350 is a scary number, but the scarier number than no one knows is 6.7%. That figure is the observed decline rate for oil fields past peak. The "peak" of an oil field, remember, is the moment when the field produces the largest amount of oil that it will produce during its lifetime; after this point, fields begin to decline as it becomes harder and harder to extract the remaining fuel from them. And this ratio is increasing, because off-shore oil rigs tend to decline much faster than on-shore production (some off-shore oil fields decline faster than 10% a year!)
Taking this to account, if we do not discover or develop any new oil or any new alternatives, oil production will decline by 4.5% a year. Combine this with the simple fact that we are on the cusp of reaching the economic "tipping point" for car ownership in China/India. Once China's average per capita income reaches a certain level, HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of people will want access to automobiles (consider the meteoric rise in automobile ownership seen in the United States as we got richer). Let's use the EIA's (Energy Information Administration, a department of the Department of Energy) projection for world oil demand in 2030: 118 million barrels per day. Currently we are around 85 million barrels per day produced. So current oil production (assuming we don't discover/improve anything) will be.. carry the three... 32 million barrels per day. So, we need to develop new sources of oil that produce the shortfall, which is roughly equivilant of trying to find everything we've found over DECADES of searching in twenty years.
Another way of putting it is to say that we need to put six million addition barrels per day of oil into production EVERY year to avoid crisis. If we wait two years, we need to find 6.5 million barrels per day. SIX MILLION FREAKIN' BARRELS EACH DAY! More than TWO BILLION barrels produced each year. 62 BILLION GALLONS PER YEAR. Study the problem, and nothing seems to be able to describe the scope of the problem.
There are other methods of producing oil, other fuels, yadda yadda yadda, and I will describe them in the future. But my next post will be on the economic implications of shortfalls.
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