EIA Examines the Long-Term Longevity of Petroleum
September 1, 2004
In the wake of recent high oil prices, DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA) has re-released a July 2000 study that examined the long-term prospects for world petroleum supplies. As noted in that study, the critical event in world oil production will be when it hits its peak, since any decline in oil production would leave some oil demand unsatisfied, and would likely lead to significant price increases. Drawing on oil resource estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey (which the authors believe to be conservative), the study finds a wide range of potential dates for the peak in oil production, ranging from 2021 to 2112, although either extreme is unlikely. Using a demand growth of 2 percent per year (the EIA currently projects a growth of 1.9 percent per year through 2025), and using the mean value for the amount of oil reserves, the study predicts petroleum production will hit its peak in 2037.
The authors point out, however, that the study examines only conventional crude oil resources, and does not consider unconventional sources such as tar sands and very heavy oils. The authors also note that a greater use of gasoline-saving technologies, such as hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles, could significantly extend the worldwide production of crude oil. See the EIA report, "Long-Term World Oil Supply Scenarios."