[[ Check out my Wordpress blog Context/Earth for environmental and energy topics tied together in a semantic web framework ]]

Friday, January 13, 2006

RockDoc gets piled high and deeper

rockdoc123 wrote:
Quote (me):
And will this get out to the textbooks? Or will it get buried like the rest of the stuff, until we all say "Wha' Happ'n?
having a black helicopter tin foil kind of day are we? There is reams of views on what is left to be found in the literature, has been since the seventies. Check American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geology, Petroleum Geology, USGS Energy group assessment, etc.
I responded:
I will lay this out very carefully because my concerns involve a combination of the practice of "framing" along with negation of arguments that the industry condones via paid consultants. First consider how Mike Lynch has become one of the most visible debunkers of peak oil theory out there. And what does he use as ammunition? Lynch uses the mathematical formulation of Hubbert curves to allow peak oil advocates to effectively shoot themselves in the foot.

How does he do this? Well, he starts with the Logistic and Gaussian curves that the traditional analysts use and starts poking holes in how they get formulated. His favorite argumentative weapons include "physically impossible symmetry" and "causality violations". The argument about symmetry stands out because all one has to do is look at real-world depletion curves and see that most do not display any symmetry. Lynch points out that the curves should not be symmetric based on his own studies. Yet, depletion modelers continue to use them. Score: Lynch 1, Modelers 0

Lynch's causality argument says that the Logistic and Gaussian curves have tails at time 'minus infinity', which remains a physically impossible condition considering that humans only discovered oil in the mid 1800's. Peak oil analysts have nothing to counter this other than some magical truncation that occurs in the curves, without any supporting explanation. Score: Lynch 2, Modelers 0

Now, I would consider these minor blemishes on the overall peak oil theory, but Lynch builds a strong rhetorical argument building from this foundation of negating theories. This paper provides a good example of how he pulls together the arguments: "The New Pessimism about Petroleum Resources:Debunking the Hubbert Model (and Hubbert Modelers)". Lynch probably enjoys doing this and probably feels better than out-and-out lying about things (kind of the same reason that people don't cheat at crossword puzzles). Lynch probably just sits back and laughs in the way he uses the exact models as taught to petroleum engineers and geologists (as you just admitted, RockDoc), and then basically shreds and decimates the arguments. Listen again, the stuff you got taught in textbooks (Hubbert curves, etc) gets turned upside down and used by Lynch to "disprove" peak oil or at least cast suspicions into its relevancy.

Why does this work? You just have to look at the psychology of people and their fierce need to believe in the status quo. Any bit of debunking is enough to set the whole theory to collapse in these people's minds, especially the sharp ones (and former high-school debaters), who tend to revel in such nit-picking matters. A bit off-track but think back to how GW Bush's entire questionable National Guard record became vindicated when rabid right-wingers exposed a set of fraudulent memos. Even though the majority of the evidence pointed out that Bush avoided most of his service, the few flaws in evidence presented sunk the entire investigation. And we have a corrupt Bush administration as a result.

What can we do about this? (not Bush, I mean) Simple. Come up with better models than the Logistic curve or the Gaussian. These basically show empirical relationships that prove nothing and provide no foundation for understanding. Instead, teach something that works. Do you realize that an EE professor would be laughed out of a classroom if he showed a Gaussian curve as the output to a electrical circuit? Yet this figuratively happens when the Hubbert modelers keep on showing Logistic or Gaussian curves. I groan at the bad math, while Lynch calls them on the B.S. But the Campbell's and Laherrere's would never, ever give up their dearly loved Logistics formulations because of their selfish pride. Lynch counts on this as well; that they will keep on showing the Logistic curves and Lynch will keep on debunking. Lynch has basically framed the Hubbert modelers as inept mathematicians. Jeez, even CBS gave up their inquest when they could not counter fraudulent memos.

I say let's turn it around and call Campbell and Laherrere on their own models, and get some decent ones -- models that don't violate causality. Then we can effectively ignore Lynch, because he will have no legs to stand on. Or else, he will eventually resort to out-and-out lying and we can call him on that.

Rockdoc, What you call "tin-foil hat" theorizing on my part basically ignores and discounts the modus operandi of the entire right wing corporatist establishment. If we can just beat down the framing and negative arguments practiced by consultants like Lynch, we might have a chance to stop digging a deeper and deeper hole.

Or you can laugh and pass my whole approach as a phony strawman. But then you have to remind yourself of who we have as president. This framing stuff works and you may have drunk the kool-aid.


Professor Blogger JMS said...

"Any bit of debunking is enough to set the whole theory to collapse in these people's minds"

I see that phenomenom when I discuss with some of my libertarian / capitalist friends. The progression is predictable -- starting with "Technology will save us." Hey, maybe.

You might send your work off to Amory Lovins if Grizzled Eminences like Campbell won't pay attention. The more I read about Lovins's work, the more impressed I get. Amory Lovins may have sour notions of peakers after tangling with Kunstler, but civilization is everyones responsibility, and Amory wants us off the tar teat with or without depletion.

9:17 PM  
Professor Blogger @whut said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement. I'm thinking of doing some on-line interactive stuff instead and see how that works out. Actually the first guy I would think to send anything to would be David Goodstein at CalTech.

10:51 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

"Like strange bulldogs sniffing each other's butts, you could sense wariness from both sides"