Energy Supply Abundant, despite Growing Consumption

Article excerpt

LONDON -- New supplies of oil and natural gas continue to be found faster than they are being used up, even as world consumption reached a record last year, British Petroleum Co. said in its annual review of global energy.

Economic growth sparked a 1.8 percent rise in energy consumption last year, the biggest jump since 1989, even as Russia continued a six-year collapse in consumption, the U.K. oil company said in a report it first produced in 1953.

While oil prices that have remained historically low the past decade could rise if supply is disrupted, it won't be because there isn't enough of the stuff in the ground, BP officials said.

"There is growing demand but there is no visible shortage of potential supply," John Browne, BP's chief executive, said at a press conference. "The issue of price is a matter of economics and politics -- not one of resources."

Oil supplies of proven reserves, which total an estimated 1.017 trillion barrels, remain at or near a 43-year supply at current levels of consumption, which reached a record of 67.93 million barrels a day last year.

"This does not mean oil will run out within 43 years," said Peter Davies, BP's chief economist. "It is certain that more oil reserves will be proven before that time."

Even as demand has risen, proven oil reserves have increased by 50 percent during the past two decades, or at a rate of 1.77 barrels for every one consumed, Davies said.

That's because new technology has made it easier and cheaper to search for and produce oil. While most of the new reserves have come in the oil-rich Middle East, production outside that region has reached record levels and continues to grow, BP said.

The BP survey confirms what lots of other oil company executives say about supplies.

"It's hard to see oil prices moving significantly out of their established trading range," John Jennings, the chairman of Shell Transport & Trading Co. …