Right-wing pundits, Jeremy Leggett, Bill Clinton, and peak oil

For years, right-wing journalists have been dismissing peak-oil theory as a bunch of hogwash.

The Economist magazine's environment and energy correspondent Vijay Vaitheeswaran poked fun at a group of petroleum geologists that he dubbed the "Depletion Doomsday Gang" in his 2003 book Power to the People.  

It  prophesized an energy-rich future that would transform the world.

Back then, oil was trading at around  US$25 per barrel.

Today, Vancouver Sun editorial board member Harvey Enchin joined the chorus of peak-oil critics, citing the fall of the U.S. dollar and the discovery of a giant offshore oilfield near Brazil  as two reasons why we shouldn't be concerned.

He cited the peak-oil critics' favourite source, Cambridge Energy Research Associates, which regularly issues reports trashing peak-oil theory.

If the Brazilian discovery is confirmed, it would amount to about  a year's supply of world oil consumption.

Let's hope these right wingers aren't as wrong about peak oil as they were about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

On the other side is an impressive list of people with serious concerns about the possibility that global oil production has peaked.

They include many of the world's best-known petroleum geologists, such as Colin Campbell,  military analyst Michael Klare,  as well as a growing number of university professors.

The issue is vital  because  fossil fuels  are  not only crucial for transportation, but  they are an  essential ingredient in  plastics as well as in fertilizers, which help feed the world.

Last night, I was re-reading Jeremy Leggett's frightening 2005 book The Empty Tank: Oil, Gas, Hot Air, and the Coming Global Financial Crisis.

Former president Bill Clinton recommended this book to journalists who attended the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention in 2006 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Leggett, a trained petroleum geologist who  previously worked for large oil companies before working for Greenpeace,  mentioned the following points in his book:

a) the biggest oilfields in the world were discovered more than half a century ago.

b) The peak of oil discovery was as long ago as 1965.

c) There were a few more big discovery years in the 1970s, but none since then (with the possible exception of the recent Brazilian discovery.

d) The last quarter in which we discovered more oil than we consumed was a quarter century ago.

I won't get into what Leggett wrote about rising greenhouse-gas emissions because this is probably more than enough depressing information for one blog posting.

For the same reason, I won't reiterate U.S. energy-investment banker Matthew Simmons' views about the depletion of Saudi oilfields or Campbell's  explanations why he thinks several OPEC members are lying about their proven reserves.

Perhaps Harvey Enchin and the other peak-oil deniers  might want to  enlighten  their readers about these points in future columns.