We, the members of the educational and scientific communities involved in the study of the worldwide peak of oil production, offer the following statement on the problem and its implications for our future:
Oil is a finite resource.
A growing majority of the world's leading petroleum geologists now agree that more than 95 percent of the world's recoverable oil has been discovered. We therefore know, to a reasonable degree of certainty, the total amount of oil that was endowed at the beginning of the oil age. As of this statement, mankind has consumed approximately half of the original endowment. We continue to consume this finite resource at a rate of about 75 million barrels per day - more than four times the rate at which we are finding new reserves. This is not a new situation: every year since 1981 we have found less oil than we use, and the difference between what is being discovered and what is being consumed is growing. The situation is now becoming critical and acute.
Oil is our most important energy source.
Oil is the fuel that enabled the growth of modern civilization, and all industrialized countries now rely on oil to an extraordinary extent. It provides 40 percent of our primary energy, and oilís physical and chemical versatility and its energy density are such that no other known energy source can serve as a full or even adequate substitute. Oil is critical to our transportation infrastructure, and it is the essence of industrial agriculture. It is equally integral to the chemical & pharmaceutical industries, much of the clothing industry, and a vast array of others. In short, oil is the oxygen of the industrial world.
Worldwide oil production is peaking.
After more than fifty years of research and analysis on the subject, it is now clear that the rate at which world oil producers can extract oil has reached, or is extremely close to reaching, the maximum level possible. This is what is meant by 'oil peak'. With great effort and expenditure, the current level of oil production can possibly be maintained for a few more years, but beyond that oil production must begin an irrevocable decline. This decline is a certainty, guaranteed by the natural laws that govern our physical world, and nothing in science, technology or engineering can prevent it. The consumption of a finite resource is simply a finite endeavor. Attempts to delay the onset of this decline only ensure a steeper, more uncontrollable decline.
Oil peak is a powerful force of global destabilization.
The destabilizing effects of oil peak reach deep into our economic systems, our environment, and our geopolitics. The inexorable tightening of supply has already destabilized oil markets, creating extreme price responses to the smallest of disturbances. Higher oil prices create economic hardship by increasing the cost of consumer goods while reducing spendable income. Efforts to shore up weakened economies through relaxed environmental regulations, increased drilling in sensitive wildlife areas, or shifts to coal and nuclear technologies, pose serious threats to our environment and our climate. In the past, countries of the Middle East have increased production to relieve tight markets, but with more than 50 oil-producing countries now in decline and the Middle East nearing its own peak, any relief at this point will be limited and temporary. The current military action in Iraq could result in the cancellation of contracts for Iraqi oilfield development now held by Russia, China, and France, posing serious economic threats to these countries. War damage to Iraq, its people and its oil fields - and lands beyond - has the potential to unleash incalculable pent-up forces. The geopolitical stakes have never been higher.
There are no easy solutions.
Any discussion of solutions must adhere to scientific principles. Serious proposals for successor technologies must be grounded first in thermodynamics and physics, rather than business and economics. Many proposed substitutes for oil have serious technical limitations. Natural gas is a finite resource, and is already in decline in North America. Hydrogen is a commonly cited panacea, but rather than being a primary energy source, hydrogen is only an energy carrier and an energy loser. Thus it provides no relief. Solar, wind, and nuclear are not transport fuels, and have other limitations that may hinder large-scale deployment. Technologies still in the laboratory, either proven or as yet unproven, will by definition not be ready for use in the timeframe and magnitude dictated by this problem. The key point is that the problem of oil peak is here, and all known alternatives are either unready, unsuitable, problematic, or limited in potential.
We call on all governments of the world to recognize the gravity of the oil
Oil peak is an inevitability. The first warnings were made public nearly half a century ago, and were largely ignored. Increasingly since that time, the oil geology community has expressed concerns about global oil supplies. Since 1995, a group of veteran geologists has been issuing highly specific warnings based on exhaustive analysis. It is well past the time to hear their call.
Oil peak is the most pivotal challenge ever to face human civilization. To address it, we must join together in acknowledgement of our collective vulnerability, and work together on changes to the structure of our culture and civilization never attempted before. We do not underestimate the magnitude of the task, nor the low likelihood of its being achieved without far reaching consequences. The consequences of a failure to act, however, are beyond comprehension.
Please join us by adopting this statement and becoming part of the community working to develop responses at every level.
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Arabic version available here.
Hebrew version available here.