In the video lecture "The End of the Age of "Easy Oil" Part I" (at 9:46), he says:

Further, the term "peak oil" isn't very useful or even important. Industry apologists and conspiracy theorists can confine cherry-picked statistics that obscure the timing of the peak but the exact timing of the doesn't matter. When you hear "peak oil" substitute the words "the end of the age of easy oil". It's impossible to make that cold reality disappear but it's a lot more syllables so I'll keep saying "peak oil" most of the time.

So my main question: what term could he use instead? i.e. what term ______ could he use to briefly refer to "the end of the age of easy oil"? For example, maybe ______ could be "???? oil" where "????" is a word meaning something like: "easy is ending"?

To clarify, "the end of the age of easy oil" refers to the fact that the world's most easily exploitable oil fields ("easy oil") are being exhausted (the "low hanging fruits" are gone). "Peak oil" is not correct since peak = maximum and oil production has not peaked (due to the availability of a large amount of difficult/hard-to-extract oil). [More details in Edit 2 below]

Edit [July 29]: I realized that it might help to give you some real-world example sentences in which this desired terminology would be used. Here are some sentences from Part II of his lecture in which I replaced his uses of the term "peak oil" with blanks.

  1. "Independent analysts, including a lot of geologists from the oil industry, have been publishing and speaking about global ________ since 2000. Remember, "________" is shorthand for the end of the age of easy oil. In the last several years, discussions of ________ have finally made it to higher profile mainstream media."
  2. "Next up, a study by a German military think tank which analyzed how ________ might change the global economic and security picture. The draft document, which was leaked onto the Internet, states that there is some probability that ________ will occur around the year 2010 and that the impact on security is expected to be felt 15 to 30 years later."
  3. "In 2005, he was the chief author on the study of ________ that was commissioned by the US Department of Energy. He and his colleagues raised the alarm and called for immediate concerted action at national and local levels. Much to his dismay, the report was basically ignored by the administration and media. In 2010, a ticked-off Hirsch and a colleague wrote a book on ________ and Herschel was interviewed by the French periodical Le Monde."

Edit 2 (More details on "the end of the age of easy oil"): "Easy oil", such as conventional oil, is much easier to extract from the ground and/or process (i.e. "produce") than other "hard-to-extract oil" (such as tar sands, oil shale, heavy crude oil) because of differences in the oil fields' location (Texas vs. arctic vs. deep-ocean drilling), depth underground, local geology (e.g. permeability and porosity of the rock that holds it), pressure (needing to inject water or gas vs. "The Beverly Hillbillies" intro), viscosity (tar sands vs. free-flowing vs. heavy crude oil), and chemical makeup (e.g. "oil shale" is not oil but a rock that must be heated to become oil). Hard-to-extract oil is plentiful but much more expensive to produce than easy oil. So the era of easy/cheap/conventional oil is ending and will never return. But again, this does not mean that oil production has peaked.

My summary of what "the end of the age of easy oil" means might not be clear/correct. If so, then he explains it in part I and part II of his lecture titled: The End of the Age of "Easy Oil". Details on the difference between "Easy oil" and "hard-to-extract oil" (thanks ermanen!) can be found there and also in his lecture "Petroleum: Geology & Exploration". If anyone can give a better summary then I'll replace mine with it.

  • 1
    Would easy oil be too easy? I'm loathe to correct gurus. Jul 28, 2022 at 21:34
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    @Yosef Baskin. Ideally (but not necessarily), a word that means something like "easy is ending" or maybe "the start of difficult". Similar to how "peak" refers to something's "maximum". However, what I really want is an answer to is my first question following the quote: "what term could he use instead?"
    – mgkrupa
    Jul 28, 2022 at 21:48
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    If this were a phrase request: The honeymoon is over.
    – Dan
    Jul 29, 2022 at 0:35
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    When a commodity stops being easy to extract although there's still plenty left and 'production' hasn't peaked doesn't that suggest that 'productivity' has peaked? Either way, is this not a phrase request which might fit better somewhere like SE Writing? Sep 3, 2022 at 23:20
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    @Robbie Goodwin Excellent observation! "Peak oil productivity" sounds good. Or maybe also "Peak oil cost-effectiveness", "Peak oil benefit-cost", "Peak benefit-cost of oil", "Peak return on oil".
    – mgkrupa
    Sep 6, 2022 at 0:47

2 Answers 2


Harder-to-extract (or hard-to-extract) oil is used as an opposite of easy-to-reach oil (or easy oil) in the petroleum industry and oilfield jargon; and in news articles.

An easy-oil plateau is not good news for the climate, either. Harder to extract oil means increased burning of dirtier oil like that from the tar sands—or even dirtier coal. In fact, there are trillions more barrels of carbon-intensive fuel out there in the form of huge coal fields, such as the one currently being brought into production in Mongolia.
Has Petroleum Production Peaked, Ending the Era of Easy Oil? / scientificamerican.com

While more than half of that extra demand will be met by other sources, such as biofuels and fuels derived from coal or natural gas, the petroleum industry will have to make up the rest from harder-to-extract oil supplies.
The End of Easy Oil (by David Talbot) / technologyreview.com

Hard-to-reach oil is a term used also. Here is an example from OED, citing New York Times:

Release hard-to-reach oil and extend the productivity of mature fields.

Note: Field, in the above example, means an area rich in a significant or valuable natural production; coal-, diamond-, gold-, oilfield, etc.[OED]

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    Your post suggests that "dirty oil" might work. At any rate, it's short and catchy. Jul 29, 2022 at 2:20

One term that might be usable well past the peak is tail-end.

the final part:
I only saw the tail end of the news.
She was at the front of the queue but I was at the tail end.

Or you might refer to the rump of the oil.

Collins rump: the last, unimportant or inferior part; mere remnant

the last part, especially that which is unimportant or inferior: a rump of territory.

Other possibilities are vestigial oil and perhaps a neologism endgame oil.

vestigial: being a small remaining part or amount

the last stage of a process

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