I submitted the following letter to The Independent, in response to an article entitled as above. There is an essential difference between the total volume of reserves and the proportion of them that can be recovered as a rate per day: i.e. it doesn't matter how big the reserves are if they can't be tapped-into fast enough to match rising demand. This is true also of potential "abiotic oil" as is believed to be produced in the earth, according mainly to Russian/Ukranian geologists, in contrast to the prevailing view in the West. Even if the latter theory is true, the world still needs to reduce its demand for oil.
"Sir: Richard Pike [CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry is quoted ("Oil Shortage a Myth", The Independent 9-6-08) as saying there is plenty of oil left, and he is right. We should indeed not underestimate proven oil reserves but this is not the problem; the issue is flow rather than the quantity of total reserves and the quality of the oil that will be recovered from them. There may be 1,200 billion barrels worth left, but if it cannot be recovered much faster than is being done now it will not help alleviate the pressing gap between rising demand and supply. Even if Saudi were to increase its output by one million barrels a day (and it is debatable that they could) the product would be a heavy oil for which there is presently insufficient refining capacity in the world.
Producing most of that remaining trillion or so barrels will be far more difficult and expensive than for the sweet, light crude oil, production of which peaked at the end of 2005. It will also be harder to turn it into fuel, requiring new refineries to be built, given its higher sulphur content and higher molecule mass hydrocarbon composition. I agree, we will be producing oil for decades and it is not running out per se, it is the cheap oil that is, and we will never see cheap fuel or chemical feedstocks again, with adverse effects for world transportation, industry and financial markets.
Professor Chris Rhodes."