The Oil Crash and You

by Bruce Thomson

Other Voices  Back


Oil shortages soon...

This document reveals that within ten years:

Most significant effects:

Difficulty of adapting: A major part of the problem is that existing equipment is designed only for oil fuels. For example, the world's 11,000 airliners cannot run on natural gas, nuclear or coal.

Byproducts of oil: Cost and decreasing availability of 500,000 known uses of oil: Fertilizers (farms/food supply), medicines, plastics, insulation, computers, asphalt, inks & toners, paints, glues, solvents, antiseptics, golf balls, CDs trash bags, nail polish, detergents, chewing gum, etc.

Hidden problem: Not only will the oil supply dwindle, but the shortages and climbing prices will obstruct industry as it attempts to convert society to other forms of energy.

Proof of impending shortages: Much uninformed literature says oil is plentiful and that better extraction will maintain adequate supply for decades yet. However, this sheet reveals:
- misleading reporting of oil inventories, by oil extracting countries.
- a clear, forty-year trend of less and less discovery of oil and dwindling outputs from the steadily-emptying wells.

Alternative energy sources will not prevent shortages: Alternative fuels have been studied. As replacements for oil they are grossly inadequate both in quantity and versatility of use. There is insufficient time to prevent heavy impacts   

When, and how bad: Year when global oil supply first fails to meet global demand: about 2009. Conventional "easy-to-extract" oil peaks around 2005 but non-conventional will fail about 2009) See International Energy Agency tables at

From Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherrère, at end of 1999. They have each worked in the oil industry for more than 40 years. Campbell completing his Ph.D. in geology at the University of Oxford. He worked for Texaco as an exploration geologist and then at Amoco as chief geologist for Ecuador. His decade-long study of global oil-production trends has led to two books and numerous papers. He worked on behalf of Petroconsultants of Geneva, a consultancy whose database is the most comprehensive available for data on oil resources that exists outside of continental North America, and is used as a 'bible' by all international oil companies. The IEA is an international body set up under treaty by OECD including USA to deal specifically with the issue of oil depletion. A conservative organization, it has however indirectly confirmed Campbell's assessment in its World Energy Outlook 1998. (See "IEA" slide explanation at ) Laherrère's early work on seismic refraction surveys contributed to the discovery of Africa's largest oil field. At Total, a French oil company, Laherrère supervised exploration techniques worldwide.

Rate of decline of global oil supply: from 2009 3% every year (permanently). From an address by Dr. Colin Campbell (see above) at the British House of Commons on July 7th 1999. Read the address and accompanying PowerPoint slide show at Also, Dr. William Rees, article in Globe and Mail (Canadian national newspaper), 29 March, 2000 " Several recent studies project world oil production to peak by 2013 or sooner, possibly as soon as 2007. Even the necessarily conservative International Energy Agency in its World Energy Outlook, 1998 concurred for the first time that global output could top out between 2009 and 2012 and decline rapidly thereafter. IEA data project a nearly 20-per-cent shortfall of supply relative to demand by 2020 that will have to be made up of from "unidentified unconventional" sources (i.e., known oil-sands deposits have already been taken into account)." William E. Rees is an ecological economist and professor in the University of British Columbia's School of Community and Regional Planning.

Duration of decline: Forever. Chevron Learning Center "Geologists generally agree that crude oil was formed over millions of years from the remains of tiny aquatic plants and animals that lived in ancient seas." Also, "Most North Sea and Middle East Oil was formed 140 million years ago. Most US Gulf Coast-Mexico-Venezuela 90 million years ago". Dr. Colin Campbell (above), or read about the formation of petroleum at:

Barrels consumed globally per year: (IEA database, 1999. Increasing by 1.5% every year. (Campbell ) "You always run into the problem of what is being measured. Conventional oil only or all liquids. Also with discovery. Excluding deepwater there is long downward trend of discovery to about 6 Gb/a now, save for a spike this year of about 15-20 with the Caspian Kashagan East discovery. With the deepwater (apart from the spike) it is about 11 Gb, with the deepwater trend still rising." (Colin Campbell, private E-mail, June 2000)


Barrels of new oil discovered per year: 6 billion in 1999, from book: The Coming Oil Crisis, p. 52 by Colin Campbell, based on the oil industry's biggest and most respected database. It is described at as "The most extensive petroleum database in the world covering E&P contracts, exploratory wells, development drilling, oil and gas fields, geological provinces, geophysical surveys, companies, installations and cultural features". Senior industry geologists' views on Campbell & Laherrère's arguments are summarized in the Petroleum Review (Cope 1998). Also, comment by oil depletion researcher, Brian Fleay (refs. below): "There was general acceptance of the substance of their arguments; that the bulk of remaining discovery will be in ever smaller fields within established provinces. But most thought 400 billion barrels might remain to be discovered. However, Campbell points out that it would take 35 years to find their 210 billion barrels at present discovery rates. He says present conventional oil will drive production over the peak - it is too late for these other options to alter the timing of the peak. "My latest estimate is that there are 151 Gb yet-to-find conventional oil excluding deepwater, polar and NGL" (Colin Campbell, June 2000 in private E-mail)

Brian J. Fleay, B Eng., M Eng. Sc., MIEAust, MAWWA, presenting paper at the Chartered Institute of Transport in Australia, National Symposium, Launceston Tasmania 6-7 November 1998. Fleay is a retired civil engineer who worked for over 30 years at the Water Authority of W. Australia. He is currently an associate of Murdock University's Institute of Science & Technology Policy and convenor of the Economic Policy Working Group for the Greens WA.

The graph and Fleay's paper are at and Fleay has a Web site at showing supporting articles from the Scientific American (March 98), the London Observer (July 98.)

Is There a Lot More Undiscovered Oil?: 80 per cent of oil being produced today is from fields discovered before 1973. In the 1990's oil discoveries averaged about seven billion barrels of oil a year, only one third of usage. The discovery rate of multi-billion barrel fields has been declining since the 1940's, that of giant (500-million barrel) fields since the 1960's. In 1938, fields with more than 10 million barrels made up 19% of all new discoveries, but by 1948 the proportion had dropped to only 3%. Most oil fields are less than ten million barrels, and ten million barrels will supply the United States with less than a day's worth of energy. Large oil fields make up a disproportionate part of the world's oil supply. The ten largest oil fields contain a fifth of the world's oil reserves; twenty more bring the total to a third. 500 large fields contain two thirds of the world's known oil. The remainder is distributed among 20,000 or more small oil fields. The fact that discoveries of large fields are getting rarer means only one thing: we are running out of new oil to find. From: Steven Dutch, Professor, College of Environmental Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Resume at

Block graphs of oil field sizes:

Barrels of Oil — discovered: extracted: consumed;

USA: (15 yr. 1977-1991 5 Billion: 45 Billion: 92 Billion
World: (10 yr. 1982-91) 91 Billion: 221 Billion: 221 Billion"The US Geological Survey now comes out with absurdly exaggerated claims. They say 724 GB to be found between 1995-2025. They are already short 100 GB five years into the study period, but still they say it." Colin Campbell, in private E-mail, June 2000.

Pre-1973-discovered oil in use today: "At least 70% of present global supply was discovered before 1973. These fields are now in terminal decline". Colin Campbell. Also stated as 80% Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

Ratio of oil consumed to oil discovered each year: Four to one. Typically six billion barrels discovered, and 23 billion consumed, as indicated above.

Proportion of energy provided by oil: "Oil currently accounts for about 40 percent of world commercial energy supplies" - IEO99, a 1999 report by the US Department of Energy and the International Energy Agency. See:

The "invest more to find it" idea: 210 billion barrels left to discover and 1000 billion barrels left to extract. From: Senior industry geologists' views on Campbell & Laherrère's arguments are summarized in the Petroleum Review (Cope 1998). There was general acceptance of the substance of their arguments; that the bulk of remaining discovery will be in ever smaller fields within established provinces. Although most geologists thought 400 billion barrels might remain to be discovered, Campbell points out that it would take 35 years to find their 210 billion barrels at present discovery rates. He says present conventional oil (i.e. easy, not heavy oil, or deep water oil) will drive production over the peak. Then oil scarcity will make the mining of those other options prohibitively energy-costly, and the actual global oil peak date will therefore not be delayed by them). After a century of exploration, the earth's geology and oil resources are generally well known. This is indicated by the 40 year decline in discovery of oil. No amount of money will create oil that the planet does not contain.

Forecasts ignore extraction: "For many years geologists and oil companies have published estimates of the total amount of crude oil that will ultimately be recovered from the earth over all time. Remarkably, these assessments of Estimated Ultimately Recoverable (EUR) oil have varied little over the past half century. For the past 25 years, with only two exceptions, estimates have ranged from around 1800 billion barrels to around 2400 billion barrels. David Woodward, General Manager of the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations, also analyzed 40 estimates of ultimately recoverable oil, all published between 1975 and 1993. According to Woodward, "there is a fair degree of consistency among the estimates, with the average value being 2000 billion bbl [barrels] and most [70 percent] falling in the range of 2000 to 2400 billion bbl." World Resources Institute:

Number of oil wells in USA, elsewhere: "By the end of the 19th century there were about 600,000 oil wells in more than 100 countries." The Maguire Energy Institute, at: "Currently, the US has approximately 600,000 oil wells in operation. Nearly 500,000 of those wells produce less than three barrels a day" from The (US Government) International Trade Resource Center at: " Most fields only yield about 35% of the oil-in-place, while the best achieve 60%." Brian Fleay "Percentage recovery 20-60%. It relates primarily to the density of the oil. You get less from a heavy oil than a light one because it sticks in the reservoir." (Colin Campbell, private E-mail, June 2000.)  

"Technology will solve it" idea

Challenge to technology: To compensate for the expected 3% oil decline (at even today's 22 billion barrels a year), create and install, by year 2009, permanent supplies of portable energy, equivalent to 660 million barrels of oil a year. Then as oil keeps declining forever, increase this new energy it until it replaces 40% of the world's energy supply (22 billion barrels a year) OR... reduce energy demand equivalently as the global population increases by almost a quarter million people every day.

Population: "Each year, about 81 million people are added to the world's population — the equivalent of adding a country the size of the United States every three years or one the size of India every ten years. And demographers expect the world's population to continue to grow for at least the next 50 to 100 years." Union Of Concerned Scientists, at

The "better efficiency" idea: Increases in efficiency usually fail to reduce consumption (e.g. more m.p.g. causes people to just travel more and buy two cars) unless the users are personally determined to reduce their consumption. Why Energy Conservation Fails by Herbert Inhaber, 1997.

What about nuclear power?

Nuclear is currently being abandoned globally: (IEA reference: Nuclear's ability to soften the oil crash is very problematic: Nuclear waste disposal is the major, still unresolved problem, especially breeder reactors producing plutonium a nuclear weapon/terrorist raw material, contaminating for 24,000 years ABC News, Feb. 1999: "...nearly 40,000 tons of highly radioactive used reactor fuel now kept at nuclear power plants."

Half-life of Plutonium-239: The Physics Factbook © 1998-2000 by Glenn Elert

Abandoned reactor: "Megadose of Radioactivity. Although it no longer contains its uranium fuel, the Trojan reactor vessel contains 15 times as much radioactivity as those objects, according to state officials. It was shut down in 1993, two decades earlier than planned, after a series of problems including a faulty safety system that drew federal fines, an accidental release of radioactive gases and cracked steam tubes. Nearly 800 spent but highly radioactive uranium fuel rod assemblies removed from the reactor over the years remain in storage at the Trojan site.

Past accidents:. Risk of more, and terrorism.(Over 360 accidents at: )

Many more reactors would be needed: Tons of radioactive materials would be transported through populated areas: Dean Edwin Abrahamson The Challenge of Global Warming, p. 27 says: "The nuclear weapons proliferation risk which would accompany the replacement of fossil fuel with nuclear fission is staggering ....[That] would require between 7,000 and 8,000 large nuclear power plants, each of which [if breeders] would produce about 1,000 kg. of plutonium annually. Between 7 and 98 million kg of plutonium would therefore be produced per year and would be shipped hither and yon between the various facilities which constitute the nuclear power fuel cycle. The commercialization of plutonium would create major hazards because of its incredible toxicity and its potential use in weapons. A typical shipment would contain 250 kg - so there would be about 40,000 shipments annually. About 10 kg. of plutonium is needed to construct an atomic bomb."

Nuclear is not directly suitable for aircraft and vehicles, and adapting nuclear to make hydrogen or other fuels would be a huge project.

Nuclear fusion is still not available, after 40 years' research and billions of dollars invested. Magnetic Confinement Fusion spending: "On Feb. 1, the Department of Energy released it's proposed budget for FY 2000. Overall, DOE's budget is proposed to go from $17.4 billion in FY 99 to $18.1 billion in FY 2000. DOE's Office of Science (the new home of the Fusion Energy Science program) is proposed to go from $2.698 billion in FY 1999 to $2.835 billion in FY 2000 - a $137 million increase."

Fusion history: Extrapolating from STARPOWER the claim that tokamak hot fusion has been ongoing since 1950 with never any beneficial surprises along the way and having spent 25 billion dollars worldwide. The laser inertial confinement fusion program has been ongoing since 1970 with never any beneficial surprises along the way and having spent 10 billion dollars worldwide.

Fusion prospects: Richard E. Rowberg, Resources, Science, and Industry Division April 6, 2000: The National Council For Science And The Environment & Brief for Congress: "Successful development of a fusion power plant, however, is proving to be one of the most difficult scientific and technological challenges. Although progress has been steady, it may be at least 35 to 50 years before an operating power plant is built."

Natural gas

Proportion of global energy provided by gas: IEO99, a 1999 report by the US Department of Energy and the International Energy Agency. See:

As a replacement for oil: Gas also will start running out from 2020 on. Demand for natural gas in North America outstripping supply, especially as power utilities take the remaining gas to generate electricity. Gas is not suited for existing jet aircraft, ship, vehicles, and equipment for agriculture and other products.

"In late 1987 Toledo was the first government entity in the State of Ohio (and one of the first cities nationally) to implement a consortium use of transport natural gas resulting in additional savings of $200,000 to $300,000 annually."

US gas price spikes expected: Gulf News Online, 29 May, 2000: Economides: "US natural gas prices "definitely" will climb to $4/Mcf this fall, with world oil prices escalating to $40/bbl probably within a year, unless producers dramatically increase spending to offset depletion and to supply growing demand, a University of Houston professor told reporters at the Offshore Technology Conference Monday in Houston. But that's nothing compared with what will happen when the real gas Shortage hits North America within 2 or 3 years, says Michael J. Economides, co-author of "The Color of Oil," a book about the economics of the oil and gas industry."

Canada: "Production per new well in the western basin has slipped from a 1986 peak, and decline rates are up. As a result, Canada will have excess pipeline capacity of about 1.5 to 2 billion cubic feet per day this year and will be "long" pipe until 2005, Mr. Frank predicts TransCanada faces "significant" capacity turnback in 2002 and 2003", (Brian Frank, vice president BP Amoco Gas & Power Canada at The North American Gas Strategies Conference Monday, April 17, 2000)

"Gas will peak in 2020": Problem with gas is that it has a different depletion profile with a long plateau defined by market and pipeline. When the plateau ends it ends abruptly. I think the US is now on the edge of this cliff." Colin Campbell, private E-mail May-June 2000. Brian Fleay, at "The two largest resources not yet in production are in the Sahara and Niger Delta. It can be supposed that gas pipelines will be built soon from the Middle East to Europe and the Indian subcontinent, so that production will rise in steps as the linkages are made. If one assumes a 1% increase over the next 5 years followed by a 4% increase thereafter as oil becomes expensive, the midpoint of depletion (more or less the gas "Hubbert Peak") would come around 2018 at about 120 Tcf/annum. Gas reserves are much more difficult to assess than oil, and much more susceptible to economic factors, the most important of which is transport (pipelines/LNG). The USA is more depleted than anywhere else. Any proposal to use natural gas as the primary substitute for oil in the transportation sector represents at best a temporary solution, and at worst a distraction of human industrial resources (consuming time and capital, while oil and gas remain economic, to produce a fleet which will then soon become obsolete, rather than using the remaining economic reserves to create a lasting solution), as well as a waste of natural resources of great potential value to future generations."


Present use: 2.3% of global energy supply (1997).
As a replacement for oil: Very small compared with 40% provided at present by oil. Unsuitable for aircraft and present 722 million existing vehicles.

Electricity Not an Adequate Substitute for oil: It is important to note that the end product of many alternative energy sources such as nuclear, hydroelectric power, wind, solar, geothermal, and tides is electricity, which is not a replacement for oil and natural gas in their important roles as raw material for a host of products ranging from paints and plastics, to medicines, and inks. But probably the most vital of all uses is to make the chemicals which are the basis for modern agriculture. Electricity is no substitute. Walter Youngquist, Consulting Geologist The world vehicle fleet is assessed at 722 million vehicles at 1st January 1999:


Current global use: 24% of global energy supply.

As a replacement for oil: About 50% to 200% as heavier than oil per energy unit: Dr. Thomas Meyer - Professor of Physics and Computer Science , California State University, in class notes. It has large pollution and environmental problems, an EPR of less than eight, [consumes one unit of energy to produce eight] and would require a massive expansion of coal mining to replace oil leading to a dramatic increase in greenhouse gas emissions. "Conventional oil rapidly displaced the direct use of coal as an industrial and transport fuel because of its ease of storage and transport, the fine control possible in its various uses and its high power-weight ratio. Oil is the most economically effective of all the fuels, especially for transport. Contemporary industries and services using coal, gas and electricity require petroleum powered transport to be economically effective and viable. The availability of cheap oil is the most critical factor for the future of our contemporary world. Not all fuel types are economically equivalent. For the USA oil and gas produce 1.3 to 2.45 times the dollar value in the economy than does the direct use of coal, with oil probably superior to gas (Hall et al. 1986, p. 55). Coal converted to electricity produces 2.6 to 14.3 times the dollar value in the US economy than does the direct use of coal (Gever et al. 1991, p. 269). That is why we burn coal in power stations to produce electricity even though half the heat energy is wasted to the environment."

Large pollution & environmental problems: Coal burning produces a great deal of solid waste (5-20%) of original volume. A single coal-fired electric plant can produce >1 million tons of solid waste a year. (100 X 100 x 100 m) "...Coal-fired generating stations are major sources of the particulates and ozone that make up smog, acid rain, greenhouse gases and persistent toxins such as mercury. The Ministry of Environment has indicated that the current levels of particulates in Ontario's air are associated with 1800 premature deaths and 1400 cardiac and respiratory hospital admissions in Ontario each year." Dr. Sheela V. Basrur, Medical Officer of Health, City of Toronto "Particulates penetrate deep into lungs. Prolonged inhalation causes a range of respiratory and cardiovascular problems, such as emphysema, asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, and heart disease." Seth Dunn, research associate at the Worldwatch Institute. "Coal-burning power plants are a major source of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and are the leading cause of acid rain. Coal-burning power plants have a Clean Air Act incentive to clean up their act. Taxpayers should not be funding a $2.4 billion Clean Coal program or additional coal research and development programs" at House Science Subcommittee On Energy And Environment, April 9, 1997

Liquid fuels from coal: Steve Morningthunder, Instituto de Física, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Solar and wind

Global solar use: About 0.006% of global energy supply. Energy varies constantly with weather or day/night. Not storable or portable energy like oil or natural gas, so unsuited for present vehicles and industry. Batteries bulky, expensive, wear out in 5-10 years. Photovoltaic solar equipment (US$4/watt) are about 15% efficient, giving about 100 watts of the 1 kW per square meter exposed to bright sunshine (enough for one light bulb). A typical solar water panel array can deliver 50% to 85% of a home's hot water though. Using some of our precious remaining crude oil as fuel for manufacturing solar & wind equipment may be wise. "This surge in solar sales comes as current data shows solar energy makes up less than one percent of global power supplies. Presently, about 800 megawatts of solar power capacity is in place globally, enough to meet yearly energy needs for 200,000 US homes." WorldWatch Institute, July 1998

Global wind power use: 0.07% of 1990 global energy supply. As with solar, energy varies greatly with weather, and is not portable or storable like oil and gas. Each wind turbine from Denmark produced of 698 kW averaged over a year. Average size of wind turbine in 1998 from Denmark Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association: "The new wind turbines added in 1998 have pushed overall wind generating capacity worldwide to 9,600 megawatts at the end of this year — double the capacity in place three years earlier.... These wind turbines will generate roughly 21 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 1999 — enough for 3.5 million suburban homes. Wind power is now the world's fastest growing energy source.."

Total global energy use: 13.7 terawatts in 1990 (terawatt is a million megawatts. Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich Paul Ehrlich is Professor of Population Studies, Stanford University, Anne Howland Ehrlich is a senior research associate in biology and associate director of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford.

Photovoltaic solar panels: US$4 per watt, average wholesale price for solar module in 1995.

Solar water heaters: Florida Solar Energy Center: Cumulative generating capacity worldwide topped 10000 Megawatts (MW) in 1998. Manufacturers installed more than 2400 MW of wind-generating capacity worldwide last year and expect to install another 2000 MW in 1999. Investment in wind generating capacity exceeded US$3 billion in 1998 for the first time.


Current global use: 23 billion cu. ft a day in 1998. (Was quoted at
Conversion calculator at (1 cu. ft = 0.0000466 barrel of crude oil.)

As a replacement for oil: Existing vehicles and aircraft and existing distribution systems are not suited to it. "Hydrogen , while very abundant on earth , almost never exists as a free gas, so other hydrogen compounds need to be treated in order to make hydrogen gas. Currently the treatment of methane with steam is used to produce the hydrogen gas ( CH4 (g) + H2O = 3H2 (g) + CO (g) ) (Zumdahl,1997) but this reaction requires a lot of energy to make the hydrogen gas . It is currently more economical to simply burn the methane instead of using it to get the hydrogen used for fuel. In addition, this method of achieving hydrogen endorses a reliance upon natural gas as well as producing Carbon Monoxide as a byproduct." Liquid hydrogen occupies eleven times the space of equivalent gasoline or diesel: David Pimentel states on pg. 212 of Food, Energy, and Society, revised edition "that the volume of hydrogen fuel is about 4 times greater for the same energy content of gasoline (8000 kcal/liter versus 2030 kcal/liter)." 

Other sources of energy

Options: Shale, tar sand, coalbed methane, ethanol, biomass (from vegetation), etc.

Effectiveness as replacements for oil: Huge investment in research and infrastructure to exploit them, plus large amounts of now-expiring oil supply. 6% of US gas is from non-conventional generation. The major problem is that they cannot be exploited before the oil shocks cripple attempts to bring them on line, and the rate of extraction is far too slow to meet the huge global energy demand.. Example, Canadian oil sands: "I think the problem with extracting tar sands etc. is not exactly economics. It is just such a very slow process so it cannot deliver nearly enough to compensate. Canada would be black with dump trucks." (Colin Campbell, June 2000 in private E-mail) Also, : Shale Oil - The Elusive Energy by Walter L. Youngquist. "There is no oil in so-called shale oil. The organic material is a precursor to oil and is short of hydrogen. After hundreds of millions of dollars attempting to exploit shale, thirteen companies, including big oil corporations, have given up their shale interests."

How it will affect us

Grain production: "Food grains produced with modern, high-yield methods (including packaging and delivery) now contain between four and ten calories of fossil fuel for every calorie of solar energy. It has been estimated that about four percent of the nation's energy budget is used to grow food, while about 10 to 13 percent is needed to put it on our plates. In other words, a staggering total of 17 percent of America's energy budget is consumed by agriculture! " p. 172, BEYOND OIL, Gever et al.; Univ. Pr. Colorado 1991.

Percentage of grain consumed by cattle: 70% (US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service) A given quantity of grain eaten directly will feed 5 times as many people as it will if it is first fed to livestock and then is eaten indirectly by humans in the form of livestock products (M.E. Ensminger, Ph.D., internationally recognized animal agriculture specialist) "If the fertilizers, partial irrigation [in part provided by oil energy], and pesticides were withdrawn, corn yields, for example, would drop from 130 bushels per acre to about 30 bushels.": Note, that drastic drop would only affect a minority of US agriculture. states:" In the United States, surface water supplies about 60% of the water used in irrigation, with the remainder coming from ground water supplies."

Number of cats & dogs in USA: 131 million

Food given to pets: The North American pet food and supply industry is worth $30 billion annually, and growing.,1087,141_24611,00.html

Future food: Number of miles a 30 m.p.g. vehicle drives to equal consumption of 1 kg of foods:

Based on data of David Pimentel, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA, in his book "Food, Energy and Society", page 13. This data was calculated by Steve Morningthunder as follows:

Oil for transportation

Automobiles, globally: "During the past three decades the annual growth rate in the world vehicle fleet has been 3%, leading to a total of nearly 800 million vehicles in 1995" World Health Organization (1997) Health and Environment in Sustainable Development, p. 75.

Automobiles, USA: 132 million in USA 1997:

Buses: Of the total bus population of 654 ,000 vehicles in 1994, 71 percent were school buses, 24 percent were transit buses, and 5 percent were intercity buses

Trains: "Today the nation's railroads employ 192,000 people who maintain and operate just under 200,000 miles of track. 26,000 locomotives pull 1.6 million freight and passenger cars."

Trucks (all types) in USA 1997, 77 million:

World aircraft fleet: "The number of aircraft in the world designed for scheduled and charter traffic, with space for more than 100 passengers, currently totals some 11,000." "The number of aircraft in the world designed for scheduled and charter traffic, with space for more than 100 passengers, currently totals some 11,000. These can be divided into two different groups, long-haul aircraft (wide-body) and short-haul aircraft (narrow-body." (Aircraft fuel capacity and range figures. For a 777-300 the capacity is 45,220 gallons (US), the range is 5,960 nautical miles, with up to 550 passengers. Boeing web site for the 777 is:

World shipping: 85,000 ships in the world. Between 1970 and '92, the last year for which figures are available, the number of decked fishing boats in the world doubled, from 581,000 to 1.2 million.Pulitzer Prize winner John McQuaid

World War 2 Rationing described at

Oil for industry

Construction industry: Energy to build an energy-efficient home is equivalent to 6,500 gallons of gasoline. The total life cycle energy of an Energy Efficient Home is 5,653 GJ (equal to 927 barrels of oil). Raw material extraction & production & construction (pre-use) phase energy is 905 GJ (16.0%), use phase energy is 4,714 GJ (83.4%) and end-of-life phase energy is 34 GJ (0.6%). EEH life cycle energy consumption is 9,802 GJ less than the Standard Home, which is a reduction of 63% (or 1,598 barrels of oil). Figure 3-7 graphically illustrates the percentage of pre-use, use, and end-of-life phase energy in both SH and EEH. A GJ is a Gigajoule, and is equivalent to 7.28 gallons of gasoline (Conversions calculator at

Byproducts of oil: "It is important to note that the end product of many alternative energy sources such as nuclear, hydroelectric power, wind, solar, geothermal, and tides is electricity, which is not a replacement for oil and natural gas in their important roles as raw material for a host of products ranging from paints and plastics, to medicines, and inks. But probably the most vital of all uses is to make the chemicals which are the basis for modern agriculture.." Walter Youngquist, Consulting Geologist"Most people have no idea of the tremendous number of common items produced from crude oil. Many people associate gasoline or diesel fuel with crude oil, but not the huge number of products that are used everyday. The items produced from crude oil are astounding and number in the thousands. Scientists have identified at least 500,000 different uses of oil." Examples:

Saccharine (artificial sweetener), roofing paper, aspirin, hair coloring, heart valves, crayons, parachutes, telephones, bras, transparent tape, antiseptics, purses, deodorant, panty hose, air conditioners, shower curtains, shoes, volleyballs, electrician's tape, floor wax, lipstick, sweaters, running shoes, bubble gum, car bodies, tires, house paint, hair dryers, guitar strings, pens, ammonia, eyeglasses, contacts, life jackets, insect repellent, fertilizers, hair coloring, movie film, ice chests, loudspeakers, basketballs, footballs, combs/brushes, linoleum, fishing rods, rubber boots, water pipes, vitamin capsules, motorcycle helmets, fishing lures, petroleum jelly, lip balm, antihistamines, golf balls, dice, insulation, glycerin, typewriter/computer ribbons, trash bags, rubber cement, cold cream, umbrellas, ink of all types, wax paper, paint brushes, hearing aids, compact discs, mops, bandages, artificial turf, cameras, glue, shoe polish, caulking, tape recorders, stereos, plywood adhesives, TV cabinets, toilet seats, car batteries, candles, refrigerator seals, carpet, cortisone, vaporizers, solvents, nail polish, denture adhesives, balloons, boats, dresses, shirts (non-cotton), perfumes, toothpaste, roller-skate wheels, plastic forks, tennis rackets, hair curlers, plastic cups, electric blankets, oil filters, floor wax, Ping-Pong paddles, cassette tapes, dishwashing liquid, water skis, upholstery, chewing gum, thermos bottles, plastic chairs, transparencies, plastic wrap, rubber bands, computers, gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, heating oil, asphalt, motor oil, jet fuel, marine diesel, butane " Dr. Gary L. Stringer Northeast Louisiana University

Maguire Energy Institute lists products made from oil, at: The chemical industry relies on the petroleum industry for over 90% of the source material for the thousands of chemicals it produces:

City drinking water, government services

Number of cities in the world: over 55,000 Weather forecasts are available for each of them, at

Services to consider: Water supply pumping, sewage disposal, garbage disposal, street/park maintenance, hospitals & health systems, police, fire services. National defense (land, sea, air). Possibility of wars over remaining oil.

Economy and employment

International oil import costs: Sharp rises (increasing global competition for dwindling oil available from five Middle-Eastern countries and former Soviet Union.). International tensions. Military also obstructed by oil shortages. "Each year the United States, one of the world's largest producers of fossil fuels, imports an estimated additional US $50 billion worth of oil to satisfy domestic demand for energy."

National debt, inflation: Money goes out of country to oil producers. Money becomes scarce. Interest/mortgage rise up. Government prints more money to pay overseas energy bills. Money devalues. Prices rise.


Other serious quality-of-life aspects

Heating and cooling: In cold regions oil heats buildings (burned as fuel in homes or in oil-fired electric power stations. In hot areas oil power provides air conditioning. As natural gas is substituted for oil, the gas price itself will rise. "The cost of operating heating and cooling equipment represents about 60% of the total utility bill for the typical Louisiana resident." Louisiana Department of Natural Resources:

The EPA estimates that the lifetime cancer risk from wood stove smoke is twelve times greater than that from an equal volume of second hand tobacco smoke. (The Health Effects of Wood Smoke, Washington State Department of Ecology); (b)"Burning two cords of wood produces the same amount of mutagenic particles as: Driving 13 gasoline powered cars 10,000 miles each at 20 miles/gallon or driving 2 diesel powered cars 10,000 miles each @ 30 miles/gallon. These figures indicate that the worst contribution that an individual is likely to make to the mutagenicity of the air is using a wood stove for heating, followed by driving a diesel car. (Dr. Joellen Lewtas, Contribution of Source Emissions of the Mutagenicity of Ambient Urban Air Particles, US EPA, #91-131.6, 1991) "...Coal-fired generating stations are major sources of the particulates and ozone that make up smog, acid rain, greenhouse gases and persistent toxins such as mercury. The Ministry of Environment has indicated that the current levels of particulates in Ontario's air are associated with 1800 premature deaths and 1400 cardiac and respiratory hospital admissions in Ontario each year." Dr. Sheela V. Basrur, Medical Officer of Health, City of Toronto

Why public warning is so late

Very misleading reports of actual stocks of oil for business and political reasons:

(a) By firstly understating discoveries, and then later overstating discoveries, oil companies have given the false, but pleasing impression of an increasing discovery trend. Investors respond accordingly, and finance more exploration.

(b) The seven major oil-extracting countries have for years reported unchanged reserves (even though they were extracting and selling billions of barrels of oil, and that the reserves would therefore be less each year). See table of "spurious reserve revisions".

(c) In 1988 five of those countries claimed they each had about twice as much reserve oil as in 1987. See table below, which is displayed at

(d) We, the public have enjoyed using up the gasoline, heating oil, plastics, and countless other oil products for decades. The oil kept flowing generously. We "looked on the bright side" and mostly ignored warnings by environmentalists that fossil fuels would run out. Media constantly announced new oil discoveries, and increasing stocks of oil. Emptying wells seemed decades in the future. Nobody planned for it. Now they really are running empty.

OPEC countries depend on income from exports: to earn as much oil revenue as possible to support rapidly growing populations where the public health care, education and other services are traditionally provided free, from oil revenues, rather than from taxes. "The industry systematically understated the size of discovery (in past to meet strict SEC rules). [US Securities and Exchange Commission]. It prefers to see the reserves be revised upwards over time. It has misled analysts into thinking that more is being found than is the case, which in turn exaggerates the trend into the future... Seventy countries in 1999 reported unchanged reserves to the Oil & Gas Journal despite production, which is implausible. Some haven't changed their estimates for years." Private E-mail from Colin Campbell, June 2000. Publicity about false reporting of reserves:


View below the table of actual numbers from which this graph was made. The table itself is found at: The Gulf states, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in particular, suffer from a combination of high expectations, rapid population growth and falling oil revenues: a potentially-explosive combination. In the 1970s, the rapid inflow of oil wealth led all the Gulf states to create extensive welfare systems. Governments provided health care, education, and other services for free to all citizens, and any citizen with an advanced degree was entitled to a lucrative government job. Since the early 1980s, however, the price of oil has fallen dramatically - with disastrous results for the budgets of regional governments.

The table's green areas show where countries reported that their oil stocks were "not declining", even though oil was being taken out, steadily emptying the wells.The red areas show where countries spectacularly increased the reported quantities of oil in stock, so that OPEC would recognize them as bigger suppliers and allow them to export more, increasing revenues. They were desperately competing with each other to make up their revenue by having a bigger slice of market share, because the price per barrel had plunged to about $12 per barrel. The history graph of the prices is at They seem especially frightened of alternative energy sources, even though when examined closely, those alternative sources are drastically too small to compensate for oil. "As a group of fossil fuel exporters, OPEC stands to lose more than most from any proposals that threatens to cut oil consumption," - Rilwanu Lukmanhe, Secretary General of OPEC, speaking at the 16th World Petroleum Congress, 2000. (Globe & Mail Newspaper, June 5, 2000)

Illusion that money can replace physically exhausted resources: According to Philip K. Verleger, Jr.: "No person has had a greater influence on the thinking of experts who have become government regulators of the world's oil and gas industries than Morry Adelman." [[23]] If Verleger is right, then government regulators all over the world are going to be in big trouble soon because according to economist Adelman: "Minerals are inexhaustible and will never be depleted. A stream of investment creates additions to proved reserves, a very large in-ground inventory, constantly renewed as it is extracted... How much was in the ground at the start and how much will be left at the end are unknown and irrelevant." [24] The quote is on page XI of his book, The Economics of Petroleum Supply, published 1993.) "This absolute confidence in money ignores the fact that oil is a physical reality and that oil can be, and is being exhausted. To illustrate: If Mr. Adelman were sealed in a wooden crate with one loaf of bread and a briefcase full of money for two months, money would not replace the bread once he had eaten it. It is easy to lose sight of physical realities when dealing mainly with theoretical ideas."

Note: "The USA has the exceptional position as the largest and a growing importer. US imports deny somebody else access to oil. For example, starving Africans result. Tax on gasoline is lower in the USA than in other countries by a large factor. So the US could easily curb its excess. In fact it has no option. The worst thing the US can do is press OPEC to increase production, which will simply make the peak higher and the decline steeper. It is just digging itself into a bigger hole, morality apart." Colin Campbell, in private E-mail, June 2000.

Other Voices  Back


More information

Documented evidence: This sheet, and all references and authorities for this information are available for download by temporarily joining the RunningOnEmpty internet forum mentioned below. In MyGroups page, click the Files section. It is among the first files.

Web sites: The oil die-off is explained in up-to-date detail at, and Both sites are keyword-searchable, with scientific and oil industry literature about this topic. It is heavily annotated with authoritative references.

Discussion forum - Technical/scientific:

Discussion forum-Implications, action:

Author of this sheet: Bruce Thomson (moderator of RunningOnEmpty forum at and helped by members of those groups.

COPY THIS ITEM FREELY TO OTHERS (Last link check 001212)