Ken Deffeyes, the author of Hubbert’s Peak : The Impending World Oil Shortage, has written another book on the same topic called Beyond Oil : The View From Hubbert’s Peak. Hubbert, a Shell geologist who, back in 1956, correctly predicted that U.S. oil consumption would top out in the early 70s, also foresaw 2001 as the peak of world oil production. That is to say, right about now. Clearly the end is coming some time, but how long can we put off the inevitable? You can find any number of optimists who swear there’s plenty more oil out there. Who’s right? I found this paragraph from a review of Deffeyes’s latest book to be a sobering assessment:
If the actions – rather than the words – of the oil business’s major players provide the best gauge of how they see the future, then ponder the following. Crude oil prices have doubled since 2001, but oil companies have increased their budgets for exploring new oil fields by only a small fraction. Likewise, U.S. refineries are working close to capacity, yet no new refinery has been constructed since 1976. And oil tankers are fully booked, but outdated ships are being decommissioned faster than new ones are being built.
Practically speaking, we’ve reached the climax of the Great Age of Petroleum. From now on we’re witnessing declining action. What comes next? Surely we’ll spend a lot of money on solar panels and windmills, but there’s no escaping the fact that nuclear energy is the next great source. Start getting used to it now.