When The Crude Oil Runs Out

Kern West Oil Museum

Mankind is using crude oil faster than Mother Nature can replenish it. What are the implications of that fact? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Crude-oil optimists and crude-oil pessimists disagree on when the peak of the world’s oil production will take place, but they agree on one thing: The world’s supply of crude oil is finite. It isn’t a matter of if the world will run out of crude oil but a matter of when.

Crude-oil optimists have reasons for their optimism.

On its website, the U.S. Energy Information Administration states, “According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) International Energy Outlook 2014, the global supply of crude oil, other liquid hydrocarbons, and biofuels is expected to be adequate to meet the world’s demand for liquid fuels for at least the next 25 years. There is substantial uncertainty about the levels of future liquid fuels supply and demand.”

An article on the Michigan State University Extension website states, “Despite current widespread conflict in the traditional oil producing areas of the Middle East, crude oil supplies are increasing and prices are declining.”

A BP.com report states, “Total world proved oil reserves reached 1700.1 billion barrels at the end of 2014 sufficient to meet 52.5 years of global production.”

The current oil boom in the USA has plenty of Americans wanting the U.S. to export crude oil. In its Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 34, the Council on Foreign Relations states, “Federal lawmakers should overturn the ban on exporting crude oil produced in the United States.”

In a statement released 05/13/15, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources states, “U.S. Sens Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., along with 11 of their Senate colleagues today introduced the Energy Supply and Distribution Act of 2015 (S.1312). This bipartisan legislation would modernize federal energy policy by ending the outdated ban on crude oil exports.”

Meanwhile, crude-oil pessimists have reasons for their pessimism, too.

In an online article updated 06/16/15, PetroStrategies, Inc. gives the following statistics:

At the end of 2013 there were 1,687.9 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. In 2013, the world produced 31.685 billion barrels of oil (86,808 thousand barrels per day). That means that we had 53.3 years of oil left at the current rate of production.

The reserve lifetime for natural gas is 55.1 years.

This means that if we keep on using oil and gas at the rate we did in 2013 we will run out of oil in 2056 and natural gas in 2068.

The article explains the variables that can cause the the above-stated predictions to be inaccurate. The article goes on to say, “Using these estimates of undiscovered oil and gas, we can expect to run out of oil in 2057 and natural gas in 2064. These calculations are subject to a great deal of uncertainty, however, they do highlight the fact that oil and gas are depletable resources and that we only have a certain amount left.”

On its website, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers states, “There are an estimated 1.3 trillion barrels of proven oil reserve left in the world’s major fields, which at present rates of consumption will be sufficient to last 40 years. By 2040, production levels may be down to 15 million barrels per day – around 20% of what we currently consume. It is likely by then that the world’s population will be twice as large, and more of it industrialised (and therefore oil dependent).”

Predictions about the depletion of the world’s crude oil supply have been problematic, as noted in a 2008 article in the journal Energy Policy, which says the following:

This paper has shown that the reserves of oil and gas did not decline over the last few decades, and predictions that oil and gas are diminishing were not reliable. Also the prediction about coal reserves over the last two decades was not accurate. The fossil fuel time depletion is calculated to be around 35, 107 and 37 years for oil, coal and gas, respectively, by the proposed method. In contrast, the ratios of world consumption to reserves for oil, coal and gas show if the world continues to consume fossil fuels at 2006 rates, the reserves of oil, coal and gas will last a further 40, 200 and 70 years, respectively. These figures prove that oil will be depleted earlier than the other types of fossil fuel, and coal will remain longer than oil and gas.

It is easy to be a crude-oil optimist when one expects to be long dead before crude oil becomes scarce. What one need to ask one’s self is this: Does one have an obligation to prepare now for what will be inevitable for future generations? The convenient thing would be to say, “It’s not my problem, and so I’ll just kick this can down the road.”

If it would be improper to have such apathy for future generations, then what should Mankind do now for the eventual depletion of crude oil? Has Mankind already taken all of the appropriate steps, or is there more that should be done?

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