I just finished read an article in the June issue of National Geographic- "Tapped Out" by Paul Roberts. Here are some of the highlights.
In 2000 Sadad I. Al Husseini then head of exploration and production for Saudi Aramco calculated that starting as early as 2004 oil output leveling off. After a plateau of 15 years the output of conventional oil would begin a gradual but irreversible decline.
Chistophe de Margerie of the French oil giant Total declared the maximum daily output was 100 million barrels-meaning global demand would outstrip supply before 2020.
Royal Dutch Shell's CEO, Jeroen van der Veer estimate that "after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand."
The volume of discovered each year has steadily fallen since the early 1960s. Most of the big, easily located fields were discovered decades ago, and the remaining fields tend to be small. Not only are they harder to find than big fields, but they must also be found in greater numbers to produce as much oil. The smaller fields also cost more to operate than larger ones do.
Matt Simmons, a Houston investment banker who has studied the oil industry "the world has zillions of little fields. The problem is you need a zillion oil rigs to get at them all."
Much of our oil is coming from mature fields approaching their peaks, or are even in decline; output is plummeting in once prolific regions such as the North Sea and Alaska's North Slope.
Many of the biggest oil companies, including Shell and Pemex, are actually finding less oil each than they can sell.
According to James Mulva, CEO of ConocoPhillips by 2010 nearly 40 percent of the world's daily oil output will have to come from fields that have not been tapped-or even discovered. At a conference in New York last fall, he predicted output would stall at 100 million barrels a day-the same figure Total's chief had projected.
In the early 1970s, during the Arab oil embargo, U.S. policymakers considered desperate measures to keep oil supplies flowing, even drawing up contingency plans to seize Middle Eastern oil fields.