photo: stephane333/Creative Commons
Until recently the International Energy Agency never really publicly acknowledged peak oil, and still rarely uses the term itself even though over the past year the topic has been acknowledged to be (gasp) very real and likely very soon. But in this year's World Energy Outlook, you come across a chart that shows in fact for oil fields currently producing we passed peak about four years ago:As Stuart Staniford and Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones point out, suddenly peak oil has gone from something not worthy of discussion to something that's already happened. It somehow makes the allegations of whistleblowers in 2009 that the ">IEA deliberately inflated oil figures to avoid financial panic and appease the United States take on new significance.
In any case, if you look at the graph above, all currently producing oil fields peaked in 2006 and fall off to under 20 million barrels a day by 2035--that's roughly just what the US currently consumes in a day. By that time natural gas liquids expand slightly above current levels, and unconventional oil sources (that's the highly polluting tar sands and oil shale) expand significantly, to a bit over 10 million barrels per day.
Then there are those two remarkably significant slices of projected oil production: One in grey that's crude oil fields yet to be developed (we know they are there but for whatever reason aren't exploiting them), and one in light blue, slightly smaller in daily quantity that the grey slice and bigger than currently producing fields. This is for fields yet to be found. In other, and admittedly pessimistic, words this represents wishful thinking and hope. According to this chart, by 2035 roughly one quarter of all the projected oil demand is apparently to be composed of hope.
Yes, new oil discoveries happen all the time, but is looking a quarter century into the future and saying that over 50 million barrels a day of oil produced will be coming from who knows where really accurate or wise?
If just half of those projected discoveries don't materialize and half of those fields yet to be developed turn out to be less abundant, we've got less oil in 25 years than we do today. In fact less oil production than in 1990 and years well before this chart even begins.
Given that the disruption to the global economy that would result should those supplies not materialize at all be hugely catastrophic (the German military spoke of global economic collapse, in recently revealed reports), it somehow feels like this chart has been produced to assuage fears and play down the fact that sooner than we'd like and are prepared for, oil is likely to become much less abundant.
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More on Peak Oil:
Peak Oil in 5 Years: Virgin Boss Branson's Warning
How Will Supply and Demand Affect Peak Oil?
Peak Oil Alarm Raised by Secret Government Talks
Jeff Rubin: Peak Oil Will Make Our World a Whole Lot Smaller
If Peak Oil is Now or in 2030, We're Still Woefully Unprepared
IEA Whistleblowers Say World Oil Stats Deliberately Inflated to Avoid Financial Panic, Appease the US
Now It's Really Official: IEA Chief Economists Says Oil Supplies Running Out Fast, Peak Oil Soon