‘Technology is great, but you can’t find what’s not there. In the last five years, we consumed 27 billion barrels of oil a year. The oil industry discovered only three billion barrels a year. So only one barrel was replaced for every nine barrels we used.’
LB Lagoon, US Geological Survey
Oil is used to make petrol, diesel, polyester, solvents, lubricating oils, grease, lollies, packaging, pesticides, candles, matches, polishes, petroleum jelly, medicines, cosmetics, medicine, fertiliser, asphalt, chemicals, synthetic rubber, clothing, plastics and 500,000 more everyday items.
Our entire food production process and transportation of it is founded on oil and its products. Humans are like a Hummer on two legs – we have a huge appetite for oil-based products.
Oil is the lifeblood of industry. Oil is not renewable. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever – that’s it! When our descendants reflect in two hundred years time and ask themselves, ‘What happened to all the oil?’ The answer will be ‘Well, we, um, yeah, no… we burnt it all!’ Can you imagine the dismay and disappointment of future generations? ‘What … you burnt it! You can’t be serious? What were you thinking?’
The more oil we burn, the more pollution we create. No one likes pollution and we all think that it should stop. But we keep on doing it. This is where it gets a bit tricky.
Curiously we all get very upset when the price of oil rises. This forces up petrol prices and creates a reason not to use our vehicles so much. Petrol makes up a tiny 3% of household spending – we spend more on takeaway food. We never complain when takeaway goes up, but go crazy when petrol edges up by a few cents. The price of petrol holds a strange place in our minds.
Oil, like gas, coal and uranium, is a finite resource. Once it’s gone that’s it. So what’s happening with oil?
‘I expect to see a peak sometime before 2015 … and decline rates at 4-8% per year.’
Jeremy Gilbert, former Chief Petroleum Engineer at BP, May 2007
For decades Big Oil told us that all is okay and that we should keep on burning their oil.
We are now faced with a new reality. There is no more oil to be easily found.
It’s all been used or has been discovered. Any oil that hasn’t been discovered will be at incredibly great depths beneath the oceans. This oil is extremely difficult to extract and when things go wrong it’s an economic and environmental disaster for all humans, plants, fish, birds and sea mammals nearby.
And what is Big Oil doing about the problem of less oil? Are they looking like crazy for more oil? It seems they are doing little exploration and are buying up all of their own stock (to maximise profit) as demand begins to outstrip supply.
The challenge is that if we continue our current rate of consumption and then factor in China and India. In the next 20 years global oil consumption will increase from the current level of 87 million barrels per day to 118 barrels per day. That’s an increase of 33 million barrels per day! That’s the equivalent of four new Saudi Arabias.
Where is this going to come from? Oil is a non-renewable resource. It will run out. Peak Oil is with us now.
One thing is obvious – the demand for oil will be greater than supply, leading to price increases for everything that is made, grown, moved and consumed.