>Owen McShane: If Stone Age had run out of rocks...
>The Greens are so happy. They have discovered "Peak Oil", a theory
>claiming oil production has peaked
Always good to kick off by serving notice that you're not
subservient to the truth, eh Owen? The usual statement under this
unfortunately pidgin title (I prefer 'oil peak') is that oil production
will peak within only years - say, 1 decade - rather than increase. If
anyone were to maintain that oil production has already peaked, they'd have
to point to a recent decline, which is not the case. Production looks like
peaking soon - that's all anyone says.
>, supplies will decline and prices will go sky-high.
Why not say something exact, Owen?
>Civilisation will literally grind to a halt.
Nobody has said that. This clowning around with straw men is stupid.
> We'll all be back in trains where we belong.
Cute eh - imply that a main oil-powered transport mode will
survive the collapse of civilisation. Always good in PR to get the mugs
befuddled, disoriented before you wade in with more subtle furphies.
>The Greens are arguing against building more roads, that further
>investment in aviation is foolishness and that the Government should sell
>its shares in Air New Zealand. With empty tanks those birds won't fly.
>Similar predictions have been made before.
They are not similar, as McShane must know. They are not based on
comparable knowledge of proven reserves - nor on comparably huge
consumption rates which mean even huge discoveries can make only a few
years' difference to the Oil Peak.
> English industrialists worried they would run out of coal. The Royal
>Navy thought it would run out of timber spars.
A main reason for Cook's exploration was to find new sources of
that resource, which was seriously depleted in the N. hemisphere. It is
deceptive to mention this implying it didn't happen, when it did.
> Machine makers thought they would run out of whale oil. Computer
>analysts worried they would run out of the copper to connect all the PCs.
This last one is news to me; who said it, Owen? When?
> Paul Erlich
This is an old, desperate, low trick - pretending someone's name
isn't worth getting right. Paul & Anne Ehrlich, profs at Stanford, are
widely admired scholars (whom McShane is in no position to mock).
> was convinced that by now we would have run out of just about everything.
This is a gross exaggeration. The Ehrlichs have been analysing
resource depletions for 3 decade but have never said anything like what
this deceiver alleges.
>Fortunately, no one took any notice then. We should take no notice now.
>It's true that for the past few decades the world has enjoyed incredibly
>cheap oil. Although the wells are distant, refining is complex and fuel
>is subject to huge taxes, the petrol powering your car is cheaper a litre
>than most bottled water - including New Zealand water.
If that is in fact an accurate comparison, (which I wouldn't take
McShane's word on - but it may be true), that is not evidence that petrol
is cheap. The water could be v expensive.
> (So who's profiteering?)
(first ray of good sense in this piece)
>The Peak Oil theory claims we are using oil faster than we are discovering
Notice that even McShane does not dare to contradict this ominous fact.
> We should not be surprised. Oil has been so cheap and plentiful
>(two ways of saying the same thing)
ah, that pure Treasuryese! Almost induces nostalgia, that good
> that it has not been worth looking for more of it.
This presumes that price determines exploration, whereas many
nations have further reasons to seek oil in their own territory. Few are
finding much compared with what they consume. New Zealand, for example.
>Much of the oil in known reserves needs a higher price to make it worth
This is a confusing way of alluding to the fact that, beyond proven
reserves, there are larger, but only vaguely inferred, "reserves" which may
or may not prove to be real when drilled. Planning - a process McShane
wishes to reserve to his darling corporations but deny to governments -
should be based on proven reserves, and indeed the whole Oil Peak picture
> Some is "taxed" by environmental restraints. Now that prices are high,
>the oil companies are exploring again. Governments are providing the
What - some admission that Market Forces won't suffice?!
>The United States uses only half the oil for each unit of production that
>it did in the mid-1970s. The vehicle fleet is hugely more
>energy-efficient and grows more efficient by the day.
McShane can hardly be unaware that Detroit has resisted US govt
attempts to insist on better economy. USA vehicles remain on avg grossly
inefficient & overconsumptive.
> The latest four-wheel drives use computer controls to automatically
>switch from V8s to V4s in cruise mode, so the high power is delivered only
>when needed. Electric hybrids such as the Prius double fuel efficiency.
Compared with what? They're not notably more economical than my
1969 4-cyl 1100cc (53 mpg cruising).
>World population collapse is just around the corner - let's say 2050.
Well isn't that an interesting factoid - tossed in casually, with
no authority mentioned. We are supposed to take it from McShane as if he
is an authority.
> This coupling of population decline with increased efficiency will
>compensate for increases in energy use.
>Oil is only one source of energy. If it gets truly expensive, the future
>will still be awash with energy because so many new sources are waiting in
>the wings for oil to get more expensive. New energy sources are all around
>All energy is nuclear, including solar and geothermal.
>Gravity originates in the nucleus.
That is a PR-type decoy. It may be pedantically true, but it is an
utterance made with intent to confuse & deceive. This swine is trying to
insinuate that the form of energy we view as most reliable - gravity -
is a form of nuclear energy. This is not legitimate language. How I hate
these PR language-tamperers!
> Hydro-dams combine solar energy with gravity. So do the tides and so
>does the wind. Coal stores old solar energy. Oil stores old geothermal
>power and gravity.
>The Earth is awash with nuclear power from the sun. There are scores of
>ways to tap into it so our future will be awash with energy, while oil
>will give us time to make the transfer.
What has McShane ever done to encourage this transition to solar
energy? He mentions vague varieties of it, but only as a cynical deception
- as if they can be rushed into production and deployed quickly after he &
his mentors agree we are far too dependent on oil.
>But surely, eventually, the oil must run out? No. No natural resource
>ever runs out. Once there were only two of us. Now there are more than
>six billion of us, yet no mineral resource has ever run out. As any
>mineral or similar resource gets scarce, the price increases until it is
>not worth using and substitutes step in after waiting in the wings.
Mercury, for example? What is the substitute for this liquid
>Sometimes new technologies simply sweep the old ones aside. We switched
>from sail to steam but not because we were running out of wind.
very cute - but grossly illogical. Nobody ever said wind was
running out. A change in motive power - in this case from renewable to
non-renewable - can of course occur for reasons other than resource
depletion. Heard of that old term 'red herring', Owen?
>But let's concede that the era of ludicrously cheap oil may well be over
>and that the next round of oil will be more expensive because it will be
>more difficult to find and to extract.
No facts are alleged about this fabulous "next round".
>What happens, for example, when petrol hits, say, $5 a litre at the pump?
>At that point it is worth converting coal into fuel oil using present
>Well before that happens, converting or modifying other oil-like reserves,
>and using more expensive forms of natural gas, become worthwhile. New
>Zealand sits in the middle of an "ocean" of natural gas, including "frozen
It is grossly ignorant to promote offshore exploration, with its
dangers of marine blowouts, while ignoring the deep gas theory of Professor
Gold, which predicts literally astronomical lodes of natural gas onshore in
Taranaki - but very deep (8-10 km).
Natural gas should for several strong reasons be re-instated and
reinforced as subsidised CNG. The technical infrastructure for safe
installations has largely lapsed but can be revived in polytechs. There is
no excuse for delaying this till McShane & his ilk admit the urgent need.
>Waste-to-energy plants can produce electricity
Ah yes Owen - you were paid to propagandise for that outlandish
rogue-hapu's project to convert the Meremere power station with ramjets to
burn Auckland's rubbish. What happened to that caper?
>and new technologies can turn waste biomass directly into oil.
This euphoric fantasy is closely similar to the gene-jiggerers'
confusion of fact & fantasy.
>Windmills on your roof will dissociate water into hydrogen for the fuel
>cell in your car.
And how long will it take to install these technologies, compared
with how long it's likely to take till oil supplies dwindle substantially?
Have you been assisting wind-generated electricity to get developed &
deployed in NZ? Aren't you just tossing off ill-assorted images for the
purpose of pretending that weaning us off oil is easily foreseeable?
>Physicist Freeman Dyson predicts that genetic modification will soon make
>trees and plants much more efficient at capturing solar energy.
It is just ludicrous to produce this aged non-expert as a leading
commentator on this dangerous technology which he certainly does not
> Carter Holt may grow GM forests to burn as biomass.
And how long will it take until any results from the first GM-tree
field-trials near Rotorua? At least McShane uses the verb 'may' ... In
any case, here again how soon could commercial production occur??
BTW, what else could they burn them as?
> Dyson also predicts the development of plants that produce fuel oils
>directly from their roots. Every garden will have its high-octane corner.
You ignorant wanker.
>The Alberta oil sands contain the equivalent of 1.6 trillion barrels of
>oil, more than all of the world oil reserves combined. A higher price
>will turn this resource into a reserve.
This touching faith in the power of money would be amusing if it
were not so pathetically & dangerously misleading.
>A shrewd guess
by whom? McShane could hardly rate himself as shrewd. I'd rate
him, after 3 decade of observing his propagandising, as moronic.
Since he now asserts a guess which purports to solve much of the
problem under discussion, he should name an author of the guess. Otherwise
> is that a bunch of new technologies will allow us to stabilise around a
>plateau of supply and demand which delivers petrol at about $2.50 a litre.
I see - so general production will increase GNP 20-fold (as he
later asserts) while oil consumption decreases only enough to double the
price of petrol. A likely story.
>That's twice today's price, but if your new hybrid motor car delivers
>twice as many kilometres a litre, you will be no worse off.
(pretending the high capital cost of such vehicles doesn't matter)
>This more expensive fuel oil will be directed to aircraft and to motor
>vehicles where it delivers the most benefits.
Airliners these days mainly burn kerosene, not petrol.
>Electricity generators will switch to nuclear fuel
pure fantasy; you can't just slap uranium into Huntly. To 'switch
to nuclear fuel' entails building a whole nuclear power station, which
can't be done in NZ inside a decade, and more likely will never be
permitted by such public participation as has survived McShane's attacks
with Salmon & Upton on planning law.
>, coal and useful renewables such as solar power, geothermal energy and
>Finally, we will be able to afford even higher prices for our cars if we
>The average household income for the Auckland region is about $66,000 a
>year. After 100 years' gross domestic product growth at, say, 3 per cent
>a year, that income will be more than $1 million a year. The average
>household could afford to pay $30 a litre to fill the tank.
If that were proferred in a spoof of econobabble, it could win a
prize. But as a purportedly sensible statement, it is preposterous.
The arithmetic is OK - $66,000 compounded 100 y @ 3% p.a. is
$1,268,430. But this corresponds to no plausible reality.
Allowing banks to issue credit could conceivably produce inflation
along these lines. But it is a grave delusion to suppose that real
production can - or should - increase 20-fold this century. The
money-mania that has gripped our country since Mulgoon, vastly empowered by
Rogernomics, Ruthanasia, Jenocide and later versions of Mammon-worship,
with huge forces of PR like McShane behind it, has not produced anything
like this increase in national turnover, let alone household income. More
money will not greatly increase oil production. Saudi Arabia has garnered
an extra $50B in recent months from surges in oil prices; that does not
make much difference to when the oil peak will occur.
>So don't panic. Oil will be around for a long time. And so will cars and
Interesting that this 'expert' doesn't offer his own estimate of
how long. He can dish it out; can he take criticism of his own
predictions? What actually are they? This coward feels he has a right to
sneer at those who labour to produce quantitative predictions, but no duty
to produce alternative numbers.
Oil is not just a fuel source; it is also required for a wide range
of lubricants. Other sources are not proven, let alone abundant enough.
>However, the Oil Age will certainly end before we run out of oil. Just as
>the Stone Age ended long before we ran out of rocks.
This, like the 'wind' rort above, is grotesquely illogical. The
Herald should not print such rubbish.
>* Owen McShane is the director of the Centre for Resource Management Studies.
- funded by any of the corporations he has just been praising?
This obnoxious propagandist did 9 mo. at Berkeley in the late 1960s and has
been claiming expertise on that basis ever since. Well I was a student
there for the half-decade of the latter '60s and in all due modesty claim I
learned a plurry sight more there than he did. Moreover, most Cal grads
continue to learn afterwards, whereas McShane has debased his mind,
becoming a PR agent for ill-conceived industrial projects and for
preposterous cornucopianism against science-based conservation.
It is a persistent annoyance that the NZ Herald, the only daily rag in NZ's
biggest city, presents as its main experts in applied ecology a small group
of propagandists for growthmania - McShane, economist Gareth Morgan, and
Peter Toynbee, NZ agent for USA raver & criminal Lyndon LaRouche, and a few
others. I doubt if the current management - controlled by the foreign
O'Reilly empire, last I heard - has any idea of the threats to their own
business from the collapse of life-support systems now occurring around the
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