Thursday, February 04, 2010

am not! are so!

BusinessGreen | We're running out of oil, warns Total boss; no we're not, says Saudi chief exec

Leading figures within the oil industry have clashed this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos over the risk to energy security posed by the "peak oil " phenomenon.

Thierry Desmarest, chief executive at French oil giant Total, yesterday told a meeting on energy supplies at the annual summit that the world's oil supplies were approaching their peak, the point at which many experts fear energy prices will begin to rise exponentially.

He said the industry would struggle to go beyond 95 million barrels per day, about 10 per cent above current levels of supply. "The problem of peak oil remains," he added.

His comments will be seized on by oil industry whistleblowers and environmental groups, who have been warning for years that the world is approaching an energy supply crunch that threatens to cripple the global economy. Experts have argued that the global recession has served to delay oil shortages for several years, noting that prior to the economic downturn, oil prices were running at record levels.

However, the chief executive of the Saudi state oil firm Saudi Aramco, Khalid al-Falih, told the same meeting in Davos that fears over "peak oil" had been hugely exaggerated.

"The concern about peak oil is behind us," he said, adding that "of the four trillion (barrels) of oil the planet is endowed with, only one has been produced ".

He did, however, admit that "most of what remains is more difficult and complex" to extract, but insisted there was "no doubt" the world can produce more than the 95 million to 100 million barrels a day that are projected to be required in the next few decades.

The spat came on the same day as the chief economist of the International Energy Agency, Dr Fatih Birol, cast fresh doubt on the wisdom of many oil firms' long-term investment plans, warning that demand for oil from industrialised nations has already peaked.