Peak Oil

I’m reading the 2005 book Twilight in the Desert about the state of the Saudi oilfields.  The author uses professional papers published by petroleum engineers to try to get around the three-decade Saudi embargo on information about the state of the oilfields.  The author’s point is that the Saudis aren’t being completely forthcoming because they have an interest in maintaining the impression that their oil supply is steady and reliable.  The book is interesting and well-written if repetitive and long-winded, but one thought keeps recurring to me:

The premise that the Saudis deepest interest is in making the world think their oil resources are more reliable than they really are is patently false.  The Saudi balancing act is to try to maintain as much freedom to set their productions rate as they see fit while not angering the military powers of the world.  That freedom allows them to reduce production in order to inflate the price of oil and also not deplete their greatest resource too rapidly.  The best thing to help achieve that freedom is to create the impression that there is less oil than there really is.  That allows them to pump less and still claim they are doing the best they can.  It could well be the Saudis have much more oil than we think.

On the other hand, the current oil price rises, without much apparent coordination by OPEC, seem to indicate that oil production is now limited by production capacity rather than by agreement by exporters.  That would mean we have reached peak oil.

My own thought is that no one knows, because no one knows what is under the surface in all the parts of the world.  The end could start tomorrow, or in 100 years.

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