Publication Detail

The Status of World Oil Reserves: Conventional and Unconventional Resources in the Future Supply Mix

UCD-ITS-RP-11-56

Reprint

Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS)

Download PDF

Suggested Citation:
Jaffe, Amy Myers, Kenneth B. Medlock III, Ronald Soligo (2011) The Status of World Oil Reserves: Conventional and Unconventional Resources in the Future Supply Mix. James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy

For decades, experts have been debating the timing of a peak in the discovery and production of conventional oil reserves. In 1998, geologist Colin Campbell predicted that global production of conventional oil would begin to decline within 10 years. His forecast, commonly referred to as “peak oil,” was endorsed and elaborated on by many respected geologists and commentators, including Princeton University geologist Kenneth Deffeyes. At the heart of most predictions of peak oil is a prediction made by Marion King Hubbert in 1956. In mid-1950s, Hubbert used a curve-fitting technique to correctly predict that U.S. oil production would peak by 1970. The so-called Hubbert curve is now widely used in the analysis of peaking production of conventional petroleum. According to the Hubbert curve, the production of a finite resource, when viewed over time, will resemble an inverted U, or a bell curve. This follows from the technical limits of exploitation, where the estimated parameters of the curve determine the rate of ascent and descent before and after the peak. “Peak oil” is the term used to describe the situation where the rate of oil production reaches it absolute maximum and begins to decline.