November 3, 2008

New Technology No Salvation

Robert L. Hirsch, "The Inevitable Peaking of World Oil Production," points out that the decline of US Lower 48 production was not reversed by large changes in oil prices or the dramatic improvement in oil field technologies. Hirsch is making a point here against two species of "cornucopian" thinking--that a high price will inevitably call forth new supplies, and that technology will greatly improve recovery rates.

The skeptical view is that technology simply speeds up the recovery rates from existing fields but doesn't dramatically change the production possibilities.

The more basic position is that a high price cannot draw forth supplies from geological basins in which oil does not exist. It's a natural constraint, of the "facts are stubborn things" variety.

Atlantic Council , October 2005, vol 16.

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