Is the world running out of oil? This book analyzes predictions of global oil depletion in the context of science, history, and economics. There has been continuing alarm about the imminent exhaustion of earth's non-renewable resources. Yet, the world has never run out of any significant, globally traded, non-renewable resource. Is the world finally facing a non-renewable resource depletion catastrophe, or is the current concern just another one of a succession of panics? In this book, key assumptions and underlying arguments in the global oil-depletion debate are first summarized and then challenged. Facts about oil supply, production, and consumption are made accessible using concise and simple graphics. Concepts of resource depletion, end-use needs, technology leap-frogging, efficiency, and substitution are used to evaluate historical patterns of exploitation of non-renewable resources and to explore what history suggests about our future dependence on oil. This book is aimed at a broad range of readers,from undergraduate students studying resource science and economics to anyone interested in understanding the context of the controversy over global oil depletion.
"It is a book serious students of the world oil market should read, not because Gorelick has all the answers but because his account is well reasoned, well informed, and argued honestly, with respect for responsible opposing viewpoints." Book Review, Science, May 2010
Steven M. Gorelick holds the Cyrus Fisher Tolman Professorship in the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford University, where he has been on the faculty for over 20 years. In 2005, he was named a Guggenheim Fellow for his study of global oil depletion. Professor Gorelick is a Fellow of both the American Geophysical Union and Geological Society of America, and he has been selected twice as a Fulbright Senior Scholar (1997 and 2008) for studies of water resources issues in Australia.
Preface ix Acknowledgments x About Units xi Getting Started: What Do You Think? xiii 1 End of the Oil Era 1 Cause for Concern 1 Hubbert's Curve 4 The Appeal of Hubbert's Curve 10 Hubbert's Success 11 US Oil Dependence Since Peak Production 12 Chapters Ahead 13 Notes and References 13 2 The Global Oil Landscape 16 Introduction 16 Defi nitions 17 Petroleum Composition and Energy Density 18 Why a Barrel Is a bbl 20 The Oil Business 20 OPEC 23 How Much Oil Is There? The USGS Assessment 26 From the USGS Assessment to 2009 29 Reserves 31 Where Is Oil Produced? 32 Where Is Oil Consumed? 33 Oil Imports 35 After Oil Is Produced 37 Oil Production Versus Consumption 38 Oil Quality 40 Oil Pricing by Quality 40 Gasoline 41 What Determines the Price of Gasoline at the Pump? 41 The Price of Gasoline 44 Gasoline Price Elasticity: What Happens When the Price Goes Up (or Down)? 45 Gasoline Price Variability 47 Points to Take Away 49 Notes and References 51 3 The Historical Resource Depletion Debate 58 The Malthusian Doctrine 58 The Limits to Growth 59 The Oil Panics of 1916 and 1918 62 Panic Revisited: The Oil Crisis of the 1970s 63 Arguments Supporting Global Oil Depletion 65 Declining Oil Production in Countries in Addition to That in the US 65 Production Exceeds Discoveries 66 Reserve and Endowment Estimates are Inflated 67 Industry Exaggeration of Reserves 69 Fewer Giant Fields Discovered and Production is Declining 70 Decline in Discovery and Oil Drilling Suggests Onset of Production Decline 72 Global Industrial Development and Oil Consumption 74 The Price of Oil is Increasing: Does This Indicate Scarcity? 77 Forecasts Support a Decline in Global Production Using Extensions to Hubbert's Approach 80 Summary 81 Notes and References 82 4 Counter-Arguments to Imminent Global Oil Depletion 87 Myth I: Hubbert's Predicted Production Rates Were Accurate 87 US Oil Production 88 The Bell-Shaped Curve 93 US Natural Gas Production 95 Global Oil Production 95 Myth II: A Decline in Production Necessarily Indicates Scarcity 98 Commodity Scarcity 98 Generalizing the Debate: Resource Economists versus Neo-Malthusians 103 Back to Oil 110 Scarcity Rent 116 Myth III: Resource Assessments Provide Useful Endowment Estimates 118 The Missing Mass Balance 123 Counter-Argument to OPEC and Industry Exaggeration of Reserves 124 Myth IV: After So Much Exploration, There Is Little Oil Left To Be Found 126 US Oil: Reserves 126 US Oil: Discoveries 128 Global Oil: Reserves 132 Global Oil: Discoveries 138 Russian and Global Arctic Oil 144 Myth V: The World Cannot Afford Increases in Oil Use as Developing Nations Demand More Oil 146 Future Demand of Developing Nations 146 Oil Expenditures in the World Economy 153 Myth VI: There Are No Substitutes for Oil 156 The Gold Resource Pyramid 156 The Oil Resource Pyramid 160 The US and Global Oil Resource Pyramids 161 Three Unconventional Oil Substitutes 165 US heavy oil 165 Global heavy oil 166 US oil sands 168 Global oil sands 168 US oil shale 170 Global oil shale 172 Fossil Fuel Conversion: The Role of Gas and Coal 173 The Importance of Diesel 175 Synthetic Fuel from Coal and Natural Gas 175 Natural Gas Resources 177 Coal Resources 180 Chapter Summary 181 Notes and References 183 5 Beyond Panic 195 The Non-Renewable Resource Model 195 Where Is an Effi ciency Gain Possible? 196 Will Increases in Effi ciency Indeed Reduce Demand? 199 Two scenarios for developing nations 204 What Might Ultimately Substitute for Oil? 207 Consideration 1: Cost of dependence on imported oil 208 Consideration 2: Gasoline and atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions 209 Consideration 3: Alternatives 210 Ethanol 211 Biodiesel 212 Leapfrogging to an ultimate substitute 213 Effects of a US move to oil alternatives 215 The State of Oil Resources 219 Ending Thoughts 221 Notes and References 225 Index 231