Running out of Oil: Petroleum Production Could Peak in the Next Decade. (Environment)

By Johnson, Dan | The Futurist, May 2002 | Go to article overview

Running out of Oil: Petroleum Production Could Peak in the Next Decade. (Environment)


Johnson, Dan, The Futurist


World oil production will probably peak before 2010 and then decline, triggering higher energy prices and global economic disturbance, according to Princeton University geologist Kenneth S. Deffeyes.

"There will be chaos in the oil industry, in governments, and in national economies. Even if governments and industries were to recognize the problems, it is too late to reverse the trend," writes Deffeyes in Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage.

Deffeyes's forecast builds on the work of geophysicist M. King Hubbert, who in 1956 predicted that U.S. oil production would peak in the early 1970s. Hubbert estimated that conventional U.S. oil discovery and production could realistically yield 150 to 200 billion barrels of oil; he then made estimates of future oil production rates under both scenarios. His predicted peak of "the early 1970s" was based on the optimistic production estimate of 200 billion barrels of oil. That peak was in fact reached in 1970, notes Deffeyes, who worked with Hubbert at the Shell Oil research lab in Houston.

"Around 1995, several analysts began applying Hubbert's method to world oil production, and most of them estimate that the peak year for world oil will be between 2004 and 2008," writes Deffeyes. The range of this prediction reflects estimates of probable world oil production of 1.8 or 2.1 trillion barrels.

Deffeyes asserts that the coming oil crisis cannot be avoided. He suggests that U.S. political leaders, the news media, and the public are either unaware of or uninterested in the problem. Although detailed reports forecasting the peak in world oil production have appeared in such journals as Science, Nature, Scientific American, and the Oil and Gas Journal, the issue was not debated in the U.S. presidential election of 2000.

The oil industry itself maintains its focus on such issues as improving technology, drilling deeper for oil, finding new reserves, and accelerating production. …

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