The “Run Out of Oil” Rhetoric

How many times have you read or heard that “the Earth will run out of oil by 20XX?” In 2013 alone, global daily production broke the 90 million mark. This number is projected to increase in the coming years. David Biello, editor for Scientific American, says the world may or may not run out of oil, depending on your point of view.

Does “running out of oil” mean draining the Earth of its reserves or making the ability to harvest those reserves more difficult? Biello says the Earth has all but run out of oil in the shallow shales and fields. However, beyond the reaches of the world’s deepest drilling rigs lies an estimated trillion barrels’ worth of reserves.

Oil production, on the other hand, is the more pressing matter. As reserves get harder to reach, technology must adapt and enable deeper drilling than ever before. The cost of drilling to greater depths consequently increases, which leads to a corresponding rise in oil prices. In other words, technology must continue to evolve if the petroleum industry wants to keep the rigs pumping.

This early, however, the industry is tapping into other potential sources such as shales and tar sands, cutting imports in recent years. At the same time, drilling rigs must become more powerful and efficient to reach unprecedented depths.

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