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Has World Oil Production Passed Its Peak? 1250

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-sky-is-falling dept.
dido writes "Princeton University geology Professor Kenneth Deffeyes has been studying world petroleum production data and has come to the conclusion that the world hit peak oil last December 16, 2005. If he is correct, total world oil production will never surpass what was produced last December. From the article: 'Compared to 2004, world oil production was up 0.8 percent in 2005, nowhere near enough to compensate for a demand rise of roughly 3 percent. The high prices did not bring much additional oil out of the ground. Most oil-producing countries are in decline."
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Has World Oil Production Passed Its Peak?

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  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:01AM (#14730305) Journal

    I remember in college a geologist was invited to demonstrate a "resource simulator" for our class. By today's standards it would be considered extremely crude (this was after all, in 1978), (wow, weird unintentional pun).

    The simulation was basically a giant video game with a simple graphical display of the world's known and projected resources including but not limited to:

    • coal
    • oil
    • uranium
    • water
    • copper
    • shotgun pellets (just seeing if you're paying attention!)

    About 20 students in the class were given controllers, each to (again, crudely) simulate usage and comsumption patterns of all of these resources. Also, some students had controllers allowing them to spend resources to explore for MORE resources.

    At the time, and years subsequent that demo stayed with me -- it left an indelible image of what could and probably would be.

    The results? Basically, no matter what the students did to conserve, and what they did to increase the resources, the "world" pretty much always ran out of fuel and resources by the year 2020. At the time that seemed pretty far away and I don't think many people felt the need to care. Maybe that time has come.

    Another interesting piece of the simulation: there were those students who pointed out these "estimates" of known and expected future discoveries of resources were just that, "estimates". The geologist obliged, and let the students rerun the simulations with a magnitude of latitude, i.e., ten times the estimated resources were allocated! The results then?, about an additional 10 to 20 years of resources before they ran out.

    Note: the results (we ran many different trials) weren't ALWAYS about running out of oil and petroleum. On a few occasions there were severe food and water crises. A very interesting lesson.

    • Note: the results (we ran many different trials) weren't ALWAYS about running out of oil and petroleum. On a few occasions there were severe food and water crises. A very interesting lesson.

      I could see a freshwater crisis (we've already had some of those), but such a crisis isn't anything that technology can't solve. (Desalination stations could become a big business.) I'm much more interested in how you came up with a food crisis. North and South America already produce way more food than is necessary, wit
    • by ePhil_One (634771) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:19AM (#14730390) Journal
      Basically, no matter what the students did to conserve, and what they did to increase the resources, the "world" pretty much always ran out of fuel and resources by the year 2020

      So he wrote a program to demonstate the effect of exponential growth, and modeled some lame "conserve" and "research" options that didn't really effect the growth rate. It was a simulation designed to always come to that conclusion. Big surprise that it always led to that conclusion, huh?

      Being college I hope somebody spoke up and challenged his assumptions, I also recall models that projected the population continuing to grow exponentially, though the reality has been far from that. Yes resources are being consumed far faster than they are being generated, but at the same time technology is moving fatser than ever too. My 295hp car just got 28 mpg on a 3 hour trip today, in 1978 that car would have gotten about 6-12mpg (since there were no 295 hp new cars in 1978, we'll have to estimate). One thing to keep in mind is that we DO have renewable sources of energy, and technology continues to lower the production costs of these while the non-renewable sources will continue to rise. At some point the two lines cross and we'll switch in a big way. The USA is real good at solving these problems.

    • by unitron (5733) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:23AM (#14730409) Homepage Journal
      "shotgun pellets (just seeing if you're paying attention!)"

      Funny, Dick Cheney was saying the same thing just the other day. :-)

    • There are lies, damned lies, statistics, and computer models.
  • by amliebsch (724858) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:01AM (#14730309) Journal
    Princeton University geology Professor Kenneth Deffeyes has been studying world petroleum production data and has come to the conclusion that the world hit peak oil last December 16, 2005.

    Yeah but what time?

  • Further articles (Score:5, Interesting)

    by putko (753330) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:05AM (#14730323) Homepage Journal
    Here's the site devoted to peakoil: []

    A huge chunk of Saudi exports come from one gigantic field. This means our eggs are in this one basket. Here's an article that discusses that field, and the chance that the Saudis might have screwed it by over-extracting. If you do that, you limit how much you can get out later; you might lose the reserves. [I'm guessing you might damage it, but that some future technology might make it recoverable -- just at a higher cost] E9-42BC-920B-91E5850FB067.htm []
    • Oil hasn't peaked, it's just jumped the shark.
    • I've heard that formally producing wells are only pumping water now. I really am concerned. I have buddies in the industry and there are whispers of production problems which probably means that people are whispering so as to not start people panicking when they realize the coming storm. The biggest sign to me is that the REPUBLICAN government is talking conservation and alternatives now.
  • wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eobanb (823187) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:05AM (#14730326) Homepage
    If this is true, it's extremely important news to practically everyone on the planet. With a 3% discrepency in what we produce and we consume (and presumably that discrepency will grow for a while), it's essential that we begin to displace oil with other energy sources. Essential. We are completely screwing ourselves otherwise. I mean right now, I'm sitting here reading slashdot instead of writing a paper that's due tomorrow. That's a really bad idea. But sacrificing what literally powers our lifestyle and existence as we know it is doubtlessly a whole lot worse.

    And the scary part is, we've procrastinated for so long, I'm not so sure that we'll find a suitable replacement in time, at least not before there are widespread disruptions in global energy supply.
    • Re:wow. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by amliebsch (724858) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:23AM (#14730408) Journal
      And the scary part is, we've procrastinated for so long, I'm not so sure that we'll find a suitable replacement in time

      DON'T PANIC! Even if we have reached "peak oil," however that is defined, it will be a long process. Production will start a long, slow decline, and prices will start a long, steady rise. New conservation methods will come on line as prices rise, consumption will fall, and lifestyles will change, further slowing the process. And we can always fall back on nuclear energy.

      • Re:wow. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Captain_Chaos (103843) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @06:55AM (#14731262)

        Production will start a long, slow decline, and prices will start a long, steady rise.

        I thought the whole point of the peak oil theory was that prices won't rise slowly and steadily, but exponentially, due to various psychological and economical effects resulting from the fact that "the end is in sight," as it were.

        • Re:wow. (Score:4, Informative)

          by ichin4 (878990) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @07:26AM (#14731371)
          I don't know about "peak oil theory" or othr poor attempts at economic modeling by geology professors, but if you ask an economist, he will tell you what economic theory predicts: a finite resource will be depleted at a rate such at, on average, its price rises at the interest rate. The only "exponential effects" are in the minds of the doom-sayers that the press likes to quote because they make for such great copy.
  • by brian0918 (638904) <> on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:06AM (#14730335)
    Wouldn't oil companies want to reduce production so that they can hike up prices for the oil that they currently have? Or am I missing a basic element of economics?
    • by eobanb (823187) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:11AM (#14730350) Homepage
      Actually I don't think so. Artificially causing spikes in oil price just causes more people to seek other energy sources, causing demand for oil to decrease. Then again, our infrastructure is almost hopelessly dependent on oil, so I suppose there would be a demand either way. Anyway, I don't think this kind of production decrease is really that calculated. Occam's razor; we know we're running frighteningly low on oil (virtually guaranteed depletion in our lifetimes). This naturally causes more difficult/expensive, and thus, lower production. Or, on the other hand, do you really think it's a grand OPEC conspiracy to get the whole world to pay more for oil, that just happens to correspond with overwhelming geologic evidence that we simply don't have an unlimited supply of oil?
  • Ethanol (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ivan kk (917820) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:07AM (#14730342)
    The rising prices make ethanol based petrol a much more viable alternative.
    Perhaps new cars will implement the required modifications to prevent corrosion throughout the engines from higher percentages of ethanol in petrol.
    • Re:Ethanol (Score:5, Interesting)

      by eobanb (823187) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:15AM (#14730373) Homepage
      I tend to agree. Here in middle America there's a hell of a lot of land that could go toward production of E85. Most cars out there now can run on it with only trivial modifications (making sure there's no aluminium in the fuel line and adjusting the timing belt). Our infrastructure can easily adapt to it. In fact, there's a good chance you're already putting E10 in your car right now.

      Ethanol is a hell of a lot closer than the far-fetched hydrogen economy proposed by the US's current executive administration.
      • Re:Ethanol (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jcr (53032) <> on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:21AM (#14730399) Journal
        Ethanol is a hell of a lot closer than the far-fetched hydrogen economy proposed by the US's current executive administration.

        If ethanol is economically viable, then let's quit giving Archer Daniels Midland tens of billions of dollars in corporate welfare, and see whether people still buy it.

      • Re:Ethanol (Score:3, Insightful)

        It's not that simple.

        With current consumption, we'd have to farm an entire continent basically, just to make up for how much oil we use. So, do we tell the people of South America or the people of Africa, that they have to move so we can build our giant ethanol farm?

        Nuclear is the only way, and we really need fusion. We should have spent $400 billion on a crash fusion program, not on the Iraq folly.
    • E85 - Ethanol (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RITMaloney (928883) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @03:12AM (#14730602)
      I read a great article in the New York Times the other day (go figure... its available for free at my law school) about E85. Anyway I was shocked to read that to make a car compatible with E85 it only costs an extra $150. I'm hardly a rich man and I try to save my money, but $150 per car doesn't seem like much in the grand scheme of things, espically considering the way our modern day governments spend and tax the hell out of everything. I was skeptical, about that $150 figure, but here that price is quoute in another article ID=/20060122/BUSINESS/601220310/1003 [] And Since its so cheap why doesn't our government mandate all (or 50% of) new cars made and imported be E85 comptabile and let the consumer/market choose their fuel? Even if the federal government won't do this, you think some of the midwestern states would. Since the #1 problem with consumer adoption of E85 is its availability, wouldn't these state economies based on farming want to hurry up its availability so they could increase demand for their own product? If I were an Iowa Legislator I'd want to make every car sold in the state E85 compatible and mandate every gas station sell E85. If the state can succesfuly force E85 onto the market it'd only be a matter of time until gas stations in the surronding states started selling E85 by choice to get those consumers and it spreads. Kind of like how McDonald's spread across America. Other Problems with E85: #2 promblem: You get less energy per gallon about 10 to 15% less. But E85 is aparently cheaper than gasoline. So at some point, I don't know where, and I can't find any information on this, there is a "Cost Per Mile" equilabrium between the two. Sure you have to fill up your gas tank more often if you use E85 because you get less milage, but maybe each mile is cheaper. This is a little harder than calculating "MPG" but I'm betting a savy company can add this metric to an onboard dash. If the Prius can calculate MPG, why not be able to enter how much it cost you to fill up the tank and then you get a cost per mile read out, so you can see which is cheaper for you.
  • by zekt (252634) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:09AM (#14730346)
    There are a hell of a lot of other things which do not go to waste during the production process of oil and gas. Examples include the tar/bitumen you put on roads and paths, chemcials that go into make plastics - the list goes on (just hit wikipedia and look up Oil Refinery). Point being that most of these 'by products' are all consumed at the rate they are produced... they are going into useful products. You can expect to see rises across the board for all of these products as well.

    Cutting down oil use is not going to be just about cutting petrol/gas usgae - it is going to be about making more durable consumable products than are currently churned out - and being happy to pay top dollar for them (just like out parents had to). Believe it or not, the 'good old days' of 'well built products' may just come back... that should make our grand parents happy.
  • Why the peak? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ChePibe (882378) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:17AM (#14730381)
    Is this peak simply an artificial creation - an attempt by oil cartels such as OPEC to limit production and maximize profits on a finite resource - or due to some technical issue or actually pumping oil? The author also seems to support simple extrapolation by stating that "By 2025, we're going to be back in the Stone Age" rather than attempting to analyze the actual cause of the problem.

    Perhaps I've missed something, but I do not entirely trust his conclusions. If what I've stated is incorrect, please feel free to correct me.
    • Re:Why the peak? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by eobanb (823187) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:27AM (#14730427) Homepage
      The author also seems to support simple extrapolation by stating that "By 2025, we're going to be back in the Stone Age"

      That's certainly overstating it a bit, but on the other hand, most people seem to be of the mindset that 'oh this peak oil thing was just something someone made up. Don't believe the hype!' They think it's like Y2K. Scary...until it really happens and it turns out it wasn't so bad after all....

      I really, really, really, wish that was the case. But I'm afraid it just isn't. A lot of people are living in fantasy land right now and assuming that any spike in oil prices is going to be like the 1970s. But after a point, it won't just come back down. Extrapolation works rather well in this case because there's no real reason to believe that the world's oil consumption is going to dramatically decrease, and considering that oil-producing countries are basically operating on the same fields they always have been (because there just aren't very many new ones). Oil price fluctuates because of the rest of the supply chain, not because there are new wells being drilled and others shut down all the time. Relatively speaking, it's a fairly predictable economy.
    • Re:Why the peak? (Score:5, Informative)

      by FreakWent (627155) <> on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:56AM (#14730548)
      Well, what happens when you open an oil field is that it takes some time to ramp up. Start with a small rig, lay some pipelines, add more, larger rigs, bigger pipelines, more rigs etc. This provides the leading edge of the curve. This can be very steep in modern fields where many sophisticated high-capacity rigs are slapped in, as opposed to oil fields which were first exploited 50 years or so ago which used slower more incremental improvements, so different fields will have slightly different slope curves.

      At some point, the oil is not under so much pressure and doesn't squirt out so much. Perhaps the oil men need to drill deeper, or sideways, or use other fancy techniques and so the take per day is reduced. This may go on for some time, forming a flattening of the peak at the top. Maybe. More often, and especially over the last 20 - 30 years, the field is run flat out for as long as possible, so production stops more quickly.

      As production dwindles, other techniques come into play, like forcing in seawater under pressure to push the oil out (as in Saudi Arabia), and many of these can damage the field, reducing the long term extraction total in favour for a higher extraction rate today. As time goes on it becomes harder and more expensive to extract the oil (diminishing returns) and eventually it's just not worth it, so the field is closed down.

      This is the idea, there's a curve for every well and every field. If you add all the curves together, then you get one big curve, whith "Hubbert's Peak" in teh middle (the geologist who first noticed the production bell curve).

      Now the problem isn't that suddenly all the oil's gone when we wake up next tuesday, it's that this month/year we produced less than last month/year, but -- and this is the problem -- we use MORE than last month/year. Demand is growing faster than ever before, just at the time when the supply is starting to drop off. This causes price increases and countries can be expected to squabble over an oil supply which continues to become smaller.

      As an aside, people like to say that "They've been prediciting this for years, it's never happened before so whay should it happen now?" The answer is that it's been predicted to happen now. I have a text book from 1954 (that's over 50 years ago) which predicted that demand would exceed supply around the year 2000 -- and you could argue that we are later that this because of improved extraction (not production, you extract oil) technology and because of a drop in consumption from teh late 70's oil shocks.

      The supply/demand gap is a political and economic (and military?) problem in itself -- whether or not there's still enough oil to make all the toy for the happy meals might be a problem, but even if it isn't, the gap between supply and demand is a big enough problem all by itself. is where to go to explore the argument in detail -- it's not a greenie thing, it's not a anti-american thing, it's to do with geology and chemistry. Beware of people who quote reserve figures, not only to countries lie outright about the figures, but quoting reserves is a potential -- you can't ever get every single barrel out of the ground and leave dry dust behind, lots remains and will never be extracted. As for scientists saving us, bear in mind that the warnings of peak and the warnings that alternatives like ethanol are almost useless are coming from eminent, experienced talented scientists. Science is not magic, if we're using too many joules per day then you can't just create it. I'm delighted to discuss why every alternative is doomed, try me at and I'll explain why I reckon population will halved in the next fifty years.

  • by P0ldy (848358) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:22AM (#14730405)
    In 2004, 30 billion barrels of oil were consumed worldwide, while only eight billion barrels of new oil reserves were discovered. Huge, easily exploitable oil fields are most likely a thing of the past. In August 2005, the International Energy Agency reported annual global demand at 84.9 million barrels per day (mbd) which means over 31 billion barrels annually. This means consumption is now within 2 mbd of production. At any one time there are about 54 days of stock in the OECD system plus 37 days in emergency stockpiles.
    -- Wikipedia []
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:25AM (#14730418) Journal
    The faster we use up all of the economically obtainable oil, the sooner people can stop whining about using it all up and the sooner we can get on with whatever is next.
    • Re:Use more oil... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by abdulwahid (214915)

      The faster we use up all of the economically obtainable oil, the sooner people can stop whining about using it all up and the sooner we can get on with whatever is next.

      The trouble is it doesn't work like that and the sooner people reaslise the better. Moving to any new system first of all takes years but secondly takes energy. For example, how many cars and gas stations in the US? How long would it take to convert all of those so that they can fuel hydrogen cars and to change all the gas stations to be

  • by HeavensBlade23 (946140) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:25AM (#14730420)
    We can only expect these problems to get exponentially worse with all the growth in China and India. Hundreds of millions of people getting wired for electricity and generally starting to use petroleum for the first time will come with a high cost indeed.
  • Oil sands (Score:3, Informative)

    by Belseth (835595) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:32AM (#14730446)
    I've been reading about Canadian oil sands since the 1970s. They used to be a curiousity because the oil was too expensive to extract. Well with the spike in oil prices they are now competitive and have the advatange of not getting more expensive to extract. The estimates run between a 200 to 400 year supply. I hate to see them become the answer because it means more CO2 but they won't run out in our lifetimes. If you want proof Bush only cares about backing the American oil companies he won't even discuss Canadian oil with Canada. China is the country pursing Canada. Our oil companies don't control it so we aren't interested. This is about corporate profits. Shortages cause price increases which increase profits. The irony is if they can drive prices up enough Canada is going to get as rich as Saudia Arabia and they won't run out in a hundred years. The governemnt is shooting us in the foot and no one is even talking about it.
    • Re:Oil sands (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dzimas (547818)
      Your numbers are a bit off. It's estimated that the oil sands in Canada contain just under a third of the world's remaining oil - hardly enough to last 200 years. That oil is in a heavy bituminous sand (clay, water, oil and sand mixture). Right now, it is strip-mined (requires oil to run equipment). Over 80% of the deposits are too deep to strip and require new technologies. Extraction of oil from the sand requires tremendous amounts of water and heat (currently generated with natural gas, which is getting
      • Re:Oil sands (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Zog The Undeniable (632031) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @04:31AM (#14730863)
        With respect, the return to an agrarian economy ain't gonna happen. As soon as an energy crisis arises, we're going to start building nuclear reactors like they're going out of fashion. You can run your cars on nuke-electrolysed hydrogen and heat your home with nuke electricity. Uranium supplies a problem? Use fast breeder reactors. OK, you're going to upset a few people and need a small army to protect the reactors from fundamentalist nutters, but no way are people going to accept a Pol Pot style regime.
  • The problem... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:33AM (#14730450)
    I have a minor in Geology and recently took a class on Geology and World Affairs, the Professor has his Ph.D in Petroleum Geology and worked in the field for around 30 years with a focus on the North Sea and Texas Oil. That professor also professed the Peak Oil theory, however a problem with him, and other Petroleum Geologists with a focus on "rock oil" is an over specialzation on "rock oil". When I asked during our discussions on Peak Oil about Tar Sands or Oil Shales, I was told that "...if it don't come up through a pipe most Petroleum Geologists don't know a damned thing about it." And that in particular, this Professor with his 30 years experiance didn't know a damned thing about it because that isn't what his firms worked on.

    Now then, I don't know what Professor Kenneth S. Deffeyes background is, but I can see he is writing books on the subject as so has a vested and economic interest in this theory. Furthermore he seems to discount Ethanol, fuel cells, Methane hydrates, oil shale, and Nuclear power, as "shimmering dreams" so I think one needs to take what he is saying with a grain of salt since, as stated before, his vested interest to make money at this point is "peak oil".

    The truth behind "rock oil" right now is that there is alot being used, and there is alot out there and there are still a good number of basins which have not been explored, including the Arctic Ocean and there is alot of oil we can recoved in "played out" areas with new techniques and with new technologies.
  • by DECS (891519) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:49AM (#14730520) Homepage Journal
    So the price of oil goes up momentarily for what, a year? And this analyst decides that, since oil producers didn't instantly develop the technology to extract hydrocarbons from shale, or find a whole new set of oil reserves in areas we haven't even yet begun to look, that its all downhill from here? What bullshit.

    That sounds an awful lot like the 1970's analysts who said we'd have no oil at all by 2000.

    Or the brainiac reporter who insisted that Apple's iPod was not going to have any effect on Mac sales after interviewing 10 iPod users who didn't also buy a Mac on their visit to the Apple store in 2004.

    Anyone can rub together two brain cells and write a report that glosses over market realities with some sensationalist simplifications.

    Basic economics indicates that that the market can fall behind reality for several years. But obviously, at some point when oil rises to a level where it can comfortably stay, all kinds of results will kick in: conservation, alternative fuels, alternative oil discovery, alternative oil sources. To suggest that we've hit the end of the oil pan is plainly retarded.

    We've only known about the middle east's oil for most of a century. There's plenty of places we haven't looked, and more we know about and chose not to exploit because either the market can't support it yet, or there is lower hanging fruit, or there are political or environmental concerns we can't resolve yet.
    • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Thursday February 16, 2006 @07:33AM (#14731390) Journal
      In true slashdot style, I've not read TFA, but in general I think the concern is not so much running out of oil (we know there's a tremendous amount left in various places), but running out of CHEAP oil. It's cheap oil that makes our way of living what it is now. There could be 500 years of oil left, but if it's not cheap oil, our lifestyles will dramatically change.

      The sources of oil you mention all have one thing in common: none of them are cheap oil.
  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @02:51AM (#14730532)
    Not to denegrate Princeton University geology Professor Kenneth Deffeyes, but Mr. Simmons of Simmons & Co Intnl has been speaking worldwide on this subject from his own research for over 5 years.

    Mr. Simmons pdfs and PPTs used with his speaches are avaialable at his website, and are incredibly detailed and convincing.

    Nuclear power is the ONLY rational solution, near term.

    Weak kneed leaders in the U.S. have been totally 100% cowed by irrational environmental types who do not use any of this data or statistical evidence or engineering facts to oppose anything but "green". What these so-called leaders and environmentalists miss is that they may have doomed the U.S. to great hardship, by delaying the inevitable move to nuclear fission, which other major countries have done and are expanding as we speak.


  • by bobwoodard (92257) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @03:01AM (#14730562)
    Here are some quotes from the National Center For Policy Analysis, regarding Oil Peaks and attempting to forecast oil production:

    In 1855, an advertisement for Kier's Rock Oil advised consumers to "hurry, before this wonderful product is depleted from Nature's laboratory."

    In 1874, the state geologist of Pennsylvania, the nation's leading oil-producing state, estimated that only enough U.S. oil remained to keep the nation's kerosene lamps burning for four years.

    In May 1920, the U.S. Geological Survey announced that the world's total endowment of oil amounted to 60 billion barrels.

    In 1950, geologists estimated the world's total oil endowment at around 600 billion barrels.

    From 1970 through 1990, their estimates increased to between 1,500 and 2,000 billion barrels.

    In 1994, the U.S. Geological Survey raised the estimate to 2,400 billion barrels, and their most recent estimate (2000) was of a 3,000-billion-barrel endowment.

    By the year 2000, a total of 900 billion barrels of oil had been produced. Total world oil production in 2000 was 25 billion barrels. If world oil consumption continues to increase at an average rate of 1.4 percent a year, and no further resources are discovered, the world's oil supply will not be exhausted until the year 2056.

    The estimates above do not include unconventional oil resources. Conventional oil refers to oil that is pumped out of the ground with minimal processing; unconventional oil resources consist largely of tar sands and oil shales that require processing to extract liquid petroleum. Unconventional oil resources are very large. In the future, new technologies that allow extraction of these unconventional resources likely will increase the world's reserves.

    Oil production from tar sands in Canada and South America would add about 600 billion barrels to the world's supply.

    Rocks found in the three western states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming alone contain 1,500 billion barrels of oil.

    Worldwide, the oil-shale resource base could easily be as large as 14,000 billion barrels -- more than 500 years of oil supply at year 2000 production rates.

    Unconventional oil resources are more expensive to extract and produce, but we can expect production costs to drop with time as improved technologies increase efficiency.

    With every passing year it becomes possible to exploit oil resources that could not have been recovered with old technologies. The first American oil well drilled in 1859 by Colonel Edwin Drake in Titusville, Pa. -- which was actually drilled by a local blacksmith known as Uncle Billy Smith -- reached a total depth of 69 feet (21 meters).

    Today's drilling technology allows the completion of wells up to 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) deep.

    The vast petroleum resources of the world's submerged continental margins are accessible from offshore platforms that allow drilling in water depths to 9,000 feet (2,743 meters).

    The amount of oil recoverable from a single well has greatly increased because new technologies allow the boring of multiple horizontal shafts from a single vertical shaft.

    Four-dimensional seismic imaging enables engineers and geologists to see a subsurface petroleum reservoir drain over months to years, allowing them to increase the efficiency of its recovery.

    New techniques and new technology have increased the efficiency of oil exploration. The success rate for exploratory petroleum wells has increased 50 percent over the past decade, according to energy economist Michael C. Lynch.
    • by nicklott (533496) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @04:57AM (#14730956)
      Unfortuately the figures you quote seem to come from the USGS, who are notorious for massively overstating available reserves (the current administration likes optimistic oil figures). Non-governmental bodies have been largley agreeing with this article that the peak will be passed sometime between now and 2010 for a good few years now.

      While there are probably quite a few ANWR size fields around, they're only big enough to keep the hummers running for a couple of months. There simply are no new big reservoirs to be found.

      There certainly is a lot more oil available in unconvential forms, but the financial and environmental cost of extracting these starts making even hydrogen look cheap. All that new tech can only delay the inevitable by a few years.

      If you haven't already, read "The end of oil" by paul roberts. Written by an oil industry journalist, his basic conclusion in the end is that the only way to put back the inevitable is simply by using less of it. No one needs 6mpg autos, expecially not when new production cars now routinely get upwards of 70mpg in europe (without all that hybrid shit). (I'd actually like to see what the author thinks now, it was written before the current price hikes and he said that a price over $30 was unsustainable. It's now been over $50 for a year.)

    • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @07:24AM (#14731362)
      'In 1855, an advertisement for Kier's Rock Oil advised consumers to "hurry, before this wonderful product is depleted from Nature's laboratory."'

      Since when do you believe an advertisement?

      "In 1874, the state geologist of Pennsylvania, the nation's leading oil-producing state, estimated that only enough U.S. oil remained to keep the nation's kerosene lamps burning for four years."

      Even though this is not an advertisement it was in the 19th century. Technology and science progressed enormously since then.

      "In May 1920, the U.S. Geological Survey announced that the world's total endowment of oil amounted to 60 billion barrels."

      The USGS was proven to be wildy inaccurate even in their own country, I quote: "As recently as 1972, the USGS was releasing circulars that estimated US domestic oil production would not peak until well into the 21st century [], and possibly not until the 22nd century. (See Theobald, Schweinfurth & Duncan, U.S. Geological Survey Circular 650)

      This was despite the fact US production had already peaked in 1970, just as Hubbert had predicted. Richard Heinberg reminds us, "in 1973, Congress demanded an investigation of the USGS for its failure to foresee the 1970 US oil production peak."

      You say, that: "In 1950, geologists estimated the world's total oil endowment at around 600 billion barrels.
      From 1970 through 1990, their estimates increased to between 1,500 and 2,000 billion barrels.


      "In 1994, the U.S. Geological Survey raised the estimate to 2,400 billion barrels, and their most recent estimate (2000) was of a 3,000-billion-barrel endowment."

      Actually, no. Please see this link [], I quote: "The USGS 2000 divides the petroleum assessments into 'categories of probability': F95, F50 (i.e. median), F5, and Mean (i.e. arithmetic mean). "F" means fractile, as defined by the USGS", and then "TOTAL GCOE at F95 = (approx.) 2,000 Gb
      TOTAL GCOE at F50 = (approx.) 2,700 Gb
      TOTAL GCOE at F5 = (approx.) 4,900 Gb
      TOTAL GCOE Mean = (approx.) 3,000 Gb

      This means, by their EXTREMELY flawed logic, that if they take the probabilities and get a mean value from them, then thats how many oil is out there, while anything below F50 probability is wishful thinking only, if not outright dreaming. I'd say that the quote: "and the estimates for the world Grown Conventional Oil Endowment will converge somewhere between 2000 and 2200 BBO (i.e. near the F95 estimate in the USGS 2000 report). The peak of world oil production is within sight." is very accurate in describing the real reserves.

      "By the year 2000, a total of 900 billion barrels of oil had been produced. Total world oil production in 2000 was 25 billion barrels. If world oil consumption continues to increase at an average rate of 1.4 percent a year, and no further resources are discovered, the world's oil supply will not be exhausted until the year 2056."

      The problem is not that oil is gone, but that consumption is bigger than production and that production cannot be increased by any significant numbers!

      We currently need 83.5 million barrels per day. We are projected to need 120 million barrels per day by 2020. On the other hand, when|since we hit peak oil production (will) decrease by around 1 million barrels per day of production per year. We just cannot tap into the remaining oil reserves quickly enough and in such way that it would be worth the costs (in monetary and energy terms)!

      Dick Cheney said [], that "By some estimates, there will be an average of two-percent annual growth in global oil demand over the years ahead, along with, conservatively, a three-percent natural decline in production from existing reserves.That means by 2010 we w
  • missing the point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SupahVee (146778) <> on Thursday February 16, 2006 @03:13AM (#14730605) Journal
    What everyone so far seems to have missed is not "what are we gonna use to drive our cars back and forth to work with?!" but, "How the hell are we gonna feed ourselves?"

    Oil is food, people. Don't think so? imagine the lines of connection going back from your local mega-mart - very little food is grown locally anymore, it all gets shipped in, and we, as faithful 'consumers' consume what's presented to us. Wanna move closer to a farm? Nice try, that wont work either, most food cannot be grown or survive without the very extensive use of, you guessed it, petroleum based pesticides.

    Oh, well we can switch to a hydrogen based economy! Wrong again, can't make hydrogen without oil. Can't make fancy electric cars without a current reserve of oil.

    Get a bike, get spare parts, and start riding, it's gonna be a long 75-150 years, everyone.
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @03:29AM (#14730669) Journal
    (This is from something I wrote up a couple months ago, regarding a question I asked Professor Deffeyes during a Q&A session after a talk he gave at my university. If anybody has a better answer, I'd honestly be interested in hearing it.)

    Today there was a talk in Beckman Auditorium by Kenneth Deffeyes [], Princeton professor emeritus and author of one of the more popular books on that ever-popular meme, peak oil. He discussed his belief that we had hit peak oil sometime around this past Thanksgiving, and that oil prices are going to fluctuate wildly and rise in the next 5 years of so.

    During the Q&A period I went up to the microphone and asked the following: During your talk you briefly mentioned the futures market. Currently on the oil futures market, you can purchase a contract for a barrel of oil to be delivered in, say, the year 2010 or 2011 which is actually cheaper than a barrel of oil today. What are your thoughts on why this is the case?

    In his response, he had mentioned that he had been asked a similar question after he gave his talk at Merrill Lynch, basically: "If you really think oil prices are going to rise, why don't you put your money where your mouth is and buy up futures contracts?" He said to them that he wasn't too knowledgeable about futures contracts, and afterwards read up on them a little and found some of their intricacies bewildering. He said that he would want to purchase futures options for the coming few years, due to the extreme price fluctuations he expects, followed by regular futures in the longer term.

    I'm not sure I bought his answer. Although I'm not sure about how far ahead one can purchase futures options, regular futures can definitely be purchased for 2011 [], which should be well into the period of soaring prices he predicts.
    • There are two questions here. The first is, why isn't the futures market forecasting price increases for oil? And the second is, if you do believe in Peak Oil, how should you invest?

      There are a few answers to the first question. Maybe the futures market is wrong. However, everyone there is betting hard-earned money on future oil prices, so if anyone is informed about what is likely to happen with the oil situation, you'd think it would be oil traders. Or, maybe Peak Oil theory is wrong. The futures market o
  • by Clockwurk (577966) * on Thursday February 16, 2006 @03:39AM (#14730707) Homepage
    But there are many areas where some minor federal intervention would be very useful.

    The first thing the govt. should do is reevaluate the way it calculates fuel economy. The current system is grossly innaccurate, and doesn't give consumers a true picture of the gas mileage they can expect. Consumer Reports had an article about this and the auto industry rep. basically said that the auto companies know how the govt. tests, and optomizes their vehicles for the test (gear ratio tweaking, using prototype vehicles, etc.). Changing the test methods would give consumers more accurate information so they can make a more informed decision.

    The second thing the govt. could do is raise the minimum required fuel economy and make light trucks subject to the gas guzzler tax. I work at a Dodge dealership and the fuel economy of new vehicles is attrocious. A new durango gets 14-18 mpg and pays no gas guzzler tax. A station wagon that got similar mileage would have a several thousand dollar tax associated with it. Treat SUVs like the cars that they are replacing and you will find that fewer people will buy one.

    The third thing that the govt. and EPA could do to help is to standardize fuel grades. Under the current system, refiners have to produce something like 60-70 different blends to comply with various state enviromental regs. The govt. could reduce this clusterfuck by having perhaps 2 or 3 different blends; one blend for urban/enviromentally sensitive (pacific northwest, etc.) areas, and one blend for areas where pollution isn't as big of a problem. Current refineries in the US are running at or above full capacity, and this would help ease that situation, and allow oil companies to put current resources to better use.

    In addition to the step above, I firmly believe that the govt. should raise minimum octane ratings for gasoline. If the US had higher octane ratings, we could use higher compression ratings, and turbochargers would be a lot more effective, allowing smaller displacement engines (like most japanese cars have) to produce the same horsepower as a larger naturally aspirated engine but with increased fuel economy.

    Obviously, these aren't complete solutions to Americas oil addiction, but they are things that would help.

    P.S. while writing this post, I came across an interesting ad [] that the sierra club ran in the new york times on Ford's 100th birthday. 100 years of "progress" indeed.
  • by brianthesmurf (954896) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @03:59AM (#14730767)
    Instead of worrying about the fact that oil has reached it's peak shouldn't we be figuring out ways of leaving the carbon in the ground? (Remember that greenhouse thingy?) The focus in these debates always seems to be on how to produce more energy not use less. And that while we could easily save almost 50% of consumption using currently available technologies. If youu're interested in more details see this link from the BBC stm [] "Energy's 'low hanging fruit'" by Dr Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
  • passe oil (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mgabrys_sf (951552) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @03:59AM (#14730769) Journal
    Oil from the ground is so 20th century I could care less about stories about it. Europe has begun licensing TDP tech and we have a full-scale refinery running near Kansas City. If we ever get serious about putting domestic oil production the whole idea of oil from the ground will be beyond quaint. ion []

    It works, it provides clean water and high grade deisel oil, cleans the air by providing higher octane product, less emissions from refinery gasses, can empty landfills of plastic, can clean the water supply from biomass waste. Don't as me why the hell the DOE hasn't gotten behind it. A tenth of the cost of the Manhatten project could make us the largest oil producers on the planet*.

    Also check the Wiki references to plastic conversions. Say good-bye to plastic waste and ocean pollution as well. Grey water dumping would also be convertable on the cruise ship level. Plus domestic production nullifies the middle east cartels, and puts tanker accidents off our coasts to an end. The middle east argument alone is a national security problem and it's criminal that this tech hasn't gone into a crash program status.

    And this blows all previous gas alternatives out of the water, doesn't require massive leaps in corn production and doesn't require an change in transportation systems or distribution.

    I'm confident that we will engage in this tech at some point - but it'd be nice to hear more about it. Try googling it sometime - you'll find almost nothing in the pop-press. I've even had dialogue with MSNBC about it - and they claim they're aware of it - but never say dick. Neither did Wired and they were talking new-oil on the fricking cover of their rag less than a month ago. FEH!

    * The KC Star reported that from bio-waste alone via agribusiness we could convert all organic waste-fodder into 20 billion barrels of oil. We consume 12 billion barrels at present. We could ergo go from being the largest consumers to the largest producers.
  • by viking2000 (954894) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @04:07AM (#14730798)
    Mankind is of course a cancer on this earth, and will soon exhaust all resources like yeast cells in a vat of merlot, however:

    The article uses an unfounded and probably incorrect basis that production will peak when half the resurces are extracted. This can be a rule of thunb at best. Then it goes on to use this rule to extrapolate a date with 4 decimal digits. That's a joke.

    There are for example enormous oil reserves in oil sand. Possibly more than all other known resources It costs maybe $30/barrel to extract, but at current prices, that is economical.

    Prices will most likely continue to grow moderately as other new resouces become economical. This includes alcohol from grain and sugar cane, natural gas, and nuclear power (At least for stationary power)
  • by Errandboy of Doom (917941) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @04:08AM (#14730800) Homepage
    Despite all this noise about peak oil, oil futures remain reasonable [], and oil prices are coming down in light of new supplies [], suggesting that our access to oil isn't nearly as stripped as doomsayers want us to believe.

    China and America have already begun investing in alternative sources of energy, all while new refineries are being built to increase supply. The futures market sees this as evidence that oil is heading for oversupply, just like it did in the mid to late 1990s.

    If you're convinced that the market is mistaken, well, maybe you're right. But rather than argue with me, I have some simple advice for you: buy. Prove how convinced you are by putting your money where your mouth is, and if you're right, you'll amass a fortune. You can buy us all copies of Mad Max [] with the words "I told you so" painted on the front in sweet rare crude. Thales will tell you, [] there's nothing that says "I'm smarter than you" like money.

    But if anyone was confident enough in their predictions of peak oil to bank on it, the futures market would adjust to reflect it. Why hasn't that happened?

    It hasn't happened because this apocalyptic pessimism is shortsighted.

    I'm sympathetic, it's easy to get worried when you're told something is finite, though its consumption is increasing. But in a market, if consumption is increasing, that's a good sign nothing's wrong. Consumption will increase only so long as it's unproblematic, then it will slow, a market is a proportional negative feedback system [].

    To further allay any fears, keep in mind the imminent end of oil has been predicted routinely for the last 125 years [].

    Before that, the exhaustion of coal was the fun thing to predict. While we're less reliant on coal these days, we still have mountains of it to mine. Cheap oil, not depletion, brought about the end of the coal era. And likewise, cheap x, not depletion, will bring the end of the oil era.

    Even if all this analysis is wasted breath, if peak oil has certainly and suddenly hit and we're all staring at a future of expensive oil, even then, I'm still not worried. [R]ising oil prices are... an invitation to corn and coal and hydrogen. For anyone with a fresh idea, expensive oil is as good as a subsidy []. Expensive oil only means we shift to something else, probably something cleaner, and I'm fine with that too.
    • Saying " keep in mind the imminent end of oil has been predicted routinely for the last 125 years" is worthless. 125 years ago the state of scientific & technical knowledge was hardly on a par with today. There are very good reasons for thinking peak oil is here. And to all the people who start saying "tar sands" - it not even sure that tar-shale has an economic EROEI (i.e. it takes a helluva lot of energy to get the oil out). Various sources quote about 1.5 for this as compared to 30 for middle east o
  • End of Cheap Oil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeyNg (88437) <mikeyng&gmail,com> on Thursday February 16, 2006 @04:14AM (#14730818) Homepage
    Peak oil is not about the decline of oil, it's about the decline of CHEAP oil. Some would dismiss peak oil as another Malthusian doomsday. However, one needs to consider the fact that oil is such a huge part of our lives, and the discovery of cheap oil (and the fertilizer made from petroleum products) helped stem the tide. It's not simply energy, it's also plastics and a multitude of other products. While we *may* find alternative sources of energy, can you imagine a life without cheap plastic? Go through your day today and see how often you use plastic.

    Oil will always be present on our planet. The problem is that the Return on Investment (ROI) may be severely diminished. Right now, it's cheaper to find, drill, and transport oil than it is to use it. If it becomes more expensive to find and transport oil, we will have to find another source of energy. In case you hadn't noticed, energy consumption is going UP and not down.

    It's not something to take lightly. There are people working on it, but we really need alot more effort behind it. I'm imagining bacteria in a petri dish consuming all of the resources. If people don't wake up soon, we could easily be faced with a situation where we simply will not be able to find a solution. Consider that research itself takes up resources, which will become more scarce and valuable. There is a doomsday possibility out there, but I like to hope that some governments will wake up and put alot of effort into finding alternatives. Humans should hopefully be able to think their way out of the petri dish.
  • by rcs1000 (462363) * < minus poet> on Thursday February 16, 2006 @04:23AM (#14730840)
    For an academic, this is a dangerously unthoughful piece. Or rather, while it is quite possible we have passed peak oil production, the understanding of economics in the piece are terribly naieve.

    If oil production continues to decline (which it may well), then prices will rise. We'll see $100 oil. But, and this is the big but, if we see $100 oil then world oil demand will not rise 3%, it'll be down 5%. High oil prices mean less consumption of oil.

    This happens in several ways: firstly, in areas like power generation, then oil become more expensive than (existing) competing technologies. Oil fired power stations cease to make sense relative to coal fired ones. (And it is no surprise that we are seeing an upsurge in interest in nuclear.)

    Secondly, economic growth slows - especially in areas which are energy intensive. The price of a Ryanair, or Easyjey, or SouthWest Airlines plane ticket rises to reflect higher oil prices. Fewer people fly. Airlines mothball planes. Oil consumption falls.

    Thirdly, we will see purchases (and usage) of cars change. In the 1970s, the average horsepower of a new American car more than halved. When people make the school run, they'll use a little car rather than their SUV. It's a fair bet too that we'll see hybrid sales rise and rise. (Similarly, we'll see the proportion of ethanol in diesel increase.)

    Finally, rising oil prices make other energy sources economic. There is a wonderful piece from the IEA on the various costs of different power sources. Solar isn't cheap now. But if the oil price is $150 a barrel, it doesn't look so bad.

    The Princeton professor poo-pooes oil sands, but if the oil price is more than $100, then there'll be an awful lot of energy produced from them. Similarly, we'll see coal to oil plants (again), and no doubt a second commercial gas hydrates "mine".

    So: if we have passed Hubbert's peak, we'll see our energy consumption fall, and we'll see the proportion of energy production that is oil fall. This will not be painless. But nor will we return to the stone age. We may well see GDP growth drop to subnormal levels - perhaps even for a decade - but this is very different to total economic collapse.
  • (Score:4, Informative)

    by tsakach (954901) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @04:36AM (#14730887)
    Peak Oil News and Discussion [] has a lot of info and discussion topics on Peak Oil. It even mentions the current slashdot peak oil thread.
  • by CuttingEdge (953061) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @04:48AM (#14730926)
    Nuclear reactors are the way to go! The Canadian Tar Sands need to build up the Nukes to power the extraction of the remaining Oil Sands; this will save all the Natural Gas that they are burning now. We need that Natural Gas to heat the homes in the North and to warm the planet with the green house gases so that we don't have as cold winters up north.

    Nukes are clean environmentally friendly energy and with new reactor designs can use up to 95+% of the energy content of the fuel.

    Let's get fuel from Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and their moons. There's plenty of fuel there.

    Hydrogen is awesome. Let's use Hydro, Nuclear, Wind and Solar to power the conversion of abundant water into pure hydrogen.

    Let's save our fossil fuels. When we run out lets use the garbage dumps which have plenty of fuel potential in the methane and plastics embedded and not rotting quickly.

    Let's mandate the replacement of all lights with LEDs as they are more energy efficient. Everyone needs to upgrade their computers and monitors to the latest energy efficient models.

    Oh ya, how about GeoThermal energy. Just a few miles beneath the surface of the Earth is hot hot hot... let's make us of that and slow the planet's orbit down by letting it cool faster.

    Let's take advantage of green house gases and warm up the planet so that we don't need to burn as much fuel in the winter.

    Let's move to the tropics by encouraging mass migrations. Canadians move to Mexico, Americans move to Costa Rica and Panama while those in Quebec can move to the Caribean French Islands.

    Let's Nuke em by building thousands of the new kinds of reactors. Let's grab all the enriched uranium fuel deposits that can be used for weapons and burn it to protect future generations and enable the extraction of energy now and in the coming future.

    Let's continue to develop fusion technologies.

    Let's put solar cells into the Lagrange point between the Sun and Earth and beam the energy to the Earth via microwaves.

    Let's have all the humans on the planet get on bicycles and generate power or wind hand held energy cranks.

    Bring it on. Technology to solve are problems.

    Let's stop killing people. State sponsored mass killing won't solve the energy problems since wars consume a lot of energy and production capacity which also takes energy.

    Let's Nuke Em by extracting energy from the 10's of thousands of nukes. The energy from the control detonations of the bombs will enable massive collection of energy.

    Above all let's not freak out from those that predict the end of the world with their Quatrain's of doom and gloom. Embrace the Global Warming and accelerate it. It's the warmest it's ever been for 1200 years, bring it on! Heat is better than cold. Balance is for sissies. Let's make it happen.

    Oh, ya all those other energy sources that I missed; let's do them too.
  • by orzetto (545509) on Thursday February 16, 2006 @04:56AM (#14730953)

    Oil discoveries have been surpassed by consumption in the mid-eighties. I remember a presentation with a simple chart at the Annual Meeting of AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) 2005, Cincinnati about this. Since the usual lag between discovery and commencement of production is about 15 years (this is what I remember from my course in energy economy), the production peak was expected already about 2000. A few factors (wars, Russian oil becoming available to the west, etc) delayed this, but it's not like people never saw this coming.

    New oil fields are being found all the time, but this is not compensating enough for the depletion of previous oil fields.

    In case you wondered what is going to happen, remember that US production already peaked a long time ago (in 1971 if my memory serves me). In 1973 the Saudis noticed that they held the big levers now (Americans could not flood the marked anymore), and took the chance to become the market leaders.

    What this means to us is exponential growth in gasoline prices. Smart countries stopped producing power with oil long ago (think oil crisis), moving to coal or nuclear for energy security (not necessarily because they were cheaper). Coal is going to be soon the most competitive fuel for power production. Nuclear will likely stay there in the corner where its poor economics has put it, since there is enough coal to burn all oxygen in the atmosphere.

    Given that most transportation and building-heating sectors are based on oil in most countries and that these are big chunks of the total energy consumption, I expect some countries will find it cheaper to steal oil invading oil-rich countries, especially those countries that are very oil-intensive and where conservation is not considered an attractive option.

    Furthermore, the US now have a base of operations (Iraq) in the middle of everything in the Middle East, already up and running. Invading the whole Middle East could become a real option in the next decades (it was actually already contemplated in 1973, but then we had the Soviet Union).

    Interesting book to read: The end of oil, Paul Roberts, ISBN 0618239774 [].

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