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Last week the International Energy Agency released the 12 page executive summary of the World Energy Report 2008 that is due to be released November 12th. Judging from the summary, the report is a curious mixture of unreality and an unprecedented warning of an energy crisis to come. The Agency still maintains there is enough oil to maintain current rates of production for the next 40 years. At one point it even mentions possible world reserves of 9 trillion barrels by lumping in oil shales, tar sands, and much undiscovered oil with much smaller proven reserves.
The report, however, breaks new ground by warning up front that current trends in global energy supply and consumption are unsustainable. New analysis shows that rates of depletion from existing fields are high and will go higher as world production shifts to smaller and offshore fields. They admit that much further growth in conventional oil production is unlikely and the bulk of future growth will have to come from natural gas liquids and unconventional sources.
The Agency now estimates that over $26 trillion dollars will have to be invested in maintaining current or slightly higher rates of production over the next 22 years. A key judgment discernable from the summary is that 30 million b/d of new production capacity will be needed by 2015 and that there is “real risk” that underinvestment will cause an oil-supply crunch in that timeframe.
The IEA must serve many masters, most of whom are not yet willing to confront the reality of the world’s energy and climate situations. It appears that the new report will contain a wealth of new data and judgments, leaving it to the reader to read between the lines and draw conclusions about the likelihood of imminent peak oil.