Is the world running out of oil?

Recently, Newsweek invited its Twitter followers to suggest topics to discuss here on this blog.  We had a great response and a lot of ideas.  But I noticed that one theme kept coming up: Is the world running out of oil?

This is a legitimate question, and one that those of us at ExxonMobil hear frequently; so, I’d like to address it.

Oil is not the world’s only energy source — it currently accounts for about 35 percent of global demand — but it is our single largest energy source, and it fuels nearly all the world’s transportation.  It’s very understandable that people want to know what the future holds for this resource.

So, let’s take a look at some facts about our oil resources, as well as some historical perspective.

First, some facts: The U.S. Geological Survey, to cite just one authority, has over time significantly increased its estimate of the world’s recoverable conventional oil resources. It now estimates that only about one-third of these resources have been produced to date.  Many times in modern history, experts have worried that recoverable oil resources were nearing depletion, only to be proven wrong as new technologies opened up new avenues for production, both onshore and offshore.

There was an interesting historical perspective on this issue in the pages of Newsweek itself just recently in an article by George Will. In the article, Will talked about various estimates for oil supplies, such as the Bureau of Mines saying in 1914 that U.S. oil reserves would be exhausted by 1924.  In 1939, the Interior Department said global reserves would last 13 years.  And, more recently: In 1970, global proven petroleum reserves were estimated at 612 billion barrels.  By 2006, more than 767 billion barrels had been pumped, yet proven reserves had risen to 1.2 trillion barrels.

Even though significant oil supplies remain, it doesn’t mean the world should not be developing other energy sources besides oil.

For one, the scale of the world’s energy needs today is beyond what any one fuel could provide. And, because of expanding populations and economies, by 2030 global demand will be about 35 percent higher than it was in 2005, even with substantial gains in efficiency. We will need to expand all economic energy sources to meet this demand growth. That means we’ll need natural gas, coal, nuclear and emerging alternatives such as wind and solar, in addition to oil.

But back to the original question: Is the world running out of oil? No. Not even close.

However, the world’s remaining petroleum reserves do require more complex technologies, and higher levels of investment, than they did a generation ago.  For example, the world is increasingly looking to oil sands, ultra-deepwater, and arctic resources. ExxonMobil is utilizing advanced technologies to unlock these resources – technologies such as extended reach drilling, which allows us to drill wells targeting reservoirs that are miles away from the surface location; 3D seismic and electromagnetic mapping methods that improve imaging of oil and gas reservoirs; and enhanced oil recovery techniques that significantly increase oil recovery in producing fields.

We also need to use energy resources – including oil – wisely and efficiently. Energy efficiency extends the resource endowment and reduces emissions. For ExxonMobil’s part, we invest in technologies to improve our own use of energy, and to help consumers use energy more efficiently as well. In our operations, for example, we take advantage of a process called cogeneration that simultaneously produces electricity to power our operations and captures useful heat or steam for industrial processes. Our cogeneration capacity is enough to supply the electricity needs equivalent to more than 2 million homes in the United States.

For consumers, our vehicle technologies – such as lightweight plastics that reduce vehicle weight, advanced tire-liners that keep tires inflated, and synthetic motor oils that improve fuel economy – can help save significant amounts of fuel. At the same time, we continue to work on developing breakthrough energy technologies that can supplement energy supplies in the future, including algae-based biofuels.

I hope this helps to address the questions we received on the future of oil. Thanks to Newsweek’s Twitter followers for submitting their ideas, and I welcome your questions about our energy future.


26 Comments

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  1. Walter Johnson says:

    This is a good analysis except that it stops with 2000. Actual global oil production has peaked, while the costs of recovering remaining oil has increased dramatically over the last 20 years concurrent with sharply higher cleanup costs for oil spills, especially from offshore platforms.

    An interesting point made in the post is that better fuel economy can be gained from the use of lightweight plastics in cars to reduce fuel consumption. Well, those plastics are most often made from oil and they represent the best future use of petroleum. Tar sand oil is mentioned without stating the huge amount of natural gas burned to produce oil from tar sands. That natural gas’s highest and best use is probably not producing oil from tar sands.

    I want every form of plastic product to remain available forever. I can run a car from electricity produced with nuclear power but the same plastics probably cannot be produced from vegetable oil which is itslef a food product best used for human survival. People don’t eat petroleum, bu they do benefit from fertilizers made using natural gas..

    • Steve Hoblcheck says:

      Walter, you are so wrong. Do a little research and you will find that we are far from peak oil production. 2050 is more likely based upon future estimates of new sources and techniques. Your opinions are typical of uninformed individuals over the last 100 years who only look at present data and extrapolate. By the way, we ran out of oil in the US in about 1896, before we knew about drilling for oil and not just picking it upon the surface of the earth. Use some facts in your statements and stop spreading opinions.

      • Bob Kerns says:

        Steve, the underlying assumption you seem to be making is, that because there were predictions in the past that were off, and there was actually more oil — we can continue this infinitely into the future.

        This is just mathematically absurd. It is unfortunate, but we humans are not well-equipped mentally to deal with predicting the outcome of exponential growth. And it’s tricky — no question.

        But here’s the bottom line. We have historically, and continue, to double our total energy consumption over time. That doubling time has largely been every 10 years — that’s a 7%/year increase. It may (I hope it really is) better than that now — I’ll get to that.

        While we have expanded our exploration — we have not expanded the actual planetary supply one whit. Even if we’ve only found 1/2 of the total, that only extends our supply by one doubling time.

        So long as our energy use, and our oil use, keep on an exponential path, mathematically, we HAVE to run into trouble. And new production has to match ALL OF THE PRODUCTION IN HISTORY UNTIL NOW in order to extend that one doubling time.

        On the other hand — if we can cut our growth rate in half — through conservation, efficiency, economic collapse, or killing each other — this has a much greater impact on the problem. If we have enough for one more doubling time, but we grow at half that rate, that doubling time is extended.

        And every bit of new oil then contributes… read more »

        …a LONGER extension to our survival.

        There is little point in arguing over exactly how much oil we have, or where the peak is, if we’re not going to do something about this exponential growth. Otherwise, we’re only quibbling about the timing of the disaster, while doing nothing to prevent it.

        And the only way to avoid it is to cut our growth rate to below the rate of new supply — and to end our dependence on fossil fuels entirely, before we run out of them.

        The sooner, and more aggressively, we act on this — the more time we have. If we do it soon enough, and aggressively enough, our children and grandchildren will have the time to complete the transition smoothly.

        If not, the results wont’ be pretty. Consider how much of our energy supply goes into food production. And how much an impact the rise in food prices — which we are already seeing — will have on world stability, especially in the face of a growing population. (Which is also an exponential problem, with some signs of slowing, we’re still quite a ways from zero growth, and thus quite a ways away from the peak).

        So, back to the original question: Is the world running out of oil?

        Of course it is. And fairly quickly, in any historical time scale, so long as we keep up this growth in consumption. You can’t seriously deny that there WILL be a peak — unless you want to claim it’s already past us. So what’s the point in trying to argue there’s no problem?

        And what happens to Exxon-Mobil when we do? I’ll let you work out the possibilities. Suffice it to say, there are Good Choices, and Bad Choices.

        • Ralph Siegler says:

          No worries, as we can transform fossil fuels into carbon chains of any desired length. We can turn coal into gasoline, kerosene, clean diesel, for example. And the processes for doing so were invented in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There are coal supplies sufficient for centuries. So it is quite silly to get worried over any imagined crude oil shortage.

      • Geoff McBride says:

        Steve,

        Your phone is ringing. It is Exxon Mobile. They are calling to offer you a job as a lobbyist. Ooops–they forgot you already work for them.

        Even if Walter is wrong about the peak oil peak, calling him ‘typically uniformed’ is silly. So now it is 2050 huh? Where is the proof? I’m not saying it has or hasn’t–but even if you say 2050 that is 39 years buddy. In 2050 we’ll have even better techniques and it will be 2075 right? His point about the costlier techniquest to recover oil is however a fact. Using other natural resources to ‘get at it’ is also a fact.

        Short term we all look to be able to live in a World that doesn’t really need to give a bleep about the future. Time will tell but just because you are all comfy in your current consuption based on the fact that there will be oil in your lifetime is pretty damn selfish.

        The reality is we need oil to build a new infrastucture to help us harverst renewable energy. If we use it up before we can build the foundation then the future is in peril. Even if that isn’t in your lifetime it saddens me that people just look to their own immediate lives (+ kids and grandkids) and think “well we’ll be fine,” like that is some sort of answer to the issue. I’m lumping you… read more »

        …into a broader category of people here I guess your ‘typically uninformed’ hit a nerve.

    • Gordon Sorrells says:

      I believe that electric cars are good things, but people do not realize that nuclear energy porduces only about 20% of our electircity here in the US – we need that number to be much higher. France is 70%+ nuclear. Today, coal is the largest source of power for us, at 49% of the total!! So, when one drives an electric vehicle today, every other mile is powered by coal, the most polluting source of power.

  2. Kevin Jacques says:

    Folks, before you take the word of an Exxon-Mobil employee or consultant go out and buy the 2002 best seller “The Hydrogen Ecomony” by Jeremy Rifkin. He spends more time in the book trying to determine HOW much oil is left on the planet by interviewing every oil exec, respected geologist, university professors etc. The high end estimates are 3 trillion barrels and the low end was 2. This is the oil thats fairly easily recoverable. Sure there is alot of oil in tar sands, go read up how much heat (read natural gas) AND water it takes to recover, not to mention the giant “sludge fields” that is leaves behind. The experts ALL agreed that peak production will occur somewhere between 2010 and 2020, most saying closer to 2010. And they all agree the last drop of oil is coming out of Saudia Arabia. But there’s another point thats more important and not being discussed here by Mr Cohen. He says we are about 1/3 thru supply, but whats he’s not pointing out is the basic economic fact of what happens with the price when peak production (half the worlds oil supply is recovered) happens and demand is rising (read US demand fairly constant, China and India demand rising quickly). If you think $4 dollar a gallon gas (2008) hurt the economy you haven’t seen anything yet. Its not depleting the entire supply that we need to wait for thats going to… read more »

    …hurt us, its when we hit PEAK production with Demand rising!!! and the countries with the cash (read China) will be bidding against us for the remaining supplies!! Don’t let these oil insiders convince you drilling more will solve the problem, will it help, of course! a panacea?? far from… there’s a freight train coming right at us. Read the book… its not written by an oil company employee and you’ll learn more about oil and how energy has defined the advances (and failures) of every civilization on earth. And please don’t shoot me I’m just the messenger on an oil companies blog.

    • Robert Shaw says:

      Jeremy Rifkin is nothing but a left-wing ideologue with a particular bias against Exxon (In a 2008 interview with Charlie Rose, Rifkin flatly stated they were the “worst- run big oil company”). Rifkin did not interview “every oil exec, respected geologist, university professors etc.” for his book but instead interviewed people who shared his viewpoint. Since Rifkin’s company is dependent on government spending for green projects, it’s not surprising that this book’s theme is oil has no future and the U.S. needs to start crash programs to move away from it.

      Unless you’re just a shill for him, Kevin, go back and look at the predictions made ten to fifteen years and see how inaccurate they are. I’ll give one example: In August 2001, Jeremy Rifkin appeared on PBS Nightly Business Report and called $30/barrel oil a “high price” that within 3 years would create another oil glut which would badly damage the oil service companies like Haliburton. Haliburton’s stock price has increased about seven fold since August, 2001.

  3. Stan Osborn says:

    But back to the original question: Is the world running out of oil? No. Not even close.

    Ken, that’s a sound bite.

    Who are you to determine what “Not even close.” means?

    Is it One hundred Years? Two Hundred?

    Will my kids see this event? Will their kids?

    These are fair questions that you blow off with a non-answer.

    At 80 million barrels a day or a billion barrels every two weeks (2005 planetary consumption) each new oil field adds a small amount of time to the total. For example, the Macondo field (Deep Water Horizon blowout) has an estimated 50 million barrels. That adds a fraction of a day to planetary consumption!

  4. frank lipsky says:

    Even if one accepts the dubious and self serving forecasts of oils and gas reserves;the stock market serves as a reality check.Oil companies profits set records and ROE’s are among the highest along with(no surprise)drug companies!.
    Simple extrapolation of $3.00 per gallon prices means everything is fine except for those who can’t afford to pay these prices i.e. more than 1 billion people currently and rising.Without meaningful change there is only one safe prediction-there will be a revolution-only the timing is uncertain!

  5. Mike Olson says:

    Let’s please recognize that much of the remaining reserves are in t politically volatile countries; and access to these resources is being secured diplomatically first, and militarily second. This is a cost of the petro-economy.

    Also, let’s keep in mind that a lot of oil reserves are in remote and ecologically sensitive areas — eg, ANWR or 5.5 miles below the Gulf of Mexico. This a cost of the petro-economy.

    Basically, we’re not going to get a lot of oil by poking holes into a Pennsylvanian pasture. We’re going to get it by covering a lot of costs — is it worth it?

  6. Gordon Sorrells says:

    Here’s the best way to think about Running Out of Oil: We will never, ever, run out of oil, even in my great grand childrens lifetimes. However, we have already run out of $20/bbl oil, and we have run out of $50, and maybe $75 oil. We have not run out of $100/bbl oil or $200/bbl oil. So, we will never run out, its just going to get more and more expensive since its more difficult (and expensive) to find.

    • Ken Boe says:

      When oil reaches the price of other rare earth materials it will have reached its true value. We have squandered something of great value, unknown value really, that belongs to the future when its true value may more truly be understood. So oil will go up in price like Gordon Sorrells notes, but what about coal? This excellent source of carbon is also being wasted and its price may not rise enough to squelch this primitive burning of such a valuable resource; a value we won’t understand until the future when they need it to build starships or whatever and its all gone – up in smoke.

      • David Krause says:

        Ken Boe: You have read Gordon Sorrells, but by responding with terms like “true value,” “great value,” and “unknown value” it is clear you have not understood his very important point, a point that must be understood by anyone addressing the oil question. Read his note again carefully.

      • MIchael Scalise says:

        Gordon is spot on. We are running out of cheap oil. We will never run out of oil. Comments such as “true value” represent simplistic child-like thinking. Either we take the oil out of the ground, or we do not. If we had a replacement for oil today and did not need it, then it stays in the ground forever and is of “zero” value to anyone, ever. For thousands of years, oil sat in the ground and did not good for anyone. Now it is.

        We rely on oil today because it is the least expensive energy source we have. As it becomes more expensive, we will find alternatives to it that are more cost-effective, and then we will not use oil as much. The argument that we need to replace oil today with some other source, (which by necessity will more costly for us), it will reduce our standard of living, and makes it less likely that we will ever “quit’ oil. We need to use the least expensive energy sources we have to achieve faster economic growth and which will help us find alternatives to oil quicker. Anyone suggesting that we replace oil with something more expensive means that they are requiring lower standards of living for everyone living today, plus lowering the standard of living for the people yet to be born.
        There is no less-expensive alternative. If there were, we wouldn’t be having this conversation because we wouldn’t be using oil.

        An example; 100 years ago, we… read more »

        …used many resources mining copper to make wire to communicate. It was the cheapest solution. Then, we developed fiber optics, made from sand, which is significantly less expensive. Now we’re moved from fiber to wireless, and “air’ is our medium of communications. We’ve moved from copper, to sand, to air as technologies improved. No longer do we need all that copper. Last I checked, air is a lot cheaper than copper. But we went thru that stage when copper was the cheapest solution for our technological advancement. Copper is being replaced for a communication medium, and much of the demand for it will be gone. Then the copper will safety stay in the ground, doing absolutely no good for anyone since it’s value would be zero.

        Today, oil is the cheapest energy source we have, and it will eventually to replaced with something else once it is no longer the less expensive energy source. (and it won’t take some politician or government bureaucrat for that to happen) Then the oil can sit in the ground and do absolutely no good for anyone, reaching its “true value” of zero, and Ken will be happy.

        • Stephen Shenfield says:

          Whether alternatives to hydrocarbons are more expensive is a complex question. Account must be taken not only of money costs of generating energy but also damage inflicted in the process (externalities) and the huge costs associated with climate change caused by hydrocarbon use. In any case, standard of living is not the be-all and end-all of life. If it is necessary to sacrifice aspects of our standard of living (such as air travel, air conditioning, SUVs and beef) to ensure more bearable conditions for future generations, surely we should be willing to do so.

      • Trevin Schwindel says:

        Here is a thought for you, If all the coal is “up in smoke” then I’m guessing they won’t try and build “starships”. I think the humane race has a great way to adapt to our enviorment. So once we run out, we will find something else.

        Run that oil out of the ground, because its getting expensive to fill my V8, gas guzzling monster.

    • Geoff McBride says:

      Gordon,

      I’m a little confused by your statement “we will never, ever, run out of oil, even in my great grand children’s lifetimes.” So will we never run out of oil?…..or just not in your grandchildren’s lifetimes? To me there is quite a big difference. How old are you–how long until your grandchildren die I wonder? Do we have forever or do we have just past your grandchildren’s lives..say 60 years (my guess)?

      The point is you don’t know and neither do I. I think we can all agree though that we will run out at some point right? That point is likely in the next 100-200 years. That isn’t very long. Yes it is long enough for me and you and even possibly our great grandchildren’s children..but it is so selfish of us to not to try and shift the use of oil NOW to help build a sustainable economy. We need oil. We need to start using it wisely. The oil companies need to shift/adopt faster what they are doing with it. It isn’t like we aren’t going to need it. Build a renewable energy infrastructure faster than the Fed says we have to. The oild companies are acting all ‘green’ because that is what consumers are asking for. The adoption seems painfully slow to me but I do have hope they can see the big picture. Unfortunately they have shareholders to appease right now–not… read more »

      …future generations.

  7. Chris Perks says:

    85 Million barrels per day. Maybe we’ll hit 90 in the next year but cmon! why werent they blasting out when it was a buck forty in 2008??? B.c all the low lying fruit is picked. Oh sure there are reserves, like the Canadian Sands, oh yeah, i forgot to mention it takes 2 barrels to extract 3barrels…sure, window power is going produce the torque to do that. Not to mention if we do have that much oil, climate change will seal our fate.

  8. pete starke says:

    Not being a scientist I merely raise the following questions:

    In order to determine the supply of oil, wouldn’t it be necessary to know all of the details concerning the process by which oil is created? Such as When did the process first begin? How long does it take to convert organic matter into crude oil? how much is created in a defined period? Is the process still going on? and numerous other logical questions. Since some of these questions are virtually impossible to answer, surely then there is no legitimate way to know how much crude oil is in the earth!

    Those who predict ‘peak oil’ merely did or continue to do so based on suppositions for their own agendas!

  9. Eric Sivertson says:

    Bravo Pete, I have to say of all the comments posted your was the only one that identified what we really need to know just to begin any serious, (honest) approach to answering such a question.
    All the experts give us data to prove they are experts, but nothing to prove any of thier opinions they like to present as conclusions. Nature has been storing the suns energy on the planet for hundreds of million years and now some imply the process is over because we can say the source is finite.
    Well we better enjoy the sunshine now because that energy is also finite. A few billion short years and the party is over if your going to rely on that energy source.
    The math expert points out an exponential path has us doomed, and this path is based on his statement “Even if we’ve only found 1/2 of the total” which has no more proof than saying we have only used 1%.
    I like the way he inserted “only” as a way to imply he is being generous with a figure that has no actual data to prove its any closer than 1%. I can hear the replies used by some in the climate debate. ” There is a concensus among the worlds climate experts that man is the cause of climate change”, (no longer global warming?)the concensus is we have found half the oil.
    There was a 99% concensus the world was flat, 99% concensus… read more »

    …the world was the center of the universe, how about a concensus as recently as 1976 appearing on the cover of Time magazine, “The Coming Ice Age”. Its a shame concensus is to often a factor so called institutions of learning or science determines wether a expert is worthy to become a member and participate in finding data that supports the prevailing concensus. Present data that may conflict with the “in crowds” path to glory and you may find yourself very hungry and in the cold.
    In my life I have heard the experts say, “there is only so much data you can transmit thru a cable, its finite and we have reach the threshold”, or ” we are limited by the amount of frequencies”.And one of my favorite quotes by Bill Gates, “who would ever need more than 176k of memory”.
    Moving from anolog to digital doubled the amount of data a cell phone battery could transmit. How many more cell phones can be activated? We are only now are at 4 g networks. I asked a guy working on one of the main optic fiber bundles that carry data from coast to coast exactly how much data could this bundle carry.He said they really did not know, at the time they only used half the bundle to carry all the data they handled. This did not take into account the possibility of using the whole spectrum of light in the future.

    Considering the amount of energy in a teacup of gasoline, enough to move a ton 2000 feet up a mountain, and we still have yet to release all the energy stored in it. There is carbon that is released without being burned or converted into energy. And I challenge anybody to say they know the limit of what can be achieved or how far you could possibly go on that cup of fuel.Not only have we increased how far we can stretch the energy released by the combustion engine, we have now found more energy to capture from the same cup we thought we exhausted by generating electrical energy and then pushing us even farther than we ever considered. So even the carbon we were burning still had more potential than the experts believed we could capture. How far can we go? I tend to trust the expert that says we really do not know. He is the one that has achieved enough knowledge to know how little we really do know.
    And the other 90% of experts that never reached that level should have the statement they have used on us from the begining of history written on their tombstone, “We use to believe, but now we know”.

    • Eric Carlson says:

      Hi Eric, let me take a moment and defend Bob here. I think your point on the unknown potential of that cup of fuel is a good one and I too believe we’ve just begun to tap its limits, but I think you’re shortchanging Bob, as his argument does indeed include the idea of creating more supplies by efficiency. Which is, of course, your argument as well.

      It seems unfair to dismiss his argument by characterizing his numbers as unfounded by evidence – “…even if we’ve found only 1/2 the world’s supply…” – when you go on to introduce numbers – “…99% concensus the world was flat, 99% concensus the world was the center of the universe…” – that can’t possibly have a basis in fact.

      It’s also not constructive to term someone derisively as “the math expert” as it tends to rile everyone up and leads to flame wars which wastes everyone’s time. Let’s stick to facts and data and carry on a discussion that might lead to new ideas.

      By the way, I believe “global warming” is now termed “climate change” as the former is too confusing. Climate changes worldwide do not always equate with temperature increases and “climate change” addresses that better.

      • Robert Shaw says:

        I think the term “global warming” was exchanged for “climate change” for political correctness.The latter term was viewed as creating less political friction.

        • Stephen Shenfield says:

          Global warming (or global heating) is a specific phenomenon within the broader category of climate change. Climate change encompasses not just changing temperature but also changing patterns of precipitation, for instance. The choice of one term rather than the other may have a political subtext, but often does not.

  10. Stephen Shenfield says:

    The world is not running out of oil, gas or coal. Unfortunately. I very much wish it were, as that would force the shift to solar and other renewable energy that is so urgent to minimize the climate disasters in store for us and give our species the best chance of long-term survival. Please have mercy on present and future generations and leave the remaining hydrocarbons where they are, under the rocks or oceans. That way you will also avoid setting off earthquakes and uncontrolled methane releases (as a result of disturbing the clathrates in the ocean sediments).

  11. Tyler Budziak says:

    OIL – You better be sitting down when you read this!

    As you may know, Cruz Construction started a division in North Dakota just 6 months ago.

    They send every Kenworth (9 trucks) we had here in Alaska to North Dakota and several drivers.

    They just bought two new Kenworth’s to add to that fleet; one being a Tri Drive tractor and a new 65 ton lowboy to go with it.

    They also bought two new cranes (one crawler & one rubber tired) for that division.

    Dave Cruz said they have moved more rigs in the last 6 months in ND than Cruz Construction moved in Alaska in the last 6 years.

    Williston is like a gold rush town; they moved one of our 40 man camps down there since there are no rooms available.

    Unemployment in ND is the lowest in the nation at 3.4 percent last I checked.

    See anything in the national news about how the oil industry is fueling North Dakota ‘s economy?

    Here’s an astonishing read. Important and verifiable information:

    About 6 months ago, the writer was watching a news program on oil and one of the Forbes Bros. was the guest.

    The host said to Forbes, “I am going to ask you a direct question and I would like a direct answer;

    how much oil does the U.S. have in the ground?” Forbes did not miss a beat, he said, “more than all the Middle East put together.”

    The U. S.. Geological Service issued a report in… read more »

    …April 2008 that only scientists and oil men knew was coming, but man was it big.

    It was a revised report (hadn’t been updated since 1995) on how much oil was in this area of the western 2/3 of North Dakota,

    western South Dakota, and extreme eastern Montana.

    Check THIS out:

    The Bakken is the largest domestic oil discovery since
    Alaska ‘s Prudhoe Bay , and has the potential to

    eliminate all American dependence on foreign oil. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates

    it at 503 billion barrels. Even if just 10% of the oil is recoverable( 5 billion barrels), at $107 a barrel,

    we’re looking at a resource base worth more than $5.3 trillion.

    “When I first briefed legislators on this, you could practically see their jaws hit the floor.

    They had no idea..” says Terry Johnson, the Montana Legislature’s financial analyst.

    “This sizable find is now the highest-producing onshore oil field found in the past 56 years,” reports The Pittsburgh Post Gazette .

    It’s a formation known as the Williston Basin , but is more commonly referred to as the ‘Bakken.’

    It stretches from Northern Montana, through North Dakota and into Canada .

    For years, U. S. oil exploration has been considered a dead end.

    Even the ‘Big Oil’ companies gave up searching for major oil wells decades ago.

    However, a recent technological breakthrough has opened up the Bakken’s massive reserves,

    and we now have access of up to 500 billion barrels. And because this is light, sweet oil,

    those billions of barrels will cost Americans just $16 PER BARREL !!!!!!

    That’s enough crude to fully fuel the American economy for 2041 years straight.

    And if THAT didn’t throw you on the floor, then this next one should – because it’s from 2006 !!!!!!

    U.. S. Oil Discovery – Largest Reserve in the World

    Stansberry Report Online – 4/20/2006

    Hidden 1,000 feet beneath the surface of the Rocky Mountains lies the largest untapped oil reserve in the world.

    It is more than 2 TRILLION barrels. On August 8, 2005 President Bush mandated its extraction.

    In three and a half years of high oil prices none has been extracted.

    With this motherload of oil why are we still fighting over off-shore drilling?

    They reported this stunning news:

    We have more oil inside our borders, than all the other proven reserves on earth.

    Here are the official estimates:

    8 times as much oil as Saudi Arabia

    18 times as much oil as Iraq

    21 times as much oil as Kuwait

    22 times as much oil as Iran

    500 times as much oil as Yemen

    and it’s all right here in the Western United States !!!!!!

    HOW can this BE? HOW can we NOT BE extracting this? Because the environmentalists and others have blocked all efforts to help America become independent of foreign oil!
    Again, we are letting a small group of people dictate our lives and our economy. WHY?

    James Bartis, lead researcher with the study says we’ve got more oil in this very compact area
    than the entire Middle East , more than 2 TRILLION barrels untapped. That’s more than all the proven oil reserves of crude oil in the world today, reports The Denver Post .

    Don’t think ‘OPEC’ will drop its price even with this find? Think again! It’s all about the competitive marketplace, it has to.

    Think OPEC just might be funding the environmentalists?

    Got your attention yet? Now, while you’re thinking about it, do this:

    Pass this along. If you don’t take a little time to do this, then you should stifle yourself the next time

    you complain about gas prices, by doing NOTHING, you forfeit your right to complain.

    Now I just wonder what would happen in this country if every one of you sent this to every one in your address book.

    By the way, this can be verified. Check it out at the link below !!!!!!

    http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1911 > ; http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1911 >

  12. Walter Johnson says:

    This is a good analysis except that it stops with 2000. Actual global oil production has peaked, while the costs of recovering remaining oil has increased dramatically over the last 20 years concurrent with sharply higher cleanup costs for oil spills, especially from offshore platforms.

    An interesting point made in the post is that better fuel economy can be gained from the use of lightweight plastics in cars to reduce fuel consumption. Well, those plastics are most often made from oil and they represent the best future use of petroleum. Tar sand oil is mentioned without stating the huge amount of natural gas burned to produce oil from tar sands. That natural gas’s highest and best use is probably not producing oil from tar sands.

    I want every form of plastic product to remain available forever. I can run a car from electricity produced with nuclear power but the same plastics probably cannot be produced from vegetable oil which is itslef a food product best used for human survival. People don’t eat petroleum, bu they do benefit from fertilizers made using natural gas..

    • Steve Hoblcheck says:

      Walter, you are so wrong. Do a little research and you will find that we are far from peak oil production. 2050 is more likely based upon future estimates of new sources and techniques. Your opinions are typical of uninformed individuals over the last 100 years who only look at present data and extrapolate. By the way, we ran out of oil in the US in about 1896, before we knew about drilling for oil and not just picking it upon the surface of the earth. Use some facts in your statements and stop spreading opinions.

      • Bob Kerns says:

        Steve, the underlying assumption you seem to be making is, that because there were predictions in the past that were off, and there was actually more oil — we can continue this infinitely into the future.

        This is just mathematically absurd. It is unfortunate, but we humans are not well-equipped mentally to deal with predicting the outcome of exponential growth. And it’s tricky — no question.

        But here’s the bottom line. We have historically, and continue, to double our total energy consumption over time. That doubling time has largely been every 10 years — that’s a 7%/year increase. It may (I hope it really is) better than that now — I’ll get to that.

        While we have expanded our exploration — we have not expanded the actual planetary supply one whit. Even if we’ve only found 1/2 of the total, that only extends our supply by one doubling time.

        So long as our energy use, and our oil use, keep on an exponential path, mathematically, we HAVE to run into trouble. And new production has to match ALL OF THE PRODUCTION IN HISTORY UNTIL NOW in order to extend that one doubling time.

        On the other hand — if we can cut our growth rate in half — through conservation, efficiency, economic collapse, or killing each other — this has a much greater impact on the problem. If we have enough for one more doubling time, but we grow at half that rate, that doubling time is extended.

        And every bit of new oil then contributes… read more »

        …a LONGER extension to our survival.

        There is little point in arguing over exactly how much oil we have, or where the peak is, if we’re not going to do something about this exponential growth. Otherwise, we’re only quibbling about the timing of the disaster, while doing nothing to prevent it.

        And the only way to avoid it is to cut our growth rate to below the rate of new supply — and to end our dependence on fossil fuels entirely, before we run out of them.

        The sooner, and more aggressively, we act on this — the more time we have. If we do it soon enough, and aggressively enough, our children and grandchildren will have the time to complete the transition smoothly.

        If not, the results wont’ be pretty. Consider how much of our energy supply goes into food production. And how much an impact the rise in food prices — which we are already seeing — will have on world stability, especially in the face of a growing population. (Which is also an exponential problem, with some signs of slowing, we’re still quite a ways from zero growth, and thus quite a ways away from the peak).

        So, back to the original question: Is the world running out of oil?

        Of course it is. And fairly quickly, in any historical time scale, so long as we keep up this growth in consumption. You can’t seriously deny that there WILL be a peak — unless you want to claim it’s already past us. So what’s the point in trying to argue there’s no problem?

        And what happens to Exxon-Mobil when we do? I’ll let you work out the possibilities. Suffice it to say, there are Good Choices, and Bad Choices.

        • Ralph Siegler says:

          No worries, as we can transform fossil fuels into carbon chains of any desired length. We can turn coal into gasoline, kerosene, clean diesel, for example. And the processes for doing so were invented in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There are coal supplies sufficient for centuries. So it is quite silly to get worried over any imagined crude oil shortage.

      • Geoff McBride says:

        Steve,

        Your phone is ringing. It is Exxon Mobile. They are calling to offer you a job as a lobbyist. Ooops–they forgot you already work for them.

        Even if Walter is wrong about the peak oil peak, calling him ‘typically uniformed’ is silly. So now it is 2050 huh? Where is the proof? I’m not saying it has or hasn’t–but even if you say 2050 that is 39 years buddy. In 2050 we’ll have even better techniques and it will be 2075 right? His point about the costlier techniquest to recover oil is however a fact. Using other natural resources to ‘get at it’ is also a fact.

        Short term we all look to be able to live in a World that doesn’t really need to give a bleep about the future. Time will tell but just because you are all comfy in your current consuption based on the fact that there will be oil in your lifetime is pretty damn selfish.

        The reality is we need oil to build a new infrastucture to help us harverst renewable energy. If we use it up before we can build the foundation then the future is in peril. Even if that isn’t in your lifetime it saddens me that people just look to their own immediate lives (+ kids and grandkids) and think “well we’ll be fine,” like that is some sort of answer to the issue. I’m lumping you… read more »

        …into a broader category of people here I guess your ‘typically uninformed’ hit a nerve.

    • Gordon Sorrells says:

      I believe that electric cars are good things, but people do not realize that nuclear energy porduces only about 20% of our electircity here in the US – we need that number to be much higher. France is 70%+ nuclear. Today, coal is the largest source of power for us, at 49% of the total!! So, when one drives an electric vehicle today, every other mile is powered by coal, the most polluting source of power.

  13. Kevin Jacques says:

    Folks, before you take the word of an Exxon-Mobil employee or consultant go out and buy the 2002 best seller “The Hydrogen Ecomony” by Jeremy Rifkin. He spends more time in the book trying to determine HOW much oil is left on the planet by interviewing every oil exec, respected geologist, university professors etc. The high end estimates are 3 trillion barrels and the low end was 2. This is the oil thats fairly easily recoverable. Sure there is alot of oil in tar sands, go read up how much heat (read natural gas) AND water it takes to recover, not to mention the giant “sludge fields” that is leaves behind. The experts ALL agreed that peak production will occur somewhere between 2010 and 2020, most saying closer to 2010. And they all agree the last drop of oil is coming out of Saudia Arabia. But there’s another point thats more important and not being discussed here by Mr Cohen. He says we are about 1/3 thru supply, but whats he’s not pointing out is the basic economic fact of what happens with the price when peak production (half the worlds oil supply is recovered) happens and demand is rising (read US demand fairly constant, China and India demand rising quickly). If you think $4 dollar a gallon gas (2008) hurt the economy you haven’t seen anything yet. Its not depleting the entire supply that we need to wait for thats going to… read more »

    …hurt us, its when we hit PEAK production with Demand rising!!! and the countries with the cash (read China) will be bidding against us for the remaining supplies!! Don’t let these oil insiders convince you drilling more will solve the problem, will it help, of course! a panacea?? far from… there’s a freight train coming right at us. Read the book… its not written by an oil company employee and you’ll learn more about oil and how energy has defined the advances (and failures) of every civilization on earth. And please don’t shoot me I’m just the messenger on an oil companies blog.

    • Robert Shaw says:

      Jeremy Rifkin is nothing but a left-wing ideologue with a particular bias against Exxon (In a 2008 interview with Charlie Rose, Rifkin flatly stated they were the “worst- run big oil company”). Rifkin did not interview “every oil exec, respected geologist, university professors etc.” for his book but instead interviewed people who shared his viewpoint. Since Rifkin’s company is dependent on government spending for green projects, it’s not surprising that this book’s theme is oil has no future and the U.S. needs to start crash programs to move away from it.

      Unless you’re just a shill for him, Kevin, go back and look at the predictions made ten to fifteen years and see how inaccurate they are. I’ll give one example: In August 2001, Jeremy Rifkin appeared on PBS Nightly Business Report and called $30/barrel oil a “high price” that within 3 years would create another oil glut which would badly damage the oil service companies like Haliburton. Haliburton’s stock price has increased about seven fold since August, 2001.

  14. Stan Osborn says:

    But back to the original question: Is the world running out of oil? No. Not even close.

    Ken, that’s a sound bite.

    Who are you to determine what “Not even close.” means?

    Is it One hundred Years? Two Hundred?

    Will my kids see this event? Will their kids?

    These are fair questions that you blow off with a non-answer.

    At 80 million barrels a day or a billion barrels every two weeks (2005 planetary consumption) each new oil field adds a small amount of time to the total. For example, the Macondo field (Deep Water Horizon blowout) has an estimated 50 million barrels. That adds a fraction of a day to planetary consumption!