Saudi oil reserves may be overstated by 40%

Stuart Staniford calls attention to this story from the Guardian:

The U.S. fears that Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show.

The cables, released by WikiLeaks, urge Washington to take seriously a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom’s crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300bn barrels– nearly 40%.

Stuart also notes that in his own independent forensic analysis conducted in May 2007 (to which we called the attention of Econbrowser readers at the time), he estimated that remaining reserves in Ghawar (by far the Saudis’ biggest and most important oil field) were overstated by 40%.

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66 thoughts on “Saudi oil reserves may be overstated by 40%

  1. Ricardo

    America is sitting on top of a super massive 200 billion barrel Oil Field that could potentially make America Energy Independent and until now has largely gone unnoticed. Thanks to new technology the Bakken Formation in North Dakota could boost America’s Oil reserves by an incredible 10 times
    Chevron and two oil exploration companies announced the discovery of a giant oil reserve in the Gulf of Mexico that could boost the nation’s supplies by as much as 50 percent and provide compelling evidence oil is a plentiful deep-earth product made naturally on a continuous basis.Known as the Jack Field, the reserve – some 270 miles southwest of New Orleans – is estimated to hold as much as 15 billion barrels of oil.
    Brazil announces new oil reserves 5-8 billion bbl
    Vast oil reserves found in northern Albania 3 billion bbl
    Better extraction methods increase Russian oil reserve estimates
    Canadian oil reserves jump to second largest in the world
    Discoveries of new oil reserves increased in 2009
    Total Saudi Arabian oil reserves 267 billion bbls. From the media reports it appears that the Saudi’s are going to see sales of their greatest export commodity shift to foreign sources.
    In the immortal words of Mark Twain concerning oil reserves, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

  2. ppcm

    Saudi Aramco has always been secretive on the status of its oils reserves under exploitation,more genuinely on its business.Interesting to read such an outburst of candor.
    All maths included and probability of estimated variances digested,why would Saudi Aramco be so optimistic in its forecast and be leaning on a 3 std probability of error ?
    Technically is there a price per barrel where the oil recovery is higher?
    Of course implications are financial,domestic to start with.

  3. Jeffrey J. Brown

    Wikileaks:
    “Our mission now questions how much the Saudis can now substantively influence the crude markets over the long term. Clearly they can drive prices up, but we question whether they any longer have the power to drive prices down for a prolonged period.”
    The accuracy of this assessment seems self-evident when one considers recent Saudi net oil exports versus US annual crude oil prices.
    Some of our (Brown & Foucher) articles on Saudi Arabia and other key oil exporters:
    http://www.energybulletin.net/node/16459
    (Texas and US Lower 48 oil production as a model for Saudi Arabia and the world
    May, 2006
    )
    http://www.energybulletin.net/node/38948
    (A quantitative assessment of future net oil exports by the top five net oil exporters
    )
    And a recent essay on Peak Oil Vs. Peak Exports
    http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2010-10-18/peak-oil-versus-peak-exports
    Excerpt:
    “Given an ongoing production decline in an oil exporting country, based on the ELM (Export Land Model) we can conclude that unless consumption falls at the same rate as, or at a rate faster than, the production decline rate, the resulting net export decline rate will exceed the production decline rate, and the net export decline rate will accelerate with time. Furthermore, in the case of the ELM more than half of post-peak CNE (Cumulative Net Exports) were shipped only three years into a nine year net export decline.”
    A fairly consistent rule of thumb appears to be that half of a region’s post-peak CNE are shipped only one-third of the way into the net export decline period. In the case of the 2005 top five net oil exporters–Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran and the UAE–Sam Foucher’s most optimistic projection is that they will have shipped half of their post-2005 CNE by the end of 2014.

  4. Jeffrey J. Brown

    Re: Ricardo
    I believe that you are quoting in place reserves for the Bakken. The USGS, which is traditionally quite optimistic, puts recoverable reserves in the low single digit range.
    Regarding Canada, from 1998 to 2009 their very slow rate of increase in net oil exports has not even been sufficient to offset the decline in Texas crude oil production.
    Brazil has had some new discoveries, but BP data show that they are still a net petroleum liquids importer.
    Regarding Saudi Arabia, our work suggests that they probably peaked in 2005, but in any case I think that it is extremely unlikely that they will ever again exceed their 2005 net export rate.
    Regarding infinite sources of deep earth oil, no comment.

  5. rjs

    it’s been said several places elsewhere that the OPEC countries exaggerate reserves in order to have a larger quota allocation…

  6. GregL

    Ricardo,
    Both of your links are to articles announcing potential finds/reports about finds. They are 3 and 5 years old. You need to relate recent reports about these things. If all you have are old ‘maybe something is there’ articles in generalized media, you have nothing.

  7. Walter Sobchak

    Actually, I am quite encouraged that the US government has some idea of what Saudi reserves really are. I would be quite upset if they were making national security contingency plans with no better information than is available on the Oil Drum.

  8. tj

    How will an increase in energy taxes solve this problem? Energy prices are going to take a larger and larger bite out of household budgets.
    Sounds like the market will force our hand on renewables. No need for the government to get involved, unless they want to grant tax breaks/credits to companies who develop solutions.

  9. Barkley Rosser

    The report is quite credible. Indeed, there are various incentives, both within OPEC and more generally for power standing abroad for the Saudis to err on the overoptimistic side in their public reports.
    Certainly, there is much uncertainty about al-Ghawar, by far the world’s largest producing pool, with strong evidence that its northern part has peaked, with the Saudis spending a great deal on advanced methods to continue to produce out of it. The southern part still has quite a bit, but this is also by far the most complicated and difficult to analyze pool of oil in the world.
    The other area of uncertainty has been what is in the ar-Rubh-al-Khali, the Empty Quarter, where the Saudis recently installed major pipelines bought from the Russians, but they have always been very secretive about what goes on out there, and it may well be that in the end there is not all that much out there.
    Ricardo’s reports are indeed old, and the price of oil has risen substantially since they came out, with little new action in either of the two areas claimed to have lots of oil. They may have it, but it is probably too deep or otherwise difficult to get much out even at current prices, with the stuff in the Gulf especially questionable, given last summer’s events.
    Canda may well have risen, but tar sands oil production out of Alberta is proving to be pretty messy and expensive. Brazilian reserves are certainly up. Know nothing about Albania, and most of the rest do not amount to much.
    The really big point is that global oil production has not risen noticeably for about five years now, despite substantial increases in the price of oil. It appears that production is falling from several of the “Big Five” pools, the ones producing more than a million barrels per day (with al-Ghawar at more than 4), with nothing out there to offset noticeably these declines, certainly not these pools in North Dakota or the Gulf (and Venezuela is sitting on 500 billion barrels or so of tar sands oil in Lake Maracaibo, whood-de-doo). So, maybe we are at global peak oil now, finally.

  10. Barkley Rosser

    Regarding shale oil, we have long heard about huge amounts (up to 2 trillion barrels) in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. But this is more expensive than tar sands to produce, including in ways that society as a whole may seriously resist, very water intensive, which is lacking in those areas, plus very polluting. Will take both a very high price and a serious lack of alternatives to really get that production going in any serious way.

  11. mmckinl

    All the middle east OPEC nations reserves are overstated … Their sales quotas were set up on known reserves so they all “bump” their reserves to keep the share of the market … They also use the reserve figure as collateral for their currency and loans …
    The disconnect between oil reserves and production
    by Gail E. Tverberg
    http://www.energybulletin.net/node/41311
    note the date … Mar 6 2008 … These facts have been known for some time now but dutifully ignored by the corporate media and the government …
    One might also want look at the Congressionally commissioned Hirsch Report published in 2005 on Peak Oil and the social and economic effects thereof …
    Hirsch Report back on DOE website
    http://www.energybulletin.net/node/12772

  12. Jeremy

    All,
    While I agree the short term outlook is for tight oil markets, the seeds are currently being sown such that lighter (stranded gas) and unconventional hydrocarbons (oilsands, shale gas etc.) will eventually fill the gap (along with continuied exploitation of conventional oil in harsher environments).
    But if anyone needed a better sign post that the next decade is going to be about oil, oil, oil.
    Gentleman here it is
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20030362-10391698.html
    You can forget about wind mills and solar power – starry eyed Western leaders who dream of a new clean energy paradigm are about to brought down to earth with a rude bump and awakening.
    I would like to see JDH’s analysis of the potential for a second global food crisis, as we experienced in 1971 to 1974. Storm clouds look threatening right now – all the conditions seem to be there – a change in weather patterns – 3 cold NH winters in a row & high high energy prices…

  13. 2slugbaits

    tj How will an increase in energy taxes solve this problem? Energy prices are going to take a larger and larger bite out of household budgets.
    Consumers are no smarter than voters, and we saw how well that went in 2010. Despite what a lot of freshwater types would like to believe, when it comes to energy policy the evidence tells us that consumers learn adaptively rather than as forward looking rational agents. Rational agents would not continue to believe that gas will still be ~$3/gal forever, but yet we saw consumers going back to light trucks and SUVs as soon as gas dropped below $4/gal. Voters and consumers have very short-term horizons, but energy and transportation policies have to look out 25-30 years. Current transportation systems are not supportable over the long run. Old Tea Party voters are not inclined to support policies that are designed to benefit future generations if it means the old fogies have to pay a higher tax. But higher carbon taxes are exactly what we need if we’re to convince consumers that they really need to start looking out over the long term. Voters might only care about their personal household budgets, but governments have to worry about the welfare of tomorrow’s voters as well. If we want less government, then we’ll need smarter consumers.

  14. Hal (GT)

    Not surprised by this. The news was out over a year ago.
    But it’s good to have it via a different source.
    I noticed today that gold bars were in shortage in the Emirates too. The money knows somethings coming.

  15. Steven Kopits

    Some evening EIA STEO stats (freshly minted today from the EIA’s now entirely redesigned and therefore confusing site):
    World oil consumption was up 3.1 mbpd (3.3%) in the last six months through Jan. compared to the same period a year ago. This is well ahead of EIA or IEA forecasts a year ago, and even ahead of ours (2.5-2.8 mpbd). It is consistent with, but ahead of the pace for similar recoveries–around 2.5 mbpd.
    Supply has held up surprizingly well. It’s up 2.6 mbpd, or 2.1%, for the same period as above. The OECD did nothing, with solid production gains in the US offset by substantial declines in Mexico and the North Sea.
    With the ‘permatorium’, the EIA forecasts Federal Gulf of Mexico production to collapse, with production falling by 35% in the two years to May 2012. This is such a grim outlook that I have to sense check it with people who know better than I do.
    In recent times, OPEC did diddly on the supply side, save for natural gas liquids, which posted a near million barrel a day increase for the six months ending Jan. If you have a lot of oil, as OPEC allegedly does, then obviously, you want to drill for gas.
    The FSU posted solid numbers, with good contributions from all leading members, Russia, Kazah., and Azer. This is not expected by either us or the EIA to continue–so we’re looking flat here going forward for this region.
    China posted a 400 kbpd increase–about 10%–amazing for a country with oil fields as mature as it has, once again proving that commitment and hard work can overcome seemingly long odds. Hats off to them.
    Finally, those 2 billion people whom we affectionately refer to as the “Other Non-OECD” posted solid production increases of 0.5 mbpd. This was mostly India and Brazil, the latter of which I excoriated at my recent Houston presentation for under-performing. Brazil, the only country which commands a slide in our standard presentations (aside from China, on the demand side), increased production by half as much as the Chinese. Considering all the bruhaha about Brazil, that’s just about embarrassing.
    The EIA sees demand rising 1.1 mbpd next year (six months ending Jan. 2012) and about the same the following year. I think this will prove a million barrels light in each year–cumulatively 2 mpbd by year end 2012. To achieve my numbers (and assuming the EIA forecast is otherwise correct), OPEC will have to increase crude production by about 4 mbpd by year end 2012, effectively all its nominal spare capacity (as the EIA counts it); and considerably more than that if the Saudi’s tap out at 10 mbpd, as many in the industry expect.
    So we’re off to the races once again, an irresitable growth in demand meeting a largely immovable supply. These situations tend not to end well, and I expect no less this time around.

  16. John B

    Uhhhh 300 billion barrels of oil? Try 5 sand dunes south then 7 camels east. Oh make sure and bring the Americans with you.

  17. Barkley Rosser

    Ironically, the main upside capapcity in OPEC is probably in Iraq, if they can keep the fighting there under control.
    As for snow in NH and supposed shortages of gold bars in UAE, not sure what either of those has to do with anything.

  18. Jeffrey J. Brown

    It’s probably useful to take another look at some key net export and net import data:
    http://i1095.photobucket.com/albums/i475/westexas/Slide3-1.jpg
    Note the increase in the Consumption to Production ratio for the oil exporting countries and note the increase in Chindia’s combined net oil imports, as a percentage of global net oil exports.
    If we assume a slight (5%) production decline among the oil exporting countries from 2005 to 2015, and if we extrapolate their current rate of increase in consumption, and if we extrapolate Chindia’s recent rate of increase in net oil imports, then Available Net Oil Exports (exported oil suppplies not consumed by Chindia) are in the process of falling at about 4%/year (2005 to 2015).

  19. Lil'D

    Peak oil is a fact, the question is “when”
    If it’s “now” or “soon”, I wonder what pricing means for substitutes? I’m sure it’s known, at what price do alternatives make sense.
    Oil is a lot of energy for a cheap price…

  20. djt

    Amount is important as is the rate at which oil can be removed from the ground. If all the potential locations have plenty of oil to replace declining fields elsewhere, but can’t be removed as fast as needed, there will be shortages. In addition, many of the alternate energy sources will require defacing and destroying huge swaths of the earth and will use huge quantities of water, while injecting toxic chemicals into the ground. When South Dakota produced 350,000 bpd using these methods, so what. But at 1 million bpd, will the scars be unconscionable, while we waste so much oil (let’s face it, we waste at least 75% of the oil we use in transport, for example).

  21. Barkley Rosser

    Aaron,
    Your stuff is all very shakey, papers not published in refereed academic journals, with a clear admission that there is no correlation of weather with the strong 11-year sunspot cycle. All the long range stuff is highly speculative.
    More serious for food prices is global warming, which looks more like the culprit for what happened last year in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, which had a direct impact on the Arab nation uprisings due to the unpleasant impact on food prices, particular for bread and wheat, with Egypt the world’s largest wheat importer.

  22. Julie Kinnear

    The memebers of the previous administration were so eager to maintain the good relationship with the leaders of Saudi Arabia that they kept secret such an important fact.

  23. aaron

    Connecting this year’s weather disasters is far more spurious.
    We’ve had warm years without problems before and currently we are about at the baseline temp, this is despite all the recent precipitation, particularly snow fall, which emits heat, raising atmospheric temps and radiant heat in the upper atmosphere (ie, keeping temps up, but heat content goes down in the surface layers where ghg’s are most present).
    This weather has circumvented the greenhouse effect and likely returned us to near baseline heat content. Hopefully, with the help of anthropogenic greenhouse gasses, it won’t take us 30yr get back to where we were.

  24. casual reader

    Barkley Rosser:
    Surely you don’t meant to suggest that refereed academic journals are the benchmark for content that is not “very shakey” ?

  25. Ricardo

    Jeffery and Greg,
    I was not doing a detailed analysis. My point was to show that new reserves come on line all the time. There have been articles about running out of oil since the early 1900s and we haven’t run out yet.
    Now I will accept the possibility of peak oil though right now it looks to be in the distant future. But I also look at the history of energy production and see that the resourcefulness of man has always increased our energy sources. Even if we had no oil based energy today we have energy sources that are greater than anything in the past: nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, and some that haven’t even been discovered.
    Can you imagine some cowboy coming across an led light out on a pole on the prairie powered by a solar cell?
    All the hype about energy is for the purpose of justifying government dictatorial control of energy to control the lives of people. It has nothing to do with running out of energy. Politics as usual.

  26. Jeffrey J. Brown

    Ricardo,
    Several regions that have peaked–such as Texas; overall Lower 48; Total US; North Sea; Mexico, etc.–have not “run out” of oil.
    But to cite just two examples, Texas & the North Sea, their respective post-peak decline rates have been about 3.5%/year and 5%/year since their respective peaks in 1972 and 1999. These two regions, which accounted for about 9% of cumulative global production through 2005 were developed by private companies, using the best available technology, with virtually no restrictions on drilling. In both cases, new fields were found post-peak, but the smaller post-peak fields could not offset the decline in production from older, larger fields.
    So Peaks Happen, even in the best of circumstances.
    Globally, we have seen a large cumulative shortfall between what we would have produced at the 2005 annual rate and what was actually produced (crude + condensate, EIA), and so far annual crude oil production has not exceeded the 2005 annual rate, despite annual oil prices rising year over year in four of the past five years. This flat to declining global crude oil production, in response to generally rising oil prices, is in marked contrast to the rapid increase in global crude oil production from 2002 to 2005, in response to rising oil prices, but it is consistent with what we have seen in other post-peak regions.
    In other words, Peaks Happen.
    However, the real story is Net Oil Exports, and our work suggests that the US is gradually being shut out of the global net export market, as we are outbid by developing countries. So, we are on our way to “Freedom” from our dependence on foreign sources of oil–just not in the way that most people anticipated.

  27. fred

    @2slugbaits: there is no need for the government to meddle. Let those who invested in SUV’s and pickups learn from their mistakes. People need to learn to connect cause and effect. We bailed out the bank bondholders instead of letting them learn the hard way about cause and effect, and the result is that we are setting up for yet another crisis. Stop treating people like children who aren’t responsible for their actions. No more bailouts.
    Yes, there are externalities associated with letting people learn the hard way, but the externalities associated with constant bailouts are much worse.

  28. aaron

    Ricardo, I think peak oil is a real thing, but in the near term it’s a social construct created by fear, good intentions, and gaming by the limited supply of current producing nations.
    Jeffery Brown’s comments are insightful. How much would exports improve if producing nations’ susidies to domestic consumption were reduced?

  29. Jeremy

    Barkley,
    Your assertions that Global Warming (which everyone understands to mean man-made warming from burning fossil fuels) is more serious is about as shaky as it gets.
    That we have climate change is undeniable – it has always happened – some years the conditions produce an abundance of good crops and then in some years we get bad weather. I simply stated a fact that NH winters have recently become colder and we have seen plenty of snow. I don’t blame anyone for it – just cycles that we don’t fully understand.
    I contend that IF we get more bad weather (less conducive to good crops) and we continue to suffer from high energy and fertilizer prices then we may be heading towards a food crisis.
    I am not blaming anyone for causing the situation.
    I blame Western leaders for not being better prepared for a possible crisis – much in the same way I blame UK authorities for being woefully ill prepared to keep Heathrow running when there was a mere 5 inches of snow.
    This article explains my viewpoint
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704422204576130300992126630.html

  30. Ricardo

    Jeffery,
    Of course peak happens. How much oil does PA produce today. That is not really the point is it? When PA reached its peak oil production and oil reserves did not decline.
    Now at some future time oil reserves might decline but as you noted when oil production peaks production does not stop so we have a long time even after peak for innovation to improve energy sources. Actually I expect new energy sources to become financially viable long before peak oil. With the rapid increase in innovations in batteries and other things, I imagine an energy source will replace oil even before peak is reached. But that is an educated guess.

  31. Jeffrey J. Brown

    Ricardo,
    We seem to have a failure to communicate.
    Global crude oil production has so far not exceeded the 2005 annual rate, despite annual oil prices showing year over year increases for four of the past five years, and the annual oil prices for 2006 to 2010 all exceeded the 2005 level of $57 (EIA). This is in marked contrast to the rapid increase in crude oil production from 2002 to 2005, in response to rising oil prices.
    Regarding global Net Exports, they were below the 2005/2006 level in 2007, 2008 and 2009, with Chindia taking an ever greater share of what was (net) exported, rising from 11% of global net exports in 2005 to 17% of global net exports in 2009.
    A reasonable assessment is that for every three barrels of oil that non-Chindia countries (net) imported in 2005, they will have to make do with two barrels of oil in 2015.

  32. Barkley Rosser

    Jeffrey is right (and repeatng something I already pointed out, so of course I agree). Global oil production has been essentially flat since 2004, in fact. Just checked. Those who want to go on and on about its future prospects really need to deal with this, given that we have seen some substantial oil price increases since then. Just how high does it have to go before we see global production increases again, please?
    Global warming is a sideshow here, and I shall grant that one cannot tie last summer’s terrible drought definitively to it anymore than one can tie Katrina definitively to it either. But, please, let us not have people mumbling about weather trends in their locales. I just checked on this also, and it is out and definitive: 2010 tied 2005 as the warmest year globally on record (2009 was third), despite “snowmaggedon” in the mid-Atlantic states last winter leading stupid politicians to declare the end of global warming (and irrespective of whatever is going on in NH). Indeed, it is fully to be expected that global warming may lead to more snow in the eastern US as the unequivocally shrinking Arctic ice cap leaves more open water available to send more cold moist air southeastward during the winter months compared to the on-average colder past.
    So, please, no more local weather reports; go look at the data and do not imitate people like Virginia’s AG, Ken Cuccinelli, who is suing the University of Virginia to get at emails by former Professor Mann there, hoping to find some smoking gun of a conspiracy about evil scientists cooking up phoney global warming numbers. There may have been (and were) problems with Mann’s original hockey stick story, but there was no conspiracy and the main pieces of his findings hold up, which are about the recent past, not the hullabaloo over whether or not it was warmer 1000 years ago than now or not, which is so much irrelevant eyewash.

  33. 2slugbaits

    fred there is no need for the government to meddle. Let those who invested in SUV’s and pickups learn from their mistakes.
    You totally misunderstood my point. Drivers of SUVs, pickups and old retired fogies driving gas guzzling motor homes will not be the ones who are hurt by their choices. Most of them will be long gone and forgotten. The kinds of investment we need to make will take many decades to bring to fruition. For example, most of the projects on Obama’s rail plan won’t even begin to come online until 2026 at the earliest. But if we don’t get about the business of rebuilding our infrastructure pretty soon, then future generations will suffer the consequences. There are externalities, but most of them cut across generational lines.

  34. Jeremy

    I rest my case
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12437862
    some people are just blinded by religious zealotry and cannot accept that the predicted “thermageddon” (by “scientific consensus” among self-interested climate researchers) just ain’t happening.
    The dangers are NOT from Global Warming or SUV’s but from natural cycles that can produce crop failures as well as (over the very long term) ice ages. It is lack pf preparedness coupled with high energy and fertilizer prices that might drive food prices through the roof. (I put the probability of a global food crisis at around 50% chance within the next two years.)

  35. westslope

    Jeffrey J. Brown and Barkley Rosser: thank you for timely reviews, summaries, and compelling arguments. Much appreciated.

    Stuart Staniford notes three estimates of Saudi reserve over capacity that range from 40% to 70%.

    I recall reading a couple of industry briefs that were highly critical of Matt Simmons’ position on Saudi reserves. Now JDH and Mr. Staniford are wearing any remaining scepticism down.

    I conclude (and invest accordingly) the following:

    1) A long-term scarcity premium is already baked into the price of oil,

    2) Global production will likely surprise to the upside in the near term. Not necessarily enough to meet growing global consumption at current prices but enough to surprise nonetheless. Innovation in fossil fuel finding and extraction technologies continues at a torrid pace. Some exploration companies are reporting geological success rates in excess of 70% for in-trend exploration wells.

    3) Tighter oil supplies will not prevent economic growth and natural habitat destruction continuing at a steady, relentless pace. Regional resource conflicts will likely multiply.

  36. Jon H

    Jeremy wrote: “I rest my case
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12437862
    some people are just blinded by religious zealotry and cannot accept that the predicted “thermageddon” (by “scientific consensus” among self-interested climate researchers) just ain’t happening.”
    That’s in northern Mexico, which means that area was caught in the downwelling of cold air from Canada that has also caused cold temperatures and snow in places like Dallas.
    If I’m not mistaken, that’d be a matter of the jet stream, and hi vs. low pressure systems that normally keep the coldest Canadian air masses from moving too far south. If the climate changes compared to past norms, such that the prevailing pressure gradients shift southward, or the jet stream shifts southward, then you can see cold air much farther south.
    If you put a pot of cold water on the stove, and turn on the burner, the water doesn’t just get warmer. It also starts moving, as thermal energy is converted into motion. Drop a few frozen peas in there, and they’ll move around.
    Global warming is not like turning on an electric blanket, which gets warm without undergoing any other noticeable physical change. In the atmosphere, we’re adding energy to a fluid. Some of that will be converted into other forms of energy, such as pressure gradients, wind, etc.

  37. Jeremy

    My first point was about bad weather affecting food production. It seems that it is indeed happening. Nothing new, of course, but some bad weather over several seasons can really monkey with food prices.
    My second point was also that religious zealots see global warming despite evidence to the contrary – they will leap out and defend the “belief” – again I rest my case.
    My take – the weather in Mexico is entirely natural, as is all the exceptionally cold weather recently in the NH (and there has been a fair bit) – none of this has anything to do with any man-made cause but are simply natural cycles (la Nina etc.)

  38. Peaknik

    Ricardo said: “Even if we had no oil based energy today we have energy sources that are greater than anything in the past: nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, and some that haven’t even been discovered.”
    Excuse me, but right now, nuclear energy contributes with LESS energy that traditional biomass (wood, agricultural waste, animal waste).

  39. Jeremy

    There may be hope. One of the first EU governments to finally recognize the futility of Wind and Solar Power – the Dutch.
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/10/holland_energy_switch/
    of course, it is well known that subsidies have been helping the Spanish make extra money from using diesel generators to power lights in order to generate solar power at night…
    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-04-12/spanish-solar-panel-trade-group-calls-for-fraud-investigation.html
    Perhaps JDH or Menzie can comment about the economic effectiveness of subsidies.
    Meanwhile, it is official, “The Central England Temperature record is one of the longest continuous temperature record in the world extending back to the Little Ice age in 1659. December 2010 was the coldest December in 120 years with an average of -0.7C just short of the record of -0.8C recorded in December 1890 and the Second Coldest December Temperature in the entire record (352 years).”
    Again I rest my case….it has been cold in the NH lately.
    Western leadership needs to get serious and rational about Western energy policies – converting food (corn) to fuel (ethanol) is just another example of wacky thinking.

  40. Barkley Rosser

    Jeremy,
    Sorry, but the only thing that counts here is the global record, not a report here or there (central England or NH). NOAA has reported in and Dec. 2010 was above average, tying 82 and 94 as the 17th warmest December recorded, for both land and water, at 0.37 deg. C, although the coolest since 2000. Land surface only tied at 30th with 94, but still above average by 0.38 deg. C.

  41. Jeremy

    Wow it is catastrophe, I did not realize.
    “17th warmest December recorded” – that sounds hellishly hot. I guess “Global” records go back say as much as perhaps 100 years (in a few parts of the world)?
    Or are you referring to the records of the satellite era only – as much as 40 years or so?
    Anyway the “17th warmest December recorded” does seem to be conclusive proof that people really can see the hand of man-made global warming in everything they see.
    I rest my case.

  42. aaron

    Barkley, there are several satellite records available dating back to the late 1970s.
    There are ground measurement from the 1800s. However, technique and location varies considerably.
    There is a set of ice-core proxies from Greenland (one locaton) that claims 20 year resolution. I don’t remember when the record starts.
    Proxies generally start several hundred years before current records and have resolution of about 2-7 hundred years. The resolution decreases with with time.
    December finished barely above average (for satellite records). When the snow melts, temperatures will probably fall more. With the current la nina, we are unlikely to move up much above average until at least late summer.
    After a fairly strong la nina like now, winters are usually bad for 2-3 years. Expect potato and tomato blight this year, flu, and other diseases that thrive in cool, damp weather.

  43. Barkley Rosser

    NOAA is counting from beginning of 20th century. The farther back one goes, the less certain we are about the data, especially as further back data becomes very localized (records from an ice core in a particular location).
    Uh, Jeremy, I did not say there was a catastrophe. I simply pointed out that your claims taht “global warming is over” based on weather reports from NH (or central England) arfe meaningless, which they are.
    BTW, I have written a chapter about the climate debates for a book now in press that is not up on my website. I have been dealing with this subject since I worked for the Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison on a project that was estimating impacts on world food production of global climate change. I know many of the major players, including several of the leading “warming skeptics.” If any of you are curious, email me and I can send it to you. There is much more than can be said here (and what I have to say is both complicated and deals with complexity, and does not take a simple line). However, one upshot of this is that I have no use for silly statements based on some local weather reports, including ancient ones.

  44. aaron

    An aside, there were actually more records in the recent past. We’ve actually dropped a lot of sites from the GISS record in that past few decades.

  45. Jeremy

    Barkley,
    As I understand it, you may have a vested interest in there being “man-made Global Warming”, as you were directly involved in an Environmental Impact assessment of “man-made Global Warming”. If there is no measurable or meaningful “man-made Global Warming” and the climate is behaving naturally (as I maintain) then Environmental Impact assessments related to Global Warming are merely academic rather than an important input to key policy and decision makers (Governments, UN IPCC).
    I suspect that “vested interests” are what may be driving many to desire a “man-made” root cause in what has been a very slight rise (nothing unprecedented) in Global Temperatures over the past century.
    Anyone can look at temperature proxy records going back 100′s, thousands, and hundreds of thousands of years, and see that there really is nothing statistically unusual or unprecedented about fluctuations of a degree (or so) of average temperatures over a century. It should be self-evident that natural cycles could easily be supplying the majority of our recent observed slight temperature fluctuations.
    All we know is that CO2 is an infra-red absorber and that, all else equal, increases should have a slight atmospheric warming effect. However, we do not even begin to understand or be able to model how the feedback mechanisms of the hydrological cycle (clouds) modify any slight effects of CO2 – our climate seems dominated by winds, convection, clouds and oceans – and clouds provide warmth at night but by day they reflect solar radiation back into space. Since we cannot properly model clouds, the whole area of “climate modeling” is just an academic game. That climate models should ever have been used for setting public policy is a total tragedy and a complete corruption of science.

  46. Barkley Rosser

    Jeremy,
    You could not be more wrong. Not only have I known some of the leading warming skeptics, but the people I worked for in the early 70s were people who were on the “we are now cooling” side, which in fact we were from about 1940 to the mid-70s, with some of those people becoming the later warming skeptics. They did not argue that the cooling was due to human action. You really do not know what you are talking about or how complex my view of all this is.

  47. Barkley Rosser

    Aaron and Jeremy,
    This is way off from the track of this thread, and you guys are making no sense at all, so this will be my last post on this thread. If you want my fuller views, send me an email and I’ll send you the chapter.
    In the meantime, both warming and cooling affect different parts of the world differently, with some gaining and some losing, with those that gain with warming being the ones that lose with cooling, and vice versa. Duuuuh.

  48. Barkley Rosser

    Oh, I will add one final point, which is in the IPCC reports. Small amounts of warming actually help the US economy on balance (while hurting parts of it), but beyond a certain point, warming leads to net losses for the US economy.

  49. Jeremy

    Barkley,
    I stand corrected. I really thought you were defending man-made global warming. Now I see you are actually a skeptic with regard to warming being caused by man.
    That it was slightly colder from 1940′s to the mid 70′s and that it has been slightly warmer since then – we can certainly agree on. My apologies.

  50. aaron

    I simply believe the little warming we actually get from ghg’s will be beneficial. It probably also decreases the probability and damages of cooling events, which are more costly and more common than rapid warming events historically, iirc.

  51. Vangel

    The overstatement of reserves is not a surprise. The late Mat Simmons wrote a book about the Saudi deception called Twilight in the Desert and other analysts had brought up the issue even before Mr. Simmons. The overstatements are typical with the latest being the shale oil and gas scam. What matters is not the size of reserves but their economic viability and production rates. The naive optimists have been hyping up the ‘great news’ about shale and other unconventional reserves at the same time as they were downplaying the depletion problem. But we are now six years past the peak production of light sweet crude and have seen that hundreds of billions of new investments could not help us reach the old high. That should be meaningful, even to the naive optimists who prefer to ignore reality.

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