Friday, February 23, 2007

Always good for a post...

Forecasting anything is tough these days, but the "peak-oilers" have been taking it on the chin for a while. Those who truly believed have suffered along with them.
Finally, a practical reminder: If there is an imminent peak of oil extraction, should not then the prospective shortage of that increasingly precious fuel result in relentlessly rising prices and should not buying a barrel of oil and holding onto it be an unbeatable investment? But a barrel of a high-quality crude, say West Texas intermediate, bought at $12.23/b in 1976 as a nest-egg for retirement and sold before the end of 2006 at $60/b would have earned (even when assuming no storage costs) about 1.2% a year, a return vastly inferior to almost any guaranteed investment certificate and truly a miserable gain when compared with virtually any balanced stock market fund. And a freedom-at-55 investor who bought that barrel at 30 years of age in 1980 and sold in 2005 would have realized a nearly forty per cent loss on his precious investment. Being a true believer in imminent peak oil may be fine as a provocative notion but not as a means of securing a comfortable retirement. [More]

It's easy sport to make fun of serious analysts whose projections get waylaid by surprising events. But the peak oil theory may be fundamentally wrong. Moreover, its plausibility may help ensure its predicted outcomes are incorrect. To the extent that alternative fuels were extolled because we "are running out of oil" demand has been partially met by these usually more expensive choices.

At the same time, money has been poured into energy efficiency, with surprisingly good results. Even when we umm, fudge on car data.

Betting on a catastrophic decline in oil production helps many embrace a picture of widespread social and cultural upheaval. Sometimes our motives for those outcomes are other than economic. We could want to take down the wealthy, punish the wicked, or advance our own portfolio. And if an energy cataclysm helps, what the hey?

The problem for "apocalytophiles" is effective Doomsday business plans are tough to write. We depend on a framework of some order and rationality to exist at all today. Even "Foxfire" hermitages would be cheerless prisons while the rest of the world melts down.

When I was a kid worried about the Ruskies nuking us, I assumed we would survive out on the farm, but after that, when anarchy broke loose, were you better off to be all prepared and cozy - and thus a ripe target for those who forgot to stockpile canned goods, or should you just enlist in the mob straight away and hope to rise to some executive level with good job performance?

I think widespread social chaos and anarchy is something I want to experience unprepared. At least it will show if my instinctive reactions mark my genetics as suitable for enduring. Think of the sheer excitement! The amazing home videos! Plus it saves a lot of time not spent trying to imagine every threat.

Which obviously we are not very good at, anyway.

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