News FocusGeology

The Next Oil Crisis Looms Large--and Perhaps Close

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Science  21 Aug 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5380, pp. 1128-1131
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5380.1128

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Many economists foresee another half-century of cheap oil, but a growing contingent of geologists warns that oil will begin to run out much sooner--perhaps in only 10 years. The optimists are mainly those who put their faith in new technology for finding and extracting oil and expect that production will meet rise in demand until about 50 years from now--plenty of time for the development of alternatives. But the pessimists say that even taking into account the best efforts of the explorationists and the discovery of new fields in frontier areas like the Caspian Sea (see sidebar on p. 1130), sometime between 2010 and 2020 the gush of oil from wells around the world will peak at 80 million barrels per day, then begin a steady, inevitable decline.