I am neither an alarmist nor a conspiracy theorist, but I have been extremely concerned about Peak Oil since long before I took on the VIX a pet project. Now that I occasionally find myself as an unofficial source of all things VIX and volatility, it seems I am also perpetually on the lookout for storm clouds on the horizon.
Where will the next big threat come from? Commercial real estate? Failed Treasury auctions? The dollar? Pakistan?
According to The Guardian, a sure bet is Peak Oil. In Key Oil Figures Were Distorted by U.S. Pressure, Says Whistleblower, Terry Macalister reports that the International Energy Agency (IEA) has been deliberately publishing overly optimistic oil production capacity data, largely due to arm twisting by the U.S. government. Macalister quotes two different unnamed IEA sources, including one who assesses the situation as follows:
“The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120 million barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116 million and then 105 million last year. The 120 million figure always was nonsense but even today's number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this. Many inside the organization believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90 million to 95 million barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources.”
A second IEA source attributes much of the unrealistic data to a culture in which it was “imperative not to anger the Americans.” Speaking about the current state of oil production, he added, “We have [already] entered the 'peak oil' zone. I think that the situation is really bad.”
Now, I take everything I read with a grain of salt, but I think the important question here is whether the quotes from above are the complete truth or merely mostly truthful. If I were looking to predict future disaster scenarios, Peak Oil would be near the top of my list. The question here is not if, but when – and what sort of ugly political and economic consequences will be intertwined with Peak Oil.
The financial crisis may have temporarily postponed the Peak Oil train wreck, but a slow-motion train wreck is hardly an improvement – and often turns out to be more painful to watch.