Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Simply Misleading

SAMUEL ALEXANDER teaches consumerism and sustainability at the Parkville Asylum, also finding time to lecture Fairfax readers about peak oil and co-helm a bizarre little entity called The Simplicity Institute. Well, simple is as simple writes, and nobody could accuse of Alexander of not sticking to his guns. He has a simple message and a simple way of broadcasting it: He simply doctors quotes.

Here he is citing "the chief executive of one of the world's largest oil companies, Total", as holding to the belief that "expected demand [for oil will] outstrip supply as early as 2014 or 2015".

Must be true, surely? A rising academic at a top-flight tertiary institution writing in a publication avowedly devoted to "quality journalism", how could readers not trust the information presented? Such a man could not possibly snatch and run with an entirely out-of-context quote. Why, the mind boggles!

Yet here is what Total's Thierry Desmarest -- who is the honorary chairman, not CEO --  actually said on the subject (emphasis and link added at the Billabong):
In our opinion it will be very difficult to raise the oil production above 95 million barrels/day, which is something like 10% above today's level - so it's not enormous. It's not that we lack reserves, there are plenty of oil to [be] produced, but a lot of it is difficult to be produced. Huge resources like the Athabasca oil sands for instance - when you look to the newsflow of the last 2 or 3 years you have just seen a lot of postponements, not that much because of lack of profitability of projects but also with environmental concerns.
The oil is there, but simple green souls like Samuel Alexander keep raising rackets and putting roadblocks in the path to its development.
Don't hold your breath waiting for Fairfax to correct the story, qualify the quote or invite a writer to expose Alexander's sleight of hand. Fairfax is, after all, entirely dovoted to the virtue of simple things. Indeed, its newsrooms and editors' offices are populated with nothing else.


  1. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.January 24, 2012 at 12:37 PM

    That Simplicity website is an absolute humdinger, Prof. Hosted by Simple Samuel and (here we go) Simon, how could it fail? All the rich research information on how to be a 'poetic' little 'sunflower' is there for the picking.
    But why no hints on how to pick the decontextalised eyes out of a piece of prose and use it to seed further stupidities? That could add a completely new turn to the idea of 'grow your own'.

  2. The Simplicity website is ispired by total Drongos. Expensively educated perhaps, but smug addle brained drongos none the less.

    I spent the first 12 years of my life, in a home supplied with water from a well for drinking, rainwater tank for washing. No electricity or gas, kero lamps or candles for night time. Toilet was a hole in the ground.
    I would so realy, really, love those who advocate simplicity to actually try it.

    A cold winter time would be best.

    I am so sick of comfortable, soft, academics, spouting complete rubbish.

    Rant over. Well, nearly, more when I have the strenth.

  3. Oil has been supposedly running out for the last 40 years, yet it keeps turning up. Gaia provideth it. A finite resource it aint.

  4. If you look at their papers such as http://simplicityinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/PeakOilEnergyDescentandtheFateofConsumerism1.pdf

    - (and there aren't many more) - the striking thing about them is the almost total lack of
    and the total reliance on narrative and opinion as justification for their position.

  5. The official government report, Transport Energy Futures - Long Term Oil Supply Trends And Projections, as reported by Piers Akerman http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/piersakerman/index.php/dailytelegraph/comment/government_cover_up_on_fuel_exposed/ was leaked on a French website after being suppressed by the Federal govt for a number of years. It goes into detail regarding oil supplies.

    "It is predicted that that we have entered about 2006 onto a plateau in potential world crude oil production that will last only to about 2016—eight
    years from now (2008). For the next eight years it is likely that potential world crude oil production will plateau (very little rise) in the face of continuing economic growth. After that, the modelling is forecasting what can be termed ‘the 2017 drop-off’. The outlook under a base case scenario is for a long decline in oil production to begin in 2017, which will stretch to the end of the century and beyond"

    "There are really three options:

    1. Oil is replaced with other (equally rich and abundant) energy sources (opening the whole debate about alternative fuel sources, e.g. gas-to-liquids, coal-to-liquids,
    electricity, hydrogen).

    2. Improved energy efficiency results in energy use per unit of GDP declining markedly to match the shortfall.

    3. GDP declines to match the shortfall"


    Coal to liquid being an obvious energy source for Australia to consider but higher CO2 outputs means no green support!! Makes all those subsidies for 6 cyl gas guzzlers rather silly.

  6. Oil is Gaia's gift to mankind. It is earthmilk.

  7. Apart from naming the Phage Pravda on the Yarra, that description of Fairfax is the best(and funniest) I've found!

    How soon will their foundering ship of fools sink?

  8. "one of the world's largest oil companies, Total"

    In whose world is Total "one of the world's largest oil companies"?

    Click, click.

    Facts matter.