Fears of depleting the Earth's supply of oil are unwarranted, according to new research, which concludes that the demand for oil as opposed to the supply will reach its own peak and then decline.
"Peak oil" prognosticators have painted pictures of everything from a calm development of alternatives to calamitous shortages, panic and even social collapse as the world reaches its peak of oil production and then supplies fall.
But according to the study by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California-Santa Cruz, those scenarios assume that an increasingly wealthy world will use all of the oil pumped out of the ground.
Instead, the historical connection between economic growth and oil use is breaking down and will continue to do so because of limits on consumption by the wealthy, better fuel efficiency, lower priced alternative fuels and the world's rapidly urbanizing population.
"There is an overabundance of concern about oil depletion and not enough attention focused on the substitutes for conventional oil and other possibilities for reducing our dependence on oil," said study co-author Adam Brandt, assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford's School of Earth Sciences.
The study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, describes a variety of mechanisms that could cause society's need for oil to begin declining by 2035. Several earlier studies have suggested that passenger land travel has already plateaued in industrialized countries and is no longer hitched to economic growth. Passenger land travel now accounts for about half of the global transportation energy demand.
Even in developing countries, economic growth has been less oil-intensive than was seen in the West during the past century. China, for example, sells 20 million electric scooters to its citizens each year as part of the government's policy to reduce air pollution. That exceeds tot
|Contact: Mark Shwartz|