Oil Production and Human Population and the Genuine Progress Indicator

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The plot on the left shows world-wide daily oil production from 1925 to 2015. It represents all oil production, including bituman from the tar sands of Canada. I digitized the data from this peak oil webpage. The original plot predicted oil production from 2008 until 2050 but I don't much trust predictions --- so I only consider up until 2015.

One has to be a bit careful about interpreting such plots. In the early years, all the oil was produced very efficiently. Typically, it took the energy equaivalent of 1 barrel of oil to extract 100 barrels. Nowadays, it might take a barrel of oil to extract 25 barrels of conventional oil. Worse, 1 barrel to extract only 5 barrels from mineable tar sands. Things are even worse for in-situ tar sands and "fracking". So the plot really overestimates oil production in recent decades. Nevertheless, let us put such difficulties aside and just pretend that things really are as good as the plot suggests...

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Next I downloaded world population from wikipedia. These population numbers are "real" up until 2010 but 2015 is a "prediction" because I downloaded the values on 13 January 2014. Of course, no one really knows the population. But the wikipedia values are probably as good as you can get.

Population is not determined for every year, so I use a spline to interpolate yearly values from 1925 to 2015 (red line).

You'll notice that population shot up like a Saturn 5 rocket around 1950 when oil production took off. That's no coincidence. Just about everything about our modern era depends upon oil...

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Some people think that oil production is going to decline in the near future. I expect they are correct but I really don't know when peak oil will happen.

But peak oil production is meaningless nonsense. What matters is the amount of oil production per person. After all, a Million Dolars may be a lot of money for one person but it's less than 30 cents for each person in Canada!

The plot on the left shows how much oil is produced for each persons daily ration. Whoops, REAL PEAK OIL HAS COME AND GONE!

Real peak oil happened in 1979.

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If oil really matters to our wellbeing then real peak oil should mirror our real wellbeing.

Coincidently, the journal Nature has just published a rather long-winded editorial entitled: Development: Time to leave GDP behind. I've unabashedly lifted their primary result and it appears in the figure to the left.

Compareper capita GDP (left) with per capita oil production (above) and you will conclude that we have a post-oil economy. Like magic, GDP continues to shoot upwards even though real peak oil happened more than 30 years ago!

Well, we all know that GDP is a total lie. The typical person knows damned well that things have NOT gotten better since 1979!

Nature argues that the GDP should be dumped and the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) should be used instead. Certainly, the GPI closely mirrors production per person so I'd also say that GDP is total crap and GPI actually means something real!

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The past has not been as rosey as it might have been because population growth offset massively increased oil production and scientific and technological advances!

Just think, if population had been stabilized at 1950 levels, we would could have had far more oil for each person, far less environmental destruction, not chopped down all the forests, not ploughed every natural habitat, and green house gases would be a nonissue!

Never mind, the demographers tell us that that population growth rate is declining and popluation will stabilize. This is what we should call the "miserable but not to miserable hypothesis".

We should test the "miserable but not too miserable hypothesis". I plot population growth rate to the left. Sure, it's declining but just because it is declining does not mean that population will stabilize.

Every student of calculus knows that population is obtained as the integral with respect to time of population growth rate. Any experienced mathematician will know that it is a total nonsense to look at the growth rates to the left and claim that they show that population will stabilize.

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A better approach is to simply look at a plot of the yearly increase in human population, as plotted to the left. For the last 50 years or so, about 80 million people have been added every year! So we see that the declining growth rate is not caused by a smaller annual increase in the number of people on this planet. The declining growth rate is really caused by the increasing population!

Just wait until oil production starts to decline. Then the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) will go seriously backwards --- and the more people there are, the worse it will be for each individual.

If you want to know your future, look at Egypt now. The only way to protect your country is to stop it's population growth --- and for nations like Australia and Canada, that means standing up to the Institute of Public Affairs and reducing immigration!

GDP, as it is routinely reported by the media, does not include corrections for either inflation or population growth. As a result, the most easy way for a government to increase GDP is to increase population...

When you think of the incredible scientific and technological advances over the last century or so, you have to wonder: "Why are we not all living like Kings?"

The answer is clear, the gains have been squandered on excessive population growth --- which is the cause of: poverty, inequity, and aggressive (expansionist) war. This follows from basic ecology, read: "Why Big Fierce Animals are Rare" by Paul Colinvaux. Colinvaux published his magnificent thesis in 1978 and the rest of the scientific community is still lagging behind!

Thus, inequity is caused by excessive population growth which is in turn promoted by politician's chasing a big fat GDP lie.