The end of oil, warn experts

2010-11-16 09:24

Washington - The world will run out of oil around 100 years before replacement energy sources are available if oil use and development of new fuels continue at the current pace, a US study warns.

In the study, researchers at the University of California, Davis (UC-Davis) used the current share prices of oil companies and alternative energy companies to predict when replacement fuels will be ready to fill the gap left when oil runs dry.

And the findings weren't very good for the oil-hungry world.

If the world's oil reserves were the 1.332 trillion barrels they were estimated to be in 2008 and oil consumption was some 85.22 million barrels a day and growing at 1.3% a year, oil would be depleted by 2041, says the study published online last week in Environmental Science and Technology.

But by plugging current stock market prices into a complex equation, UC-Davis engineering professor Debbie Niemeier and postdoctoral researcher Nataliya Malyshkina calculated that a viable alternative fuel to oil won't be available before the middle of next century.


The researchers analysed the share prices of 25 oil companies quoted on US, European and Australian stock exchanges, and of 44 alternative energy companies.

They found that the market capitalisation, or total value of all stock shares, of traditional oil companies far outstripped that of the alternative energy companies.

That indicated that investors believe oil is going to do well in the near future and occupy a larger share of the energy market than alternative energy, said Malyshkina.

"To assess the time until a considerable fraction of oil is likely to be replaced by alternatives, we used advanced pricing equations to make sense of the large discrepancy between the market capitalisation of traditional oil companies and the market capitalisation of alternative-energy companies," said Malyshkina.

The answer they came up with was that there would not be a widely available replacement for oil-based fuels before 2140, which, even if the more optimistic date of 2054 for oil depletion is retained, would mean there could be a nearly 90-year gap when it might be difficult to run a motor vehicle.

Nearly two-thirds of crude oil is used to produce gasoline and diesel to run vehicles, said Malyshkina.

The calculations used by the researchers are based on the theory that long-term investors are good predictors of when new technologies will become commonplace.

Similar calculations have been used to accurately predict the outcome of elections and the results of sports events, Malyshkina said.

  • Hendrik - 2010-11-16 10:23

    what about hydrogen? Its not more difficult to obtain than oil, and it is abundant! California already have pumps with hydrogen, and honda made a car that can run on hydrogen, and the big plus is, the only emissions are water

      Carl_NZ - 2010-11-16 10:35

      How do you make hydrogen? - use natural gas, another fossil fuel that will run out. Plus, how do you retrofit millions of cars?

      thabomatwabeng - 2010-11-16 10:56

      Hydrogen seems like a good idea but your energy input required to get hydrogen seperated is too high. You are using more energy to create the fuel than what you get from using it. The only solutions are to reduce, recycle and re-use anything and everything. The reason why these three habits are punted so much is because every new item manufactured from virgin material (not recycled) has a much higher energy input to re-using something you have already, or making it from recycled material. Plastic, paper, metal must be recycled. And the reason why reducing consumption is necessary is obvious. Over and above this it is required to have more options as fuel sources. The advantage of oil is that it is a concentrated form of energy that is conveniently stored in the oil. It is transportable and rfefinable to many applications, with countless byproducts to make it economically viable. The problem is that the true price of burning oil is not in the price per barrel. It is a deferred environmental, health and direct cost that has already started hitting us and will only escalate over the next few decades. This is a huge test in human will. Can we collectively choose to change? I'm not very optimistic. It usually takes a disaster or a war before you see a change in human habit on a global scale.

  • Logic_Bomb - 2010-11-16 10:32

    What a load of crap, as usual. More propaganda. There is AMPLE evidence to show that "peak oil" is a myth. Stop feeding us this nonsense!

      thabomatwabeng - 2010-11-16 11:01

      Oil is still a finite resource. It will run out. Whether you want to call it Peak Oil, or Fregumpsamusampt it makes no difference. Unless oil is being replaced inside the underground oil reservoirs quick enough we will use all of it. Peak Oil is a very specific analysis about when we will run out. No one said that this analysis was based on the Peak Oil data or method at all and there is no logical reason why the credibility of the Peak Oil theory has anything to do with this arguement. Not very Logic_Bomb. - 2010-11-16 12:32

      I only hope you live long enough to see how wrong you are.

  • ChumScrubber - 2010-12-01 19:28

    Guess I'll be dead by then, so who cares. I also wonder if the planet will be able to support life by that time - every inch will be occupied by a human, population control is not taken seriously. Environmental degradation will be so severe, the sea will be fished empty. 100 years from now Armageddon has come and gone. Sorry to be negative, its almost gauranteed.

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