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Thanks for the Thanks! You're correct; not only have I read a great deal about oil consumption and its end uses, I've worked for 2 Fortune 500 oil companies where every day was spent searching for, finding, producing, transporting, refining, trading, marketing, etc., the icky-smelly black stuff (as well as the colorless, odorless associated gas). Actually, I really do love the smell of raw crude oil - but as my wife says, "You also drink English ales at room temperature" - must be an acquired taste! Anyhoo, not only will I hazard a guess as to when the "critical oil shortage" will begin, I'll (groan) give you some background material based on historical data (Foolish, or Wise?) that might help you sort out those conflicting reports. Firstly, there appears to be a "critical oil shortage" that pops up in the media every 10-20 years, which is strictly based on lack of understanding of supply and demand, commodity markets, and the effects of monopolies and cartels on those markets. This ain't recent (last 20 years) history; in the early years of this century, the media was complaining about oil monopolies (Standard Oil and yes, those Rockefellers) and the nasty effects they had on energy prices, competition, and individual families (including the father of the reporter whose expose' of the Rockefellers' oil empire brought about its demise; Ida Tarbell's daddy was an independent oil producer who couldn't compete with John D. Rockefeller!). Secondly, in the late 1950's, a geologist working for Shell Oil named M. King Hubbert put together a set of curves based on then-current worldwide production and consumption rates, where data was available or estimatable, which "predicted" the 1973 "oil shortage" (despite the fact that OPEC, which as a "market force" was directly responsible for the "shortage", didn't even exist when Hubbert published his curves). Please don't misunderstand; Hubbert's analysis WAS correct for its time. However, the fact is that through new technological developments and business efficiencies unknown in Hubbert's time (2-, 3-, and even 4-D seismic, horizontal drilling, desktop computer workstations individually more powerful than the sum total of the computing power the U.S. govenment had from 1945 through 1975), the world is producing more oil, finding it faster, and getting it to market more efficiently than ever before. And yes, consumption rates are increasing. There was an article in the Oil and Gas Journal sometime within the last 5-10 years that used Hubbert's analytical techniques, factored in all the new technologies, assumed current escalation rates for discovery, production, and consumption, as well as projected population growth, and concluded that some time around the years 2035-2055, the world would experience a true "oil shortage." The authors assumed that places like Antarctica would remain off-limits, even though there's very likely lots of oil and gas there. The interesting thing about this is that most people in the oil industry believe that, because technology has bailed us out in the past, it will continue to do so; history is on their side. However, they also realize very clearly that the Earth is a finite place with finite (we think!) oil and gas resources. Personally (and yes, I have a vested interest in the oil bidness), I'll side with the technologists, while attempting in my small way to recycle as much as possible or practicable. Besides, by the year 2035, I'll be nearly 80, and my children will hopefully be in a position to have figured out how to continue to live.
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