Earthtalk: Is the World Running Out of Oil?

Leading geologist predicts we'll max out in 2010


| June 3, 2004


Earthtalk is a forum for readers to ask the editors of E/Environmental Magazine important questions. And what could be more important than inquiring about the supply of oozing black gold that keeps our cars running, our industries pumping, and our egos inflated? Allie Knopf, of Kansas City, MO, who wrote in with the question, 'Is the world running out of oil?' has reason to be alarmed. E/Environmental Magazine replies: 'According to renowned petroleum geologist Colin Campbell, who has worked for Texaco, BP, Shell, and other major oil companies, world oil discovery peaked in the 1960s, while world production is set to peak about six years from now. Campbell predicts 'the onset of a chronic long-term shortage' by 2010.'

Can't we just march into Alaska and feast away on its natural resources, since that would eliminate the need to deal with the unstable, fanatical OPEC nations? Apparently, that would only be a temporary solution, aside from the ecological ramifications. 'According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the United States has 22.7 billion barrels of 'proven' oil reserves as of January 2004, about 20 percent less than we had in 1990. 'Proven' refers to estimated amounts that can be recovered in upcoming years with reasonable certainty.'

No problem, right? Why not just elect an eco-friendly U.S. president who promotes investment in renewable resources like solar energy and wind power so that we rely less on oil in the future? Statistics cited here prove that such a transformation would be easier said than done. 'According to the International Energy Outlook, released this year by the EIA, world demand is expected to increase by 1.9 percent annually, from 77 million barrels per day in 2001 to 121 million barrels per day in 2025, with much of the increased consumption projected to occur in the United States, China, and other developing nations in Asia. More than 19 million barrels of oil were consumed per day in the United States alone in 2003.'

How will you drive to work the Day After Tomorrow?
-- Jacob Wheeler

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