Evidence for and against a short-term peak in global oil production

Peak oil is the point at which global oil production reaches a plateau and begins to decline. Peak oil is an inevitable event as oil is a non-renewable resource (it is not being re-created).  Its timing is the subject of a fierce debate. Due to this controversy, I believe both sides of the argument should be presented so people can make up their minds based on evidence, not wishful thinking or emotion. I do not subscribe to the most pessimistic analyses (e.g. Erikson, 2009), but the IEA’s World Energy Outlook of 2008 seems overly optimistic, as illustrated here and other places on the net.

The UK Energy Research Council (UKERC 2009) has identified the most worthy research question in the peak oil debate as “what evidence is there to support the proposition that global demand for ‘conventional oil’ will be constrained by resource availability before 2020?”. I fully agree: whether or not oil will run out is not worthy of debate (it most certainly will), the shape of the tail is a long-term issue, but the date of the peak has immediate consequences for energy policy and lifestyles. Having read both sides of the argument, I believe there is a great deal of evidence for oil production to peak and enter terminal decline by 2020. This is hugely important for energy research (my E-Futures course included) and our own futures across the world. However, there are two sides to every argument:

Evidence for:

Evidence against:

I have tried to find more evidence for global oil production to peak beyond 2020 but can find little, especially in literature published after the price of oil collapsed in the wake of the recession. If anyone knows of good evidence either for or against, let me know and I’ll update this post accordingly.

For me the question now turns from the problem to the solutions. More on this later from me but in the mean time check out the new journal Solutions.


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