Monday, June 16, 2008

Running Out of Oil

I refined my analysis of BP’s oil numbers and performed the same analysis of data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) for comparison. The results suggest that the world will run out of available oil within 30 years, and perhaps as early as the end of this decade.

If the BP scenario is correct (my analysis of their data, not their projections), then the Peak Oil adherents are probably right that it is too late to keep civilization from toppling; oil prices will climb rapidly, with no time to compensate with substitutes. By the end of this year, the price of gas in the U.S. could exceed $5.30; by the end of next year it might be nearly $13.50; and the crash will occur in 2010.

If the EIA scenario is correct then we have a little more time, since it implies a net surplus of oil for at least another eight years (currently one-eighth of what we annually consume) and we will run out by 2035. The correlation between U.S. gas prices and the ratio of supply and demand is very low (unlike the BP scenario), which makes it virtually useless for projection (the projected price at the end of 2007 is about half its actual value).

Both of these scenarios depend on the world having stockpiles of oil. According to the EIA’s May 2008 International Petroleum Monthly, the world had stocks of about 5.4 billion barrels at the end of 2007, which is two-thirds of the cumulative deficit since 1965 for the BP scenario and about a third more than the cumulative surplus since 1970 for the EIA scenario.

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