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Running out of oil?

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Location: Kingston, Canada (USDA zone 5a)
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“This year we found significant differences between OPEC and non-OPEC members in the longevity of proven reserves. All OPEC countries have proven reserves that are expected to last over 10 years, ranging from Iraq with just over 10 years to more than 14 years in Saudi Arabia. In non-OPEC member countries, Mexico ranks last among individual countries with fewer than five years of proven reserves, whereas Canada’s reserves are projected to last almost 20 years.”


Am I reading this properly? We are at most 20 years away from running out of oil?

While I know it would be better not to extract and burn oil, I cannot see our industrial civilization transitionning away in such a short time without lots of deaths.
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Location: Southern Illinois
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The short answer is that we have a LOT of oil left in the ground.  Like you, I want as much as possible to stay there, but in no way are we actually about to run out.

The article specified that their figures were based on recovery at $50 per barrel.  As the price of oil goes up (and it is plenty higher than $50 now), oil exploration becomes more profitable and more oil gets pumped.  The article even stated that the drop from 1 trillion barrel left to 350 billion barrels left was from a drop in investor confidence, meaning that money for oil exploration got pulled.

I did much of my masters work in the history of energy and I was shocked at just how expensive oil exploration really is.  Moreover, I found a nice 170 year history of having 30 years of oil left.  Back when the very first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania, at first it gushed on its own.  The owners of the well were ecstatic.  Then the oil sort of bubbled out of the ground at which point sobriety sank in.  Then the oil actually needed to be pumped at which point it was declared “30 years of oil left” with no real justification.

That 30 year horizon has strangely stuck around, though it varies a bit.  Interestingly, that first oil well still produces oil.  Try as I could, I could not find an actual example of an oil well running out of oil.  What happened is that they got pumped beyond economic recovery at which point pumping stopped.  But leave the well alone for a while and it becomes more easily pumped.  Many oil fields come on and off line as economic conditions dictate.

So again, to reiterate, there is a whole lot of oil left on earth.  I advocate for keeping as much as possible in the ground, but we are certainly not on the verge of an oil starvation apocalypse.

Good article though.

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