Peak oil at 85 million barrels a day?

In his article on world oil demand, Eric Reguly makes the observation that in addition to growing Chinese oil demand “we haven’t even talked about peak oil theory, which says that oil production, at 85 million barrels a day, is pretty much the limit” (Cheap oil? Not with millions of Chinese car drivers, Report on Business, 22 July 2010).

It all depends whose peak oil theory you’re talking about. In the most recent Oil Market Report from the International Energy Agency, world oil production for the first quarter of 2010 was 86.5 million barrels a day, somewhat above the 85 million barrels a day “limit”.

This doesn’t mean that peak oil won’t happen, it will, it is simply a matter of time. At present, world production of conventional crude oil appears to have reached a plateau at about 70 million barrels a day, with the remainder being made up of natural gas liquids and limited amounts of unconventional crude (such as the tar sands). If world oil production does peak over the next decade, it will be because the oil fields that will be needed to meet world demand (but have not yet been discovered) do not exist.

Whether the peak happens next year or in 20 years time, jurisdictions should be preparing now for a world where oil accessibility and affordability cannot be taken for granted.

Submitted to Globe and Mail, 22 July 2010. Unpublished.