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The Deffeyes Date: Peak Oil Was 16 December 2005

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.




Why discount alternative energy so much? This buffoon makes it sound like alternatives aren't ready. Wind is ready to roll and could be executed in mass. There are very large solar deals that are starting to happen. Hydrogen could be produced today and be used in internal combustion engines.

Back to the stone age...please...get real.


To be truthful, the "back to the stone age" comment was in response to the notion that we might be up to 2% solar electricity by 2025.  We sure won't be burning natural gas for it; if we're stupid enough to stick to it, collapse is a certainty.

tom deplume

I think the 2% in 2025 is based on how much capacity has been built in the last 20 years under very unfavorable market conditions. It's as if the number of automobiles built between 1908 and 1928 would equal the number built between 1888 and 1908. We are at the Model T threshold of PV production and wind farm construction.


The U.S. wind energy industry easily broke earlier annual installed capacity records in 2005, installing nearly 2,500 megawatts (MW) or over $3 billion worth of new generating equipment........The final tally of 2,431 MW boosted the cumulative U.S. installed wind power fleet by over 35%, bringing the industry's total generating capacity to 9,149 MW1.

WindyCity - That's Right! It will not be possible to replace all of the oil we use with renewables in the short term! Our country should’ve been working on this issue decades ago. Fuel Cell cars and H2 gas technology are still in R & D demo phase.


max >"...It will not be possible to replace all of the oil we use with renewables in the short term!..."

Nor do we NEED to

As another commentor pointed out above, the past is NOT an indicator of the future

Any one that actually thinks that we NEED to use the same amount of energy in the future so as to live better in the future is TOTALLY disconnected from the real world & I expect that their financial assets are invested in Industrial Age infrastructure and that is all they think about; clueless indeed !

Current monetary systems DO NOT reflect reality so quit worshiping them

Reality = in accord with the laws of biology, chemistry & physics

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw


I picked up a new book yesterday. It's called "A thousand barrels a second" and was written by Peter Tertzakian.

Maybe I shouldn't buy books that just confirm my views, but I really didn't hit this part until after I had it home:

We're not running out of oil. There is plenty of oil left in the ground to last us many decades, if not longer. We are, however, running short of cheap oil, especially the desirable grade of oil that flows easily and is devoid of sulfur, otherwise known as "light sweet Crude." Our reliance on that cheap oil runs deeper and is more entrenched than most of us are aware, and because its supply is getting tight at a time when global demand is accelerating, a great change is underway that will put pressure on our lifestyles and our world.

I said it confirmed my view ... but I think it is also making me slow down and remember that this will most likely be a 10 or 20 year process.

Baring the really unusual scenarios (more wars), a gradual tightening will produce new consumer (and business) behaviors. We've seen it with hybrids and GM this last year. That kind of thing will continue.

We'll probably see more economic disruption (more GMs) than if we'd done a better job of planning .. but what can you do. We're on the market model, and people will wait for prices to give them the signal.

James White

If peak oil is here, our best hope is to get after plug-in hybrids in a big way. Until we get plug-in hybrids, NONE of our transportation fuel is going to come from solar or wind. The U.S. currently gets less than 0.01 percent of its electrical energy from solar. Solar has had exponential growth and could eventully power our vehicles, but only if we start driving plug-in electric or hybrid cars. We better get busy. Like the song says, "We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there."

Robert Schwartz

I am absolutely sure that it was the 17th. I think he disregarded the leap year in 2000.

Lance Funston

If the artificially low prices in the US for oil and gas started to reflect the reality of the real environmental, scoail, and defensive costs borne by tax-payers, I think we'd see these "shimmering dreams" become reality a whole lot faster.

I do agree that conservation needs a little more attention before we start chasing methane hydrates and fuel cells, but again, some accurate market signals would sure help.

Harvey D

The positive side of the end of cheap OIL is that it will accellerate the transition to PHEVs and EVs and the building of new windmills and other types of electric power plants. Early transition will challenge American ingenuity, boost national pride, create new industries, many US new jobs and put an end to huge Oil trade deficits, other Oil wars and indirect financing of religious terrorism. Given the proper leadership USA can do it in about 15 years or much before Oil runs out, specially if we start now. Another positive side benefit will be a reduction of GHGs and a slow down in climate change. Running out of fossil Oil may not be such a bad thing but a way to save the planet.



Hear, hear! Peak oil can't come soon enough in my book. Worst case scenario for the planet: discovery of huge new oil fields somewhere leading to loss of momentum for the coming, ultimately beneficial paradigm shift.


Back to the stone age? Is he really that kooky? I think the absolute worst case scenario is going back to the 1800s, but electric and hydrogen vehicles along with nuclear and wind en masse is probably more likely. I do believe that the free market would find a solution first though, and he will be added to the ever growing list of false alarmists.

"If the artificially low prices in the US for oil and gas started to reflect the reality of the real environmental, scoail, and defensive costs borne by tax-payers, I think we'd see these "shimmering dreams" become reality a whole lot faster."

I'm really tired of hearing this nonsense. If you want to raise the price of gas to encourage alternatives then say so, but don't claim that the price is artificially low. For every external cost you can come up with I can come up with an external benefit that also isn't measured in the price. For example the overall benefit to commerce that the gasoline engine has had is not reflected in the price. The price only reflects the cost to produce it. The same game can be played with the auto industry, perhaps the price of cars are artificially low because accident costs are not taken into account. It's a silly game and I'm really tired of hearing it.


And people will argue, we may produce marginally more oil and people will say, see, it wasn't the peak.
And yet the staggered cliff that lays ahead will come closer.....and we will argue all the way......

Bruk B

dc's argument that global environmental degradation from burning fossil fuels (which is not included in their prices) is offset by all the intangible benefits we receive makes about as much sense as chopping up your house for firewood. But look, he says, at all the warmth we get out of it! And that doesn't even include all the fresh air thrown in for free! And he's getting really tired of hearing otherwise.


Does this peak oil estimate include oil sand production?

As for energy use, the world's energy needs are inreasing, not decreasing as some here have implied. The indavidual may consume less energy than today, or 25 years ago, but the number of indaviduals consuming that energy, and modern products which consume even more, is growing with the modernization of China, India, etc.

So, the total amount of energy being consumed (well, technically converted :) ) will increase in the future, not decrease.


Its not the peak its more like going into overdrive. Its the last gear and the industry is lurching as it changes into that gear.

Sweet crude is running out and all the industries based on oil are adapting. New processes that work with other grades of crude or with less disirable hydrocarbons are or have been created.

In the next decade about 2-3000 oil sand and oil shale and coal to liquids plants will be built.


The fact is that when I buy something, like gas, that imposes costs on society, there is damage to that society, whether now or in the future. If those costs are internalized, then some consumers will make other choices, deciding that the costs to them are not worth it. Therefore, they may seek alternatives like foot travel, buses, subways, smaller cars, etc.m etc. They will seek alternatives that lower the overall cost to society and/or its planetary citizens.

To the extent that commerce may benefit from the existance of commercial trucks, for example, the benefits are reflected in the GDP of the society. They are already accounted for in the GDP and the individual is already receiving the benefit from transporting the goods.

Raising the price of gasoline to reflect externalities will also encourage alternatives. Yes, we want to encourage alternatives, but we are encouraging alternatives because of the external costs of gasoline. There's nothing dishonest about this approach as most people realize they go hand in hand.

Harvey D

wintermane:...three hundred new oil sand/shale and coal to liquid plants a year for the next ten years in USA and Canada?...
Are we foolish enough to do it? Wonder where we'll put all the GHG and other pollutants created. If only we could find a way to make the wind blow westward it may get ride of some of the pollution (on the Rockies white snow caps) before it gets around the globe. A mitigated solution with PHEVs + windmills + Solar Power + cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel may be more environnmentally acceptable?


Don't be silly, there isn't enough "easy to scrape" coal or tar sands for 2-3000 plants.

Everybody assumes the current surface mining methods will scale ...

Tim Russell

One question on James White's plugin hybrids, if everyone had one can the electrical grid deal with that. How much power does the charger need?

Ok here's my reasoning, I assume that everone will plug in at home, at night so the energy isn't coming from solar. The wind doesn't always blow so we're talking using other generating sources. I do put forward the solution of having the charger on a timer so it turns on at say 10 PM and cuts off at 6 AM being the lower demand hours. This still means that the utilities will have to produce more power than they do now during that time period. No free lunch.

One thing that would cut down on fossel fuel use for power generation is more an more solar roofs. Makes sense to use that power to feed the grid and cut down the AC load to the main generating plants.


Tim, I think the first tendency in something like this is to get ahead of ourselves. Rather than talk about who our current grid would respond to "everyone" owning a plug-in hybrid ... why not name the maximum rate of adoption that you see as possible, and then look at the demand curve that would create?

In a decades long transition, IMNSHO we could probably make it work simply by increasing the maxium "power hog" rate charged to domestic customers. Let them buy LCD TVs rather than Plasmas (4x savings). Any added capacity would be gravy.


While it is true that, eventually, plug-in hybrids would require additional generating capacity and/or power plants, the CO2 release would still be less than under a petroleum only scenario. Besides, if we are going to continue to have an auto dominated society, we don't have much choice, if any, assuming a downward curve in oil production.

The good news is that plug-ins or electric only are a good fit with wind power. The problem with wind power is that it is erratic and can't be used as a base load. Recharging is a good fit for wind power as it all doesn't have to be done at once.

Regardless, we could go a long way towards mitigating the problem is we could find a way to become a less auto dominated society. But we don't seem to be ready to think outside of that particular box.

Not sure Kunstler is right. It's not so much that we are doomed; perhaps it is just the case that the auto dominated society is doomed. Good riddance.

Jesse Jenkins

Does anyone know how declining supplies of light sweet crude (i.e. low sulpher crude) will affect refining efficiencies of low sulpher reformulated gasoline and diesel?

above source estimates crude recovery efficiency at 97.5% but that is for around now. What will it be in 2025 when easy to recover crude is harder to find and we have to rely on enhanced oil recovery methods and unconventional sources of crude?


Jesse Jenkins

[Let's try again w/out broken tags:]

Does anyone know how declining supplies of light sweet crude (i.e. low sulpher crude) will affect refining efficiencies of low sulpher reformulated gasoline and diesel?

Current estimates for refining efficiency for 83-86% (84.5% median) for 30 ppm-sulpher reformulated gasoline and 85-89% (87% median) for 15 ppm-sulpher diesel. With higher sulpher contents in the feedstock crude oil, this refining efficiency would no doubt lower. Does anyone have an idea (and a source) for how much it would lower?

Also, does anyone know what a reasonable estimate for crude recovery efficiency would be for around 2025 given depleting conventional oil supplies? Again, the above source estimates crude recovery efficiency at 97.5% but that is for around now. What will it be in 2025 when easy to recover crude is harder to find and we have to rely on enhanced oil recovery methods and unconventional sources of crude?



Regarding coal to liquids plants; the fundamental thing that these plants need to crack heavy oils and coal into distillates is hydrogen, and lots of it. Typically, the hydrogen comes from reforming natural gas. Has anyone done a Hubbert analysis on global natural gas production...

On the point about wind not being consistent enough to support base load; with a continent wide grid like North America and wind energy distributed across several time zones and latitudes, wind can provide a significant portion of our electricity needs. More distributed generation along with more grid capacity will be required though to make it work reliably. Apparently, Quebec has wind energy potential of 100,000MW according to a 2003 study. In many cases the grid is already in place from the huge dams that export power to the US.

If Hubbert's thoery is right again, the rate of decline in oil production, plus the rate of increase in energy demand will dictate the rate of adoption of alternatives like electric based transportation, biofuels, etc. It's going to be fun to watch.

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