|The Deffeyes Date: 16 December 2005 for peak oil.|
Ken Deffeyes, Princeton geology professor emeritus, former Shell geologist and author of two books on peak oil, has calculated that the world passed the peak of oil production (production of half of available oil) on 16 December, 2005.
Two years ago, Deffeyes, who had worked early in his career with M. King Hubbert at Shell, had forecast crossing the peak threshold on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2005. Deffeyes revised his calculations based on 2005 data.
In 1956, Hubbert calculated—and then publicly predicted—that US oil production would peak in the early 1970s. Although Hubbert was widely criticized by some oil experts and economists, in 1971 US oil production did indeed peak and has since been in decline.
On his website, Deffeyes outlines his data sources, methodology and the interpretation.
There are some interesting additional bits in the end-of-year statistics. Compared to 2004, world oil production was up 0.8 percent in 2005, nowhere near enough to compensate for a demand rise of roughly 3 percent. The high prices did not bring much additional oil out of the ground. Most oil-producing countries are in decline. The rise in production was largely from Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Angola. The Saudi production for 2005 was 9.155 million barrels per day. On March 6, 2003 Saudi Aramco and the government of Saudi Arabia announced by way of the Dow Jones newswire that they were maxed out at 9.2 barrels per day. In retrospect, that statement seems to be accurate.
Since we have passed the peak without initiating major corrective measures, we now have to rely primarily on methods that we have already engineered. Long-term research and development projects, no matter how noble their objectives, have to take a back seat while we deal with the short-term problems. Long-term examples in the proposed 2007 US budget include a 65 percent increase in the programs to produce ethanol from corn, a 25.8 percent increase for developing hydrogen fuel cell cars, and a 78.5 percent increase in spending on solar energy research. The Times reports that solar energy today supplies one percent of US electricity; the hope is to double that to 2 percent by the year 2025. By 2025, we’re going to be back in the Stone Age.
Ethanol, fuel cells, and solar cells are not the only shimmering dreams. Methane hydrates, oil shale, and the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste depository would be better off forgotten. There are plenty of solid opportunities. Energy conservation is by far the most important. Initiatives that are already engineered and ready to go are biodiesel from palm oil, coal gasification (for both gaseous and liquid fuels), high-efficiency diesel automobiles, and revamping our food supply. Every little bit helps, but even if wind energy continues its success it will still be a little bit.
Deffeyes is the author of Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert’s Peak and Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage.