Peak Oil A Reality
By Charles Arthur
04 October, 2003
oil and gas supplies are heading for a "production crunch"
sometime between 2010 and 2020 when they cannot meet supply, because
global reserves are 80 per cent smaller than had been thought, new forecasts
this week at the University of Uppsala in Sweden claims that oil supplies
will peak soon after 2010, and gas supplies not long afterwards, making
the price of petrol and other fuels rocket, with potentially disastrous
economic consequences unless people have moved to alternatives to fossil
have always known that such a date lies ahead, they have previously
put it around 2050, and estimated that there would be time to shift
energy use over to renewables and other non- fossil sources.
But Kjell Aleklett,
one of a team of geologists that prepared the report, said earlier estimates
that the world's entire reserve amounts to 18,000 billion barrels of
oil and gas - of which about 1,000 billion has been used up so far -
were "completely unrealistic". He, Anders Sivertsson and Colin
Campbell told New Scientist magazine that less than 3,500 billion barrels
of oil and gas remained in total.
Dr James McKenzie,
senior assistant on the climate change programme at the World Resources
Institute in Washington, said: "We won't run out of oil - but what
will happen is that production will decline, and that's when all hell
will break loose."
Present annual oil
consumption is about 25 billion barrels, and shows no signs of slowing.
That would suggest a "production crunch" - where consumption
grows to meet the maximum output - within the next couple of decades.
Dr McKenzie said
that on this topic the argument split between economists and geologists.
"The economists think it will just force the price of oil up, which
will mean it will become economic to extract it from all sorts of unusual
places, such as tarry sands or deposits which are 90 per cent rock and
10 per cent oil. But the geologists say - you tell us where the deposits
are and we'll find them. We've looked and we can't."
of having lower oil reserves might be that the worst predictions of
climate change would be forestalled - because there would be less fuel
to burn, and therefore less carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas, produced.
The Uppsala team's
estimates are lower than any considered by the International Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC), whose minimum estiimate for the total reserves
was 5,000 billion barrels.
But Nebojsa Nakicenovic,
an energy economist at the University of Vienna in Austria, who headed
the IPCC team that produced the reserves forecasts, said the Swedish
group were "conservative", and that his team had taken into
account a wider range of estimates. Dr Nakicenovic added that, if oil
and gas began to run out, "there's a huge amount of coal underground
that could be exploited".
Dr McKenzie said:
"We have to accept the fact of oil and gas production peaking,
and get concerned with substitutes. It's not when will we run out, it's
when will production be unable to meet demand.
"And 97 or
98 per cent of transport depends on it. You can use coal to make methanol
to power your cars or buses. But the reality is that it's all about
where the oil is."
The Gulf countries
- Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab
Emirates - produce about 25 per cent of the world's oil at the moment,
and hold 65 per cent of the world's oil reserves.
we went to war in Iraq," said Dr McKenzie. "Gas might have
comparable reserves to oil, but it's not in the right place and we don't
really have the infrastructure to transport it."
© 2003 Independent
Digital (UK) Ltd