Sierra Magazine: Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.
Farewell Peak Oil - Sierra Daily

« Name That Bug! | Main | Stealing Environmental Votes »

Sierra Daily

Jul 03, 2012

Farewell Peak Oil

Oil pumpjacksPeak Oil--the notion that the world's supply of petroleum had hit its apogee and was already on the way down--turns out to have been wishful thinking. No one expected the resultant period of rising prices and panic at the gas pump to be pretty, but the concept did at least place an upper limit on the amount of combustible hydrocarbon we could pump into the atmosphere.

Well goodbye to all that. The coup de grace to Peak Oil was administered by Leonardo Maugeri, an oil executive and research fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in " “Oil: The Next Revolution – The unprecedented upsurge of oil production capacity and what it means for the world.” Maugeri analyzes oil fields in 23 countries, and (persuasively) concludes that far from declining, world oil supplies are likely to rise by a net 17 million barrels a day by 2020, and more so thereafter. This is from the Belfer Center's on the release of Maugeri's report:

His study attributes the expected growth in oil output largely to a combination of high oil prices and new technologies such as hydraulic fracturing that are opening up vast new areas and allowing extraction of “unconventional” oil such as tight oil, oil shale, tar sands and ultra-heavy oil. These increases are projected to be greatest in the United States, Canada, Venezuela and Brazil. Maugeri also predicts a major increase in Iraq’s oil output as it regains stability, which will add  new production in the Persian Gulf region -- potentially destabilizing OPEC’s ability to manage output and prices.

The environmental world is still digesting the news. The New York Times' Andy Revkin's take is here, the Guardian's George Monbiot here. He's not very sanguine:

There is enough oil in the ground to deep-fry the lot of us, and no obvious means to prevail upon governments and industry to leave it in the ground. Twenty years of efforts to prevent climate breakdown through moral persuasion have failed, with the collapse of the multilateral process at Rio de Janeiro last month. The world's most powerful nation is again becoming an oil state [Maugeri thinks it possible that the United States could rival Saudi Arabia in oil production by 2020], and if the political transformation of its northern neighbour is anything to go by, the results will not be pretty. 

Getting beyond oil, it turns out, isn't something that we'll do because we run out of it. It's something we'll do because we need to preserve our livable planet.

Image by sharply_done/iStock

HS_PaulRauberFINAL (1)

PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber.

User comments or postings reflect the opinions of the responsible contributor only, and do not reflect the viewpoint of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any posting. The Sierra Club accepts no obligation to review every posting, but reserves the right (but not the obligation) to delete postings that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

Up to Top