US oil production is increasing and the country may even overtake Saudi Arabia and once more become the world’s largest oil producer. This, according to a news story in The Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/23/us-worlds-top-oil-producer_n_2006640.html is primarily due to high prices and improved drilling techniques. Apparently it is not primarily due to new findings of oil.
This may seem to be good news for people who worry about Peak Oil. Maybe the problem has been overstated. Maybe other countries can also increase production and push the impending decline in oil production ahead?
On the other hand increases in production may instead increase our need to forcefully drive Global Energy Transformation forward. Like the proverbial frog in the water tank that is slowly heating up we may find the current situation rather pleasant, only to find later that we have been depleting our reserves faster than expected without adding new ones. Through the past decades oil companies have found declining volumes of oil as new reserves, and findings now amount to only one third of the volumes that we use every year. We use more than 30 billion barrels of oil per year in the global economy, but we only discover some 10 billion barrels of new reserves.
Instead of making us complacent, the news that US oil production is picking up should enamor us to step up our efforts to implement renewable fuels systems. In his now famous book about Saudi Arabian oil production “Twilight in the Desert” (2005), Matthew Simmons warned that new drilling techniques may maintain Saudi oil production for a few years into the future, but it may deplete reserves so that the decline may be steeper once it begins. A similar argument may be relevant for the US.
Only thorough analysis of the situation by unbiased analysts can provide us with a relevant picture of the future development. The retirement the last summer of one of the leading independent oil analysts in the world, Professor Kjell Aleklett of Uppsala University in Sweden, co-founder of ASPO, indicates a need for the development of more resources in this area. There is also a need to analyze the opportunities for renewable fuels and new transport technologies from a systems perspective, identifying the most cost-, capital-, and energy efficient systems solutions for each country that can also be implemented in a relatively short period of time. Needless to say, the systems of different individual countries need to be possible to integrate into international transport systems. This will be the big challenge for our society in the years to come, one that cannot be negotiated due to our late start. We simply have to tackle it, or it will tackle us!