evnow wrote:KarenRei wrote:If you look at what different oil companies think, it's almost universally "no foreseeable peak" or "a demand peak".
Shouldn't be surprising at all. Afterall their share prices depend on their reserves. But what the company PR folk say and what the engineers know is quite different. BTW, you should checkout the latest statements by many of them - quite pessimistic.
I do talk to oil people behind the scenes. My father was a chemical engineer who worked his way up through refinery management positions to first be a president of the US trading operations a supermajor, to CEO of a subsidiary which is one of the largest refiners in the US. And he's not the only one I know.
Yes, there are oil people who believe in supply peaks, even Mad Max-style. But there are literally millions of people involved in the oil industry worldwide, hundreds of thousands of them in management roles, tens of thousands of them with prestigious-sounding titles. Statistically, hundreds or even thousands of them believe the moon landing is faked and Elvis is alive, too.
Note that oil companies have two counter incentives. One is to portray a rosy picture for investment, as you note. But the other is to paint a dire picture in order to open more land up for drilling, refineries, etc. They usually try to walk both of those lines at once.
Also, another thing worth mentioning: often in these sort of circles, there's this real demonisation of people who work in the oil industry. Here's some things that may surprise you. My father accepts anthropogenic global warming. He loves the wilderness, and has climbed Kilimanjaro and seen the retreating glaciers. He wants to visit Glacier National Park to see the remaining glaciers before they're gone. He's repeatedly said to me that he looks forward to the day that something better comes along and puts him out of business (not actually believing that such a thing is possible to happen soon -- and sadly, I must concur -- and either way, the oil companies would adapt and just invest in what comes next). I once overheard him in a discussion with my aunt over what sort of car their mother should buy next. My aunt was pushing another big ol' "grandmother boat" of a car. My father? A he was singing the praises of the Prius.
Pick any supermajor and you can point to a slew of accidents or abuses throughout their history, cover-ups, etc. Most people just assume that this means that the company planned this sort of stuff out and the top levels are full of nefarious plots. But the reality is that these companies are *huge*. Exxon-Mobil, for example, employs a good chunk of a hundred thousand people *directly*, and even more than that indirectly through contracts. Statistically, odds are they've even got some murderers and child rapists on staff. When you're that big, it's virtually impossible to guarantee that nothing bad will happen under your watch; there's always going to be some middle manager looking to make his operations look better who's willing to cut some corners. The key is looking for how frequently bad things happen relative to their size. In this regard, I think BP comes across in a rather poor light. One scandal is explainable, but when they keep happening this frequently, as has happened with BP in recent years, one can only assume that the management isn't cracking the whip enough. Even when you're not planning to cut corners or the like, it's still your responsibility to try to ensure that people under you don't, either. You won't always succeed, but you should be able to do a better job than BP has done.
Another thing that may surprise people is the salaries. Compared to how utterly massive these companies are (the largest in the world), the salaries of the top execs are surprisingly low. The CEOs of non-oil companies a tiny fraction their size make notably more than oil company CEOs do. Oil company CEOs are roughly comparable to the salaries of professional basketball coaches; the peaks are higher, but the average is lower. My father is anything but poor. However, he's not out buying private planes, either. He has to save up just to buy an RV. He'd have to refinance his house and delay retirement to buy something like a Tesla Roadster. My grandfather's cousin, however, that's a different story; he cofounded a company that grew to be one of the largest personnel firms in the country; *he* has private planes, multiple houses (one of which is nearly the size of a football field), his own ranch (so big it has a gift shop), a professional sports team, etc. That's what most people picture when they think of oil money, but the average oil company CEO (heck, even the biggest ones, which make way more than the average ones) just doesn't make that kind of money. My parents live in a modest two-story house with a small pool in a neighborhood with hundreds of houses the size of theirs.
Don't get me wrong -- I am *not* saying "pity the poor oil company CEOs", by any means. Especially the CEOs of the biggest supermajors. I'm just pointing out that it's not the "Richie Rich" situation that most people think of. Most of the money made by oil companies goes to shareholders (i.e., mostly mutual funds, I.e., 401ks, I.e., most people in this country). Now, there *are* a couple exceptions. The biggest example that comes to mind is the Koch family, who actually owns their own oil company. And to be honest, the Koch family is the sort of people that most people think of when they think of your average oil company executive.