There Is Enough Oil…No There Isn't

BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy published last week boldly stated we have enough oil. Specifically, there is enough proven oil reserves to last us 40 years. The Oil Depletion Analysis Centre in London disagrees as you might expected from their name. They say we are doomed that peak oil will hit in 4 years and we will crash hard. Did I mention the part about global economic collapse. Apparently the problem is that the cheap and easy to extract stuff – has already come and gone in 2005. Even when you factor in the more difficult to extract heavy oil, deep sea reserves, polar regions and liquid taken from gas, the peak will come as soon as 2011.

So does the more optimistic estimate of 40 years make you feel any better.  Sure I will be 73 then, if I live that long, and probably will not want to drive anyway.  But what about my kids?  I actually don’t have any.  But what about Kevin and Peter’s kids?  Take a moment to let this settle in.  The most optimistic, sunny day scenario of how long we can last on oil reserves, calculated by the oil industry themselves, is just 40 years.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.


3 Replies to “There Is Enough Oil…No There Isn't”

  1. 40 years **at the current rate of consumption**.

    Although the production doesn’t increase these days, the rate of consumption does, so it might be shorter than 40 years, and during the last of these 40 years, not everyone will have access to oil.

  2. Proven reserves and peak oil are different things. Proven reserve is an estimate of the total amount of oil available under current conditions (cost of extraction and price). So, it fluctuates directly with price and is always changing. Peak oil is the point at which the rate of oil extraction is maximum. The only way peak oil can increase is with the discovery of more reservoirs. Proven reserves go up every time price does.

    Possibly the best thing that could happen in the long run is for oil prices to increase slowly and steadily. As price goes up, alternative technologies become competitive, and help reduce the demand for oil.

  3. well said, Andrew…I agree. We don’t want it to be a shock, but high prices will (hopefully) create a culture of energy efficiency.

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