Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Black Gold quackery

The upsurge in crude oil prices over the last 3 years have renewed debates over the nature of our long term energy future between the optimists and pessimists, and has created an opening for charlatans and quacks to sell books as well. Weighing in on the side of optimistic quacks are Jerome Corsi and Craig Smith, with their new book "Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil", published by WND Books. In a WorldNetDaily introduction to the book, Corsi and Smith lay out their theory of a widespread conspiracy among oil companies, scientists and politicians to keep the price of oil unnaturally high.

In "Black Gold Stranglehold," Corsi and Smith expose the fraudulent science and irresponsible politics that have been sold to American people in order to enslave them. By debunking several myths, Corsi and Smith provide an outline for progress that would help to establish America as energy-independent.

Be prepared to be challenged by:

* The myth of fossil fuels: Corsi and Smith argue that the deep abiotic theory of oil is a more reliable theory than the fossil fuel theory. It rejects the contention that oil was formed from the remains of plant and animal life that died millions of years ago. Instead, they believe in Thomas Gold's argument that oil is abiotic: "a primordial material that the earth forms and exudes on a continual basis" and is "pushed upward toward the earth's surface by the intense pressures of the earth's core and the influence of the centrifugal force that the earth exerted upon the specific gravity of oil as a fluid substance."

The abiotic theory is a minority opinion among geologists. It was proposed by Thomas Gold, an astromomer, and has not led to the discovery of a single economically exploitable deposit of oil. I am not a geologist or chemist and won't debate the merits of the theory, but it is certainly reckless, to say the least, to extrapolate from an unproven theory on the origin of petroleum deposits to the conclusion that the earth holds vastly more quantities of oil than is currently estimated. The theory does not provide a means for calculating the rate of oil formation, or how quickly a depleted oil field could be refilled. If the earth cannot regenerate the oil as fast as we use it, it makes little difference how it is formed.

* The running-out-of-oil myth: The 1970s scientific study known as Hubbert's Peak, predicting we would exhaust oil reserves by 2003, has been proven false. We are currently sitting on "more proven petroleum reserves than ever before despite the increasing rate at which we are consuming petroleum products. New and gigantic oil fields are being discovered at an increasing rate, in places the fossil fuel theory would never have been predicted as possible.

This is a misrepresentation of Hubbert's theory. Hubbert made a guess as to when world oil production might peak based on known reserves at the time. The fact that production did not peak in 2003 does not invalidate the theory that oil production will peak. Even oil optimists accept that production will peak, withe the most optimistic dates ranging from 2020 to 2030.

* The global warming hoax and other environmental myths: Corsi and Smith present compelling evidence that "burning fossil fuels does not release into the air chlorofluorocarbons or halon compounds, the types of chemicals identified as the culprits causing holes in the ozone." Instead, "human beings breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide" while "plants absorb carbon dioxide and throw out oxygen."

What a stupid statement! Of course fossil fuels don't create cfc's, noone is arguing that they are. Global warming and the destruction of the ozone layer are two different phenomenon. Global warming is related to the buildup of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, which is a result of the burning of fossil fuels.

* The folly of oil conservation: "Black Gold Stranglehold" presents and documents how no alternative energy option has been able to provide enough energy and how each alternative has been deemed uneconomical.

Proven when, and using what price levels for comparison? Alternative energy technologies continue to evolve more efficient solutions, and the baseline energy costs for existing sources continue to rise. At some point alternative sources will become economical on a large scale.

* Oil playing a part in the illegal-immigration problem: Mexico has the third largest proven reservoirs of crude oil in the Western Hemisphere behind Venezuela and the U.S. As a result, the United States imports virtually all the oil Mexico exports. Consequently, "the U.S. government finds it difficult to take a systematic, hard look at the nearly free flow of illegal immigrants coming across our southern border. As a hedge against instability in the Middle East, the U.S. government has to calculate our oil needs when considering any steps we take regarding Mexico or illegal immigrants.

OK, now we're getting to the real meat of this paranoid fantasy. We're being screwed by the Bush administration and his Mexican buddies into letting the illegals run roughshod over our American way of life.

* The value of the dollar and its effect on terrorism: "In recent years the buying power of the dollar has decreased 40 percent on the average against all major foreign currencies. Since dollars can no longer be exchanged for gold, no hard, fixed commodity stands behind the U.S. international payments, including oil purchases. Osama bin Laden's "war against America was fueled by his belief that the U.S. has stolen the oil of Muslim countries. At the core of the issue is bin Laden's perception that America has paid for oil, a hard commodity, with paper dollars that are no longer backed as they once were by the hard commodity of gold."

The gold standard, of course! Osama hates us because of our fiat currency! Come to think of it, terrorism really started to take off after Nixon closed the gold window in 1971. PLO murders Israeli atheletes in Munich 1972. Yom Kippur War in 1973. Coincidence??

* How high the price of oil?: "Today, the U.S. oil industry is sitting on a quantity of oil reserves that has never been higher. Still, we have built no new refineries, and the refineries in operation are producing at or near capacity. The picture that emerges is one of industry conglomerates simply sitting on large reserves and waiting for oil prices to go even higher. At some point, increased gasoline prices become an inevitable drag on the economy."

If the oil companies won't build the refineries, then others can step in and build them if the demand were there. New refineries haven't been built because up to about two years ago gas has been cheap and plentiful enough to make the investment in new capacity unnecessary and unrewarding. Not to mention the regulatory hurdles and public resistance that would have to be overcome.

The article concludes with the following call to action:

Corsi and Smith believe that America can and will become energy independent if some steps are taken to correct the aforementioned problems. In addition, they not only meticulously lay out the problems facing American oil interests, but have developed a seven-step action toward U.S. Oil Independence by:

* Promoting scientific research to investigate alternative theories.

* Expediting leases offshore and in Alaska to encourage oil exploration.

* Providing tax credits for deep-drilling oil exploration.

* Creating an oil research institute to serve as a clearinghouse of oil industry information.

* Developing a public broadcasting television series devoted to the oil industry.

* Reestablishing a gold-backed international trade dollar.

* Establishing tax incentives for opening new refineries in the U.S.

In the end, "Black Gold Stranglehold" not only provides solutions, but it will empower consumers and oil industry professionals to drastically change the debate about oil. This book is sure to cause thoughtful people to reconsider the U.S. dependence on foreign oil and its effects on our economy.

An oil research institute! How original. A PBS television series devoted to the oil industry? This is a solution? Well, that's already been done, in 1992, it was called "The Prize : The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power".

The other steps are either underwhelming in their lack of originality (drilling in Alaska) or don't make sense in light of the causes of the problem that Corsi and Smith lay out. If the oil companies are holding back on building refining capacity in order to create an artificial shortage, thereby increasing their profits, then why would they agree to build refineries to get tax credits? Is that what they were holding off for?

All in all, Corsi and Smith's book looks to be an amateurish hack-job that is sure to be a hit with the conspiracy theory set.


Blogger Oroborous said...

If we're still using oil for heating and automotive fuel in 2030, then oil production won't peak by 2030.

The peak will come after demand drops, not due to any supply-side issue.

Canada has far larger oil reserves than does Venezuela, and the U.S. have more than does Canada.

However, because Canada and the USA are advanced economies with many sources of wealth, we aren't using up our reserves as fast as are those with fewer routes to prosperity, to whom oil revenues mean a great deal.

While the problem of illegal immigration may be slightly tied to Mexican oil availability, it's only slightly.

Oil is sold on a world market, and if Mexico doesn't want to sell to America, then we'll just buy someone else's oil.

The only way for Mexico to hurt America with oil is to not sell ANY, thereby decreasing the world supply of available oil.

However, that would be cutting off their nose - and ears and lips - to spite their face.
Particularly if millions of U.S.-dwelling Mexican illegals got sent home, since Mexico would need more revenue than ever.

November 10, 2005 9:29 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Conspiracy theories, and their believers, really are astonishing.

Perhaps another sign of the Need to Believe?

Ultimately, the energy problem breaks down into two components: Rate and storage density.

Whether abiotic or dead dinosaurs, it seems quite clear that our rate of energy consumption while eliminate in the not too distant future (500 years?) all fossil (or whatever) fuels. We are taking money out of the bank, but making no deposits.

Somewhere along the line, we are going to have to find some way to make the deposit rate equal the withdrawal rate, or the withdrawal rate will go to zero.

And we shall become re-acquainted with Malthus.

I don't know of anything (admitting profound ignorance here), other than nuclear fusion promises, that comes anywhere close to closing the rate gap.

Then there is the storage problem. There is nothing like petroleum distillates for energy density. Clearly that is an issue for transportation energy consumption, and it is likely fuel cells will eventually raise thermodynamic efficiency above the current 15 or so percent.

But it is still difficult to avoid concluding that our grandchildren will have to live significantly differently than we do.

The challenge will be to make the adjustment before the adjustment makes us.

November 11, 2005 4:49 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

The peak will come after demand drops, not due to any supply-side issue.

Why are you so confident of that Oroborous? The large deposits that remain are in the form of oil sands and oil shale, and are not amenable to rapid ramp up of production on the scale of oil that is coming out of the ground. Most oil producing nations outside of the Middle East are in a declining production mode, and everyone agrees that at some point Saudi oil production will peak.

Skipper, I am in agreement with you that at some point our civilization will have to adapt to limited energy consumption. Just as we transitioned from an unsustainable (hunting and gathering) to a sustainable (agricultural) regime for food, we will need to do the same for energy. Right now we are in the equivalent of the hunter/gatherer stage for energy. The pain will be felt by those generations caught in the adjustment period, but at some point we will be able to acheive a stable, sustainable energy posture. It will involve nuclear as well as biomass(solar) hydrocarbon production, with wind and other energy gradient technologies playing a niche role. Coal and oil will be with us for a long time, but in a lesser capacity after peak production. Another factor will be the peaking of polulation growtn this century. The population boom that took off with the industrial revolution fueled by fossil fuels will peak sometime at mid-century. It will be a very interesting century, for sure.

November 11, 2005 10:03 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


I'm not at all sure people will have to change lifestyles based upon energy availability.

IF nuclear fusion ever gets closer than 25 years off, it may well be future generations will be able to generate as much hydrogen as they choose. Fuel cell powered vehicles will be much more thermodynamically efficient than today's poppet valve engines, which will substantially reduce consumption rate.

IF that doesn't happen, though, I suspect the adjustment will involve sudden, drastic, population reduction. The entire global economy is so energy dependent for the entire agricultural value chain that running into an energy wall even 500 years from now would probably require a natural population decrease of up to 10% per generation for each of the next 20 generations.

Why? Because the rate of solar (in that I include biomass) and wind generation are such that they would require more area than is available, unless the population becomes much smaller than today's.

So, my bet is that unless we come to terms with Fusion, Malthus will come to terms with us.

November 11, 2005 10:47 AM  
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November 20, 2005 2:30 PM  
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