Peak Oil? Not According to This Chart

Comments (29)

  1. Jeffrey J. Brown says:

    The US became a small net exporter of refined petroleum products in 2011, but we remain the world’s largest net importer of total petroleum liquids (including crude oil).

    The most recent EIA data show that the US is dependent on imports for 60% of the crude oil that we process in US refineries.

    The primary trend we have seen worldwide is that developed countries like the US are being forced to consume a declining share of a declining volume of Global Net Exports of oil, with developing regions like “Chindia” consuming an increasing share of a declining Volume of Global Net Exports.

    Slowly increasing US crude oil production will help (up from 5.4 mbpd in 2004 to 5.6 mbpd in 2010, EIA), but the vast majority of the decline in US net oil imports was due to reduced consumption, as we were outbid by developing countries.


  2. Chris says:

    What about the environmental impact of fracking? I have heard that the process decimates ground water in the area and is also energy intensive. The net return in energy is small right? It seems like a look at the whole picture would be helpful…


    Warren Reply:

    Not to mention that the Frack water that comes out of the well bore needs to be properly disposed of and treated. Frack water contains not just the chemicals used In fracking; but other things found in nature that are better off left below the surface; things like uranium, thorium and other heavy metals and toxic wastes.


  3. Article said: “The United States is actually now a net exporter of oil. ”

    This is blatantly, patently false. The US exports slightly more REFINED oil products than it imports. The US still imports roughly half of the crude oil that it uses, about 9 million barrels a day net imports according to the EIA.


  4. Jeffrey J. Brown says:

    Small correction: 2010 US crude production was 5.5 mbpd. Average rate for 2011, through September, was 5.6 mbpd.


  5. George says:

    Nice post Louise – Keep up the good work!

    I believe that wallstreetdaily is an excellent source of information, both for experienced professionals, as well as for individual investors trying to learn “real information” about markets.

    Be well,



    John Reply:

    I like how you put “real information” in quotes.


    Ron Reply:

    George, This author is completely wrong about us being an oil exporter. We are not. We import crude and export some refined products.


  6. John Greer says:

    The graphs don’t seem to include crude oil.
    Could we please include crude.


    Jesse Reply:

    But if they included a graph with crude oil, it would show just how silly this entire article was.

    Our oil production peaked long ago, even if you include non-conventional oil.

    Now, if you were to phrase things in the article to match reality, something like “US exports refined petroleum products for the first time since 1990”, then yeah, it’s dead on. Still doesn’t really mean anything (our demand for refined products is down, and other countries are willing to pay more than we are).


  7. says:

    Are you kidding yourself or trying to kid me? “Refined products” is not the same as “oil”. According to the EIA the most recent 4 week averages show a net import of 8.5 million bbls per day including import of 8.8 mbpd of oil and an export of 291 thousand bbls of refined products. So the US exported about 3% of what was imported. Peak oil production in the US occurred in 1971 at just under 10 mbpd. We produce just over half of that today.


  8. Ed says:

    Fortunately, there are more thoughtful and in-depth analysis of the shale oil “boom” just a click or two away:

    Seriously, can we ever get beyond this wishful thinking and on to the hard work of building a better future?


  9. SOP says:

    “”Doesn’t sound like a Peak Oil situation to me. Does it to you?””

    Author fails to understand peak oil. Author is clearly confused about the data he presents. Buyer beware…


  10. Former Chevron employee says:

    “The United States is actually now a net exporter of oil”

    This statement is false.


  11. Ric Merritt says:

    I read the straightforward, unqualified claim that the US is now a net exporter of oil. I glanced at the chart. I scratched my head, since the claim can’t be even close to true.

    It took me a minute to realize that yes, of course, the claim is the worst and lowest sort of balderdash, and the chart is about refined products, which just tells you something about where refining is happening, and nothing much about sources of energy.

    I’ll go further than commenter ghung121, who pointed this out above already. Whoever wrote this lame excuse for an informative article either knows worse than nothing about energy, or is lying through their teeth. I can’t decide which is worse.


  12. World oil consumption is north of 30 billion barrels a year. In that context, 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil is not exactly cause for popping the champagne corks and calling peak oil dead.


  13. Phil says:

    “In a world of liars, the truth starts here.”

    Yet you post a chart that says “The US is exporting more oil than it imports”

    which is a LIE.


  14. Robert Hurst says:

    If you like charts, check out a chart of production from the North Slope of Alaska. Huge gains from shale oil are barely making up for declines in production from Prudhoe Bay.

    Peak Oil is the only reason ‘shale oil’ is close to being profitable at all.

    I hope people aren’t making investment decisions based on ‘information’ from this site.


  15. Ari says:

    Crude oil is not the same as refined oil products.

    This article is kind of like saying:

    “The US is the world’s largest exporter of aluminum (false) because the US is the world’s largest exporter of airplanes made of aluminum (true).”

    It is entirely reasonable and consistent for us to be a net exporter of finished products like refined petroleum and airplanes, while still being a net importer of raw materials like crude oil and aluminum.

    It’s great that some optimists believe that North Dakota could someday product 14% of our current oil usage (700 thousand divided by 5.5 million barrels per day). But in the meantime, other oil sources in the continental US and Alaska have already peaked, and are producing less every day.

    I haven’t read your columns enough to know if you’re being deliberately deceiptful, or just innocently mistaken, but in no way do the charts in this article disprove Peak Oil.

    The year that the US produced the most oil was 1970 – 9.6 million barrels per day. This year we struggled to produce just over 50% of that. Peak oil in the US is a fact, not a theory.

    – Ari


  16. Former Chevron employee says:

    “The United States is actually now a net exporter of oil.”

    This statement is false.


  17. SOP says:


    This is not meant as an insult. Just some examples of common problems with energy reporting.


    Why energy journalism is so bad


  18. YRLESS says:

    The fact that you need to publish such tripe is very telling.


  19. Warren says:

    Even if this field could produce twice its potential, by the time it is scaled up to full production the world will have a drop of 3-4 mpd by 2015 production growth will be offset by depletion (at a depletion rate of 4.7%) .

    Plus the Saudis, and others, are using more of their own oil, the more they use the less for the rest of the world.

    One field’s potential, does not obviate peak oil. Neither does a graph of US oil consumption during a recession.


  20. Warren says:

    How about a chart showing the Bakken formation’s Elm Coulee Oil Field’s predicted production numbers, verse the actual rapid depletion and subsequent production decline.


  21. lmkz says:

    Incredibly misleading article.

    Go here and select “USA” from the drop down for the more gloomy (but realistic) situation:


  22. Conrad Dunkerson says:

    Wow, what a stunningly dishonest piece of ‘journalism’.

    “Within five years, Rick Mueller, of ESAI Energy LLC, predicts that North Dakota could be producing anywhere from 700,000 barrels to one million barrels a day.

    Doesn’t sound like a Peak Oil situation to me.”

    It doesn’t? Well then you clearly don’t have any idea what you are talking about.

    In 1971 US oil production peaked at about 9.6 million barrels per day. Before widespread fraking it had dropped to about 5 million barrels per day. Thus, if the rosy prediction of 1 million barrels per day from fraking within 5 years comes true you’ll only be about 3.6 million barrels per day short of it NOT being a “peak oil situation”.

    Meanwhile, the US CONSUMES about 19.5 million barrels per day. We are using more than three times as much oil as we are producing… so no, we are NOT a “net exporter”.

    BTW, 4.3 billion hypothetically recoverable barrels divided by 19.5 million barrels per day consumption equals… enough oil for 220 days. That’s the vast inexhaustible reserves you’re talking about. Enough for less than a year.

    Time to stop living in a fantasy world people. Do the math and you’ll see that reports of a rosy future for oil are pure nonsense.


    Mark Reply:

    While it is true that the author got it wrong about the U.S. currently being an oil exporter, there is some cause for optimism about future U.S. oil potential. That 4.3 billion was a USGS survey made in 2008, and the USGS is known for making overly conservative estimates.

    Many private consultants are currently saying there is probably more like 25 billion barells of recoverable oil in the Bakken.

    While this is not “official”, history is one the side of this being the correct estimate. Many oil fields originally have low proven reserves but more reserves get added on as more is known about a field once actual production starts. That is the main reason the United States continues to have around 20bbls of oil long after it should have all run out. If we did our accounting similar to how OPEC countries do their accounting we would probably have far more oil in booked reserves.

    Additionally, the Bakken is only one of many tight oil formations in America that may have the same production potential. Off the top of my head, there is the Eagle Ford, one in Ohio that Chesapeake energy has started drilling, and both have the same potential as the Bakken once developed. There is also the Niobara shale, the Monterey shale in California, one in Louisana, and certainly a few more. If each of these has the potential to pump as much as the Bakken on average, then it is easy to see how there could be several million barrels per day of additional production, that could last for at least a few decades. By then I think there should be sufficient technology to construct a totally electrical energy infrastructure.


  23. says:

    Just heard a talk[Monday] by “anti”-fracking persons. Local [NW PA.] geologist, with little forewarning [told on Friday before,that he would be welcome to come and comment]completely decimated the weak generalized points of the “anti”. Ex.– noted that a company is actually pumping up brine to sell-much more effective & efficient than rock salt. Also “heavy metals” in a local aquifier [no wells] has “pesticides” causes.


  24. Jerry says:

    Fracking might increase production for a while (or at least slow already declining fossil fuel production) but it won’t last. This is just another bandage on a broken system. In the early 1900s we were developing 100 barrels for every 1 spent, in the 1970s this was down to about 30. Fracking comes in much lower, we are moving to dirtier less efficient methods.


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