NYT Op-Ed Writer Michael Lynch Defies Second Law of Thermodynamics:Beats Peak Oil With Perpetual Motion Machine

957-AirBuoyedWheelIn “Peak Oil” is a Waste of Energy,” Michael Lynch, knocks down a strawman made to stand for the Peak Oil (PO) theory. He wants to do so because he believes concerns over PO could cause us to engage in “hare-brained,” “money wasting” and “unnecessary” alternative energy ventures. Given the danger of PO theory, it is strange that Lynch entirely avoids the theory and focuses on data points. Curiously, he thinks that pointing out where predictions or interpretations are wrong is the same as proving that the model is wrong. Were Lynch to be doing the social service of clearing up misconceptions about oil production and the consumption of oil that are commonly made by Peak Oilers, then this could be forgiven. He has chosen to ridicule his opponents, however. Mr. Lynch has given himself enough rope.

In this brief post I will describe some of the central premises of PO theory as well as summarize Lynch’s depiction. In doing so, I will show how his knockdown blows against PO theory are as imaginary as the foe he defeats.

Peak Oil theorists claim that there is ultimately a fixed amount of oil, regardless of whether or not it has been discovered. “Fixed amount” implies that during human time the processes that create oil will make so little that it will have no meaningful effect on the actual amount. Given this fixed amount, ceteris paribus, at some point we will reach a peak rate of consumption. After this point, we reach the rate of consumption that falls necessarily because the remaining oil will be that which is most difficult to access or produce. This means it will gradually become more expensive to the point that it will become too expensive. Continue reading

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