Gorge theory will produce hundreds of responses. – Market Oracle

Dominant Social Theme: Disaster can strike at any moment. Peak Oil is real.

Free-Market Analysis: This is an interesting article because it brings up a point about Peak Oil that we hadn't fully been aware of. We knew generally that those presenting the idea that the world was running out of oil were fairly apocalyptic but they were, nonetheless, often moderate in their public speech.

The idea, they liked to write, was not that the world was about to face a precipitous collapse but that the amount of NEW oil being discovered – especially sweet, light crude – was going to start diminishing. This would be a gradual occurrence, they liked to comment sorrowfully, and the market itself would be powerless to respond.

Again, the rhetoric among many Peak Oilers was moderate. But as this article points out, there were undercurrents that were quite radical. The theory being profiled here is called The Olduvai Gorge theory. Here's more:

Among the admirers of Richard Duncan and his "back to the jungle" theory, Britain's Prince Charles and the USA's Bill Clinton have surely consumed a lot of jetfuel kerosene as well as motor gasoline in their lives, to date, and kept away from hunter gathering, as shown by their ability to avoid paperazzi and photo opportunity hunters.

They also kept Duncan's gory theory of mass human die off and backward evolution to hunting-gathering, due to Peak Oil and fossil energy depletion, out of nearly all of their speeches. As we know, certainly in recent years, the elite fear of peak oil has been replaced by global warming fear – as the best excuse to impose "world government", unelected of course.

Duncan's theory was given significant media attention about 10 years ago, and was heavily cited by supporters of the US Gas Cliff theory, promoted by writers including Julien Darley and Michael Ruppert in 2004-2006, and by promoters of Doomsday energy shortage and oil soaring to $200 a barrel, such as Matt Simmons.

The Gas Cliff theory, we can note, argued that gas resource depletion was running so fast, that US gas resources would be "practically exhausted" by about 2015. Today, we know that we face a towering cliff of unconventional gas resources – discovered since only 2007. Discoveries of unconventional gas march on and up, implying that probably 200 years, or more, of current world gas consumption are now available as exploitable resources, worldwide.

The keywords conventional oil and gas, and unconventional oil and gas, tell us all we need to know about global fossil energy for the next 50 years, at least. Peak Oil (PO) theory as developed by Colin Campbell, Jean Laherrere and Kjell Aleklett among others, only concerns conventional oil resource depletion, does not in any significant way concern gas resources, and also assumes that global oil demand and consumption can only rise.

Interestingly, the writer makes certain distinctions regarding Peak Oil and M. King Hubbert's "US oil depletion theory of the 1950s." This is notable because it is commonly held that M. King Hubbert was the developer of the Peak Oil theory.

Not so, we are told. There is a difference between Hubbert's theorizing and others. He is not the "father of Peak Oil," or so it is reported.

To some degree, this is an ancillary matter. Our perspective on this has been clear for years, at least a decade, in fact, if not more. We have always believed the larger market would easily compensate for any loss of oil production with plentiful alternatives.

As a matter of fact, we didn't really believe oil production was diminishing at all. We believed that new ways of drilling for oil would be developed and that quite possibly oil was abiotic, created by geological processes rather than biological processes (or perhaps both).

We also believed that Peak Oil (as representative of a larger scarcity fallacy) was part of a power elite playbook to frighten Western Middle Classes into giving up power and wealth to specially created global facilities.

In other words, we believed the scarcity myth surrounding oil was ill founded and was being circulated with ulterior motives. And we believed that over time fallacies associated with it would be exposed.

That's just what seems to have happened. With new technologies becoming popularized, the estimates of the amount of recoverable oil (in areas where drilling is not already off limits) is expanding rapidly.

One of the Forbes brothers of magazine fame reportedly estimated that the US contained enough drillable energy for another 1,000 years. This is a far cry from Peak Oil.

After Thoughts

As the Peak Oil hysteria winds down, we should continue to take note of how distorted the debate was initially and how shrill the rhetoric became. Lack of oil was to send us back to the "stone age." We may indeed get there, but it certainly won't be over a lack of energy resources.

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