Based on proven oil reserve and oil consumption statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration we could run out of oil in less than 40 years

Based on proven oil reserve and oil consumption statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration we could run out of oil in less than 40 years

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I have been interested in energy consumption and sustainability for a while now, in large part due to this amazing conservationist. There always seem to be so much noise in the discussions about oil. Specifically in regard to sustainability and how much oil we have left.

This will hopefully be the first in a multi-part series where I look at the known reserves and consumption levels of various energy sources for myself and try to figure out just how much time we have left.

Taking a look at the data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) I found that the proven world reserves of oil is currently (2013) estimated to be 1,645,984,000,000 (1.65 trillion) barrels and our 2013 daily oil consumption was 90,375,500 (9.4 million) barrels per day, which amounts to 32,987,057,500 (33 billion) barrels per year. These numbers seem unimaginably huge and that is part of the problem.

So, lets do the math on it.  1,645,984,000,000 total barrels divided by 32,987,057,500 barrels consumed per year comes out to 49 years and change. Not great, but you may be thinking that surely these numbers do not tell the entire story, there has to be more to consider. Well, lets see what else there might be to consider.  There is always the possibility that more oil will be found so lets include the possibility of the available oil being 1.5x the current proven reserves. However, we also need to factor in the fact that consumption is not static.  Pulling consumption data from the EIA I found that oil consumption has increased, on average, about 1.44% per year since 1985. So, I included in my projections varied consumption % growth rates, I decided to do no change, .5%, 1%, 1.5%, and 2%.

So, what happens when we factor this all in.

2013 Reserves Year we run out Years Remainig
No Growth 2062 49
0.50% 2057 44
1% 2053 40
1.50% 2050 37
2% 2047 34

2013-1.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.5x 2013 Reserves Year we run out Years Remainig
No Growth 2087 74
0.50% 2076 63
1% 2069 56
1.50% 2063 50
2% 2059 46

2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, there you have it. At best, we probably have somewhere around 75 years of oil left. Worst case, based on these numbers, we could run out in about 35 years. Now, the truth of the matter is probably somewhere in the middle. However, this does not take into consideration the concept of Energy Return On Investment. Essentially, at a certain point the increasing scarcity of oil will drive the cost up, but the rising costs will drive down the economic incentive to extract oil that we know is there but is costly to harvest. Unfortunately, even the best case scenario here is not all that promising in the grand scheme of things.  75 years to get our shit together is not that long and the fact that many of our renewable energy technologies require conventional energy sources to produce and get started introduces a whole other level of complexity to the situation.

 

Let me know what you think in the comments! And as always, if you made it this far, please consider sharing and voting!

 

Sources: The data used in my calculations for this post comes from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), more specifically, here:

Proven Reserves

Consumptoion

 

Also, if you want the excel file used to do these calculations, shoot me a message and I’ll send it to you.

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