Originally Posted by saint.panda
To give absolute figures, the world's known reserves in 2000 have increased to almost 1 trillion barrels while consumption has increased more gradually to a couple billion barrels a year. (Source Simon Julian et al. not sure which book exactly; EIA)
Oh man, I don't even know where to begin. The #s are many times lies. Reserve figures are virtually impossible to verify and they tend to go up for no good reason other than political motives, _esp._ amongst OPEC members. Evidence of Enron'esque fudging has been going since the late 80s.
Originally Posted by saint.panda
Since known oil reserves have the tendency to grow with time and due to people getting better at exploiting oil (location, extraction, transportation, storage, etc.), oil shouldn't run out too soon yet. Long before that, something cheaper, more efficient and more widely accepted will have hopefully and most likely replaced oil.
And I agree with you in principle. The problem is one of scale and time.
First and foremost take a look at the Hirsch report. It was commisioned by the DOE and released earlier this year.
Dr. Hirsch's bio
Then move on over to
For those who don't wish to wade through the full Hirsch report this is a cut and paste from the conclusion section
XI. SUMMARY AND CONCLUDING REMARKS
Our analysis leads to the following conclusions and final thoughts.
1. World Oil Peaking is Going to Happen
World production of conventional oil will reach a maximum and decline
thereafter. That maximum is called the peak. A number of competent
forecasters project peaking within a decade; others contend it will occur
later. Prediction of the peaking is extremely difficult because of geological
complexities, measurement problems, pricing variations, demand elasticity,
and political influences. Peaking will happen, but the timing is uncertain.
2. Oil Peaking Could Cost the U.S. Economy Dearly
Over the past century the development of the U.S. economy and lifestyle
has been fundamentally shaped by the availability of abundant, low-cost oil.
Oil scarcity and several-fold oil price increases due to world oil production
peaking could have dramatic impacts. The decade after the onset of world
oil peaking may resemble the period after the 1973-74 oil embargo, and the
economic loss to the United States could be measured on a trillion-dollar
scale. Aggressive, appropriately timed fuel efficiency and substitute fuel
production could provide substantial mitigation.
3. Oil Peaking Presents a Unique Challenge
The world has never faced a problem like this. Without massive mitigation
more than a decade before the fact, the problem will be pervasive and will
not be temporary. Previous energy transitions (wood to coal and coal to oil)
were gradual and evolutionary; oil peaking will be abrupt and revolutionary.
4. The Problem is Liquid Fuels
Under business-as-usual conditions, world oil demand will continue
to grow, increasing approximately two percent per year for the next few
decades. This growth will be driven primarily by the transportation sector.
The economic and physical lifetimes of existing transportation equipment
are measured on decade time-scales. Since turnover rates are low, rapid
changeover in transportation end-use equipment is inherently impossible.
Oil peaking represents a liquid fuels problem, not an “energy crisis” in the
sense that term has been used. Motor vehicles, aircraft, trains, and ships
simply have no ready alternative to liquid fuels. Non-hydrocarbon-based
energy sources, such as solar, wind, photovoltaics, nuclear power,
geothermal, fusion, etc. produce electricity, not liquid fuels, so their
widespread use in transportation is at best decades away. Accordingly,
mitigation of declining world oil production must be narrowly focused.
5. Mitigation Efforts Will Require Substantial Time
Mitigation will require an intense effort over decades. This inescapable
conclusion is based on the time required to replace vast numbers of liquid
fuel consuming vehicles and the time required to build a substantial number
of substitute fuel production facilities. Our scenarios analysis shows:
• Waiting until world oil production peaks before taking crash program
action would leave the world with a significant liquid fuel deficit for more
than two decades.
• Initiating a mitigation crash program 10 years before world oil peaking
helps considerably but still leaves a liquid fuels shortfall roughly a decade
after the time that oil would have peaked.
• Initiating a mitigation crash program 20 years before peaking appears to
offer the possibility of avoiding a world liquid fuels shortfall for the forecast
The obvious conclusion from this analysis is that with adequate, timely
mitigation, the economic costs to the world can be minimized. If mitigation
were to be too little, too late, world supply/demand balance will be achieved
through massive demand destruction (shortages), which would translate to
significant economic hardship.
There will be no quick fixes. Even crash programs will require more than a
decade to yield substantial relief.
6. Both Supply and Demand Will Require Attention
Sustained high oil prices will stimulate some level of forced demand
reduction. Stricter end-use efficiency requirements can further reduce
embedded demand, but substantial, world-scale change will require a
decade or more. Production of large amounts of substitute liquid fuels can
and must be provided. A number of commercial or near-commercial
substitute fuel production technologies are currently available, so the
production of large amounts of substitute liquid fuels is technically and
economically feasible, albeit time-consuming and expensive.
7. It Is a Matter of Risk Management
The peaking of world conventional oil production presents a classic risk
• Mitigation efforts initiated earlier than required may turn out
to be premature, if peaking is long delayed.
• On the other hand, if peaking is imminent, failure to initiate
timely mitigation could be extremely damaging.
Prudent risk management requires the planning and implementation of
mitigation well before peaking. Early mitigation will almost certainly be less
expensive and less damaging to the world’s economies than delayed
8. Government Intervention Will be Required
Intervention by governments will be required, because the economic and
social implications of oil peaking would otherwise be chaotic. The
experiences of the 1970s and 1980s offer important lessons and guidance
as to government actions that might be more or less desirable. But the
process will not be easy. Expediency may require major changes to
existing administrative and regulatory procedures such as lengthy
environmental reviews and lengthy public involvement.
9. Economic Upheaval is Not Inevitable
Without mitigation, the peaking of world oil production will almost certainly
cause major economic upheaval. However, given enough lead-time, the
problems are soluble with existing technologies. New technologies are
certain to help but on a longer time scale. Appropriately executed risk
management could dramatically minimize the damages that might otherwise
10. More Information is Needed
The most effective action to combat the peaking of world oil production
requires better understanding of a number of issues. Is it possible to have
relatively clear signals as to when peaking might occur? It would be
desirable to have potential mitigation actions better defined with respect to
cost, potential capacity, timing, etc. Various risks and possible benefits of
possible mitigation actions need to be examined. (See Appendix V for a list
of possible follow-on studies).