Monday, May 19, 2008

Peeking at oil

Jim Manzi at National Review Online's The Corner takes a look at all the talk of "peak oil" and brings it into perspective.

Roughly speaking, forecasts indicate that we are 20 – 30 years from peak oil today, just as forecasts generally indicated that we were 20 – 30 years from peak oil throughout the 1970s and 80s.

Unsurprisingly, the DOE has taken a serious look at this question. Their best guess (and they are rigorous enough to put a range of many decades on this) is that peak production will be reached sometime in the middle of this century. The International Energy Agency projects that production will continue to increase at least through 2030. So does OPEC.

Dinauer continues:

"Oh, and since oil now costs over $120 a barrel, does that mean oil has peaked, Jim?"

On an inflation-adjusted basis, this is almost exactly what oil cost in 1980. Does that mean oil production peaked in 1980?

I’ll also note that while the world spent about 6 percent of its total economic output on oil in 1980, this is down to about 3.5 percent today. Maybe this is why I see no observable signs of the collapse of modern civilization resulting from the current run-up in oil prices.