Peak Oil?…nah, How about the Oil Bubble?

[Imported from Whale Oil Beef Hooked on Blogger]

I am a shameless disbeliever on the so called phenomenon of “Peak Oil” so was rather please to see this piece in the OpinionJournal.

We keep hearing the word “bubble” to describe industries with rapid and unsustainable rising prices. Hence, the Internet bubble, the telecom bubble, stock market bubble, and now, some analysts believe, a housing bubble. Yet for some mysterious reason no one speaks of the oil bubble–though prices have tripled in two years to as high as $70 a barrel.

Reviewing the history of oil-market boom and bust confirms that we are in the midst of a classic oil bubble and that prices will eventually fall, perhaps dramatically. Despite apocalyptic warnings, the world is not running out of oil and the pumps are not going to run dry in our lifetimes–or ever. What’s more, the mechanism that will surely prevent any long-term catastrophic shortages in energy is precisely the free-market incentive to make profits that many politicians in Washington seem to regard as an evil pursuit and wish to short circuit.

The best evidence for an oil bubble comes from the lessons of America’s last six energy crises, dating back to the late 19th century, when there was a great scare about the industrial age grinding to a halt because of impending shortages of coal. (Today coal is superabundant, with about 500 years of supply.) Each one of these crises has run almost an identical course.

First, the crisis begins with a spike in energy prices as a result of a short-term supply shock. Next, higher prices bring doomsday claims of energy shortages, which in turn prompts government to intervene ineffectually into the marketplace. In the end, the advent of new technologies and new energy discoveries–all inspired by the profit motive–brings the crisis to an abrupt end, enabling oil and electricity markets to resume their virtuous long-term downward price trend.

And what about so-called shortages of oil, that there is no more to be found, anywhere?

In the 1860s the U.S. Geological Survey forecast that there was “little or no chance” that oil would be found in Texas or California. In 1914 the Interior Department forecast that there was only a 10-year supply of oil left; in 1939 it calculated there was only a 13-year supply left, and in 1951 Interior warned that by the mid-1960s the oil wells would certainly run dry. In the 1970s, Jimmy Carter somberly told the nation that “we could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.”

And

In this industry, alas, bad news tends to crowd out the good. When Shell announced earlier this year that its oil and gas reserves were down by 30%, there was a global outcry. But when Canada announced in 2004 that it has more recoverable oil from tar sands than there is oil in Saudi Arabia, the world yawned. There is estimated to be about as much oil recoverable from the shale rocks in Colorado and other western states as in all the oil fields of OPEC nations. Yes, the cost of getting that oil is still prohibitively expensive, but the combination of today’s high fuel prices and improved extraction techniques means that the break-even point for exploiting it is getting ever closer.

And

In the U.S., environmentalists have erected myriad barriers to drilling for new sources of oil. The American Petroleum Institute estimates that there are at least 100 billion barrels that are fairly easily recoverable in Alaska and offshore that oil companies are not permitted to exploit. Once, we could afford the luxury of not drilling there. Now, thanks to a witch’s brew of unforeseen circumstances–political turmoil in the oil producing countries, China’s surge in demand, and hurricanes that have knocked out Gulf refineries–it’s an economic and national security imperative that we do.

Finally

But for today it is sufficient to note that the free market will deliver oil, electricity and other forms of energy at declining prices in the future, if only the government will let the market’s benign and productive forces work their magic.

Hear, Hear….and so say all of us.

 


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

52%