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Archive for the 'oil' category

The Oracle of Oil, book review

This article was first published in New Scientist, 1 June 2016.

THIS is a curious time to publish a biography of M. King Hubbert. The story of how this brilliant but irascible Shell geologist accurately forecast in 1956 that US oil production would peak and go into terminal decline by 1970 is by now well worn.

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What price Iraq?

This article was published in Middle East Oil & Gas Monitor, 16 October 2012.

The fate of the world economy depends critically on Iraqi oil, according to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) published last week.

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Peakonomics: Mitt Romney and $100 diet

This article was published in NorthAmOil, 6 September 2012.

There seems to be a rule that every US presidential hopeful must promise energy independence but never deliver.

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Peakonomics: no country for old men

This article was first published in New Scientist, 16 August 2012.

In 2007 James Schlesinger claimed the intellectual arguments around peak oil had all been won. With global oil production flat-lining and prices surging towards their all-time high of $147 per barrel, the former US Energy Secretary declared “we are all peakists now”.

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Monbiot peak oil u-turn based on duff maths

In his column of July 2nd George Monbiot recanted peak oil, claiming “the facts have changed, now we must change too”. Much of the article was spent regurgitating a recent report by Leonardo Maugeri, a former executive with the Italian oil company Eni, which Monbiot breathlessly reported “provides compelling evidence that a new oil boom has begun”.

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Oil glut forecaster Maugeri admits duff maths

This article was first published in EurOil, 24 July 2012, and by
2degreesnetwork, 30 July 2012.

Move over peak oil, the world is heading for glut, according to a recent report by Leonardo Maugeri, a former executive with the Italian oil company Eni.

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Peakonomics: why the oil price slide is temporary

First published in Petroleum Review, July 2012.

Time was when the oil price slide of recent months would have been greeted with jubilation by everyone bar the oil companies and exporting countries. No longer.

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BP: out of the frying pan

This article was published in EurOil, 19 June 2012.

You could be forgiven for thinking BP’s luck had finally turned on 1st June 2012.

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Peakonomics: kiss your boarding pass goodbye

This article was first published in Unconventional Oil & Gas Monitor, 4 June 2012.

Peak oil used to be a debate in which geologists and economists threw bricks at each other but seldom talked.

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Riddle of the Saudi sands

This article was published in Middle East Oil & Gas Monitor, 15 May 2012.

The Saudi oil minister must be feeling pleased with himself. At the end of March, with Brent crude trading at around $125 per barrel, Ali al Naimi wrote a sharply worded column in the Financial Times claiming there was “no rational reason” for such high and economically damaging oil prices. Since then, Brent has slumped to around $112. Giving the market a stern talking-to apparently did the trick.

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Dump the pump: could peak oil be voluntary?

First published at New Scientist, 17 May 2012.

People have fretted about when the world’s oil will start to run out ever since M. King Hubbert came up with the idea of “peak oil” back in the 1950s.

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Wishing it don’t make it so

This article was published in EurOil, 1 May 2012.

April is the cruelest month, a poet once wrote, and so it seems in the political economy of oil.

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Tories play fast and loose with fuel supply

First published in the ODAC Newsletter 30 March 2012.

While awareness of peak oil has advanced light years since the petrol protests of 2000, on the evidence of this week the same cannot be said for the conduct of British energy policy.

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Obama-Cameron dogging explained

First published in the ODAC Newsletter 16 March 2012.

Finally, a plausible explanation for the Obama-Cameron political orgy – ‘love-in’ doesn’t quite do it – in Washington this week.

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Has the world reached economic peak oil?

This article was first published in the 3 December print edition of New Scientist and online at energyrealities.org.

Whisper it. Oil production in the US is increasing. The country where output peaked in 1970 and then shrank by 40 per cent over four decades, has turned some kind of corner.

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Will the real peak oil policy please stand up?

First published in Petroleum Review, September 2011.

There has been much excitement in the press recently about the last government’s attitude to peak oil. Documents released under Freedom of Information requests seem to show New Labour facing both ways: dismissing the issue in public, while privately worrying about its potential impacts. Far more relevant today is the attitude of the coalition, which is just as perplexing and equally dangerous.

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Last Oil Shock now available as e-book

The Last Oil Shock is now available as an e-book. To buy a copy click here. To read what the experts think about it, click ‘read more’.

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DECC model highlights inconvenient energy truths

First published in Energy World, 1 June 2011.

For those of us with an anorak in the closet, the government’s new online energy planning tool, the 2050 Pathways Calculator, has provided hours of perplexing fun.

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How BP got into another fine mess

The immediate cause of BP’s latest Russian crisis is the ruling last month of an arbitration panel in Switzerland. But its roots spread all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, and as far back as the company’s last but one chief executive. And it all reflects the company’s floundering attempts to secure production growth in a world of dwindling oil resources.

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IEA forecasts conceal bigger crisis to come

British energy policy is founded on dangerously optimistic assumptions that need to be urgently reassessed, according to a paper from the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre (ODAC) published today.

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BBC World Tonight interview: Saudi Arabia

To hear my interview about Saudi Arabia on BBC World Tonight, click on the link below.

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Old Iran hand casts doubt on Saudi, Libya

As the last oilman out of Iran in 1979, Jeremy Gilbert knows just how it feels to be caught up in a Middle Eastern revolution. Hospitalized and desperately weak with hepatitis, he was left behind in the general evacuation and only escaped by walking through Iraq – after being forced to kiss the shoes of a border official.

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Saudi denial not what it seems

Sadad al-Husseini’s statement distancing himself from the Wikileaked cable written by US diplomats in Riyadh is most interesting for what it leaves out. While robustly denying claims that were not actually made in the original message – always a good tactic when you’re on the back foot – the former VP Exploration & Production for Saudi Aramco pointedly fails to deny the most important passage.

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Saudi powerless to delay global peak

So, Wikileaks has finally delivered some news you can use. A cable written by US diplomats in Riyadh towards the end of 2007 contains a clear and ‘insider’ forecast of Saudi peak production in the early 2020s.

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Saudi reserves

Much excitement today about the Wikileaks revelation that Sadad al-Husseini, former head of exploration and production at Saudi Aramco, told the US consul general in Ryadh in 2007 that Saudi Arabia’s reserves have been overstated by 300 billion barrels, or some 40%. Sadad has been saying publicly the world’s reserves are falsely inflated by that figure for several years now – as first reported by lastoilshock.com. It just wasn’t clear those 300bn missing barrels were all in Saudi. Or, more precisely, not in Saudi.

BP’s troubles have only just begun

First published in the The Independent on Sunday, 20 June 2010

As BP reels from its toughest week yet since the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon, investors warn the longer term outlook for the embattled supermajor is likely to worsen.

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Why America should thank BP

This article was first published in the The Independent, 1 June 2010

Hollywood loves its villains to have an English accent. After the Deepwater Horizon disaster it was inevitable American commentators would deride BP as British Petroleum and its CEO as Tony Wayward. But even as Gulf Coast residents despair and BP fumbles from one seat-of-the-pants engineering ‘solution’ to another, Americans should realise the company may have done them a huge favour.

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World at One interview: BP slick

To hear my interview on BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme today, about the implications of the Gulf of Mexico disaster for global oil production, follow the link below.

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Oil production hit by BP slick

First published in the The Independent on Sunday, 9 May 2010

Even as the first oil from BP’s stricken Macondo well in the US Gulf of Mexico washed ashore this weekend, and as the clamour against the company mounts, experts claim the slick will be nothing like as catastrophic as forecast – for either the environment or the oil industry. However some analysts maintain the accident could still seriously impact the global oil supply later this decade.

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Peak at the polls

Peak oil has come a long way in the last few years: from bug-eyed millennial cult to mainstream consensus, embracing academia, much of the oil industry, and now the US military. There’s a growing consensus global oil production will peak this side of 2020, with many forecasts clustered around the middle the decade and some well within the next parliament. Strange then that even now the mainstream parties’ manifestos contain not a single word on the subject.

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Who’s afraid of the tar sands?

This article was first published in Ecologist on 8 December 2009.

Criticizing the Canadian tar sands used to be so simple. Environmentalists condemned them as a ‘climate crime’, while peak oilers argued they could never fill the gap left by conventional depletion. It turns out neither critique captures the full magnitude of the problem. In the light of the latest science, exploiting the tar sands threatens to damage not only the climate but also the long term fuel supply.

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Can non-conventional oil fill the gap?

A version of this article was published in New Scientist on 3 December 2009.

The oil crisis is not dead, only sleeping, according to an emerging consensus. The price may have collapsed from last year’s all-time high of $147 per barrel to around $75 today, as the recession grinds away at demand for crude, but nobody expects that to last when the economy recovers.

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Crawford deal signed in oil, not blood

Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s former ambassador to Washington, mused last week that Tony Blair may have reached a secret deal with George Bush to topple Saddam Hussein a full year before the invasion took place.

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Peak oil report exposes UK position

First published at The Ecologist, 8 October 2009.

There is a “significant risk” that conventional oil production will peak before 2020, and forecasts that delay the event beyond 2030 are based on assumptions that are “at best optimistic and at worst implausible”.

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BP’s ‘giant’ oil discovery would last three weeks

BP announced the discovery of a ‘giant’ oilfield in the Gulf of Mexico last week, but what does it really amount to?

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Peak oil around 2030 says IEA

An article in the Independent caused a stir recently by claiming that the International Energy Agency’s chief economist Fatih Birol had predicted peak oil in ‘about ten years’ – a radical departure from the IEA’s position to date.

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The Economist strikes again

In the Times this week Bill Emmott argued that the world’s oil supply problems are simply down to OPEC greed, dismissed peak oil as the work of “planetary gloomsters” and assured readers that the world is not running out.

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Iraqi oil gameshow loses the plot

A shorter version of this article was published in the The Independent on Sunday, 5 July 2009

The auction of Iraqi oil production licences last week was truly historic – not least because it was the first such exercise ever to be broadcast live on television.

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We’re in OPEC’s hands, but are they tied?

This article was first published in the The Independent on Sunday, 14 June 2009

BP famously ‘doesn’t do’ oil price forecasts. After 18 months in which crude has ricocheted from just under $100 per barrel to an all time high of $147, then down to less than $40, and now up to $73 again, you can see their point.

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Electric avenues

First published in the The Independent on Sunday, 29 March 2009

‘The future has not been cancelled,” quipped BP chief executive Tony Hayward in a bullish presentation about the company’s prospects recently.

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Why $40 per barrel is no cause for complacency

By David Strahan and Gary Kendall of SustainAbility

These days it is comforting to have one thing not to worry about. As the world teeters on the edge of a full-blown depression, and business is crushed between slumping sales and seized-up credit markets, at least the oil price is in retreat.

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Radio 4 interview: why is the oil price plunging?

The oil price has fallen by 25% in a week, to around $40 per barrel, more than $100 lower than its all time peak in July. To hear my interview on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme this morning about the reasons for the collapse, and the likely outlook, follow the links below.

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Pipe dreams

First published in the Guardian, 3 December 2008.

An old friend was once memorably described as a sixties liberal with Catholic guilt – you can just imagine the internal contortions. I got the same impression of grinding gears while reading the International Energy Agency’s latest long term forecast, the World Energy Outlook 2008, published last month.

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Why the oil price slump is bad news

First published in The Independent on Sunday, 26 October 2008

Once again Gordon Brown has energy policy all wrong. Even before OPEC announced an output cut of 1.5 million barrels per day, the prime minister had denounced the move as “absolutely scandalous”, fearing it would force the oil price higher just as the world slides into recession.

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Oil price respite will be brief or unpleasant

First published in the Telegraph, 9 August 2008

With the oil price apparently in full retreat, it is tempting to breathe a sigh of relief.

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BP’s Russian roulette belies stance on peak oil

First published in the Independent on Sunday, 22 June 2008

It must be increasingly lonely being Tony Hayward. As the oil price continues to soar there is a gathering consensus that global oil production is nearing some fundamental geological limits, yet BP’s chief executive continues to argue valiantly that the causes of the current oil shock are “not so much below ground as above it, and not geological but political”

Newsnight interview

My interview on Newsnight on 30 May can now be viewed on You Tube, or below in this post – just click on ‘read more’.

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Oil: why Gordon doesn’t get it

First published in the Telegraph, 29 May 2008.

Even by the low standards if his government, Gordon Brown’s recent pronouncements on oil have been shockingly ignorant.

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What happens next?

First published in the Independent on Sunday, 25 May 2008

Never mind speculation, forget the weak dollar. To understand the soaring oil price you need only glance at figures from the US government which show that global oil production has been essentially stagnant – at just under 86 million barrels per day – since early 2005.

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Greenland oil estimates over-reported

Letter to the Times

Sir, the Times incorrectly reported that Greenland has 47 billion barrels of ‘estimated oil reserves’ (‘Global warming could help Greenland to independence’, print edition, 7 May), which is wrong on two counts.

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How do you solve a problem like jet fuel?

First published in Petroleum Review, May 2008.

Say what you like about Sir Richard Branson, but you cannot fault his willingness to suffer in the cause of a photo-opportunity.

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Don’t panic, it’s only the oil supply

First published in the Telegraph , 3 May 2008

Polishing the portholes on the Titanic hardly does it justice. This week saw ministers giving an uncanny impersonation of Corporal Jones urging calm over the Grangemouth refinery strike; lorry drivers protesting in Park Lane over a two pence rise in fuel duty; and much righteous indignation over the level of profits reported by Shell and BP. All of which entirely misses the point.

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The Last Oil Shock is now available in paperback

Doh! I felt such a fool. While checking the manuscript of The Last Oil Shock for the new mass market paperback edition, available from 17 April, I noticed a real howler.

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Branson: nuts to peak oil

Sir Richard Branson today claimed aviation could be made “truly sustainable” at the launch of test flight fuelled in part by coconut oil. But the Virgin boss conceded that meaningful supplies of alternative fuel might not be available before the advent of peak oil, which he said could happen within six years.

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Biofuel without tears, but how much?

(Podcast) Biofuel can be produced without clearing rainforest, raising CO2 emissions or displacing food production, according to the chief executive of D1 Oils, the British company pioneering oil from jatropha curcas in the developing world. And according to Elliott Mannis, the fuel could even work out cheaper than damaging first generation biofuels.

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Oil constraints to cause “huge recession”

(Podcast) The world will have to suffer a deep economic downturn before serious attempts are made to kick the oil habit, according to the chairman of PFC Energy, the Washington based oil consultancy.

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Peak oil and the seismic silver lining

First published in International Hydrographic & Seismic Search Magazine, February 2008

The launch of International Hydrographic & Seismic Search Magazine raises an interesting question: have the publishers taken leave of their senses?

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BP to “put lights out” on North Sea

BP chief executive Tony Hayward stressed the company’s commitment to the North Sea during its results press conference yesterday, saying it would continue to produce there “until we put the lights out”.

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Triple digit oil price regardless of peak

(Podcast) The real value of oil is “way, way, way above $80” according to a leading analyst.

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