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“HIV does not cause AIDS. The world was created in 4004 BCE. Smoking does not cause cancer. And if climate change is happening, it is nothing to do with man-made CO2 emissions.”1 Peak Oil is just a figment of doomsayers’ imaginations run wild.

The free-market cornucopianism of ‘Peak Oil’ deniers is neither subtle nor harmless.2 This perverted religion has the potential to produce a public crisis of biblical proportions. A crisis that may involve the entire world’s population. Naomi Klein might suggest that the Plan of these deniers of reality is, after all, one of disaster capitalism. Making money from the crisis that ensues by waiting for things to fall apart. Sort of a Katrina on a global scale. A time when public assets and public services can be privatized at pennies on the dollar. Mass confusion that ensues during a crisis is pure opportunity. So much money to be made. Made possible by deniers who convince the public not to worry. Everything is under control. Change is not necessary. Crises are good for business. Wall Street demonstrated this so blatantly during the most recent financial industry meltdown. The bonuses continued, the salaries ballooned. Even as taxpayers were footing all the bills. So much for real capitalism. Its now more accurate to think socialism - for the very rich. But all this has happened before. And will happen again. Even 2,600 years ago during Jeremiah’s time. It was also a time of competing truth claims. Deniers were plentiful. They claimed to be the voice of conventional wisdom. Wisdom that assaulted and contradicted Jeremiah’s message to the people. So Jeremiah raised his speech to cries of anguish. His cries rang out against the drumbeat of the deniers’ conventional wisdom: Conventional forms of strategy and policy have failed. All leadership has failed. Our entire future is now under assault. This history-making change is not a secret matter. All this is happening in our midst, in public. All we need is eyes to see and ears to listen. Our leaders are adamant to maintain the status quo. They are immune to the notion that their denial will result in the death of our community, our world. The leaders even claimed Jeremiah, the carrier of this discordant message, an ‘enemy of the state.’ Jeremiah summarized his view of these deniers: Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall; For I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, says YHWH. (Jeremiah 23:12, NRSV)

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For I doubt not, but if it had been a thing contrary to any man's right of dominion, or to the interest of men that have dominion, that the three angles of a triangle should be equal to two angles of a square, that doctrine should have been, if not disputed, yet by the burning of all books of geometry suppressed, as far as he whom it concerned was able. -- Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan

In Michael Lynch’s op-ed in Tuesday, August 25 New York Times, “‘Peak Oil’ Is a Waste of Energy” 4 he claims that oil remains abundant. Thus the government shouldn’t throw money away on harebrained renewable energy schemes or impose unnecessary and expensive conservation measures on a public already struggling through tough economic times. Lynch obviously agrees with Prince Turki al-Faisal’s recent Foreign Policy op-ed, “Don’t Be Crude: Why Barack Obama’s energy-dependence talk is just demagoguery” where the Prince declares: "U.S. politicians must muster the courage to scrap the fable of energy independence once and for all."5 Lynch claims that he is an energy expert, so why is he making such assertions? Is it because he and his oil company clients are concerned about the economic impact of decreasing the U.S.’s dependence on fossil fuels, particularly imported oil. Apparently, some executives in the oil industry must believe that admitting peak oil exists harms shareholders and makes one subject to huge lawsuits for breach of fiduciary duty. Peak Oil has never been about the amount of hydrocarbon that exists, but flow rates, timing and costs. Lynch’s assumption that contrary to physical laws, the earth contains an infinite supply of readily available oil is beside the point. Even if the U.S. possessed all the money in the world, enough to find, refine, and distribute this infinite supply of oil that Lynch claims exists does not mean that it makes economic sense for the U.S. to do so, or to continue to rely on importing increasing amounts of Mid-East oil. For example, in today's tight credit market, oil companies find it more difficult to finance exploration to find new sources of oil and difficult to finance the additional technologies required to keep old fields producing at higher rates. All the money, technology, and the talent in the world cannot bring more oil out of the ground in west Texas or the North Sea. Whether there are trillions of barrels of oil left in the ground recoverable at today's cost of extraction is immaterial if CO2 needs to be kept below a critical level to avoid runaway abrupt

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climate change. If investing in conservation and renewable energy is less than the economic cost of climate change, this is sound policy. It also makes sense for national security reasons. However, Lynch’s assertion that the earth contains an infinite supply of recoverable oil is absurd. 6 To accept this fallacy, he must also believe in Technological Fairy Dust (TFD). Despite what some of the advocates of "Drill, baby, drill" believe, there isn't enough oil in Alaska and the American coastal areas to offset the coming decline in global production, much less to render the U.S. energy independent or even less dependent on imported oil. 7 Tellingly, Lynch fails to mention one geologist to support his claims on total reserves or that the supply of oil is essentially inexhaustible due to technological progress. The International Energy Agency8 (publishes the World Energy Outlook) 9 and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, the McKinsey Global Institute, 10 half the CFO’s in the oil industry, 11 and the majority of real energy experts knowledgeable about the physics, chemistry, and geology of oil recovery (Lynch is a political scientist) agree on three things: the collective production from developed, large oil fields has been declining over the past decade; newly discovered fields are generally smaller and more expensive to develop than the older fields; and the world continues to consume ever more oil as it industrializes. Most telling is Lynch’s apparent lack of any economic training or use of any understanding of economics in his assertion that despite rising demand and falling supply, the future price of oil will likely come down closer to the historical level of $30 a barrel as new supplies come forward. The moment any sign of economic recovery emerges, oil will rise in price. It's already at $70/bbl. If the U.S. wants an economy that doesn't hit the canvas with every price spike, there is no choice other than to invest in conservation and renewables to reduce our economy’s dependence on oil. In today’s economic times, there are greater reasons to make these investments, not less. Remember peak oil? Why should anyone forget when just in the past few years the UK, Indonesia and Mexico's oil fields have gone past peak and into sharp decline? Add those to the previous countries that have gone into decline, including the U.S., and a pattern emerges which tells anyone with eyes to see and ears to listen there is a period of discovery, followed later by a peak and then depletion. Why? Because oil is after all a finite resource. Mr. Lynch and his cornucopian followers might phone the leaders of the numerous countries that have gone into oil production decline and let them know they have nothing to worry about because of the non-data backed assertions in his op-ed piece in the NY Times. He might also call

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members of Congress and the Executive branch and explain what to do when oil hits $100-$125 a barrel as it slows the economy to a crawl. Where are these other equivalent Saudi Arabian gigantic new fields going to come from? If things do not pan out the way Lynch and his oil industry denizens suggest, then what compensation will they offer the world for such misguided, non-geologic based wishful thinking? Denying ‘Peak Oil’ is what is a waste of energy, akin to claiming the world is flat or that global warming is a figment of our collective, scientific imaginations. With declining new discoveries and depletion of currently producing fields, the supply of oil available on the market will inevitably decline. Exactly when this will occur is up to some debate, but close observers of the oil market believe that it will be sooner rather than later. “The fact is that if the Peak Oil proponents are correct, it amounts to one of the biggest stories of

our time, right up there with global warming12.... When you read the literature and compare the
arguments as laid out by the two sides, the Peak Oil argument is characterized by logic, rigor, data and hard science - just like the global warming argument a few years back - and the opposing side is characterized by, well, by unbounded faith that markets always work and technology always saves us, by paranoid suspicions that the Peak Oil concept is a plot (by radical tree-huggers or venal oil speculators, take your pick) and by assorted Hail Mary passes.” 13

Chart source: Morgan Downey, Oil 101 (Wooden Table Press, 2009), 7. Data from EIA and IEA14,15

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ENDNOTES:
“The consequences of policies based on views such as these can be fatal. Thabo Mbeki's denial that that HIV caused AIDS prevented thousands of HIV positive mothers in South Africa receiving anti-retrovirals so that they, unnecessarily, transmitted the disease to their children. His health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, famously rejected evidence of the efficacy of these drugs, instead advocating treatment with garlic, beetroot and African potato.... The rejection of scientific evidence is also apparent in the popularity of creationism, with an estimated 45% of Americans in 2004 believing that God created man in his present form within the past 10,000 years. While successive judgements of the US Supreme Court have rejected the teaching of creationism as science, many American schools are cautious about discussing evolution. In the United Kingdom, some faith-based schools teach evolution and creationism as equally valid 'faith positions'. It remains unclear how they explain the emergence of antibiotic resistance.... “There is also a variant of conspiracy theory, inversionism, in which some of one's own characteristics and motivations are attributed to others. For example, tobacco companies describe academic research into the health effects of smoking as the product of an 'anti-smoking industry', described as 'a vertically integrated, highly concentrated, oligopolistic cartel, combined with some public monopolies' whose aim is to 'manufacture alleged evidence, suggestive inferences linking smoking to various diseases and publicity and dissemination and advertising of these so-called findings to the widest possible public'....
1

“Whatever the motivation, it is important to recognize denialism when confronted with it. The normal academic response to an opposing argument is to engage with it, testing the strengths and weaknesses of the differing views, in the expectations that the truth will emerge through a process of debate. However, this requires that both parties obey certain ground rules, such as a willingness to look at the evidence as a whole, to reject deliberate distortions and to accept principles of logic. A meaningful discourse is impossible when one party rejects these rules. Yet it would be wrong to prevent the denialists having a voice. Instead, we argue, it is necessary to shift the debate from the subject under consideration, instead exposing to public scrutiny the tactics they employ and identifying them publicly for what they are.”* My own view is that denialism is best thought of as the preaching of falsehoods out of a utility - whether that utility be avarice, payment for services rendered, in-group acceptance, unchecked desire, pure cantankerousness, an unwillingness to admit one is/was wrong, or a character flaw that renders one mendacious and deceitful by nature. These falsehoods are malicious or injurious in that they, ultimately are false. They provide an untrue and oftentimes dissembling assessment of reality. However, what makes deniers ultimately accountable is that they preach these falsehoods. Deniers engage in an active stance to convince others of their wrongful beliefs. But why are deniers listened to and are their promulgating of falsehoods, always also lies? * Pascal Diethelm and Martin McKee, “Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond?,” in The European Journal of Public Health 2009 19(1):2-4; doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckn139 quoted in Mark Hoofnagle, “Denialism in the Literature” at http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2009/05/ denialism_in_the_literature.php (accessed 8/28/09).

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2

Errol Morris wrote an informative article discussing the “Seven Lies About Lying (Part 2)”:

“1. Lying is the opposite of telling the truth. It is often assumed that when we lie, we know the truth — that our brains are reality recorders or truth recorders.... But we can think something is false, without it being false. And we can think something is true, without it being true.... The idea that the brain is a truth recorder persists despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The phenomenon of false memories, the unreliability of eyewitness testimony and so on all emphasize our ability to stray from the truth and to be unaware of it. They all speak to the fact that what we believe to be true and what is true are two very different things. “2. Lying is telling a falsehood. This is the flip-side of No. 1, and it leads to the preposterous idea that truth and falsehood can be determined with a machine.... The machine, at best, does not determine whether a statement is true or false, but only whether there is a disparity between what is believed and what is communicated to others. “3. Lying leads to narrative inconsistencies. The common wisdom is that people whose stories change are telling lies. But it’s often liars (not truth-tellers) who are able to tell consistent stories.... Sir Walter Scott wrote, “O’ what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive.” (Marmion, Canto VI, XVII) But why should we think that the truth is less tangled than a lie? Scott also wrote, although it is rarely quoted, perhaps because it isn’t part of a cautionary tale, “I cannot tell how the truth may be; I say the tale as it was said to me.” “4. Lying can never be justified....The philosopher Immanuel Kant insisted that one should always tell the truth. His argument is linked to the “categorical imperative,” Kant’s standard from which all moral law is derived.... St. Augustine, who became one of the first taxonomers of prevarication, provided a hierarchy of really rotten lies, sort of acceptable lies, indifferent lies and beneficial lies. He was even willing to admit that lying was sometimes not so bad. 5. Lying will be punished. Perhaps. But not as often as truth-telling. Lying effectively in many situations is generally superior than telling the truth, because often we have to search our minds for the truth, whereas a good lie can be easier to produce (though of course caution is indicated if the lie can be easily unmasked). “6. Lying is avoidable. Mark Twain, in his essay “On the Decay of the Art of Lying,” realized the importance of skillful lying, “No high-minded man, no man of right feeling, can contemplate the lumbering and slovenly lying of the present day without grieving to see a noble art so prostituted.” Twain goes on to make an event stronger point: that lying is unavoidable. “7. Lying is a threat to the truth. No. Lying and the truth can exist side-by-side.... We lie based on what we believe.... But the real problem is not lies but people believing them.... Lies are effective because we are insecure about many of our beliefs and are quite vulnerable to the suggestion that those beliefs might be false. And they work because we might be predisposed to believe them already.... And there is another dirty little secret about lying — in the pursuit of truth, some lying is invariably necessary.... My hunch is that if we ever find so-called intelligent life on other planets or in other galaxies, they will be adept liars, too.”** ** See http://morris.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/06/seven-lies-about-lying-part-2/.
3

Draft developed with input from contributors to Open Thread for "Peak Oil is 'A Waste of Energy'” NY

Times Article. See http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5711.

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4 5 6

See (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/25/opinion/25lynch.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&emc=eta10. See: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/08/17/dont_be_crude?page=0,1). “Lynch bases part of his optimism on the idea that there is five times as much oil in the ground as most

geologists believe, or as the data support. Raymond J. Learsy, who frequently posts here, suggests we should be skeptical of Peak Oil because perhaps oil is not a fossil fuel at all, but rather comes from the geological forces deep within earth's interior and is almost limitless, as certain Stalin-era scientists suggested.) See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gabriel-rotello/the-new-york-times-onpea_b_270347.html.
7

“The amount of oil in proven U.S. reserves—reserves that the United States is fairly certain it can extract

oil from in the future—has steadily deceased since the late 1970s from 31.8 billion barrels in 1977 to 21 billion barrels in 2007. This means even if we drilled and produced all the U.S. oil reserves it would be exhausted in only about four years if consumption remains constant. See: Christopher Beddor, Winny Chen, Rudy deLeon, Shiyong Park, and Daniel J. Weiss, “Securing America’s Future: Enhancing Our National Security by Reducing Oil Dependence and Environmental Damage,” Center for American Progress (August 2009), 3.
8

Dr. Fatih Birol, the chief economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA) said

that the public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilization depends is running out far faster than previously predicted and that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years – at least a decade earlier than most governments had estimated (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/ science/warning-oil-supplies-are-running-out-fast-1766585.html).
9

The most recent World Energy Outlook incorporates data from the first detailed assessment of more than

800 oil fields in the world, covering three quarters of global reserves, has found that most of the biggest fields have already peaked and that the rate of decline in oil production is now running at nearly twice the pace as calculated just two years ago. On top of this, there is a problem of chronic under-investment by oil-producing countries, a feature that is set to result in an “oil crunch” within the next five years which will jeopardize any hope of a recovery from the present global economic recession, Dr. Faith Birol said…. “The IEA estimates that the decline in oil production in existing fields is now running at 6.7 per cent a year compared to the 3.7 per cent decline it had estimated in 2007, which it now acknowledges to be wrong…. In its first-ever assessment of the world’s major oil fields, the IEA concluded that the global energy system was at a crossroads and that consumption of oil was “patently unsustainable”, with expected demand far outstripping supply…. Oil production has already peaked in non-Opec countries and the era of cheap oil has come to an end, it warned.” See: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/warning-oil-supplies-are-running-outfast-1766585.html.

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The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) research “suggests that the economics of investing in energy

productivity—the level of output we achieve from the energy we consume—are very attractive. With an average internal rate of return of 17 percent, such investments would generate energy savings ramping up to $900 billion annually by 2020. Energy productivity is also the most cost-effective way to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG).” See http://www.mckinsey.com/mgi/publications/ Investing_Energy_Productivity/index.asp.
11

“According to a new survey by BDO Seidman, LLP, one of the nation’s leading accounting and

consulting organizations, 48 percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) at U.S. oil and gas exploration and production companies agree that the world has reached its peak petroleum (liquid hydrocarbon) production rate or will reach it within the next few years, while another 52 percent disagree with that statement.” See: http://climateprogress.org/2009/01/13/half-oil-cfos-peak-oil-bdo-seidman/. Although the U.S. media does not believe so: In a fascinating piece on The Oil Drum, Debbie Cook analyzed how rarely Peak Oil has even been mentioned in American newspapers, especially as compared to papers abroad.
12

Here's the number of total mentions she found for a few selected papers: The Washington Post - 0 The LA Times - 0 The Chicago Tribune - 0 The Baltimore Sun - 0 The Wall St Journal - 32 The New York Times - 38 (The NY Times, by the way, didn't even report the Fatih Birol bombshell (see endnote #5,6), though they allowed Lynch to attack Birol's warning in his Op Ed.) And here's how that compares to some papers abroad: The Hindu - 48 The Times of London - 74 The Financial Times - 127 The Globe and Mail - 196 The Guardian - 235 See “Deaf and Dumb in America - No Peak Oil for Us!” at http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5695
13

One might think that “editors would realize the issue is a serious one, look at the track record of both

sides, and perhaps decide to give a few column inches to people who have the embarrassing habit of making predictions that actually come true.” See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gabriel-rotello/thenew-york-times-on-pea_b_270347.html.
14

See http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5715.

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See: http://www.businessinsider.com/peak-oil-is-real-the-numbers-bear-it-out-2009-8.

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