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Unformatted text preview: Unconventional oil Conventional oil Historical production Total: 1.92 trillion barrels Total: 2.93 trillion barrels Total: 3.61 trillion barrels 1970 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020 2030 2040 2050 2060 2070 Million barrels per day Cumulative production total: 1 trillion barrels D on’t say they didn’t warn us. The poster for the meeting of the Asso- ciation for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas in Boston this October featured American revolutionary Paul Revere on his midnight ride, bringing news of imminent calamity. Only this time it is not the British who are coming, but the end of the oil era, and with it much of western civilization. Many attendees at the meeting were people who could tell you how to stock a bunker to survive the inevita- ble collapse of civilization, and then opine at length about the extent and characteristics of the great tar-sand deposits of Canada. Some of them conduct a thriving mini-business in preparing for the coming apocalypse — “deal with reality or reality will deal with you”, as one website claims — while scrutinizing table after table of data on world oil production. But this is not an easily dismissed fringe. Respected geologists with lifetimes of experi- ence are genuinely concerned that the world is about to see an unprecedented crisis — a reduc- tion in the supply of a primary fuel before an alternative is available. When we moved from wood to coal, it was not for a shortage of forests; when we moved in large part from coal to oil and gas, it wasn’t because the pits were empty. But many people are convinced that the flow of oil is destined to start falling, and soon. Matthew Simmons, an energy investment banker in Houston, Texas, and self-described “petro-pessimist”, argues that the world’s great That’s oil, folks… Optimists see oil gushing for decades; pessimists see the planet’s energy future already drying up. Alexandra Witze reports. oilfields are moving quickly towards the end of their production, or have already passed into rapid decline. The North Sea, for instance, is the only place that a significant new discov- ery has been made outside of nations in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Russia and Alaska in the past four decades. It is now in eclipse — produc- tion in the region peaked in 1999, which is earlier, Simmons says, than expected. The United Kingdom no longer exports oil, he notes, and production in Norway — the North Sea’s long-term stalwart — is also declining. And no new giant oilfields are tak- ing the place of those that have already passed their peaks, says Simmons. Some people think that the declines we are seeing are indicators that the world is on the verge of, or has already passed, the maximum amount of oil that can physically be produced....
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- Fall '07
- Peak oil, oil production