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Lies, Damnable Lies, and Pseudo-Scientific Obscurantism.

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The incessant drumbeat of media-relayed propaganda concerning the supposedly new energy-abundant era of oil-and-gas abundance awaiting us due to hydraulic fracking, "fraking", has succeeded to a very large degree in shaping public consciousness, and with it, government policy. That success, however, occurred at the expense of truth, and likely the future solvency of us all, as I shall explain.

Following the run-up in gas prices to $147.00 per barrel back in July 2008, the general public began to take warnings that we had reached, or were about to reach, the all-time production of oil, planet wide, "peak oil", very seriously. This public perception, though intangible, had very tangible, real-world implications. If the public believed that we were at, or near, peak oil, then public policy would logically involve transitioning to renewable energy sources. This would be very bad news for the oil industry, as well as for Wall Street. The oil industry had about twenty trillion dollars of investment value tied up in its refineries, pipelines, ships, and most importantly, its oil in-the-ground assets. Moreover, Wall Street had still vaster amounts of monies invested in, or used to speculate upon, oil-and-gas industry future production. The value of these investments were threatened by the changed public perception that peak oil was at hand.

The response was a flurry of stories as to how the technique of fracking for oil and gas would soon make these substances abundant once again. America would soon become energy independent etc. President Obama weighed in during his 2012 State of the Union speech in which he falsely proclaimed that America had a "nearly 100-year supply" of natural gas mainly because of fracking. (1)

The culmination of this propaganda blitz was the release in June 2012, of a supposedly scientific study entitled: "Oil the Next Revolution" (2) by Leonardo Magueri. Allegedly, this study "proved" near-term energy abundance from fracking-derived oil and gas for North America.

Maugeri is a former high executive of Eni, an Italian energy company, which is ranked 6th in the world. (3) Leonardo Maugeri is currently an Associate Professor in the Geopolitics of Energy Project and the Environment and Natural Resources Program at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. The Belfer Center is privately funded, and is *not* academically associated with Harvard University. It is a separate, privately financed, entity, located at Harvard. It is not, does not speak for, Harvard University.

Maugeri's study was heavily and wholly uncritically reported on by all mass media in the US and Canada as though it was a declaration of absolute truth. It was, in fact, nothing but a propaganda exercise engaged in by the energy industry, for the energy industry's bottom line--and Wall Street's as well. Uncritical reporting even left the impression that it was a study released by Harvard University itself, when it had nothing to do with Harvard.

Aside from overtly or covertly implying that the study was from Harvard University itself, not a corporate-propaganda center located on the Harvard campus, the study was filled with misstatements, unexplained assumptions, and clear evidence that Maugheri did not even understand the distinction between basic concepts such as resources and reserves. (4) (Reserves are a subset of resources--often a small subset. To conflate them together is to make any resultant findings meaningless, though overoptimistic.)

Numerous critical assessments of this study were produced following its much-trumpeted release (5) (6). That being the case, I will not reprise these studies, other to say that it proved to be a case of "garbage in--garbage out." However, none of the critical studies were ever reported to the public. Even news sources such as NPR continued to hype the limitless abundance line. This line, though false, is now the "conventional wisdom".

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If a single graph could expose the hype behind fracking it would be this one:

US Crude OIl Production 1920-2012 by Early Warning

US Crude OIl Production 1920-2012 by Early Warning

US Crude OIl Production 1920-2012 by Early Warning


All of that hype is about the small uptick in US oil production seen above. That is it! Further, production has stabilized for the Bakken region, one of the longest fracked regions:

Bakken Well Statistics by Early Warning

Bakken Well Statistics by Early Warning

Bakken Well Statistics by Early Warning


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This is because, unlike conventional oil and gas wells, fracked wells typically lose 80 to 95% of their production within three years.

Decline Curve for Bakken Tight Oil Wells by

Decline Curve for Bakken Tight Oil Wells by

Decline Curve for Bakken Tight Oil Wells by


New wells must be constantly drilled in what has been termed a "Red Queen Race". The best-performing areas are drilled first, leaving more marginal areas for later. Of course, this means that within a few years production must decline as the drillers ultimately lose their "Red Queen Race" with physical reality as the drilling costs of ever-more wells collide with the diminishing returns from ever-more-marginal areas. Many estimates are that by 2017 it will be abundantly clear that this race is being lost--and with it all the hype about energy independence goes down the drain--along with trillions of stock and asset valuation, likely hundreds of trillions in Wall street derivatives, swaps, and other exotic financial instruments.  

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Michael P Byron is the author of The Path Through Infinity's Rainbow: Your Guide to Personal Survival and Spiritual Transformation in a World Gone Mad. This book is a manual for taking effective action to deal with the crises of our age including (more...)

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... by Michael Byron on Saturday, Aug 10, 2013 at 8:22:36 PM
Well said.   The fracking hype is all abo... by Fangdango on Sunday, Aug 11, 2013 at 12:42:57 PM
Well put Fandango!... by Michael Byron on Sunday, Aug 11, 2013 at 12:44:50 PM
A seemingly impossible invention, an engine that n... by Mark Goldes on Sunday, Aug 11, 2013 at 3:00:14 PM
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"Where's the magic overunity transformer? You've s... by Keyto Clearskies on Saturday, Aug 17, 2013 at 6:02:38 PM
"You have never presented] the non-existent genera... by Keyto Clearskies on Saturday, Aug 17, 2013 at 6:13:26 PM