Is Global Oil Production at (or Past) Its Peak?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
[Editor’s Note: This question has been archived as a historical concern and will no longer be updated.]
Sep. 23, 2020
Michael Lynch, SM, Distinguished Fellow at the Energy Policy Research Foundation and President of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, in the June 29, 2018 article, “Whatever Happened to Peak Oil?,” available on forbes.com, stated”
“A decade ago, the media was filled with stories about peak oil, numerous books were published on the subject (such as Half Gone and $20 a Gallon!), and even the Simpsons mentioned it in an episode about doomsday preppers. Now, the topic is largely forgotten and the flavor of the month is peak oil demand. Anyone concerned about the quality of research that works its way into the public debate should be curious about how so many were so wrong for so long…
The general view of the issue is that shale oil saved us from peak oil, and the issue has largely disappeared from the media, to be replaced by warnings of peak oil demand, but there are still articles about peak cobalt, peak cocoa and similar scares. Rather the way your local news station constantly reports on some new threat to the public (germs in airplane bathroom sink water, dangers from household cleaning products, etc. ad infinitum).”June 29, 2018
The Post Carbon Institute, a research and educational organization concerned with fossil fuel depletion and climate change, wrote in an article titled “What Is Peak Oil,” published on its website (accessed Oct. 7, 2008):
“So what exactly is ‘Peak Oil’? Simply put, it is the period of maximum global oil production, after which we go into permanent oil decline…
It turns out that an oil reservoir usually reaches its maximum output when it is about half empty – which we call peak production. At that point, the only long-term way to keep production up is to find a new oil reservoir…
Therefore when the whole planet reaches its maximum period of oil production, which is usually what is meant by Peak Oil, no amount of debate, argument or other vigorous action will be able to reverse the decline that will inevitably follow.”Oct. 7, 2008
The National Petroleum Council wrote in its July 2007 report “Hard Truths: Facing the Hard Truths about Energy,” published on www.npc.org, that:
“While uncertainties have always typified the energy business, the risks to supply are accumulating and converging in novel ways:
Resource nationalism, bilateral trade agreements, or protectionist policies may remove resources from the market and make them unavailable for general world supply.
Hydrocarbon resources are becoming more difficult to access and challenging to produce.
Technology requirements are increasingly complex and demanding.
Costs of developing and delivering energy are escalating.
Demands on current and anticipated infrastructure are heavy and growing.
Human resources may not be adequate to meet projected growth requirements.
Environmental constraints on energy supply are evolving and indeterminate.
These risks and uncertainties are the basis for understanding supply prospects over the next several decades.”July 2007
Robert L. Hirsch, PhD, Senior Energy Program Advisor for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), wrote in his Feb. 2005 report for the US Department of Energy titled “Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management,” published on the National Energy Technology Laboratory website:
“Oil is the lifeblood of modern civilization. It fuels the vast majority of the world’s mechanized transportation equipment – Automobiles, trucks, airplanes, trains, ships, farm equipment, the military, etc. Oil is also the primary feedstock for many of the chemicals that are essential to modern life…
The earth’s endowment of oil is finite and demand for oil continues to increase with time. Accordingly, geologists know that at some future date, conventional oil supply will no longer be capable of satisfying world demand. At that point world conventional oil production will have peaked and begin to decline.
A number of experts project that [peak] world production of conventional oil could occur in the relatively near future…Such projections are fraught with uncertainties because of poor data, political and institutional selfinterest, and other complicating factors. The bottom line is that no one knows with certainty when world oil production will reach a peak, but geologists have no doubt that it will happen.”[Editor’s Note: On Feb. 18, 2009 Dr. Hirsch sent an email to ProCon.org and asked that we include an updated note on word oil supply that he had recently written. Dr. Hirsch began the note by cautioning that “the outlook for future world oil supply has taken a turn for the worse.”] Feb. 2005
Energy Bulletin, a clearinghouse for information regarding a peak in global energy supply, published an article titled “Peak Oil Primer,” available on its website (accessed Oct. 7, 2008):
“Peak oil is the simplest label for the problem of energy resource depletion, or more specifically, the peak in global oil production. Oil is a finite, non-renewable resource, one that has powered phenomenal economic and population growth over the last century and a half. The rate of oil ‘production’, meaning extraction and refining (currently about 84 million barrels/day), has grown almost every year of the last century. Once we have used up about half of the original reserves, oil production becomes ever more likely to stop growing and begin a terminal decline, hence ‘peak’. The peak in oil production does not signify ‘running out of oil’, but it does mean the end of cheap oil, as we switch from a buyers’ to a sellers’ market. For economies leveraged on ever increasing quantities of cheap oil, the consequences may be dire…
Our industrial societies and our financial systems were built on the assumption of continual growth – growth based on ever more readily available cheap fossil fuels. Oil in particular is the most convenient and multi-purposed of these fossil fuels…Oil is so important that the peak will have vast implications across the realms of war and geopolitics, medicine, culture, transport and trade, economic stability and food production.”Oct. 7, 2008
Richard Heinberg, MA, Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, wrote in an Oct. 8, 2008 article titled “Say Goodbye to Peak Oil,” published on the Post Carbon Institute’s website:
“Now that the world’s credit markets are suffering the equivalent of a cardiac arrest, one can confidently say that the peak in global oil production is behind us. With demand for oil declining (because of global recession), OPEC will want to constrain production. With investment capital disappearing in a deflationary bonfire, oil companies will have difficulty financing new projects (even if they have full governmental go-ahead to drill, baby, drill). Thus even though the peak might have been delayed for another year or five if the credit crunch hadn’t intervened, that time cushion is now effectively gone.
This is not to say that Peak Oil should no longer to be considered to be of importance. In the larger, longer view of things, the energy decline will be the determining factor in the fate of our civilization—not a money or credit crisis.
When the world finally begins to recover from its financial turmoil (and this could take a few years), and oil demand picks back up again, the economy will bump up against oil supply constraints and petroleum prices will skyrocket, undermining the economic recovery.”Oct. 8, 2008
Colin J. Campbell, PhD, Founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO), and Jean H. Laherrère, Former Deputy Exploration Manager at Total Oil Company, wrote in their Mar. 1998 article “The End of Cheap Oil,” in Scientific American:
“Our analysis of the discovery and production of oil fields around the world suggests that within the next decade, the supply of conventional oil will be unable to keep up with demand…[C]onventional wisdom erroneously assumes that the last bucket of oil can be pumped from the ground just as quickly as the barrels of oil gushing from wells today. In fact, the rate at which any well – or any country – can produce oil always rises to a maximum and then, when about half the oil is gone, begins falling gradually back to zero…
From an economic perspective, when the world runs completely out of oil is thus not directly relevant: what matters is when production begins to taper off…
There is only so much crude oil in the world, and the industry has found about 90 percent of it…
Barring a global recession, it seems most likely that world production of conventional oil will peak during the first decade of the 21st century.”Mar. 1998
Clifford J. Wirth, PhD, retired Professor of Energy Policy at the University of New Hampshire, wrote in his July 5, 2008 paper, “Peak Oil: Alternatives, Renewables, and Impacts,” published on the Peak Oil Associates website:
“Independent studies indicate that global oil production is peaking currently and will soon begin to decline until all recoverable oil is depleted within several decades. Because global oil demand is increasing, declining production will soon generate high energy prices, inflation, unemployment, and irreversible economic depression. Regardless of the time available for mitigating Peak Oil impacts, alternative sources of energy will replace only a small fraction of the gap between declining production and increasing demand…As oil exporting nations experience both declining oil production and increased domestic oil consumption, they will reduce oil exports to the U.S. Because the U.S. is highly dependent on imported oil for transportation, food production, industry, and residential heating, the nation will experience the impacts of declining oil supplies sooner and more severely than much of the world. Due to high global demand for oil, conservation efforts in the U.S. cannot significantly alter the global oil depletion rate…
Federal, state, and local governments are unprepared for the multiple consequences of Peak Oil, Peak Natural Gas, and Peak Coal. Multiple crises will cripple the nation in a gridlock of ever-worsening problems. Within a few decades, the U.S. will lack automobile, truck, air, and rail transportation, as well as mechanized agriculture, adequate food and water supplies, electric power, sanitation, home heating, hospital care, and government services…
The U.S. now faces global depletion of oil and natural gas reserves and economic decline that will deepen over time.”July 5, 2008
Kenneth S. Deffeyes, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Geology at Princeton University, wrote in a Mar. 25, 2005 editorial in the New York Times:
“In 1997 and 1998, a few petroleum geologists began examining world oil production using the methods that M. King Hubbert used in predicting in 1956 that United States oil production would peak during the early 1970’s. These geologists indicated that world oil output would reach its apex in this decade – some 30 to 40 years after the peak in American oil production. Almost no one paid attention.
I used to work with Mr. Hubbert at Shell Oil, and my own independent research places the peak of world oil production late this year  or early in 2006…
A permanent drop in world oil production will have serious consequences. In addition to the economic blow, there will be the psychological effect of accepting that there are limits to an important energy resource. What can we do? More efficient diesel automobiles, and greater reliance on wind and nuclear power, are well-engineered solutions that are available right now. Conservation, although costly in most cases, will have the largest impact. The United States also has a 300-year supply of coal, and methods for using coal without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere are being developed.
After world oil production starts to decline, a small group of geologists could gather in my living room and all claim to have discovered the peak. ‘We told you so,’ we could say. But that isn’t the point…The problem we need to face is the impending world oil shortage.”Mar. 25, 2005
T. Boone Pickens, Founder and Chairman of BP Capital Management, wrote in an essay titled “It’s Time to Stop America’s Addiction to Foreign Oil,” published on the homepage of his Pickens Plan website (accessed Sep. 24, 2008):
“World oil production peaked in 2005. Despite growing demand and an unprecedented increase in prices, oil production has fallen over the last three years. Oil is getting more expensive to produce, harder to find and there just isn’t enough of it to keep up with demand.
The simple truth is that cheap and easy oil is gone.”Sep. 24, 2008
Matthew Simmons, MBA, President of Simmons & Company, an energy investment firm, in his Fall 2006 article “Shock to the System: The Impending Global Energy Supply Crisis,” published in the Harvard International Review wrote:
“Energy planners now need to grasp the high risk that the world’s supply of both oil and gas is fast approaching its highest sustained peak supply…rosy projections, like those of the US Energy Information Administration, suggest that oil production is unlikely to peak for several decades. Such optimistic forecasts often reflect the assumption that technological improvements will continuously enlarge reserves and allow more oil recovery. This assumption is belied by the production decline in fields throughout the world, such as Exxon’s Prudhoe Bay, which continues to decline despite advanced recovery techniques…
There is evidence to suggest that the peak is imminent, if it has not already arrived. Non-OPEC supplies are clearly nearing a peak, with five years of negligible one-to-two percent growth. Projections by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, taking into account rising rates of decline in production growth and lower quality new oil, project the peak in 2008.”Fall 2006
Eugene Gholz, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, and Daryl G. Press, PhD, Associate Professor of Government at Dartmouth University, wrote in their Apr. 5, 2007 CATO Institute policy analysis paper “Energy Alarmism: The Myths That Make Americans Worry about Oil,” published on www.cato.org:
“‘Peak oil’ predictions about the impending decline in global rates of oil production are based on scant evidence and dubious models of how the oil market responds to scarcity…
The pessimistic claims about peaking oil supplies should be treated with skepticism. For decades, analysts have argued that oil supplies were dwindling and that the peak rate of production would soon been reached. In fact, the most eminent advocates of that argument today once predicted that the global production peak would occur in 1989, but since then global crude oil production has grown by 23 percent, and oil supply (crude oil and other petroleum liquids) has grown by more than 28 percent. More telling, the world’s ultimately recoverable resources (URR) have been growing over time, largely because many fields contain substantially more oil than was originally believed.
The results of the growing URR and recovery rate are striking: in 1972 the ‘life-index’ of global oil reserves, the length of time that known reserves could support the current rate of production, was 35 years; in 2003, after 31 more years of accelerating oil extraction, the life index stood at 40 years. In short, no one knows how much oil is ultimately recoverable from the earth, but there is no compelling evidence that reserves are running out or that production is near the peak…
In sum, the simple peak oil argument that suggests that the world is running out of oil is unconvincing; oil will remain the foundation of the global economy for decades to come.”Apr. 5, 2007
Michael C. Lynch, MS, President of Strategic Energy & Economic Research Inc., wrote in a July 14, 2003 article titled “Petroleum Resources Pessimism Debunked in Hubbert Model and Hubbert Modelers’ Assessment,” in the Oil and Gas Journal:
“Recently, numerous publications have appeared warning that oil production is near an unavoidable, geologically determined peak that could have consequences up to and including ‘war, starvation, economic recession, possibly even the extinction of homo sapiens’ (Colin Campbell in Ruppert 2002). The current series of alarmist articles could be said to be merely reincarnations of earlier work, which proved fallacious, but the authors insist that they have made significant advances in their analyses, overcoming earlier errors…
Some of the arguments about resource scarcity resemble those made in the 1970s. They have noted that discoveries are low and that most estimates of ultimately recoverable resources (URR) are in the neighborhood of 2 trillion bbl, about twice production to date..
The primary flaw in Hubbert-type models is a reliance on URR as a static number rather than a dynamic variable, changing with technology, knowledge, infrastructure, and other factors, but primarily growing…
The result has been exactly as predicted in Lynch (1996) for this method: a series of predictions of near-term peak and decline, which have had to be repeatedly revised upwards and into the future. So much so as to suggest that the authors themselves are providing evidence that oil resources are under no strain, but increasing faster than consumption…[T]here is no peak visible for non-OPEC oil production (absent a price collapse), let alone global production.” July 14, 2003
The Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) wrote in a Nov. 10, 2006 overview of their report “Why the Peak Oil Theory Falls Down: Myths, Legends, and the Future of Oil Resources,” posted on the CERA website:
“The peak oil debate continues to rage without any obvious progress. But, upon examination, the peak oil theory falls down because of serious flaws in logic and application. CERA’s view, based on two decades of research, is highly unpopular in peakist circles…
– Based on a detailed bottom-up approach, CERA sees no evidence of a peak before 2030. Moreover, global production will eventually follow an undulating plateau for one or more decades before declining slowly. Global resources, including both conventional and unconventional oils, are adequate to support strong production growth and a period on an undulating plateau.
– Despite his valuable contribution, M. King Hubbert’s methodology falls down because it does not consider likely resource growth, application of new technology, basic commercial factors, or the impact of geopolitics on production. His approach does not work in all cases-including on the United States itself-and cannot reliably model a global production outlook. Put more simply, the case for the imminent peak is flawed. As it is, production in 2005 in the Lower 48 in the United States was 66 percent higher than Hubbert projected.
– The debate should now move toward a better understanding of the key drivers of production, including the scale of global resources and the likely production outlook, which form the core of current disagreements and confusion.”Nov. 10, 2006
Michael C. Daly, PhD, Group Vice President of Exploration for British Petroleum (BP), stated the following in a Sep. 10, 2007 speech titled “Peak Oil: A Metaphor for Anxiety,” published on www.bp.com:
“I was asked to talk about oil supply after peak oil. However, I don’t accept the premise. It is far from clear to me when there will be a peak to oil supply, at least one driven by a fundamental resource shortage.
I believe, from what I know today, that peak oil supply is still a long way off…
There remains a wealth of resources to develop and explore for. I see no limitation arising from geology or resources, technology or capability. These are issues solvable with good science, great people and new technology.”Sep. 10, 2007
Abdallah S. Jum’ah, MBA, President and Chief Executive Officer of Saudi Aramco, made the following statement during a Sep. 2006 speech titled “The Impact of Upstream Technological Advances on Future Oil Supply,” given at the Third OPEC International Seminar:
“I believe we will eventually tally about a trillion barrels each from yet-to-be-discovered fields and higher recovery rates. Add those two trillion barrels to the 1.2 trillion barrels of current proven reserves and the 1.5 trillion barrels of oil that can be extracted from non-conventional oil using current technology, and we are looking at more than four and a half trillion barrels of potentially recoverable oil. That number translates into more than 140 years of supply at today’s current rate of consumption. To put it another way, the world has only consumed about 18 percent of its conventional and non-conventional producible potential, even leaving aside oil shale potential. That fact alone should discredit the argument that ‘peak oil’ is imminent, and put our minds at ease concerning future petroleum supplies.”Sep. 2006
Exxon Mobil wrote in its 2007 report “The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2030,” that:
“Global demand for liquid fuels is expected to increase from 86 MBDOE [Million Barrels per Day of Oil Equivalent] today to 116 MBDOE in 2030.These needs will be met from a variety of sources – principally oil.
The most prominent source of supply today is non-OPEC crude oil and condensate. Over the outlook period, supplies will come from areas of growth – for example, Russia, the Caspian region, and Brazil – as well as some areas of decline, reflecting the maturity of their development, such as the U.S. and the North Sea. In total, non-OPEC crude and condensate supply is likely to reflect a long plateau with a modest downturn after 2020.
Oil sands output will grow rapidly, both from mining and in-situ developments. Supplies are expected to increase from 1 MBD in 2005 to more than 4 MBD in 2030…
Making up the remainder of supplies is OPEC crude supply, which is expected to rise from about 30 MBD today to about 45 to 50 MBD by 2030. Given the sizeable resource base and the capabilities of the industry, meeting this requirement is feasible – however, access to resources and timely investments remain vital to reliable, affordable supplies.”2007