- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; Revised edition edition (Sept. 24 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691090866
- ISBN-13: 978-0691090863
- Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.5 x 24.1 cm
- Shipping Weight: 449 g
- Average Customer Review: 33 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,842,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage - Revised and Updated Edition Hardcover – Sep 24 2001
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One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2002
Honorable Mention for the 2001 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Geography and Earth Science, Association of American Publishers
Deffeyes has reached a conclusion with far-reaching consequences for the entire industrialized world. . . . The conclusion is this: in somewhere between two and six years from now, worldwide oil production will peak. After that, chronic shortages will become a way of life. The 100-year reign of King Oil will be over.---Fred Guterl, Newsweek
A most readable handbook. . . . If [Deffeyes] is right we have, at most, two or three years in which to prepare for yet another price shock, and to accelerate our move away from oil as fuel. The strength of the book lies in its solid background and well-explained basis for that single prediction.---Stuart Young, Nature
Deffeyes makes a persuasive case. . . . This is an oilman and geologist's assessment of the future, grounded in cold mathematics. And it's frightening.---Paul Raeburn, Scientific American
An important new book.---Robert Kuttner, Boston Globe
The story behind Hubbert's analysis--is told with engaging wit, humor, and great insight. . . . Deffeyes writes with the taut reasoning of a scientist and the passion of someone raised in the industry. . . . His background is ideal for the subject, and the book is a gem. . . . Read Hubbert's Peak.---Brian J. Skinner, American Scientist
[Some] experts . . . worry that the global peak in production will come in the next decade. . . . A heavyweight has now joined this gloomy chorus. Kenneth Deffeyes argues in a lively new book that global oil production could peak as soon as 2004. (The Economist)
A persuasive prophecy. Hubbert's story is important and needs to be told. I suspect that historians in years to come will recognise Hubbert's Peak as a historical turning point.---Tim Burnhill, New Scientist
Deffeyes, using Hubbert's methodology, shows that the trajectory of world reserves is closely following the pattern of U.S. discovery and depletion, with just a few decades' lag. Drilling deeper, in more remote locations, and with more elaborate technologies won't tap reserves that don't exist. . . . America's energy policy needs to tilt away from oil and in favor of conservation, new technology, and domestic renewables. The time to act is now, before the next wave of gas lines and rationing is upon us.---Robert Kuttner, Business Week
From the Inside Flap
"This book is important in that it is addressed to the general public, which is overwhelmingly ignorant of the fundamentals of earth's resources and basic economics. It will be very useful to teachers, news media personnel, and public policy makers." (Craig W. Van Kirk, Colorado School of Mines)
"The timing of this book is excellent. Energy issues will be heard with increasing frequency during the next five years, and the general public will be looking for information with which they can make sense of changes in energy supply and prices." (Robert K. Kaufmann, Boston University)
"I read this book with pleasure and profit, learning a great deal painlessly." (Robert M. Solow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)See all Product description
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There are several main weaknesses in the contention by oil expert Mr Deffeyes that world oil production will peak around 2005, and decline somewhat quickly thereafter.
'Hubbert's Peak' refers to a prediction made by a Mr M.K Hubbert in 1956 that peak US oil production would occur in the early 1970s, which turned out to be correct, supposedly dismissed at the time by both government and industry (his historical analysis may be a little rose-coloured here). He has then applied this experience to estimate the timing of peak world oil production. However, the rest of the world is not the US, and the correlation may not be as simplistic as he suggests.
For example, the US is the most drilled oil-producing country in the world, increasing both the chance of discovery and recovery of oil, and also both the maturity and reliability of resource figures. Both the timing and level of exploration is significant here, there were few cultural and environmental restrictions on oil exploration in the US in the first half of the 20 century, and alternative sources were not being investigated. (Some countries simply weren't looking for it). This is one reason I think he has under-estimated ultimately recoverable world oil reserves. It might seem a simple mistake for one quite experienced in the field, but I think such a mistake may be easier to see from one looking at the US experience from the outside.
Most importantly, this book candidly admits to ignoring nearly all large increases in official estimates of oil reserves from OPEC countries announced in the 1980s (p157), assuming they are politically motivated and therefore entirely spurious (eg Iraq's official reserves have sat at a constant 100 billion barrels since the the 1980s, although production has remained high). He dismisses the increases mostly on the basis that there has been little or no exploration to justify them. He doesn't seem to note of course that they were probably well under-estimated in the first place. One could also argue, that since there has been so little exploration, there is much more also to be found. Again, I think his mistake here is essentially cultural-he assumes too many parallels with the US experience.
He also dismisses USGS figures (ie US government estimates) on ultimate recoverable world oil, far too quickly. USGS ultimate recoverable world oil resources are about 1.5 times higher than his figures (p157). Why the discrepancy? One reason is technologically-improved recovery from known oil fields, which he doesn't seem to even mention. Secondly, I personally think that he allows too much personal prejudice of the USGS to colour his thinking. I have done resource analysis for government, (although not in oil, but in metals) and I have repeatedly been surprised at how quickly and easily some people dismiss government estimates, even when I know I had better access to resource figures than they did. Some people occasionally become selective in pointing out past government errors, whilst at the same failing to acknowledge industry errors.
He also has made virtually no concession at all on oil shale, or tar sands, based solely on 20th century experience. He states that oil shale is simply not competitive with the conventional oil price of $US25 barrel (p170), and that seems to be his entire argument. What he fails to even discuss is that with reduced competition from conventional oil, the economics of oil shales changes substantially. Oil shales contain far more oil than all the oil that has so far been produced (one estimate is 242 times conventional oil resources), although not nearly as economically recoverable, true, but his failure to address or properly discuss these resources is telling, especially as regards a potential slow decline after peak oil production.
Although I think there are a number of errors and also some cultural bias in his argument, at the end of the day world oil production WILL peak. In defence of the book, there are some quite interesting side-stories and anecdotes of the oil industry, making it easy to read, with plenty of geological discussion (eg how oil forms, how oil companies explore, major discoveries etc). However, in the light of the above and other similar weaknesses, I would push the peak of oil production out a bit further than his 2004-2008 (say, 2015 or later, but really this is still a guess), based largely on the unknown size of Middle East resources, which he has too easily dismissed. And, as pointed out by other reviewers, for various reasons (eg political, oil shales, undiscovered resources, social, cultural) the subsequent decline is not necessarily going to be as rapid as the rise in production during the 20th century, as even his crudest figures might suggest (eg his Figure on page 136 on coal production in Philadelphia- which shows a haphazard decline due to social reasons).
One final point, I think the book is mistitled- "Hubbert's peak, the impending world oil shortage". I prefer to think positively-"Hubbert's peak, an era of new opportunity for humankind". Bicycles, conservative use of both oil and cars, renewable energies- I'm personally looking forward to it. But I doubt, on even my crude analysis of his figures, that a major decline in world oil production will start to happen for a few decades or more yet. Of course there may well be some social instability in the interim, but this may also be reduced in various ways, *especially if the decline after peak world oil production is gradual*, as many people think. (eg Lomborg's very good book 'the Skeptical Environmentalist' provides a summary of the optimistic viewpoint, although I think he tends to over-estimate world oil reserves).
At any rate, people will adapt, they always have.
Thirty years ago, U.S. oil production peaked, and has been declining ever since. Shortly, world oil production will hit the same peak, and begin to decline. That doesn't mean there will be no oil left; thirty years after hitting its own peak, the U.S. is still the second largest oil producer in the world. But it does mean that demand will outstrip supply, and that means the economic dislocations of the late 70s - the spiking prices, the long gas lines, the deep recession - will become permanent. Eventually, other sources of energy, both renewables and plentiful fossil fuels like natural gas, will fill in the breach. But it will be a long and painful process, requiring a ton of capital investments in research and in infrastructure that a suddenly poorer first world will be ill able to afford.
"Shortly", Deffeyes argues, means in one to six years, and probably in the early part of that range. One can quibble with some of his arguments for that timing. With luck, he acknowledges, there may be one significant set of oil fields yet to be discovered, in the South China Sea (unexplored so far because the competing jurisdictions of the several nearby island nations have made contracts hard to nail down.) And I don't think he's given sufficient weight to the fact that all the oil recovery in the Middle East is still "primary", using old-fashioned pumping technology. But if all the quibbles are granted, it only affords the world economy another five or ten years of grace.
So, if Deffeyes is wrong, the time to start making those massive investments and changes is today. If he is right, the time to start making them is ten years ago, and all we can accomplish by swift action is to make the period of intense pain a decade or two shorter. Though Professor Deffeyes isn't political enough or impolite enough to say so, Clinton (for all his green talk) failed to provide any leadership to reduce our dependence on petroleum. And his successor, of course, is providing energetic leadership, but all of it is geared to marching us all double-time into still more rapid consumption of what little oil is left. History will remember neither President Slick, nor President Oil Slick, any more kindly than it now remembers Herbert Hoover for fiddling while the fuse that would set off the Great Depression burned.
The book is an easy read, short and set in a conversational style that permits the reader to glide through the more technical portions if so inclined. The technical details and the mathematical arguments could be tighter, and the folksiness, which would be delightful in a lecture room, is occasionally a bit much on the written page. For those reasons, it would be easy to give the book only four stars. But those faults are inseparable from the book's virtues. They're compromises Deffeyes chose to make in order to be accessible to a wide audience, and his book deserves to reach one.
If environmentalists take Deffeyes' message seriously,they'll realize that we will soon be so starved for oil that ANWAR is certain to be plundered, and that nuclear plants are certain to sprout across the landscape like, well, like mushrooms. If Deffeyes is on or near target, nothing can prevent those developments. Greens today should be using ANWAR and an expanded nuclear industry as bargaining chips, to be traded for strict CAFE standards, investment in renewable technologies, non-industry oversight of nuclear safety, and (since the near term alternative will be coal) investment in natural gas pipeline infrastructure.
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