Peak oil theory holds a static view of the world, and its models ignore price effects: lots of oil discoveries and high production mean that prices and profits wane, and incentives for further exploration decline. But ensuing oil shortages then restore these incentives. When incentives exist, the industry will continue to produce and is likely to produce even more.

Peak oil theorists also neglect the role of technological advances in oil production as a great multiplier. The history of the oil industry reflects an endless struggle between nature and our knowledge. Progress in technology allows both new discoveries and the increase in recovery rate needed to turn non-recoverable or hypothetical resources into recoverable reserves.

Worse yet, peak oil theorists do not take into account the assessment of unconventional oil resources, such as oil shale, oil sands, biomass-based liquids, coal-based liquids and liquids arising from chemical processing of natural gas. These could substitute for conventional oil when new technologies, such as steam injection for oil sands deposits, mature. Unconventional oil will very likely contribute to future production. By 2009, unconventional liquids had already contributed approximately 14% of total global production capacity, and this share was expected to grow to 23% by the end of 2030.

Rethinking Peak Oil by Lin Shi and Yuhan Zhang

 

with h/t Al Fin Energy

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