The education of an oil reporter

A year ago, the New York Times' Jad Mouawad pooh-poohed the theory of peak oil. But $120 a barrel for crude forces everyone to rethink their positions

By Andrew Leonard

Published April 29, 2008 2:25PM (EDT)

Jad Mouawad, New York Times reporter on the oil beat, in March 2007:

There is still a minority view, held largely by a small band of retired petroleum geologists and some members of Congress, that oil production has peaked, but the theory has been fading.

Within the last decade, technology advances have made it possible to unlock more oil from old fields, and, at the same time, higher oil prices have made it economical for companies to go after reserves that are harder to reach. With plenty of oil still left in familiar locations, forecasts that the world's reserves are drying out have given way to predictions that more oil can be found than ever before.

Jad Mouawad, October 2007:

"There are no easy barrels left," said J. Robinson West, chairman of PFC Energy, an industry consulting firm in Washington. "The only barrels are going to be the tough barrels."

Jad Mouawad, April 2008:

As oil prices soared to record levels in recent years, basic economics suggested that consumption would fall and supplies would rise as producers drilled for more oil.

But as prices flirt with $120 a barrel, many energy experts are becoming worried that neither seems to be happening. Higher prices have done little to suppress global demand or attract new production, and the resulting mismatch has sent oil prices ever higher.

Why does How the World Works enjoy pointing out the evolution of Jad Mouawad? It's not just his belittling dig at "retired petroleum geologists" from a year ago. It's his reluctance to even mention the words "peak oil" in his current articles, even as step-by-step, his reporting demonstrates that maybe, just maybe, global production of oil might be near a historical crest.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Globalization How The World Works Peak Oil The New York Times