According to The Guardian, Fatih Birol, Chief Economist with the International Energy Agency (IEA), has candidly revealed his position that world oil demand will start outpacing supply “around 2020.”


Peak Oil — that most controversial and elusive of concepts. Everybody seems to have their own opinion. There are experts on both sides who alternately claim we have at least 30 years before we reach it and those who claim we’ve already reached it.

So, for a top-level official in an agency with the respect of the IEA to state that we’ll reach an oil supply plateau around 2020 is pretty substantial news — especially considering that his own agency has previously stated that the date was 2030.

Here are his exact words, courtesy of The Guardian:

“In terms of non-OPEC [countries outside the big oil producers’ cartel], we are expecting that in three, four years’ time the production of conventional oil will come to a plateau, and start to decline. In terms of the global picture, assuming that OPEC will invest in a timely manner, global conventional oil can still continue, but we still expect that it will come around 2020 to a plateau as well, which is, of course, not good news from a global-oil-supply point of view.”

Not good news indeed. And sure to be quite controversial, even among his fellow coworkers. I wonder if he cleared that sentiment with HQ.

A while back, I wrote a piece about how Peter McCabe, a petroleum geologist with CSIRO in Australia, thinks that the Peak Oil concept is fundamentally flawed because it doesn’t account for the development of technologies to extract new oil from old oil fields, nor does it account for the discovery of new oil fields. Dr. McCabe thinks we have at least another 30 years before demand outstrips supply

I don’t know who’s right, but, in terms of timescales that humans care about, 11 years is a hell of a lot shorter than 30-plus years. Look, it’s not a question of “if” we hit peak oil, it’s a question of “when,” and if we’re not ready when it does come, it could spell the end of civilization as we know it.

I’m of the mindset to plan for the worst. So even if we do have 30 years, we should be planning on 10.

You can watch the whole interview by clicking on the image below.

Source: The Guardian

Image Credit: azrainman‘s Flickr photostream. Used under a Creative Commons License.