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IEA Concedes that Peak Oil Already Occured – Back in 2006

Click on image above, and see title ‘Dr Fatih Birol’ in the ‘Extended Interviews’ section

In the past I’ve made fun of the International Energy Agency (IEA) for their inexplicably optimistic projections for oil production mining supply capacity. And in similar fashion, the IEA has made fun of us gloomy ‘peakers’. Well, click on the image above, and look for the video titled ‘Fatih Birol’ — he being head of their Economic Analysis Division. In it he, on behalf of the IEA, concedes for the first time that conventional oil mining has already peaked; five years ago, in point of fact — back in 2006. Many of us have been pointing at around that date as being the beginning of our supply flat line for some time now….

It’s rather astonishing to watch Mr. Birol respond to the interviewer’s question:

So, do you think a lot of governments… are in denial? — ABC interviewer

Before you read Mr. Birol’s answer, consider something significant here. This is the IEA. The IEA’s key (almost sole) reason for existence is to keep as accurate an inventory of oil supplies as possible, and to create the best projections on future supply and demand levels, and to present this to world governments so as to enable them to make better policy decisions. Without even a blush, or a nervous clearing of throat, Mr. Birol simply says:

I think governments, in general, are not well prepared to (sic) the difficulties we are going to face in the oil markets…. — Fatih Birol

Why are the world’s governments "not well prepared", Mr. Birol?? Could it be because governments have been relying on the IEA, and the IEA has been consistently overly optimistic — and this with a topic where misplaced optimism is deadly dangerous?

The ABC interviewer, near the end, after Mr. Birol advises that this "will be definitely very bad for our economy and for our daily lives", asks:

And how urgent is this? — ABC interviewer

Again avoiding taking any responsibility for failing to help prepare the world for a key, defining and destructive moment in the history of mankind, and for having nonchalantly brushed off the warnings of those who endeavoured to do so, Mr. Birol comes out with:

I think it would have been better if the governments… er… have started to work on this at least ten years ago — Fatih Birol

Welcome to the gloomy ‘peaker’ table Mr. Birol….

Now, the question is, what’s to happen next? My prediction, if I may, is that the almost universal desire to maintain business as usual will lead governments and corporations to do anything and everything they can to keep oil — the lifeblood of their precious economies — flowing. This means greater emphasis on unconventional fossil fuel supplies: tar sands, coal to liquids, shale oil, gas fracking, etc. We’ll also be wishing the icecaps would melt just a bit more, so we can get at the cheddar there as well. All who know just a little about these sources of energy know they’re far more destructive than present oil and coal mining. In other words, as I’ve said before, instead of peak oil marking the beginning of a new era where we begin to power down, and where environmental conscientiousness has a better chance of becoming widespread and ingrained, it will instead mark an intensification of ever more frantic, and hence ever more careless, environmental destruction. In our bid to ‘survive’ we’ll fail to notice, or choose to ignore, that we’re well into an exponential curve in society’s ignoble bid to undermine our own viability.

We either begin to cooperate and share ways to get through this in one piece, or we continue on the present Easter Island trajectory.

Further Reading:


  1. Thank you once again Craig for stepping up to present the latest timely warnings of the dire consequences we are facing. I didn’t actually get to see the Catalyst program on The Oil Crunch because I have moved to the Victorian countryside and for the last few weeks have had no access to television signals. That will be rectified in the next week or so by installation of a receiver for the government’s VAST Satellite based digital TV service.

    At last there are signs that some realization of what lies ahead for world economies is beginning to be acknowledged by advisory authorities as recorded in Mr Birol’s statements and more particularly in the forecast made by British Geologist Dr Jeremy Leggett, also viewable on that website. But will anyone, especially world political, business and societal leaders, listen? They didn’t 10 years ago, or even back in the ’60s when the Club of Rome advised of ‘Limits to Growth’ being reached in our current decade.

    I am not an expert, just someone who has for many years now held the view, gained from reading and studying widely, that future human tenure on this planet is becoming increasingly fragile. I chose to acquaint myself with permaculture and to move away from the urban settings I have always known, to live as simple and uncluttered a life as I am able, free of debt and with only passing reliance on modern technology, because I foresee a time not too far away, but possibly only as an interim but volatile stage in human experience, where living at a basic level will be a necessary tool for survival until things in the world have settled down. After that, when there are far less humans around than there used to be, there will be a great need for permaculture and similar knowledge to establish truly sustainable communities in a very changed, post collapse, world environment.

    Like Dr Jeremy Leggett and his associates, hoping to be proved wrong but not seeing any hope of widespread change to prevent the otherwise inevitable, I predict these things will occur within the next 1 to 4 years ie. by 2015 at the latest. We are already openly seeing in world affairs the rumblings and stirrings of some of these events.

    Unlike others, I am (for what my opinion is worth) prepared to make statements as to what I think will take place in this time period. Briefly, the collapse will be triggered by either unavailable or unaffordable oil leading to collapsed food markets and economies (personal, local, national and worldwide), job losses, lack of social cohesion, anarchy, famine, disease, mass movements of population, invasion and war.

  2. Watch the trailers for the real life 3D movie: The giant Peakoil monster and the incredibly fast shrinking economies. Coming to your local theatre sooner or later.

  3. Awesome. The peak oil doomers can stop bitching now, and maybe get off their arses from in front of computer screens and touch some soil. On second thoughts, nah, I doubt it.

  4. Mark. Bitching? Do you call efforts to wake up the world to geological realities that have immense implications for mankind’s ability to live in peace with each other, and to survive, bitching? You’ve got to be kidding me.

    Also not sure why you assume all peakers are computer geeks either. A great many, from what I can see, are following their thoughts to their logical conclusions and are doing what they can to prepare.

  5. Peak oil doomers do much more than sit on their arses in front of computer screens. They spend time thinking about things seriously and keeping themselves informed on important matters, much of that time while doing other things including ‘touching some soil’.

    They don’t, in general, make crass comments about other people, with the possible exception of people who make flip remarks without having paused to entertain even the glimmer of an idea or who have some hidden reason for attempting to divert attention away from, and deny, real issues.

  6. I went through the full Kübler-Ross model 5 stages of grief when I first came across peak oil in 2002.

    1. Denial, there’s loads of oil left I can debunk this in 5 mins.
    3. Bargaining, if we all just use less oil we’ll be OK
    4. Depression, the DOOMERS are right, it’s TEOTWAWKI fast crash!
    5. Acceptance, buy land, become self reliant, invest in sustainable personal/family/community infrastructure, discover Permaculture and become Peak oil Optimistic.

    Some still seem stuck on the anger stage, time to move on, all roads lead to permaculture.

  7. What about peak coal? The World Coal Association reckons we have 119 years left of coal. However, that’s not peak coal! When will we reach the very import time of peak coal?

  8. GJO ESQ,

    Can you dig coal out of the ground and transport it using coal energy? or do you need oil energy to get it out and move it around?

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