Peak oil and the mainstream economist

Michael Giberson

Kate MacKenzie at the FT Energy Source blog asks, “Are policymakers, economists and peak oilists starting to speak the same language?

A rash of papers, comments and interviews have made us think this recently. It’s not as simple as ‘policymakers are waking up to peak oil’, but that all those groups — and indeed, industry — are increasingly talking about the same issues looming in fossil fuel production, even if they’re using different terminology.


We’d venture that several things have kept talk of peak oil apart from the mainstream: a disagreement over the effect of price on demand, and a perception that many interested in peak oil simply predict overly dramatic, armageddon-style trajectories that sober-minded policymakers see as overblown.

And she concludes:

The debate is beginning to converge around a few central issues: how will economies that developed on cheap, abundant oil deal cope with the transition to expensive, scarcer oil? What will it mean for the emerging economies hoping to emulate those growth patterns? And finally, how will this play out in terms of pollution and climate change?

MacKenzie’s link included above is to James Hamilton’s excellent 2005 post, “How to talk to an economist about peak oil.” Comments at Hamilton’s Econobrowser and responses at peak oil blog The Oil Drum revealed that economists and peak oilers were not communicating well in 2005. I’m not as convinced as MacKenzie seems to be that we’re doing much better in 2010.

Personally, I like the undulating oil plateau.

One thought on “Peak oil and the mainstream economist

  1. Astronomers don’t feel a need to “find a way to talk to” astrologers.
    Physical scientists don’t feel a need to “find a way to talk to” alchemists.
    Psychologists don’t feel a need to “find a way to talk to” phrenologists.

    Similarly, economists should not feel any need to “find a way to talk to” peak-oil crackpots.

    I am trained as an engineer, earth scientist and economist, and if there is one thing I can be absolutely sure about, it is that the vast, vast majority of engineers and earth scientists do not have, and are not interested in acquiring, the first clue about how markets work. If they’re interested in staying in their linear-thinking, apocalyptic-minded little mental bunkers, why should I care?

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