Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Veraciously Detailed Analysis of Prof. Gorelick

The debate over the “peak oil” hypothesis used to keep rearing its head from time to time in media and commodities circles – but of late it has become a bit of a permanent mainstream fixture, with regular discussions in the popular press.

No one discounts the fact that oil is a non-renewable and finite hydrocarbon, but the positions people take on either side of the hypothesis often evoke fierce emotions. Enter Prof. Steven M. Gorelick – the author of the brilliant book – Oil Panic and The Global Crisis: Predictions and Myths.

In my years as a journalist who has written on oil and follows crude markets closely, I feel this book is among the most engaging, detailed and well written ones that I have come across in its genre. Gorelick examines both sides of the argument and allied “crude” topics in some detail. He notes that commentators on either side of the peak oil debate, their respective stances and the arguments are not free of some pretty major assumptions. This pertains, but is not limited, to the complex issue of oil endowments and the methodology of working them out.

The author examines data and market conjecture that both supports and rejects the idea that the world is running out of crude oil. Prior to entering the resource depletion debate, Gorelick charts the landscape, outlines the history of the oil trade and crude prospection and exploration.

Following on from that, he discusses the resource depletion argument followed by a refreshingly well backed-up chapter offering arguments against imminent global oil depletion. The veracity of the research is simply unquestionable and the figures are not substantiated by rants or guesswork, but by a methodical analysis which makes the author's argument sound extremely persuasive. If you are taken in by popular discourse or media chatter about the planet running out of oil, this book does indeed explode more than a few myths.

The text is backed-up by ample figures, graphics and forecasts from a variety of industry recognised sources, journals and organisations. Unlike a straight cut bland discourse, the narrative of this book is very engaging. It may well be data intensive, but if the whole point of the book is substantiating an argument - then the data adds value and makes for an informed argument - for which author deserves full credit.

Above anything else, I find myself in agreement with the author that the US, where production peaked a few decades ago, is a “pincushion of exploration relative to other parts of the world.” Backed-up by data, Gorelick explains that the Middle East, Eastern (& Central) Europe and Africa contain 75% of global crude reserves but account for only 13% of exploratory drilling. This must change.

Every key topic from the Malthusian doctrine to M.K. Hubert's approach, from Canadian Oil sands to drilling offshore and the relative cost of imported oil for consuming nations have been discussed in context of the resource depletion debate and in some detail.

Gorelick correctly notes that while the era of "easy" oil may well be over and how much oil is extracted from difficult sources remains to be seen. I quite agree with the author that the next or shall we say the current stage of extraction and prospection would ultimately be dictated by the price of oil.

Many commodities traders believe a US$50 per barrel price or above would ensure extraction from difficult to reach places. However, that is not to say that a high price equates to the planet running out of oil, according to the author. He writes so from a position of strength having spent years analysing industry data and I find it difficult not to be swayed by the force of his honest arguments.

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Book Cover © Wiley

No comments:

Contact:

For comments or for professional queries, please email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here