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Exaggerations and false predictions are good; truth is bad – about peak oil research

10 August 2010

Summary:  One reason Americans observation-orientation-decision-action loop is broken:  we love people to give us bad information.  Even outright lies are acceptable, if interesting or flattery.  As in the media trope “he was wrong, but made us think.”  Today’s example is the late Matthew Simmons.

Christopher Helman, a Bureau Chief for Forbes explains in “Matt Simmons, Crazy Uncle Of The Oilpatch, R.I.P.“:

Rich, odd, bombastically self-confident, unconcerned with what anyone thought of him. He wasn’t often right, but he always had a very strong opinion that he was eager to share. More important than being right, he made us think.  … He’s also so far been proven wrong about the immediacy of Peak Oil and its dire aftermath of $500 crude and total societal collapse. It might yet happen, and if it does let’s hope that the downslope is gentler on us than it would have been had we not heard Simmons’ Cassandra calls.

I first met with Simmons 5 years ago, upon the release of his book Twilight In The Desert.  His theory, that Saudi Arabia’s (and the world’s) top field Ghawar was about to keel over and die, enraged the Saudis. The Kingdom has since spent billions of dollars bolstering its reserves and capacity – in part to prove Simmons and all the other worryworts wrong.

The last point is bizarre.  The Saudi’s continued their long-term development drilling program to feed the Kingdom’s need for oil revenue.  That they spent billions to prove Simmon’s or anyone else wrong is beyond speculative.

His primary theory is also false, IMO.  The repeated specific but false forecasts over decades by peak oil advocates have more likely desensitized Americans to warnings about peak oil (except for that fraction that uncritically adopts doomster theories) — and discredited the well-founded work of experts like Robert Hirsch (see links to his work here).

Journalists love faux-experts and their outlandish predictions, which provide exciting content to fill the space between advertisements.  Real experts are dull by comparison.   So the media focus shifts attention (and leadership) in advocacy groups to the best story-tellers.  Especialy those who like tall tales.  As a result of this professional quirk (and our myopia), America has made almost no preparations for peak oil.  What little we have done results from the post-2002 rise in oil and coal prices.

Much the same dynamic has crashed support for measures to cope with climate change.  As with peak oil, the AGW alarmists blame not their own exaggerations, but those who debunk them.

Examples of the many false predictions of the peak oil experts

  1. Myths about Peak Oil – part I: There are not enough petro-engineers! , 15 November 2007
  2. Peak Oil Doomsters debunked, end of civilization called off , 8 May 2008
  3. Poor peak oil research, more evidence of a serious problem with America’s vision, 5 May 2009
  4. If humanity is unprepared for Peak Oil, here are some of the guilty people, 11 May 2010
Other articles about doomsters
  1. Spreading the news: the end is nigh! , 8 May 2008
  2. There is no “peak water” crisis, 19 June 2008
  3. We are so vulnerable to so many things. What is the best response?, 30 December 2008
  4. Comment: warnings about a reversal of Earth’s magnetic field, 30 December 2008
  5. About our certain doom from the Yellowstone supervolcano, 11 January 2009

Posts on the FM site about science-related propaganda

  1. An example of important climate change research hidden, lest it spoil the media’s narrative, 22 May 2009
  2. More attempts to control the climate science debate using smears and swarming, 19 October 2009
  3. About those headlines of the past century about global cooling…, 2 November 2009
  4. Important News, still breaking, about Climate Science propaganda, 21 November 2009
  5. About Wikipedia’s handling of controversial topics…like climate science, 20 December 2009
  6. The floodgates slowly open and the foreign news media debunk climate change propaganda, 24 January 2010
  7. Hot news about climate change. The picture rapidly changes as the curtains open on things long hidden., 25 January 2010
  8. An important step to take before we spend a trillion dollars to save the planet from global warming, 31 January 2010
  9. Successful propaganda as a characteristic of 21st century America, 1 February 2010
  10. More propaganda: the eco-fable of Easter Island, 4 February 2010
  11. Quote of the day – hidden history for people who rely on the mainstream media for information, 12 February 2010
  12. The hidden history of the global warming crusade, 19 February 2010
  13. A real-time example of the birth and spread of climate propaganda, 9 March 2010

Afterword and contact info

  • For more about this website, see the About the FM website page.
  • You can subscribe to receive posts by email; see the box on the upper right.
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