After Peak Oil

Mark Perry uses this graph as evidence of peak oil’s death:

Crude Oil

Noah Smith isn’t celebrating:

[W]hat happened was NOT that we switched to something better than oil. We switched to something worse than conventional oil: unconventional oil, which is more expensive to extract and/or to refine into usable products. This has left us permanently poorer than we would be if conventional oil hadn’t hit global supply constraints. Filling up your gas tank is twice as expensive now, in real terms, as it was two decades ago. And that looks unlikely to change. …

Basically, what happened is this: Scarcity attacked humanity, and Human Ingenuity battled back. Through heroic efforts, doomsday was averted. But Ingenuity did not win a smashing victory, as it did when we switched from wood to coal, or from whale oil to oil. Instead, humanity was forced into a fighting retreat, with Ingenuity executing a brilliant rear-guard action and forcing Scarcity to call off its pursuit…for now. But humanity has lost ground.

Yglesias backs up Smith:

[Unconventional oil] is nothing to sneer at. Not only is it causing an economic boom in North Dakota and select portions of Texas, but it plausibly explains some of why America’s overall economic performance has been so much better than Europe’s. But even so, America’s oil boom hasn’t pushed U.S. oil prices back down to mid-aughts levels and it certainly hasn’t pushed U.S. oil prices back down to 1990s levels. The good old days of genuinely abundant liquid fuel really do appear to be behind us.