How much is 600 take away 600?

The issue is not as trivial as it sounds. We keep hearing about the “peak oil” meaning that the rate of extraction is bound to start reducing as the known oil fields are exhausted and new ones get harder and harder to find. This will be a harbinger of the sobering new reality – the World without oil.  But what are the numbers underpinning this scenario?

In 1980 the confirmed oil reserves were just over 600 billion barrels. Back then the annual rate of consumption was approximately 22 billion barrels so the environmentalists came up with a projection that the World would run out in about 30 years. I distinctly remember feeling uneasy thinking about it in the final years of high school. Fast forward 30 years. According to my crude (ouuups) calculations by 2010 the World had used the 600 billion barrels we thought we had in 1980. Which brings me to the title question of this post – how much recoverable oil was there still left in the ground in 2011? The answer may surprise you. Over 1400 billion barrels.

This is because of the new discoveries made through exploration and technological progress in squeezing more oil out of the old reserves. When I hear the environmentalists today going on about the World post-oil one question bugs me. Are they the same people who, in 1980s, predicted “end of oil” by 2010? If not, where has that crowd gone? Have they, disgraced and ridiculed, resigned their posts at the environmental departments of the “progressive” universities? Or have they moved on to do research in the field of climate change?

Here are the two graphs my numbers above are based on:

World Crude Oil Reserves by Year (Billion Barrels)-page-001

World Crude Oil Consumption by Year (Thousand Barrels per Day)-page-001


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