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Oil: Are We Running Out?

ABSTRACT

Predictions of imminent oil shortages have been made throughout the 20th century. Although all previ- ous predictions have been false, in recent years a new generation of predictions based on the Hubbert model have become ascendant and attracted media attention. The Hubbert model assumes that a resource is limited and finite. Although conventional oil supplies are finite, it has proven difficult to estimate the size of the ulti- mate resource. Over the last 50 years estimates of the size of the world’s conventional crude oil resources have increased faster than cumulative production. The estimated size of the ultimate resource base will con- tinue to increase in the future as unconventional fossil fuels come on line. oil production from Canadian tar sands has already begun.

Unconventional oil resources such as tar sands and oil shales are likely to replace conventional oil and ensure a supply of petroleum for a period of time somewhere on the order of 100 to 1000 years. The only uncertainty concerns the nature of the transition from conventional to unconventional oil resources. The tran- sition may be slow and seamless with no economic disruptions, or it may be characterized by a difficult tran- sition period.

In the long run, nuclear power has the potential to provide large amounts of power for very long periods of time if low-grade uranium is used in breeder reactors. The technology and resources to utilize nuclear power already exist. Limitations on the energy used by our technological civilization are not imposed by finite resources but by social and political attitudes. 1

Copyright © 2000 by AAPG. Presented before the 2nd Wallace E. Pratt Conference, January 12-16, 2000, San Diego.

For full report see here: geology.ou.edu/library/aapg_oil.pdf

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