Sign up to Earth Dispatch
In This Page:
Contact us if you would like to
World Reserves of Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas
Coal has been used since the industrial revolution but only in the last 100 years have huge quantities of oil and gas been removed from underground reservoirs. Oil and gas are used as fuel energy in combustion engines and as "feed stock" for other industries ï¿½ raw materials for the manufacture of other chemicals, such as plastics and agricultural fertilizer. There is a limited amount of fossil fuel. It is not "renewable" and there is no known way to make more. The energy stored in oil is significantly greater than in any other currently available source. There is no other equivalently cheap and powerful energy available from nuclear energy, natural gas, solar power, wind power, hydrogen, biomass or coal.
Which Regions Use How Much of Which Natural Energy Resource?
For Heat, Electricity, Transportation, Agriculture, Industry
How and When Were the Limits of Oil Reserves Discovered?
Even though the early oilmen worked with primitive exploration techniques, the peak year for discoveries of giant oil fields (ultimate recovery of 500 mbbl oil or more) in the U.S. was 1930ï¿½in the world, 1962. 80% of the oil produced in 1995 was found before 1973. We now find one barrel for every four we consume.
In the last 20 years, only three fields (in Norway, Columbia and Brazil) have been found with more than one billion barrels each. None produce more than 200,000 barrels a day. From 1990 to 2000 a total of 42 billion barrels of new reserves were discovered. In the same period the world consumed 250 billion barrels.
"The rig count over the last 12 years has reached bottom. This is not because of low oil price. The oil companies are not going to keep rigs employed to drill dry holes. They know it but are unable ... to admit it. The great merger mania is nothing more than a scaling down of a dying industry in recognition that 90% of global conventional oil has already been found." (Goldman Sachs - August 1999)
How Much Oil is the World Going to Want?
According to a recent report by the the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), over the next 20 years US energy demands are predicted to increase by 62% for natural gas, 33% for oil and 45% for electricity. "America faces a major energy supply crisis over the next two decades."2
"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 will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. This is equivalent to more than six Saudi Arabias of today's size." -- Dick Cheney (as CEO of the world's largest oil services company, Halliburton) in a 1999 speech to the International Petroleum Institute in London.
How Much Oil is There?
How Long Will it Last?
Geologists and engineers illustrate the rise, peak and decline of oil. Oil companies and governments draw a rising graph, not showing peak or decline. Contemporary geological knowledge, backdated reserve figures and accurate production histories generate convincing evidence suggesting that the peak of all liquid hydrocarbons comes around 2010.
Economic development and prosperity over the past century has been built on cheap and abundant oil-based energy. After the production peak, as supplies decline and prices rise, (with rising populations and continued industrial development the demand for oil will continue to increase ) the world will have to use less fossil fuel or find alternate sources of energy. Possible choices include gas, non-conventional oil and gas, nuclear power, hydro-electricity, wind, tide, solar, geothermal, biomass, hydrogen and over unity energy sources. None of the known alternatives will be as cheap, convenient or as energy rich as oil.
How Important is Peak Oil?
Industrial civilization, economic growth and the life styles of the developed world are dependent on inexpensive oil and gas. The energy and products from cheap oil have made possible the major changes in globalized industrial civilization in the last 100 years, including its huge impact on indigenous cultures and planetary ecosystems.
Affordable food production by industrial agriculture needs inexpensive natural gas and oil inputs for: fertilizers, pesticides, industrial machinery, planting, cultivating, harvesting, processing, packaging, transportation and marketing.
Energy Supply Text Sources:
1. Chrisitan Science Monitor, "In Bid to Cut Mercury, US Lets Other Toxins Through", www.csmonitor.com/2005/0331/p13s01-sten.html;
2. Energy Information Administration, www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/index.html;
References: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, www.bp.com; www.currentconcerns.ch; www.dieoff.org; www.hubbertpeak.com; Association for the Study of Peak Oil, www.peakoil.net; The 'Oil & Gas Journal, http://ogj.pennnet.com/home.cfmwww.greatchange.org