September 26, 2002
The continuing story of the end of oil

Kevin points me to this WaPo opinion piece which heralds the coming end of the Oil Era. Kevin quotes the following paragraphs to note the differences in direction of the EU and the US:

The sun is setting on the great fossil-fuel culture that began with the harnessing of coal and steam power more than 200 years ago. Leading petro-geologists disagree about when global production of oil will peak -- that is, reach the point where half the known oil reserves and projected oil yet to be discovered are used up. After that point, the price of oil on world markets steadily rises as oil production moves down.

The Cassandras say that peak production is likely to occur as early as the end of this decade, but probably no later than 2020. The optimists say global peak production won't occur until around 2040. What's most striking, however, is how little time separates the two camps -- only 20 to 30 years. What they both agree on is that once global oil production does peak, two-thirds of the remaining oil reserves will be in the Middle East, the most politically unstable region of the world. What this means is that countries still dependent on oil will struggle to maintain access to the remaining Mideast oil fields, with all of the risks and consequences that accompany that reality.

I've written about the eventual decline of oil before, and this article is more evidence to back me up. Note that the article I cited before did not directly address when oil supply would peak, it simply discussed the projected total lifespan. It's likely that the downside of the peak will be long and at least initially fairly gradual, as a higher premium will be put on efficiency and conservation.

I should note that some people who have actual credentials think that there may be a lot more oil than we think. Diane E. has some information on Dr. Thomas Gold, who is one such person. Diane considers the political implication of Dr. Gold's words: "What if he's right, and we helped to create a bunch of monsters by hoarding a resource that is in reality quite plentiful?" Good question.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 26, 2002 to Technology, science, and math