We’ve just completed quite a few experiments, so it is a good idea to try to summarize a few important points.
- When we talk about “peak oil”, we’re talking about the rate of oil production — how much oil/gas is brought to market in a given year — not the total amount of oil/gas on Earth (which peaked as soon as we started to pump it out of the ground!).
- Improvements in our ability to extract oil/gas (i.e., improving technology) lead to a distinct peak in oil production.
- If we assume that production is motivated by price, and the price goes up as the oil becomes more scarce, this also leads to a peak in oil production.
- If the demand for oil is related to population, and population increases, this also leads to a peak in oil production. This effect is enhanced if the per capita demand for energy increases, as it has during the last 100 years.
- If we include unproven oil reserves and unknown reserves into the system, we can make the decline in oil production more gradual, but there is still a tendency for it to peak.
- At the end of the day, there is a finite amount of oil and gas available to us. This fact, combined with improvements in technology, an increase in demand for production related to price, increasing population, and increased standard of living makes a peak in oil production inevitable — we cannot have a sustainable supply of oil and gas to fuel our economy. Facing up to this reality is important because it leads us to be more serious about making plans for a future where our energy needs are met without relying on fossil fuels.