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Wikileaks Hysteria Meets Peak Oil

by Michael Levi
February 10, 2011

The energy blogosphere is in a tizzy over a series of Wikileaks cables that entertain the possibility that world is heading toward peak oil. The FT’s Energy Source goes with the headline “US fears Saudi Arabia cannot keep up with oil demand”, Fast Company settles on “WikiLeaks May Have Just Confirmed That Peak Oil Is Imminent”, and Joe Romm goes all in with “WikiLeaks peak oil bombshell: Saudi Arabian reserves overstated by 40%, global production plateau imminent”. I don’t know about you, but I’m buying gold and stocking up on tinned meats as soon as I finish writing this post.

Or not. There is nothing much new in these cables. As the FT notes, the main source for the cables, Sadad Al Husseini, has said many times in public precisely what he told the U.S. diplomats who wrote the cables. Nor do the cable authors, who no doubt are talented diplomats, appear to have any particular expertise on oil.

What we have here is a classic case of what Dan Drezner has cleverly called “document fetishism”: people have an awful habit of believing that if something is classified then it must be true. In reality, classified analysis is no more sophisticated than what you can read in the open literature. Indeed in many cases, it’s less so, in large part because it isn’t subject to the open criticism that most analysis faces.

So relax a bit. We don’t know anything more about peak oil than we did last week. And besides, if everyone else calms down a bit, there will be more gold (and at great prices) for me.

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by jeannick

    Good summary of the importance of this particular ” news ”
    Al Husseini has been saying this for YEARS .

    He also is one of the least successful tipper for Peak Oil ,
    The truth is that there is going to be a supply crunch for a few years to come ,
    due to the collapse of exploration in the late 1990ies.
    Is it the Peak ? It could be ,time will tell.

  • Posted by Sam J

    …so does that mean we shouldn’t be concerned about peak oil?

  • Posted by PeakOilProof

    I recently wrote an analysis of the repercussions of these wikileaks cables. If you’re interested, you can read it at:

  • Posted by James Hyams

    I’m writing a thesis on Public Trust in WikiLeaks, the Media and the Government and need to know what your opinions are. The online survey is multiple choice and will take approximately 10 minutes to complete. Please follow the link: Would be great if you would encourage others to do the survey also.

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