Friday, October 09, 2009

why the peak oil debate is irrelevant

New Scientist | The debate over exactly when we will reach "peak oil" is irrelevant. No matter what new oil fields we discover, global oil production will start declining in 2030 at the very latest.

That's the conclusion of the most comprehensive report to date on global oil production, published on 7 October by the UK Energy Research Centre.

The report, which reviewed over 500 research studies, suggests that global oil production could peak any time from right now to as late as 2030.

"Either way, our research shows that the difference between even the most pessimistic and optimistic claims is just 15 to 20 years," says Steve Sorrell, the report's lead author, who is based at Sussex University in the UK.

This is a problem, says Sorrell, because 20 years isn't long enough for governments to prepare well-thought-out policies that would tackle the economic chaos likely to occur when oil production begins to decline. Research in 2005 by the US Department of Energy suggests that policies to reduce the demand for oil while developing large-scale alternatives will take at least two decades to bear fruit, he says.