Peak Oil: A Catastrophist Cult And Complex Realities

University of Manitoba

Proponents of the imminent peak of global oil extraction—led by Colin Campbell, Jean Laherrère, L.F. Ivanhoe, Richard Duncan, and Kenneth Deffeyes—resort to deliberately alarmist arguments as they mix incontestable facts with caricatures of complex realities and as they ignore anything that does not fit their preconceived conclusions in order to issue their obituaries of modern civilization. Ivanhoe sees an early end of the oil era as “the inevitable doomsday” followed by “economic implosion” that will make “many of the world’s developed societies look more like today’s Russia than the U.S.” Duncan’s future brings massive unemployment, breadlines, homelessness, and a catastrophic end of industrial civilization.

These conclusions are based on interpretations that lack any nuanced understanding of the human quest for energy, disregard the role of prices, ignore any historical perspectives, and presuppose the end of human inventiveness and adaptability. I will raise just three key points aimed at dismantling the foundations of…