Peak oil & energy: studies

This “reference page” provides links to valuable resources about the global energy crisis.   It is often called “Peak Oil”, but that captures only one aspect of it.

For more information see Peak Oil and Energy – my articles.


  1. Works of Robert Hirsch, one of America’s top energy experts
  2. Articles and studies about the major current and future sources of energy
  3. Books about energy

I.  Robert Hirsch

To learn more about Peak Oil, I strongly recommend reading the work of Robert Hirsch.  These articles are clear, insightful, and well-supported.

Here is a brief biography.  He ran the US Fusion Program during the 1970’s, and went from there to become one of America’s top energy experts.

  1. The Energy Plateau“, Public Utilities Reports, 1 May 1996
  2. Electric Power from Renewable Energy: Practical Realities for Policy-makers” in The Journal of Fusion Energy, December 2002. Gated.
  3. Six Major Factors in Energy Planning“, 1 March 2004
  4. Peaking of World Production: What are We Willing to Risk“, 14 June 2004
  5. Important:  Peaking of World Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management” (aka “Mitigations”), commissioned by the Dept of Energy, Co-authors are the economists Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling, February 2005
  6. Natural Gas: It Is Not a Pretty Picture!“, 6 April 2005 — False prediction of peaking
  7. Economic Impacts of Liquid Fuel Mitigation Options” (same 3 co-authors as Mitigations), February 2006
  8. Peaking of World Production: an Overview, 23 October 2006
  9. Peaking of World Production: Problem, Complexity, Mitigation, and Risks“, 30 November 2006
  10. World Oil Shortage: Scenarios for Mitigation Planning“, October 2007
  11. Getting Real on Wind and Solar“, James Schlesinger and Robert L. Hirsch, op-ed in the Washington Post, 24 April 2009
  12. Giant oil field decline rates and their influence on world oil production“, Mikael Höök, Robert Hirsch & Kjell Aleklett, Energy Policy, June 2009

II.  Articles about energy

General energy research


  1. The Switchgrass Pipe Dream, Gary Novak, Science is Broken
  2. A Look Back at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Aquatic Species Program: Biodiesel from Algae“, DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, July 1998 (PDF, 328 pages)
  3. Brief on Biomass and Cellulosic Ethanol“, California Research Bureau, March 2005 — PDF 37 pages
  4. Cellulosic Ethanol: Where are we now, where are we going?“, DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 6 October 2006 — PDF of 30 slides
  5. Research Advances Cellulosic Ethanol, NREL Leads the Way“, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, March 2007, PDF, 8 slides
  6. Energy Department Selects Three Bioenergy Research Centers for $375 Million in Federal Funding“, Dept of Energy, 26 June 2007 — “Basic Genomics Research Furthers President Bush’s Plan to Reduce Gasoline Usage 20 Percent in Ten Years and making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012.”
  7. Roadmap for bioenergy & biobased products in the US“, Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee, October 2007
  8. Roadmap for bioenergy & biobased products in the US“, Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee, 1 March 2008 (32 pages)
  9. Gut Reactions“, The Atlantic, September 2008 — “Could the same properties that make the termite such a costly pest help us solve global warming?”
  10. Algae Biofuels Challenge“, UK Carbon Trust (created 2001, publically funded independent company), December 2008 — A multi-million pound initiative to develop algae as a source of fuel.
  11. U.S. Biofuel Boom Running on Empty“, Wall Street Journal, 27 August 2009 — Boom to bust.

Coal, coal to liquids

  1. NERL Worldwide Gasification Database , National Energy Technology Laboratory
  2. The Role of Synthetic Fuel In World War II Germany“, Peter W. Beckwe, Air University Review, July-August 1981
  3. The first major study questioning the actual extent of coal reserves:  “The Peak in U.S. Coal Production“, Gregson Vaux, 27 May 2004
  4. The Future of Coal“, B. Kavalov and S. D. Peteves, Prepared for European Commission DG Joint Research Centre Institute for Energy (JRC IFE),  February 2007
  5. More evidence that reserves are overstated:  “Coal Of The Future (Supply Prospects for Thermal Coal by 2030-2050)“, Energy Edge Limited, Prepared for the European Commission – DG Joint Research Centre Institute for Energy (JRC IFE), February 2007
  6. More evidence that reserves are overstated:  “Coal:  Resources and Future Production“, Energy Watch Group, March 2007  (47 pages,)
  7. The Future of Coal – an interdisciplinary MIT study“, MIT, March 2007
  8. The major study showing reserves are overstated:  “Coal:  Research and Development to Support National Energy Policy“, National Academies, June 2007 — Summary.  Key paragraph:

“Present estimates of coal reserves – which take into account location, quality, recoverability, and transportation issues – are based upon methods that have not been updated since their inception in 1974, and much of the input data were compiled in the early 1970s. Recent programs to assess coal recoverability in limited areas using updated methods indicate that only a small fraction of previously estimated reserves are actually recoverable. Such findings emphasize the need for a reinvigorated coal reserve assessment program using modern methods and technologies.”

9.  “Obama Tells SF Chronicle He Will Bankrupt Coal Industry” — 17 January 2008 interview of Obama by the San Francisco Chronicle.

10.  Coal-to-Liquids in the United States Status and Roadmap, National Energy Technology Laboratory, June 2008– 17 CTL plants in early stages (planning or engineering)

11.  “Steven Chu: ‘Coal is My Worst Nightmare’“, Wall Street Journal, 11 December 2008 — Chu is our new Secretary of Energy.

12.  “World Coal Reserves Could Be a Fraction of Previous Estimates“, Wired, 17 December 2008

13.  “Coal plants cancelled in 2007“, Sourcewatch — Excerpt:

Between 2000 and 2006, over 150 coal plant proposals were fielded by utilities in the United States. By the end of 2007, 10 of those proposed plants had been constructed, and an additional 25 plants were under construction. But during 2007 a large number of proposed plants were cancelled, abandoned, or put on hold: 59 according to the list below.

14.  “Coal plants cancelled in 2008“, Sourcewatch — “Since the beginning of 2008, the following 19 proposed coal plants have been cancelled, abandoned, or put on hold, including 18 projects the United States and 1 project in the Netherlands:…”

15.  “How Much Coal Remains?“, Richard A. Kerr, Science, 13 March 2009 — “The planet’s vast store of coal could fuel the world economy for centuries–and fiercely stoke global warming — but a few analysts are raising the prospect of an imminent shortfall.”

16.  Direct Coal Liquefaction Overview, Leonardo Technologies, 23 March 2009

17.  Fuels Program Overview, National Energy Technology Laboratory, 15 June 2010

18.  “A review on coal to liquid fuels and its coal consumption“, Mikael Höök and Kjell Aleklett, International Journal of Energy Research, October 2010

19.  “A global coal production forecast with multi-Hubbert cycle analysis“, Tadeusz W. Patzek and Gregory D. Croft, Energy, August 2010

20.  “A review on coal to liquid fuels and its coal consumption“, Mikael Höök and Kjell Aleklett, International Journal of Energy Research, October 2010

21. “Estimating long-term world coal production with logit and probit transforms“, David Rutledge, International Journal of Coal Geology, January 2011 — More warnings that we have less coal than we think.

22.  “India’s coal reserves are vastly overstated“, Energy and Resources Institute, March 2011



  1. The Future of Geothermal Energy“, MIT, 2006 (PDF, 372 pages)– The Future of Impact of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) on the United States in the 21st Century.  An interdisciplinary MIT study.
  2. Major earthquakes in Mexicali Valley, Mexico, and fluid extraction at Cerro Prieto Geothermal Field“, E. Glowacka and F. A. Nava, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, February 1996
  3. As Geothermal Energy Heats Up, 5 Next-Gen Projects Take Shape“, Popular Mechanics, 28 August 2008
  4. How Does Geothermal Drilling Trigger Earthquakes?“, Scientific American, 29 June 2009


  1. The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs“, Committee on Alternatives and Strategies for Future Hydrogen Production and Use, National Research Council, National Academy of Engineering (2004)
  2. The Hydrogen Hoax“, Robert Zubrin, The New Atlantis, Winter 2007 (12 pages)

Methane Hydrates

  1. Oceanic Hydrates: an Elusive Resource“, J.H.Laherrere, from Offshore, August and September 1999
  2. Charting the Future of Methane Hydrate Research in the United States“, National Research Council, 2004 (196 pages)

Natural Gas

  1. Natural Gas: It Is Not a Pretty Picture!“, Robert L. Hirsch, 6 April 2005 — False prediction of peaking in US production
  2. World Shale Gas Resources: An Initial Assessment of 14 Regions Outside the United States“, EIA, 5 April 2011 — Astonishingly large resources, with the technology in its early stages of development.  Esp see China!


  1. The Future of Nuclear Power“, MIT, 29 June 2003 — An interdisciplinary MIT study
  2. The Economics of Investment in New Nuclear Power Plants in the US“, Paul L. Joskow (MIT), EIA, 12 April 2005 — PDF, 19 slides
  3. Nuclear Power Reactors: A Study in Technological Lock-in“, Robin Cowan, The Journal of Economic History, Sepember 1990
  4. Nuclear Power’s Role in Generating Electricity“, CBO, May 2008 (46 pages)
  5. Nuclear power will be added faster than wind power“, posted at Next Big Future, 25 August 2008 — List of nukes under construction
  6. Breeder Reactors, Uranium from Phosphate and Near Term Thorium usage“, posted at Next Big Future, 22 September 2008
  7.  “Update of the MIT 2003 Future of Nuclear Power Study“, MIT, 2009

Petroleum: general

  1. The Big Rollover“, L. B. Magoon, US Geological Survey (USGS), 2000 — Perhaps the best one-page description of peak (actually a 33″ x 17” poster.
  2. The end of cheap oil“, by Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherrère. Scientific American, March 1998
  4. The Future of Petroleum: Optimism, Pessimism, or Something Else?“, Ronald R. Charpentier, USGS, 29 January 2003
  5. Peaking of World Production: Problem, Complexity, Mitigation, and Risks“, Robert Hrisch, 30 November 2006
  6. World Oil Shortage: Scenarios for Mitigation Planning“, Robert Hirsch, October 2007
  7. Peace and Security in the Niger Delta“, Conflict Expert Group of WAC Global Services, December 2003 — Without big changes to how Shell works with the government and the communities of the delta, Shell could be driven out of the Nigerian oilfields by 2008.
  8. Crude Awakening: Behind the Surge in Oil Prices“, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, May 2008 (3.2 meg PDF) — The best analysis I have seen of what is driving up oil prices.
  9. Causes and Consequences of the Oil Shock of 2007-08“, James Hamilton, Brookings Institute, 23 March 2009 (70 pages)
  10. Imported Oil and U.S. National Security“, RAND, May 2009, 126 pages
  11. Giant oil field decline rates and their influence on world oil production“, Mikael Höök, Robert Hirsch & Kjell Aleklett, Energy Policy, June 2009
  12. Oil Shocks in a Global Perspective: Are they Really that Bad?“, Tobias N. Rasmussen and Agustín Roitman, IMF, August 2011
  13. Oil: The Next Revolution“, Leonardo Maugeri, Harvard, 2012 — “The Unprecedented Upsurge of Oil Production Capacity and What It Means for the World”
  14. The Changing Face of World Oil Markets“, James D. Hamilton (Prof Economics, UC-San Diego), 20 July 2014

Petroleum: oil sands

  1. Canada’s Oil Sands Resources and Its Future Impact on Global Oil Supply“, Bengt Söderbergh, Uppsala University, January 2005 (105 pages)
  2. Canada’s Oil Sands – Opportunities and Challenges to 2015“, June 2006 (85 pages) — Produced by Canada’s Natinal Energy Board; excellent work!
  3. Canadian Oil Sands: A new force in the world oil market“, US Congress Joint Economic Committee, 26 June 2006 (14 pages)
  4. Canada’s Energy Future“, Canada’s National Energy Board, November 2007 (155 pages) — Scenarios out to 2030
  5. High costs squeeze oil sands“, Financial Post, 5 September 2008 — “Break-even price jumps 31%.”  Now aprox $85/barrel.”
  6. UBS says new oil sands projects need pricey crude“, Reuters, 19 September 2008 — New projects need $100+/barrel oil to turn a decent profit.

Petroleum: shale oil and gas

  1. Shale Oil – the elusive energy“, Walter Youngquist, Colorado School of Mines, October 1998 — An excellent introduction to the geology and history of shale oil.
  2. Oil Shale: History, Incentives, and Policy“, Congressional Research Service, 13 April 2006
  3. Experimental and Numerical Simulation of Oil Recovery from Oil Shales by Electrical Heating“, Berna Hascakir, Tayfun Babadagli, Serhat Akin, Energy and Fuels, publication pending, posted 5 September 2008
  4. US shale gas and tight oil industry performance: challenges and opportunities“, Ivan Sandrea, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, March 2014


  • “XCPV Solar Panels Aim for Much Cheaper, Chip-Based Power”, Popular Mechanics, 30 September 2008 — Cheaper than coal, or so they say.

Tidal Energy


  • A Design for Cheaper Wind Power‘, Technology Review (published by MIT), 1 December 2008 — “A design that draws on jet engine technology could halve the cost of generating electricity from wind.”
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Wind“, Ross McCracken (Editor), Platts Energy Economist Insight, April 2009

III.  Books about energy

There are many good books about Peak Energy. These are the ones I recommend for an introduction to the issue.

  1. Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage, by Kenneth S. Deffeyes (2001)
  2. Beyond Oil: the View from Hubbert’s Peak, by Kenneth S. Deffeyes (2005)
  3. Twilight in the Desert: The coming Saudi oil shock and the world economy, by Matthew R. Simmons (2005)



6 thoughts on “Peak oil & energy: studies”

    1. Low Energy Nuclear Reaction Revolution are what was originally called Cold Fusion.

      Some experts believe that this is a promising area of research, although exactly what lies at the end can only be guessed at. Even if there is some sort of nuclear reaction releasing heat, that does not mean that it will can scale to a useful level. And if that is so, it might still have no commercial potential — considering the cost of materials, and the on-going inputs required (eg, the heat might degrade the materials).

      Early days yet. Unfortunately all of the many new advanced energy systems under development remain in early laboratory stages. So we cannot count on any of them to help generate significant fraction of the world’s power during the next 20 years — at least.

  1. Although I agree that LENR (I prefer this term since it is not cear if it is fusion) is still in its infancy and it is far from being well understood, there are already a few commercial startups: at least 3 of them say they can commercialize products in the Kw range thermal power within a year or less (water boilers). Temperatures of the cell range from 100°C to 600-800°C with low neutron and gamma radiation and seem suitable for mass production. New cells use Nickel (low cost and abundant) instead of Palladium of the early experiments. I get your point, it might take decades to scale up but surely fossil fuel shortages would boost demand for alternatives and LENR sounds like a potential candidate. Do you know any paper discussing its potential?

    1. I have not followed the literature. And I am skeptical of people claiming commercialization in a year. There are usually several steps on that path (There are no agreed-upon definitions for each of these stages):

      • Laboratory: testing proof of concept.
      • Pilot Plant: A larger unit built to generate information. Such as about the optimal engineering design, impact of operating parameters on process efficiency and product quality, qualification of input requirements, development of safe operating procedures, and estimates of capital and operating costs.
      • Demonstration plant: A larger scale plant that generates significant quantities of product, testing decisions made at the pilot level.
      • Commercialization: production plants

      Corporate, government and ngo money typically funds the first two stages. Successful operation of a pilot plant provides basis on which venture capital (for example) might consider funding further work.

      The many small fusion projects (eg, the Polywell) are all still in the lab stage.

  2. I understand very well what you’re saying but we are not talking of large, hundreds of MegaWatts plants. The LENR prototypes we are talking about are in the KW range, they are more similar to home water boilers or a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG). How many Pilot plants and Demonstration plants were built when they invented the water boilers or the RTG?
    RTGs were developed in the US in the late 1950s by Mound Laboratories in Miamisburg, Ohio and the first operational unit was was SNAP 3 in 1961 aboard the Navy Transit 4A spacecraft, only a few years after the laboratory stage. The entire soviet arctic lighthouse network was powered by RTGs in the early ’70s. Now RTGs were limited by the availability of the radioisotopes and public acceptance of radioactive devices. LENR generators it seems don’t have any of such limits! I would recommend you to have a look at that field.

    1. “they are more similar to home water boilers or a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG). How many Pilot plants and Demonstration plants were built when they invented the water boilers or the RTG?”

      Neither example supports your thesis.

      The steam boiler was invented in the first century AD (eg, Hero of Alexandria), repeatedly tinkered with during following two millenia (Wikipedia) — and commercialized in the late 17th century. So it in fact went through the conventional development process — but VERY SLOWLY.

      The Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTF) is not yet commercialized on any significant scale (see Wikipedia), and has followed the standard development process. Applications do far are in effect pilot plants in the commercialization process — such as the use by NASA. Much as NASA pushed the development of solar cells and fuel cells.

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