Peak Oil on NPR

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Ed Archer's picture
Ed Archer
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Peak Oil on NPR

I'm sure some here will find this interesting, they talk about peak oil obviously and what some people are doing about it. There is a short 6 min audio report included.

 

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98203926&ft=1&f=1001

switters's picture
switters
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Re: Peak Oil on NPR

I saw this too.  Here's what bothers me about the piece:

Quote:

According to those who believe in what's called "peak oil theory,"
world oil production has already peaked, or flattened, and in the
foreseeable future, the declining resource will inevitably change the
way we live.

This is how the journalist starts the article off.  He makes it sound like peak oil is a "theory" to be "believed in" in the same way that nuclear fusion and extraterristrial life are theories to be believed in.

Peak oil is a geological certainty.  And the author even goes on to make that clear later in the article:

Quote:

Oil industry executives don't doubt that world oil production will one day peak. The debate is over when.

So why start the article by implying that PO is just a "theory"?  I see that all the time and it drives me crazy.  The only thing I can figure is that the journalists themselves are in denial and it's too scary or painful for them to come right out and say: peak oil is a reality, it has potentially catastrophic effects, we're completely unprepared for it, and it's happening very soon if it hasn't happened already.

That said, I think it's a good thing that PO is getting more exposure on relatively mainstream media outlets.  

 

Ed Archer's picture
Ed Archer
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Posts: 225
Re: Peak Oil on NPR

I understand your point but I think you are getting hung up on semantics, they also use theory to describe evolution and gravity don't they? :)

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DurangoKid
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Re: Peak Oil on NPR

This is one of my pet peeves.  First of all, a theory is a hypothesis backed up by analysis, data, experiment, observation, etc.  Theories are solid ground so to speak.  The theory of relativity has no contradictions within our limits to measure.  It's the same with the theory of evolution.  All the data supports the origin of species through natural selection.  Period.  End of story.


A hypothesis is an educated guess.  Something is observed and someone tries to develop a model to predict its behavior.  Over time if there are no contradictions and it appears that the model has strong predictive powers, the hypothesis may "graduate" to theory.  Again, what the theory explains must be backed up by observation and be accurate within the limits of measurement.  Any piece of data that contradicts the model must be accommodated or the model must be abandoned or modified.


In the colloquial sense, theory is taken to mean weak hypothesis or even fantasy.  "It's just a theory" makes my teeth grind.  Conspiracy theory is another worthless phrase.  Everyone's favorite is the JFK assassination.  The problem is that the official story doesn't fit the facts.  It doesn't even deserve to be called a hypothesis.  Worse still, the official propaganda organs repeat ad nauseum that anyone who doesn't believe the official version is a conspiracy theorist, thereby discrediting anyone who disagrees with the government.  Then there's the strategy of demanding ever-greater degrees of precision from the doubters.  Well if not Oswald, then give us the names, addresses, social security numbers, hat sizes, and wine preferences of all the other people involved.  It's not up to the doubters to provide a comprehensive model of the alternative, merely to point out the contradictions or fallacies in the accepted story.  That is enough to prove it false.  The burden is then on the persons making the claim that Oswald acted alone to come up with a story consistent with the facts.  Of course, they can't.  Hence they resort to name calling and derision.


Peak Oil is in the same boat.  The model that all oil wells, fields, provinces, and countries encounter a peak in production as the quantity remaining is about half of the reserve is very good.  Its predictive powers are in line with all the data on oil that can be measured and are not in dispute.  The four-decade delay between the peak of discovery and production holds pretty well, too.  That world production seems to be peaking right about now is an observation.  As any scientist will tell you, data trumps theory.  If we weren't on the "bumpy plateau" right now, it wouldn't disprove Peak Oil.  There's enough uncertainty in the data that the actual peak can vary and still be consistent with the model.  The insistence that the peak be on some schedule is a red herring anyway.  The peak is just an event in the production of oil.  It signals a turning point.  What comes before and after the peak is what matters.  The slowing in the growth of oil production is a signal that relying on hydrocarbon energy will become problematical in the near term.  If we're not prepared, there will be major disruptions.  Confronting that is what causes the propaganda system to gag.


The propaganda apparatus cannot confront the notion that the peak is happening now or even in the near term.  This is further evidence that even NPR is just another propaganda outlet.  To discuss Peak Oil as an observation would put the lie to the very foundations of consumer culture.  The corporations that line up to sell us oil in all its myriad forms would have kittens.  The banks that have sold us the idea that compound interest and speculation are the routes to prosperity would have their myths undermined.  Just like most news sources in the mainstream, NPR exists as much to protect certain economic interests as to read the news.  Everything passes through a filter that separates out the acceptable myths from the unpleasant facts.  Yes, facts do make it through the filter, but they are bits of data that reinforce the prevailing paradigm or are at least neutral.  Occasionally stories get through that give the appearance of objectivity.  Often these stories are so lacking in context that they pose no threat.


Taken literally, the irony is that calling Peak Oil a theory only bolsters its validity.  To have the status of a theory means we've discovered how oil production works and we can reliably predict its future behavior.  If the future isn't in line with your cherished myths and fantasies, that's just tough noogies for you.

 

 

gyrogearloose's picture
gyrogearloose
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Re: Peak Oil on NPR
Zombie210 wrote:

I understand your point but I think you are getting hung up on semantics, they also use theory to describe evolution and gravity don't they? :)

 

Semantics can change the way you see the problem.

Cleaver phrasing can end up having a casual reader leave with the opposite idea to what the presented information actually means.

First impressions count, that is probably why stories have hyped up starts.

 

Cheers Hamish

switters's picture
switters
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Re: Peak Oil on NPR
gyrogearloose wrote:
Zombie210 wrote:

I understand your point but I think you are getting hung up on semantics, they also use theory to describe evolution and gravity don't they? :)

 

Semantics can change the way you see the problem.

Cleaver phrasing can end up having a casual reader leave with the opposite idea to what the presented information actually means.

First impressions count, that is probably why stories have hyped up starts.

You took the words right out of my mouth, Hamish.

Journalists know the power of semantics better than most.  I believe they know exactly what they're doing when they use that kind of phrasing.  Either that or they are not aware of how their own biases, assumptions and beliefs infiltrate their writing.  

I'm not sure which is more disturbing.  

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