Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

40, 20, 5, Now. Spanish Peak Oil Report

by kcurie Thu Jun 8th, 2006 at 06:16:12 PM EST

Today I waked up a little bit late...I had to go shopping (sounds like weird..not at all!!!). But of course I took a look  before at the spanish newspapers of record. Actually, there is only one I think as "of record" and excellent at the same time La Vanguardia. But not this time. This time  El Pais , the center-left newspaper (also the one with more readership), came with a big surprise. A detailed, large report on the economy section about peak oil...

You probably may know most of the issues...but again it will be an interesting take about the way newspapers  of the center-left are pushing/going to push the concept of "peak oil" in the public arena.

Follow me..if you like.

La era del petróleo barato ha terminado (The era of cheap oil has finished). With this straight shot/shoot, F. Puentes starts a tour de force..a long, detailed report about peak oil. What is known,what is not known, what may hapen, what may not happen....

It is really worth a look with the help of Babelfish+small checks.

In any article the beginning should be....interesting.,well not really..it has to scare the hell out of you...otherwise you will not keep reading an article which, using the title, you may have guessed is going to be about how much is going to cost you fill the gas tank of your car in the future.

What about this start?

Las últimas subidas del precio del petróleo crudo, que le han llevado a acercarse aún más a la temida cifra de los 100 dólares el barril, han reavivado una polémica relativamente vieja. La del oscuro futuro que le espera a los países industrializados, y con ellos al resto del mundo, cuando la producción de la principal fuente de energía empiece a caer irremediablemente. Algo que, según algunas voces (quizá demasiadas) podría estar ocurriendo en este mismo instante.


The last increase of the price of the crude petroleum, that have taken  him closer to the feared number of the 100 dollars the barrel, have revived a relatively old controversy. The one of the dark future that waits for the industrialized countries, and with them to the rest of the world, when the production of the main power plant begins to fall irremediably. Something that, according to some voices (perhaps too many) could be happening at this same moment.

So dark future ....?? Not bad.. After saying that, you have to gain some status. What better way to gain status that explain how peak oil was already predicted CORRECTLY for the US. You do not need a quote, you know the history about Hubbert predicting the peak of oil production for the US-48 in 1970.

But what do you do with the status once you have gained it in an article? Generally mumble, mumble, humble, mumble about the present situation. But what can we find here?

Pero entonces... ¿hemos llegado al cenit?

La respuesta es confusa. Desde luego, Hubbert predijo que la producción de crudo a escala global alcanzaría su máximo a finales del siglo XX, o a principios del XXI. Y desde entonces caería irremediablemente. Pero dos décadas arriba o abajo son un margen demasiado amplio, así que, imitando al geólogo, nadie se ha atrevido a dar una fecha exacta. Si hasta ahora la incómoda pregunta se solventaba con una respuesta ambigua, la situación está empezando a cambiar, y el debate se aclara.

Son muchos los estudios que aseguran que estamos en los años del pico, aunque es cierto que, para cada informe que promete que la producción global va a empezar a caer en breve, hay otro que afirma que el descubrimiento de nuevas reservas y el desarrollo de nuevas técnicas de extracción conseguirán retrasar el cenit o suavizar el descenso.

But then... we have arrived at the zenith?

The answer is not clear. Of course, Hubbert predicted that the production of crude on global scale would reach its maximum at the end of century XX, or at the beginning of the XXI. And since then, it would fall irremediably. But two decades above or down are a too ample margin, so, imitating the geologist, nobody is bold enough to give an exact date. If until now the uncomfortable question was resolved with an ambiguous answer, the situation is beginning to change, and the debate is clarified.

Many studies assure that we are now in the years of the tip, although is true that, for each report that promises that the global production is going to begin to fall shortly, there is another one affirms that the discovery of new reserves and the development of new techniques of extraction will be able to delay the zenith or to smooth the reduction.

Wow.. this is fast...just after gaining the status, here it is...the whole question. The famous he said/she said must continue...but now it is framed in "how much time can we gain?" observe how the author links in the following paragraphs the two issues. Would technology delay the date of  peak oil?

.. las nuevas tecnologías y el alto precio del crudo ponen al alcance de la industria -y del mercado- nuevos campos, cuya explotación antes se consideraba imposible. Esta previsión, junto con el cálculo de las reservas actuales, permite a la  Asociación Española de Operadores Petrolíferos (AOP) y al resto de organismos internacionales aventurar que el mundo no comenzará a ver caer la producción de petróleo hasta, al menos, 2030 y 2040.

Pese a esta postura oficial, no hace falta ir demasiado lejos para suponer hacia dónde apunta realmente la estrategia de las grandes empresas petrolíferas. Así lo certifica a este diario un alto responsable operativo de una multinacional del petróleo, que reconoce que este tipo de empresas están ya pensando en cambiar su modelo de negocio, si es que no lo han hecho ya. Y recomienda fijarse en el comportamiento de algunas de las principales productoras.


the new technologies and the high price of the crude put within reach of the industry - and of the market- new fields, whose operation before was considered impossible. This forecast, along with the calculation of the present reserves, allows to the Spanish Association of Oil Operators AOP and the rest of international organisms to venture that the world will not begin to see even fall the petroleum production till, at least, 2030 and 2040.

In spite of this official position, you do not need to make a wild guess about where it really points the strategy of the great petroliferous companies. This is also cofirmed to this newspaper a high operative person in charge of a multinational of petroleum, who recognizes that this type of companies is or is thinking about changing their model of business, if they have not done it yet. And it recommends to pay attention to the behavior of some of the main oil producers.

What is this behaviour? well, basically looking for new business in wind and solar. Or the ads developed by Chevron warning about the dare situation. Pieces of information that you already know.

By this time you, dear reader of El Pais, are probably convinced. It will be a matter of 40  years or less..but may be less..may be is now??? So which way is it???...An expert..please!! We need the "expert" code-word...And this is our expert...the expert says...when is oil going to end?:

En este siglo": menos de 100 años. Y así lo confirma Wenceslao Martínez del Olmo, veterano geólogo al servicio de la petrolera hispanoargentina Repsol YPF, que en un artículo publicado recientemente en "Madridmasd", un foro de debate científico impulsado por la Comunidad de Madrid, le da cuatro décadas al mercado para asistir al final del petróleo. Menos de lo que duran ya algunas hipotecas.

"Aún hay reservas contabilizadas de petróleos medios y ligeros, lo llamado convencional, del orden de 1.300.000 millones de barriles, que al ritmo de consumo de 80 millones de barriles/día (30.000 millones/año) asegurarían 40 años de suministro", afirma Martínez del Olmo, para añadir después que "algunas estimaciones (de consumo) apuntan a que esos 40 años se acortarán pues en los próximos 20, China, India, Asia, Rusia y África doblaran la demanda".


"In this century": less than 100 years. Wenceslao  Martinez del Olmo (NOA: elm tree, je ejje), veteran geologist to the service of the oil hispanoargentina Repsol YPF says so in an article published recently in "Madridmasd", a forum of scientific debate impelled by the Community of Madrid: He gives four decades to the market before it sees the end of petroleum. Less than what some mortgages last already.

"Still, there are reserves of average and light oil, so-called conventional, of the order of 1.300.000 million barrels, with a rate of consumption of 80 million of barriles/day (30,000 millones/year) would assure 40 years provision", affirms Martinez of the "Elm tree" (NOA: jejej), to add: after "some estimations (of consumption)  those 40 years will be since in the next the 20 years , China, India, Asia, Russia and Africa will double the demand".

Gee.. an expert making a point more than dealing with the small details.. or the fully happy endings...Look ..do the math for yourself right...It will be less than 40 years for sure...Probably 20-30. And 20 years is clearly a possiblity. Although most people I read consider 10-20 years the proper time scale. An expert for the industry says is getting closertothe Peakoil "catastrophists".  So..will the report end like that? You know..we have 20 years minimum..so  !!dosomething!!! but ei do not hurry... we have 20 years. Price will be more expensive, yes but, we have plenty of time.

Well, surprisingly this is not the end. It finishes with two great items on the agenda. The first one is....are you sure is 40 years or less??? no miracle??

¿Qué pasa con las nuevas reservas y con los nuevos tipos de crudo?

La gran esperanza del mercado está, como se ha visto, en el descubrimiento y explotación de nuevos yacimientos, y en el desarrollo de tecnologías que permitan convertir en derivados comerciales tipos de crudo que antes se desechaban. Comienzan los problemas: el número de barriles en reservas encontradas anualmente no deja de decrecer desde hace tres décadas, y el tamaño de los que se encuentran actualmente (especialmente los de Asia Central) los hará insuficientes siquiera para cubrir el constante aumento de la demanda.

Sobre los "otros crudos", como aquellos que se encuentran mezclados con otro tipo de rocas, su volumen es demasiado escaso en el total de las reservas (7.500 millones de barriles, frente a un total de 1.300.000 millones), y su extracción demasiado costosa, como para que puedan suavizar una crisis de producción y la inevitable escalada de precios.


What happens with the new reserves and the new types of crude?

The great hope of the market is, like has been seen, in the discovery and operation of new deposits, and in the development of technologies that allow to turn commercial derivatives types of crude which before they were rejected. The problems begin: the number of barrels in reserves found annually has goon declining for three decades, and the size of which they are at the moment (specially those of Central Asia) will make them at least insufficient to cover the constant increase of the demand.

On the "other crude ones", like those mixed with another type of rocks, its volume is too little in the total of the reserves (7,500 million barrels, as opposed to a total of 1.300.000 million), and its too expensive extraction, it seems diffcult that they could smooth  a production crisis and the inevitable raising of prices.

Great...yeah..it is not going to make a difference. The author goes on explaining that Saudi Arabia can not make anything to change the 20/40 years frame. But not only that... they just drop the Simmons book bomb about Saudi Arabia basically lying!!! that would put peak oil...well not 30 years from now but 5-10 yars!!!

The numbers seem clear. The 20/40 years frame depends on Saudi Arabia having the reserves they claim they have...if they have lied...it is all about less than 20-40 years.. Unfortunately, the author does not recall the first paragraph dealing with the possibility of a Now-10 years  time frame.

The great fireworks at the end of this report are probalby the best...a genrality (forced?) and a clear hint about who is probably right....

El problema, en todo caso, está muy lejos de resolverse con una simple fecha. Porque no se trata de averiguar cuándo se acabará el crudo sino, sobre todo, cuándo empezará a declinar la producción y cuáles serán las consecuencias de esa caída.

En un mundo que consume 84 millones de barriles al día, y que produce 84,5 -apenas un 0,6% más-, hay poco por hacer, aparte de sentarse esperar a que el precio del crudo se dispare en los próximos cinco años desde los 70 dólares actuales a mucho más de 100. O de 200, si hacemos caso a algunos analistas especializados en el sector energético. Las posibles repercusiones económicas de esos precios son demasiado importantes como para no tenerlas en cuenta.


The problem, in any case, is very far from being solved with a simple date. Because one is not to find out when the crude one will finish but, mainly, when it will begin to decline the production and which will be the consequences of that fall.

In a world that consumes 84 million barrels to the day, and that produces 84.5 more - hardly a 0.6% -, there is little to do, except wait and see how the price of the crude goes off in next the five years from the present 70 dollars to much more than 100. Or 200, if we listen to some analysts specialized in the power sector. The possible economic repercussions of those prices are too important as not to have them in account.


Frankly, I think this pattern will be duplicated in other newspapers. Call it the 5-10-20-40 question...or  "when?? approach" because you can clearly explain then.."meanwhile oil and no matter what prices are going to climb" and look like a very smart journalist.

On the other hand I do not expect a direct answer about what to do as a response to the lack of energy for transport that this implies. There is not going to be the same level of detail or a clear narrative any time soon.

So, peak oil will be explained quite properly. Linking this fact with future actions on transport, alternative fuels, and sustainable energy will take much more time...too much data around there and not a nice history line about what to do...

What are we waiting to give them one???...Colman to the rescue..please!!!!

I'm just glad that the main stream media are finally acknowledging that there might be some truth to the idea of peak oil.

But two decades above or down are a too ample margin, so, imitating the geologist, nobody is bold enough to give an exact date.

Kenneth Deffeyes, understudy of the famed M. King Hubbert, claims oil production peaked in December of 2005.

That's it. I can now refer to the world oil peak in the past tense. My career as a prophet is over. I'm now an historian.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Thu Jun 8th, 2006 at 09:08:41 PM EST
Yes... I am indeed also glad...

And I am also glad thatthis is happening before we reach the 100$. we have time to introduce the next stage: What to do about it? Explain that priamry energy is mostly covered but that we will have very strong problems in transport.

I use the article to remember that we need a simple histroy-line about what to do. Policy plans are Ok for political platforms, but journalists need a history line, not a comprehensive plan (unfortunately).

Doing a history-line of a couple of pages is not easy.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 04:03:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well done kcurie.
For the first time in my life (for the last 6 years) I'm not living in the city but in the country. We're dependent on the automobile for transportation, and I was dependent on heating oil for my heat and hot water.(We used about 3,000 litres per year.) Three years ago I installed a huge wood stove in my house. Wood is plentiful since I live in the forest of Fountainbleau. I reduced my consumption of heating oil to about 1200 litres per year. I have just installed an electric accumulation heater upstairs to supplement the wood stove for the very cold weather. And next year I hope to install an electric hot water heater, which would get me off heating oil 100%. The house is also much warmer with wood heat.
This year I also bought a Toyota Yaris diesel which gets 52 miles per gallon (4.5 litres/100km).
Hey you have to adapt to live in the rugged French countryside.

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 04:44:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well...that'sa a change.

In spanish little town, old housesstill go with wood..in only one room..

It is a nice way to savea lot of energy. A socialplace int he house..and the rooms very cold..frozen...so that you can enjoy thepleasure of big balnkets...

The cold freeze in the winter morning is a killer though..you need a hot bath inmediately.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 07:04:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm just glad that the main stream media are finally acknowledging that there might be some truth to the idea of peak oil.

I agree, but at the same maybe we shoudn't rejoice too much, because I have a feeling that in a few years 10 out of 12 pages in the papers will be about peak oil and we will miss the days of ere.

by Alex in Toulouse on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 05:57:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is indeed a nice way to view it :)

Ok.. the option of the 10-20 years with time to adapt while oil keeps increasing its price is indeedofthe table.

In this particualr trjectory...we will be glad about all the articles!!! j jejeje

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 07:02:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So the way El Pais gets away with no doom is by concentrating on "maybe production won't start falling until 2030". But the point is, will it be able to keep up with demand? And with population growth? And they don't seem to have pointed out that production can no longet be increased to match demand like it was in the 1970's.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 07:21:57 AM EST
They say it at the beginning.

But later on they do not connect the dot once the "expert" has talked.

they indeed say that there is a debate about wether peak oil isnow or peak oil in within 40 years at the start of the histroy line. But then, the expert talks about 30 years or eve less depending on demand.

The effects of the increase in the demand or slight redutions in prodcution or Saudi Arabia lying at the end of the article are not linked with the supporters of the 5-10 years frame.

So you can get with both ideas at the same time... unless you are a normal reader...then theidea is going to be: 30 years from now we better ahve something else..maybe even closer in time...so prices are going to go up and up and up.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Fri Jun 9th, 2006 at 07:40:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]