In his presentation “Peak Oil: Myth or Reality?”, speaker James McGarvey did not bring neither happy nor encouraging news to the HVACR & Plumbing Instructor Workshop.

LANSDOWNE, Va. - James McGarvey certainly didn’t mean to put a damper on the 2007 HVACR & Plumbing Instructor Workshop. But, like it or not, he did. Then again, blame his subject matter. The keynote speaker to the three-day event, sponsored by nine industry associations, certainly painted a grim picture of what’s possibly ahead for the United States and the world if the dependency on oil is not addressed. In his presentation “Peak Oil: Myth or Reality?”, the executive director of the New York Weatherization Directors’ Association informed nearly 275 teachers of HVACR and plumbing that there is going to be an oil shortage if the current consumption rate continues.

“For the past 10,000 years of civilization, we have always had an expanding fossil fuel supply,” he said. “Now we are faced with a shrinking fossil fuel supply. It’s one more problem to deal with.”

Rather than ignore the situation, McGarvey said Congress and the world need to address the situation before it is too late. “I do this because of my kids,” he said.

North American Technician Excellence president Rex Boynton expressed his thanks to the instructors who attended the HVACR & Plumbing Workshop.


Throughout his PowerPoint presentation, McGarvey turned to reports, graphs, surveys, and illustrations from around the world to back up his claim. For instance, he pointed to the International Energy Agency, which stated that 43 of the 58 biggest oil-producing countries have passed their peak.

“The largest 1 percent of oil fields contain 75 percent of all discovered oil,” quoted McGarvey, adding, “More than 42,000 oil fields have been found, but the 400 largest oil fields - making up 1 percent - contain more than 75 percent of all oil ever discovered. The largest - 3 percent - contain 84 percent of the oil.”

His research disclosed that most of the oil fields now discovered produce less than 10 million barrels, “and 10 million barrels will supply the United States with less than 12 hours worth of energy.”

“The last ‘super giant’ oil field of 10 billion barrels was found over 40 years ago,” he added.

McGarvey said the United States currently has approximately 600,000 oil wells in operation. But according to the U.S. government’s International Trade Resource Center, nearly 500,000 of those wells produce less than three barrels a day.

Julius Banks, program manager for Refrigerants, Environmental Protection Agency, provides instructors the latest issues related to EPA Section 608 certification and R-22 phaseout.

In the history of oil production, which is now extending over more than 150 years, McGarvey said he could identify some fundamental trends:

  • The world’s largest oil fields were all discovered more than 50 years ago.

  • Since the 1960s, annual oil discoveries have decreased.

  • Since 1980, annual consumption has exceeded annual new discoveries.

  • The historical maximum of oil discoveries has to be followed after some time by a maximum of oil production (the “peak”).

    “The volume of oil discovered worldwide every five years is decreasing,” he said.

    In McGarvey’s estimation, the real threat is not that the world is running out of oil. Instead, the real threat is the shortage of 5 percent in supply versus demand.

    “When oil was originally discovered, it took an average of one barrel of oil to find, extract, and process about 100 barrels of oil,” McGarvey explained. “That ration has declined steadily over the last century to about three barrels gained for one barrel used up in the United States - and about 10 for one in Saudi Arabia.”

    According to the man who has been in the energy conservation field the past 28 years, the oil supply in Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Oman, Yemen, Syria, and Jordan have already peaked.

    “Saudi Arabia is all that matters,” he said. “But can Saudi Arabia grow to 15-25 million barrels a day? Increase sustained supply to 12 million barrels per day? Sustain 8-9 million barrels per day? Safely produce 5 million barrels by 2020? No one knows for sure, but …”


    McGarvey noted that Chevron Corp. put out a two-page ad last summer in theWall Street Journal,theEconomist,theFinancial Times,and elsewhere. On the opening page, the following message is this: “It took us 125 years to use the first trillion barrels of oil. We’ll use the next trillion in 30. See why should you care?”

    “The peak oil followers use data as their arguments,” said McGarvey. “The optimists use politics and economics.”

    He was not necessarily happy with the Baby Boomers. He said 183 billion barrels - or 70 percent of U.S. oil - would be consumed by the Baby Boomers in one human lifetime.

    “Supply remains tight,” he said. “The Western oil majors - like Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, and Shell - are failing to replace the reserves they pump. In 1997, they were able to replace 140 percent of their reserves; in 2005, they were able to replace only 75 percent. This indicates just how hard it’s becoming to find oil.”

    He added that American drivers may choke at present gas prices, but with a rising population and longer trips, demand still grows.

    “Only four years ago, the United States used 18 million barrels a day; four years later it is using an extra 3.5 million barrels a day, which means just 4.4 percent of the world’s population needs a new Kuwait every four years.”

    Christopher Mohalley, a GE ECM-certified master trainer, covered the ECM indoor blower motor in depth for instructors.

    He supplied more numbers for his argument:

  • 70 percent of all current oil production comes from fields discovered over 30 years ago.

  • U.S. production peaked in 1970 at 9 million barrels a day, it is now at 6 million.

  • Exxon is saying the last year when we found more oil than we burned was 1987.

  • Exxon Mobil predicts that more than 50 percent of oil and gas consumption in 2010 must come from new field and reservoirs.

  • Discovery peaked in 1964.

    “North America will probably experience a natural gas shortage before any other region in the world,” he predicted, getting his ammunition from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, 2002. “North America has only 4.6 percent of the world’s gas reserves but consumes 30.3 percent of the world’s production. The reserves-to-production ratio is only nine years at current consumption.”

    If peaking of energy is real, be prepared, he told the room full of instructors. “Mitigating the peaking of modern energy will be an unprecedented global challenge,” he said. “Fixing the problem takes between seven years and up to 50 years. Starting ahead of the problem has no downside risk.”

    For the disbelievers in the crowd, he asked each to read up on the subject and review reports from prominent people, including Dr. Colin Campbell, Kenneth Deffeyes, Matt Simmons (author of Twilight in the Desert), Alan Greenspan, and Stephen Leeb (author of The Coming Economic Collapse: How You Can Thrive When Oil Costs $200 a Barrel?).


    LANSDOWNE, Va. - While the keynote speech presented at the 2007 HVACR and Plumbing Instructor Workshop may have been somewhat alarming, the remaining instructional sessions offered at the three-day conference were much more uplifting for the nearly 275 instructors in attendance.

    “This is where I get caught up on new technology,” said Guy Letrick, instructor at Monmouth County Technical School. “It’s good to network, too.”

    This year nine industry associations co-sponsored the workshop: Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA); Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI); Council of Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Educators (CARE); Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA); Heating, Airconditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI); North American Technician Excellence (NATE); Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC) Educational Foundation; and SkillsUSA.

    At the general assembly, a representative from each association came to the podium to thank the people in the seats. “We are proud to have you all here,” noted Gerry Kennedy, of the PHCC Education Foundation. “We are proud of what you do for this industry.”

    Attendees also had the option of taking Industry Competency Exams (ICE) exams, NATE testing, and/or Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) exams. Some of the classes offered at the conference included:

  • “Introducing Hydronics and System Design to Your Program,” taught by Greg Goater, director of training and safety for Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning, Rochester, N.Y.

  • “Teaching Heat Pump Applications,” taught by Rob Bates, instructor at Delaware Technical & Community College, and Joel Owens, from Alabama Power’s HVAC Training Center.

  • “Teaching Building Science as it Relates to HVAC,” taught by William Parlapiano, president of BP Consulting.

  • “Teaching Refrigeration Fundamentals,” taught by Mark Peila, instructor at Bates Technical College, Tacoma, Wash.

  • “Introducing the Sheet Metal Trade to Your Program,” taught by Bob Feathers, owner of B.F. Mechanical and instructor for Local 24 Sheet Metal Union in Dayton, Ohio.

  • “Ground Source Heat Pumps: No Longer a Niche Market,” taught by John Herbert, sales engineer with Hydro Delta Corp.

  • “Right Sizing Hydronics: Understanding the Basics,” taught by Gary Hayden, president of Premier Comfort Systems, Norfolk, Va.

    Christopher Mohalley, a GE ECM-certified master trainer, presented two seminars, “Early-Intermediate Level ECM Motor Theory” and “Digital Electric Motor Theory, Advanced ECM & Variable Speed Motor Troubleshooting.”

    Eric Quilitzsch, an assistant professor in the HVACR Engineering Technology program at Ferris State University, taught two classes: “Computer Technology and Teaching the Fundamentals of Electricity” and “Distance Learning Using Technology.”

    Jack Bartell, director of service and training for distributor Virginia Air, asked that teachers provide instructions that come alive at his session, “Maximizing Learning with PowerPoint.”

    Before instructors returned home, they were asked to share teaching ideas that worked at the “I’ve Got an Idea” session, hosted by Goater. Cash was awarded to those who provided input that met the approval of the audience.

    - Mark Skaer

    Publication date: 04/23/2007