Peak Oil and Petroleum Energy Resources

  • Roger James Kuhns
  • George H. Shaw


Peak oil is a point in time when our civilization will have used half of all economically extractable oil, and all future production is on a downward slide of diminishing returns. It is the point after which there just isn’t enough oil to run our civilization as we are running it today. There is debate on how fast that downward slide after the peak, and increasingly it looks steeper than the pre-peak upward slope. The steeper the slope, the less time there is to react. For this reason a close consideration of peak oil is necessary. Reserve projections, consumption, and depletion within the template of global resources point to continued reliance to some degree on foreign fossil fuels unless the United States moves towards a comprehensive sustainable energy policy. Reserve depletion is gradual and occurs over a long period of time. As prices increase, once noneconomic resources become economically viable. But many of these come with additional environmental and social costs. Also, new discoveries are typically small in contained proved reserves, indicating that the days of “easy big discoveries” are gone. As of about 1990, global production has outpaced the size and rate of new petroleum discoveries. This trend indicates that peak oil is real and will be followed by an era where there is insufficient petroleum to supply civilization at the rate it is accustomed. The trend to increase production using resources such as the Alberta tar sands opens the door to a new set of environmental and climate impacting challenges, reminding us that each new form of fossil fuel exploitation has a cost to our society.

All natural resources are finite in their principle form. Oil is formed through the process of burial, heating, and transformation of organic material, principally algae and other forms of phytoplankton, within a wide variety of geologic settings found around the globe. Because these processes take very long – geological – spans of time, the ultimate amount available is fixed, for all practical purposes.


Peak oil Petroleum OPEC Reserve Depletion Tar sand/oil sand Climate Carbon Emissions Carbon dioxide Consumption Resources Production Shale oil Discovery Hubbert Finite resource Price 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger James Kuhns
    • 1
  • George H. Shaw
    • 2
  1. 1.SustainAudit, LLCMysticUSA
  2. 2.Geology DepartmentUnion CollegeSchenectadyUSA

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