“We are running out of fossil fuel”. I’ve been hearing this for a while, and it has created a sort of panic all over the world. Tendency is to believe that this is happening in the next few years… But is it true?
It is true that fossil fuel resources are finite, and according to the International Energy Agency’s – IEA – World Energy Outlook 2009, the demand for oil has been increasing at a rate of 1.6% annually.
Yet, the BP Statistical Review of World Energy in June 2012 states that the proved coal reserves at the end of 2011 were sufficient to meet 112 years of global production. While, world proved reserves of oil could cover 54.2 years equivalent to 1652.6 billion barrels. And the world reserves of natural gas were sufficient for 63.6 years. Noticing that, the R/P ratio for crude oil recorded its highest value in history.
Whether this is due to an increase in production efficiency or the discovery of new reserves and whether these new reserves are large enough, is a debatable issue.
Fact remains that reserves of oil and natural gas did not decrease in the past 50 years, but instead they have been increasing.
According to ExxonMobil, oil, gas and coal will continue to be the most widely used fuels, and have the scale needed to meet global demand, making up about 80 percent of total energy consumption in 2040.
Experts from the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas –ASPO- believe that the global oil production will reach its peak by 2015.
On the other hand, it is expected that the demand for oil will peak and then gradually decline.
The new policies seeking the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, along with the renewable energy targets and incentives, and the constant decrease in investment and operation costs of renewable energy technologies, promise that energy generation from renewable energy resources will grow significantly which will reduce the demand for fossil fuel. For example, it is estimated that in 2015 the cost of electricity generated from solar energy will be equivalent to the conventional one. Other drivers for that demand reduction are the energy conservation scenarios and energy-saving technologies now dominating the market.
Therefore, the current world population of 7 billion people, growing to 8 billion in 2030, does not necessarily mean a significant increase in oil demand.
On the economy level, the trend is that demand will decrease with the increase in prices, and oil prices have been increasing drastically, and chances are, we will never see cheap gasoline again, nor cheap prices for any fossil fuel type. Plus, the energy demand is very sensitive to GDP growth, thus the recent recession has had a significant impact on energy demand.
Are we really running out of fossil fuel? It is safe to say no, at least not for the next 100 years.
Yet, I cannot wait for the era where people will calculate their carbon emissions, buy local products to avoid transportation emissions, rely more on public transportation, benefit more from daylighting, and make sure their houses are passive.
For whether fossil fuels are ending or not, that era is inevitable. As Sheikh Yamani, Oil Minister in KSA, said in 1973: “The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil.” And if I may say, thank God for that!
Image: Fossil Fuels via Shutterstock