David Kreutzer

Some might ask, since oil is a finite resource, might we not be close to total exhaustion of our reserves in 2035 and thus on the precipice of economic collapse? Oil is finite in a literal, but narrow, sense. As technology for finding and extracting petroleum improves, and as the price of petroleum rises, the economic viability of reserves increase.

The Department of Energy’s projections show that although we’ll pump tens of billions of barrels of petroleum from our reserves between now and 2035, the measure of reserves actually grows five billion barrels. Surprising as this may be to those unfamiliar with energy statistics, it follows a long-term historical pattern of reserve growth matching reserve use.

What about the rest of the world? Again the experts at Obama’s Department of Energy are not as pessimistic as the president seems to be. World petroleum production is projected to rise from 86 million barrels per day this year to 112 million barrels per day in 2035 -- a 30 percent increase in daily production.

That is, our (the U.S. and the world’s) current fossil-fuel production is not only sustainable, it is likely to increase for decades. Our fraction of world’s consumption of oil tells us no more about the sustainability of our petroleum use than does our fraction of the world’s consumption of wind power tell us anything about the sustainability of our wind-power use.

Misleading statistics are often bandied about to frighten people. But the future of our energy supply isn’t scary. And this not-so-scary future doesn’t require cap-and-trade energy taxes, hundreds of billions of dollars of new subsidies to uneconomic energy sources, or radical policies to bring about a “new” energy economy.


David Kreutzer

David Kreutzer is the Research Fellow in Energy Economics and Climate Change at The Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis.