Larry Kudlow, a columnist for the popular right-leaning magazine and website National Review, has written an extraordinarily terrible article on energy. Kudlow makes the incredible claim that “there is no finite supply” of oil. I won’t even bother to refute this, because it is patently obvious that there is no infinite source of energy available for our (or anything’s) use. Moreover, it places the blame for rising oil prices squarely on supply, while ignoring massive surges in demand from rapidly industrializing nations, and grossly misrepresents the real issues of supply as simply “running out of oil.”
This isn’t the first time the National Review has published such terrible energy journalism. This article from 2003 by Raymond Learsy claims that because oil collapsed to $10 per barrel in 1999, this is the “reflection of what the price of oil should be in a free-market environment,” in 2003, when oil prices were at about $30 per barrel. While it’s true that neoclassical economics predicts that a market dominated by cartels will result in higher prices, Learsy draws the ridiculous conclusion that because oil was $10 a barrel in 1999 and $30 a barrel in 2003, “OPEC’s manipulations have added some $20 to the price of oil.” That’s right, it’s OPEC’s manipulations, and not the surging demand from rapidly industrializing nations, that were responsible for the rise of oil in this period; furthermore, the fairy-tale “free-market” price of oil stays at $10 per barrel for all eternity, forever undisturbed by the aforementioned soaring demand. I wonder what Learsy has to say now that oil prices are over $130.
In a Feb 2008 post on the “Planet Gore” blog run by National Review, Ken Green misconstrues an article by Proskurowski et al. published in Science titled “Abiogenic Hydrocarbon Production at Lost City Hydrothermal Field.” Green suggests that Proskurowski’s findings lend credence to the theory of abiogenic petroleum origin, which claims that a sizable amount of the Earth’s petroleum comes from abiotic (non-living) processes that occur below the crust. The abiogenic petroleum theory challenges the widely accepted view that petroleum is a fossil fuel, formed from the remains of long-dead animals, but is largely unsubstantiated. If it is true, petroleum may be a slightly more “renewable” fuel, and so it is popular with and espoused by those who have an interest in denying the existence of Peak Oil, whether the peak has occured or will occur in the past, present or future.
Unfortunately for Green, and for those who want to believe in the abiogenic petroleum theory, Proskurowski’s discovery of methane and other lightweight (one-to-four carbon) hydrocarbons formed by abiogenic processes at the so-called “Lost-City” hydrothermal field in the mid-Atlantic has little to do with the abiogenic petroleum theory. The diversity of the chemical composition of petroleum is far greater than the abiogenically formed hydrocarbons Proskurowski discovered at the Lost City. Even if a petroleum-like mixture of organic compounds had been found at the field, its location – about 1500 miles east of Florida – makes drilling a logistical nightmare, if not impossibility. This isn’t to say that Proskurowski’s research isn’t important – this abiogenic formation of hydrocarbons is of great interest to biologists and other scientists – but Green blatantly construed his findings as evidence for the “renewability” of oil.