Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Current Oil

I updated my world oil projections, improving the estimate of maximum available oil and finding out what would happen if world population followed the trajectory that my consumption model projects based on ecological resource depletion. In the process, I was able to find a correlation between maximum available oil and the price of oil which enabled me to project what would happen to the price for each of the scenarios I studied.

The ecologically based population estimates have little effect on the projections. Using data from BP, oil still runs out in 2010; while data from the EIA shows oil running out by 2033. The price of oil is projected to be $96-$101 (2008 dollars) by the end of this year using the BP data, and $29-$37 using the EIA data. Notably, the projected BP prices are increasing while the EIA prices are decreasing (since 2006).

No one seems to know what is causing the current rise in the price of oil, which is now approaching $140 per barrel. If low supply is responsible for the projected amount of the price then my population-modified BP projections indicate that about a third is due to other factors. If the other factors are offset, then for the price to return to what it was at the end of last year, we will need to increase production about eight million barrels per day for the last six months of this year (over its current projected value, with no change in the consumption trend). If we are lucky and the population-modified EIA numbers are right, then about three-fourths of the current price is due to factors other than supply and we can properly focus on manipulating those factors while working on increasing supply (or better, substitution).

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