In 2004, geologist Colin Campbell (retired — Texaco, British Petroleum, Amoco) cautioned:
“Throughout history, people have had difficulty in distinguishing reality from illusion. Reality is what happens, whereas illusion is what we would like to happen. Wishful thinking is a well-worn expression. Momentum is still another element: we tend to assume that things keep moving in the same direction. The world now faces a discontinuity of historic proportions, as nature shows her hand by imposing a new energy reality. There are vested interests on all sides hoping somehow to evade the iron grip of oil depletion, or at least to put it off until after the next election or until they can develop some strategy for their personal or corporate survival. As the moment of truth approaches, so does the heat, the deceptions, the half-truth and the flat lies.”
The world’s wealthiest nations, the G20 group, have decided to light a fire but have forgotten a very important detail – to check whether there is sufficient fuel to enable the fire to burn. Historically we have never had global economic growth without a simultaneous increase in the use of energy. This means, primarily, an increase in the use of fossil fuels.
To get an appreciation of the scale of the task we can examine the economic growth that the world experienced from 2003 until 2007. In 2003 oil consumption was 77 million barrels per day and in 2007 it was around 85 million barrels per day, i.e. an increase of 10 percent. At the moment consumption is around 84 million barrels per day. If the stimulus package that the G20 group decided on is to generate the same amount of growth as seen in the 2003 to 2007 period then we will need an increase of 8 to 9 million barrels per day during the next 5 years. Such an increase is not possible.
The Global Energy Systems group at Uppsala University has just published an article in the scientific journal Energy Policy (see article) in which we show that oil production from those fields that are currently in production will decrease by 6 percent per year during the next 5 years. This means a decrease in the rate of production by 18 million barrels per day after 5 years. The G20 nations want to increase oil use but the forces of Nature say that there will be a decrease. For the G20 nations to get what they want the world’s oil industry would need to bring online new production of 25 million barrels per day over the next 5 years.