Oil hits $90 as Peak Oil experts meet; media ignores

OK, I was wrong.

Or maybe I was just early.

I wrote an article for Whiskey and Gunpowder back on June 14, 2007 with the bold title of:  "June 14, 2007: The Day 'Peak Oil' Became a Household Word."  That day, Drudge had linked to an article in London's Independent quoting several Peak Oil experts on the latest BP Statistical Review.  The piece summarized their position as such: “[G]lobal production of oil is set to peak in the next four years before entering a steepening decline which will have massive consequences for the world economy and the way we live our lives.”

Wow, I thought.  This is amazing.  Or as I put it at the time:

I can’t emphasize strongly enough how this signals a shift in public awareness — not just because Drudge has a wide readership, but because he helps set the agenda for mainstream media coverage…

Look for Peak Oil stories a few days from now in the New York Times and the Washington Post. Awareness will spread. Then look for Peak Oil stories a few days after that on CNN and the broadcast networks, and in your local newspaper. Awareness will spread further. And if gas prices spike again in a few weeks, your local TV news team might well seek out an economist from a nearby university to try to shed light on whether Peak Oil somehow factors into the latest increase in pump prices.

The article has more detail behind my reasoning, which certainly seemed bullet-proof to me on June 14.  But alas, none of it came to pass.  And now this week, as oil hits $90 a barrel, the US contingent from the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) is holding its annual conference in Houston.  But a search of Google News turns up a paucity of stories about the conference — 16 to be exact.  The only one from a remotely mainstream media source is the Voice of America — which does give Peak Oil a respectful hearing:

The proponents of the peak oil theory rely on data from existing oil fields around the world that show weakening production in many of the richest fields and increasing difficulty in extracting oil from newer fields. Oil companies, both national and private, tend to dismiss such concerns by citing the size of their reserves and the new technology that allows them to produce oil from areas that would have been bypassed a few decades ago.

But the peak oil theory believers include some of the world's most respected engineers and economists, many of whom have years of experience working in the oil and gas industry. Some of them go so far as to say the world may have already peaked in its oil production and that production will soon go into a steep decline.

The VOA's target audience, of course, is not in this country.  Mainstream media coverage of the conference just isn't to be found.  Someone from Merrill Lynch who spoke yesterday at the conference was quoted in passing in the Wall Street Journal's "Heard on the Street" column — which stated the bearish case for oil prices even as it acknowledged prices could shoot further upward in the interim.

Even the conference city's hometown paper, which usually does a story each year, has so far limited its coverage to a brief announcement on Monday that the conference was taking place this week.

So in a way Peak Oil remains a well-guarded secret.  All the better for readers of Outstanding Investments, whose editor Byron King is in attendance in Houston.  His recent energy-related picks have generated returns of 10% in less than six weeks… and 30% in just four months.  He'll fill in his subscribers shortly via email alert on some of the conference happenings in Houston.  In the meantime, here are some more of his thoughts about where oil is… and where it's going.