Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on September 5, 2011

in Complexity & Emergence, Energy, Hubris and humility, Myths and Fallacies, Property Rights

… is from page 197 of Ron Chernow’s 1998 biography of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Titan:

In 1875, Henry E. Wrigley, the head of the Pennsylvania Geological Survey, issued a doomsday warning that the state – and hence the world – production of oil had peaked and would soon experience a precipitous decline, aggravating fears that had overshadowed the oil industry since its inception.

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{ 16 comments }

Chromatistes September 5, 2011 at 8:31 am

… but some time after that, the quality of rock music improved, as did US oil production.

Post hoc, propter hoc.

Gil September 5, 2011 at 10:15 am

Everyone knows rock music peaked in 1973. It’s a well known fact.

vikingvista September 5, 2011 at 8:50 pm

But Alice in Chains came after 1973.

muirgeo September 5, 2011 at 9:06 am

Yeah… that was pretty amazing that he made such an accurate prediction so early into the “age of oil”. He must have been a “Big Picture ” seeing kind of a guy. For America at least arriving at peak oil production no doubt coincided with and likely added to our economic decline. But I guess for people unable to look at the big picture and only capable of looking at short time frames his prediction may seem silly… but it was not.

http://seekingalpha.com/article/246748-global-oil-production-update

Russ Nelson September 5, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Holy crap, Muirgeo, how in hell did you graduate from college, much less get a medical degree? You scare the pants off of me. I mean, if you can be this stupid, why not ALL doctors?

teapartydoc September 5, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Take it from another physician who is not enamored with his profession, those in it, or himself. Most doctors are rather stupid. They are much like college professors who think that because they have achieved something in one field, it entitles them to expound with confidence about those they know little or nothing about.

muirgeo September 5, 2011 at 6:35 pm

If you are a member of the Tea Party then indeed YOU are one of the stupid docs.

Craig September 5, 2011 at 10:40 am

that was pretty amazing that he made such an accurate prediction so early into the “age of oil”.

I’m begin to think your posts here are just an act.

“For America at least arriving at peak oil production no doubt coincided with and likely added to our economic decline.”

How can that be, I thought “income inequality was the cause of all our economic problems.

“But I guess for people unable to look at the big picture and only capable of looking at short time frames his prediction may seem silly… but it was not.”

The big picture, that statist like you don’t see is human innovation, when set free from statist domination, can and always had found solutions to “problems” like peak oil. First and foremost, the “peak oil” problem is the cheap, easy to drill light sweet crude. There is plenty of oil left and unless statist like you, bent on controlling others, stifle that innovation, people will find a way to extract more oil, find new reserves we don’t know about now (see natural gas in US) find ways to use oil more efficiently, find some new source of energy. Who knows what they will come up with in the future. That’s Hayek’s main point about central planning. Elitists do not have all the information and can’t think of everything

But you continue with your fear mongering stories.

Eric September 6, 2011 at 11:52 am
Russ Nelson September 5, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Wrigley was probably correct. In that region, using the best technology of the day, no more oil was extractable. Unfortunately, he generalized to all regions and all technologies.

kyle8 September 5, 2011 at 12:41 pm

He was an idiot, as is all of the present day fearmongers. I am so fed up with their ilk.

Dan J September 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm

I stepped on an ant, today. I did not see anymore ants from my seat afterwards. Therefore, all ants have been vanquished. There are no more ants.

vikingvista September 5, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I agree. Such proclaimations are akin to asserting that mankind has nothing more to discover, because nothing more has been discovered yet.

No, not akin. That’s exactly what it is.

Skip September 5, 2011 at 2:13 pm

These predictions, often from agency heads and the like, have been made with amazing regularity since the age of oil began, prominent ones appearing every 20 years or so.

Michael E. Marotta September 5, 2011 at 2:20 pm

It’s the pretense of knowledge. The Greeks called it hybris: overweaning, false pride, that leads to your own destruction.

Even if Wrigley could prediction that Pennsylvania’s reserves would be drained, he had no way to predict the West Texas Oil Boom of the next generation. Earlier this summer, in Traverse City, I saw a bumper sticker on a pick-up truck: “Earth first. We will pump the oil from the other planets later.”

Polly September 6, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Michael, THAT’S progress. I’ve even seen fewer Obama stickers in the Traverse City area nowadays. But I’m still seeing a few, mostly on tiny little earth-friendly cars driven by obvious earth-mothers (and hippy-dippy earth-daddies).

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