Key Concepts in Energy pp 101-130
Oil Reserves and Peak Oil
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The history of estimating oil reserves has proven a history of long-lasting misunderstandings. The split between the environmental perception of depletion and the common man’s view, further contrasted the differences between the standpoints of the scientific and business communities, led to the most controversial topic ever debated within the energy community. While some forewarned that a critical moment for humanity was approaching, others found that all evidence and experience pointed in the opposite direction. This chapter traces the history of this debate from the first oil survey undertaken in the USA in 1909 through to current days. We trace how the accuracy of already known fixed stocks (proven reserves) has dominated all public concerns up until the moment when the peak theory of geophysicist King Hubbert shifted the terms of the discussion and grounding it in the size of the unknown—estimates of resources still undiscovered. The final section provides a review of the state of the art in the oil depletion debate.