11 November 2010

When Hubbert is God, Only a Fool Believes

MK Hubbert was only the "King" of Peak Oil (DOOM!), but to many true believers he is a god. Stanford Professor Steven Gorelick examined Hubbert's assumptions and predictions. In Chapter 4 of Gorelick's fine book "Oil Panic & The Global Crisis: Predictions and Myths", many of Hubbert's ideas and predictions were pinned to the dissection table and examined. I recommend a close reading of Gorelick's book, as well as a careful reading of Leonardo Maugeri's "The Age of Oil."

I have posted a few images from Chapter 4 of Gorelick's book, to give you a flavour of some of the information you can find there. One of the many bonuses of "Oil Panic" is that it presents both sides of the story of peak oil, and allows you to decide which is the more credible.

Where Is The Bell Curve?

The assumption that oil production will assume a roughly symmetrical, logistic bell curve. Logically, there is no reason for this assumption, but simple logic does not always come into play in the real world. What actually happens with production, vis a vis the bell curve?
Hubbert also applied his logistic model to US gas production. Real world results are juxtaposed with Hubbert's prediction for natural gas production below.
Hubbert came closest to achieving predictive "bell curve" success with his prediction for US lower 48 state oil production peak. Hubbert's "best prediction" for US peak oil was 1965, although one of his prediction scenarios (which he himself considered unlikely) predicted a peak for around 1970. This date was quite close to the actual US production peak, although it received a good deal of assistance from the tsunami of oil regulations that followed the 1969 Santa Barbara offshore oil spill.

So, score a tentative point for Hubbert, against all his demonstrated errors. Still, watch below, as US oil production takes a decided departure from its Hubbertian bell curve trajectory.
The human brain craves knowledge of the future, and prediction is one of the central functions of the brain. Hubbert was one of many analysts seeking to predict the future of the oil resource, and honestly believed that he had discovered a secret to predicting resource peaks.

But Hubbert was far more intelligent and open to contrary data, than most of his modern-day followers. No doubt he would have juxtaposed his predictions and the data and modified his approach accordingly.

Peak Oil DOOM(!)ers have a tendency to deify their prophets, such as Hubbert -- although Hubbert is more of an arch-prophet or god in the peak oil world. When one deifies a person, one is unable to objectively examine data that contradicts the words of the deity. Mass religious and quasi-religious movements -- such as peak oil DOOM! or carbon hysteria DOOM! -- comprise large numbers of persons who have suspended rational judgment in this way, and are thus unable to critically examine the evidence.

But the world doesn't stop for anyone -- not even a demi-god. Our rational examination of the ongoing data should not stop either.

This article is cross-posted to Al Fin Energy under a different title.

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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