Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Oil and the Great Deception - Part Three

"Oil Production in the United States is in a permanent decline."

This is one of the loudest of all claims by oil bulls, and the one stated with the most smug self satisfaction, a seemingly impregnable statement that no one with even half a brain could possibly refute. This claim is usually made in conjunction with some comment about M. King Hubbert, and his prescient statement about the aforementioned peak, complete with the required head bowing and reverence for the so called "messiah" of the peak oil movement.

How can anyone deny this after all?

According to the Department of Energy web site, domestic oil production peaked in 1970, at 9.6 million barrels per day. On a Monthly basis, it peaked in November 1970, at 10.4 million barrels per day. However, this doesn’t tell the entire story.

1) Production in the U.S has stopped declining and was flat in 2007 vs. 2006. While there is some noise in the numbers due to recent hurricanes, it is estimated that in 2008, production will again be flat before a large 4.1% increase in 2009. The chart below shows the reversal in this decline.

2) During a four-year period, from 1982 to 1985, domestic production grew every year, a legacy of increased oil exploration while prices were high in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The total percent increase in domestic production was 4.65%.

Here is a chart from Google Docs. Although hard to see in the chart due to the scale and my technical incompetence in trying to remove the lower numbers, production did increase before tailing off once prices collapsed.

3) Domestic oil production also increased in 1977 and 1978, including a whopping 5% in 1978.

4) Domestic oil production increased 10.3% from 1976 to 1985, from 8.1 million to 8.9 million barrels per day.

5) Recently, sequential production has increased for four straight months (December 2007 to March 2008), although still down on a year over year basis. And yes, I understand that four months does not a trend make, just thought I would mention it.

Why am I wasting time writing this?

To demolish cherished beliefs held by millions of investors who rely on others to do their homework for them. Stop regurgitating what you hear on TV, and do your own god damn research.

What you should really be thinking about is that if production can actually increase in a mature basin like the United States, then imagine what could happen in areas of the world that are at the cutting edge of exploration.

Now before you your make your comments about how stupid I am or how I just don't understand, please read the following about things I am specifically not saying, so please don't accuse me of this:

1) I did not say that U.S production will ever reach its previous peak of 10.4 million barrels reached in 1970, just that production could head up again due to increased exploration.

2) I did not say that it is easier to find oil in the United States.

3) I did not say that the possibility of a small increase in production in the United States will solve all of our supply problems.


Sara - pension comparison said...

We need ways of supplying and using renewable energy!

john said...

So, I am not the only one oil obsessing :-)

Got a break today with china ending energy subsidies to a point

John Bougearel