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For years, the experts have been warning of the dangers of oil depletion. They have been accused of crying wolf. This time, the wolf really is at the door.

The Real Danger

Everyday in the news, we hear of the threat of climate change. There are international conferences, television documentaries, books galore. Leaders meet regularly to discuss the issues and define programs. Yet, while climate change is undoubtedly a serious problem, the most dangerous aspects are not likely to threaten us for several decades and even then will be ambiguous in their results, bringing hazards for many, benefits for some, and little effect for a few.

But there is a danger whose consequences will be far more destructive and which will hit us much sooner. It is a danger that will affect everybody, rich or poor, wherever they live in the world. It will require enormous financial and scientific strides to defeat, strides which the world’s governments show few signs of taking. It is a danger which, quite feasibly, could lead to the end of our industrial civilisation. It is the danger of peak oil.

I recently asked a question on a website about the financial dangers of peak oil and one reply ended with this:

I remember being told twenty years ago that there was only twenty years of oil left. We are now being told again that we have twenty years of oil left. I wonder if we will be told the same thing in another twenty years!

This is typical of the level of misinformation around about peak oil. Few people seem to be aware of it and many of those who are consider it a problem for the far future. I suspect that most people asked about “how long oil will last” would place the time hundreds of years in the future. If you don’t already know, ask yourself this question:

Using the known amount of available oil and the present rate of consumption, how long would it be before all that oil is used up?

This is known as the R/P ratio in the oil business (the first bit of jargon). It may surprise you to know that in the BP Statistical Review for 2007 (using data from 2005), the length of time is 40.5 years. So, any person under the age of about thirty or forty would be likely to have to face a world without any oil.

The reality is not so simple as this but unfortunately the situation is far worse. Peak oil is not about when we run out of oil but, rather, when the production of cheap oil starts to decline. And, as we shall see, that is much closer than we think.

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My Aim

I am not an oil expert. All my knowledge of peak oil comes from books, websites and by studying the statistics. Up to the end of the last century, I was as ignorant of this crisis as the average person still is. Consequently, there is nothing on this site that the ordinary uninformed person cannot understand since I am also an ordinary person who was uninformed. The facts of peak oil are littered with oil jargon (see Jargon) and endless tables of figures. Every statistic seems to be defined differently by different authors and even a term such as ‘oil’ has a multitude of meanings. It is no wonder that the ordinary man or woman in the street is not aware of the problem.

The bulk of the statistics I am using in this site are from two sites: the BP Statistical Review and the ASPO News (The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas). I use these because the sets of statistics are easily available to download from the respective websites whilst much data is difficult to find and/or expensive. Neither set of oil figures can be relied on for total accuracy but, since the inaccuracy tends towards the optimistic (certainly in the BP figures), it will bring home to you the trouble we are in. If things seem bad with these figures, think how bad it really is.

I recommend that you go to the websites (if you can) and download the relevant statistics. Do not rely on my interpretations – check them out for yourselves. The data is all there. We just need to be woken up to what is written within.

As I point out, I do not work in the oil business so I cannot guarantee that every word I write is correct, but I have tried to check as much as possible. That is the advantage of using downloadable statistics – you can check much of the interpretation for yourself. But if you don’t trust what I say, I urge to to get onto the Internet and check things out for yourself. The questions of the general public brought global warming to the headlines, only a similar thing will wake the world up to the danger that awaits it.


Paul Thompson

Paul Thompson
Devon, England
December 2008
Wolf Thoughts (blog)


Paul Thompson is the creator of the websites
The Reader's Guide to Wuthering Heights
The Reader's Guide to the Day of the Triffids


Further Information
Oil (BP): http://www.bp.com/centres/energy/ ASPO Data not currrently available
World Population: http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/world.html Agriculture: UN Food and Agriculture Organisation

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