When demand for oil consistently surpasses supply, experts warn that our lives will look “very differently”.Energy derived from oil reaches, quite literally, every aspect of our lives.
From the clothes we wear, to the food we eat, to how we move ourselves around, without oil, our lives would look very differently.
Yet oil is a finite resource. While there is no argument that it won’t last forever, there is debate about how much oil is left and how long it might last.
Tom Whipple, an energy scholar, was a CIA analyst for 30 years – and believes we are likely at, or very near, a point in history when the maximum production capacity for oil is reached, a phenomenon often referred to as “peak oil”.
“Peak oil is the time when the world’s production reaches the highest point, then starts back down again,” Whipple told Al Jazeera. “Oil is a finite resource, and [it] someday will go down, and that is what the peak oil discussion is all about.”
There are signs that peak oil may have already arrived.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently increased its forecast for average global oil consumption in 2011 to 89.5 million barrels per day (bpd), an increase of 1.2 million bpd over last year.
For 2012, the IEA is expecting another increase of 1.5 million bpd for a total global oil consumption of 91million bpd, leaving analysts such as Whipple to question how production will be able to keep up with increasing consumption. Whipple’s analysis matches IEA data which shows world oil production levels have been relatively flat for six years.
“This is getting very close to the figure that some observers believe is the highest the world will ever produce,” Whipple wrote of the IEA estimate in the July 14 issue of Peak Oil Review. He told Al Jazeera that peak oil could be reached at some point in the next month, or at the latest, within “a few years”.
Marion King Hubbert, a geoscientist who worked at the Shell oil research lab developed the “Hubbert curve”, a logistical model that accurately predicted that oil production in the United States would peak between 1965 and 1970.