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Don’t worry, we won’t run out of oil!

Last updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 12:43 AM



Othman Al-Khowaiter

 

THE fear that we will run out of oil is expressed by many of our brothers who insist on emphasizing it every now and then. Naturally there is some basis for their concern. Oil, which is naturally formed in the pores of rocks will continue to leak out through microscopic rocky outlets for many centuries, and its quantity will diminish with the passage of time until it reaches the minimum economic level of feasibility.

However, this is not what is meant by theorists of oil supplies, who most often are not specialists in production engineering. They take some of their information from sources that issue findings of periodic studies about the future of the world’s energy sources. Most of these sources work for certain agencies that have special interests. It would seem that often the ideal results of a study are determined before the study is conducted, not to mention the fact that every year these sources come out with predictions that differ from the previous year.

Most studies released by the concerned bodies about the future of oil rely on the oil reserve figures announced by the producing countries, and hence this information lacks transparency, accuracy and credibility. This information is not suitable for the ultimate purpose of preparing such important studies – that is the follow up and monitoring of the availability of permanent oil sources so that the world will not be caught unawares by an acute shortage of supplies, the consequences of which would be catastrophic.

Strategic studies must be based on correct information so that people and officials can be reassured about how long their oil wealth will last. This information should not dishearten us, but rather should increase our desire to find sources of renewable energy to supplement our non-renewable energy sources.

I would like to elaborate a very important issue with regard to non-renewable oil. What I mean by the depletion of oil is shrinking the quantity of oil production to such a level that the revenue from oil wealth will be less than the needs of the general budget of the countries that rely heavily on oil income.

Of course, this could be the beginning of a chronic shortage which might become worse with the passage of time. This is what we expect to happen within a few decades, and that is why we must take precautions to find new sources of income. This is why I emphasize the importance of preparing for the worst. Is it not better for us to be more aware and informed about what is required to serve our national interests? Under any circumstances, we cannot compare the future of our economy with that of those countries that have sustainable economic potential, well thought out plans, future vision and productive people.

When we talk about special studies about the future of energy sources, some people may disagree with us with regard to the global proven oil reserve that has reached more than five trillion barrels. Of this, the cheaper conventional Gulf oil makes up only one trillion barrels and this oil has fed the world with energy since the discovery of oil. Even the International Energy Agency admits that conventional oil reached its peak production level several years ago. As for unconventional oil, it represents the bulk of the remaining oil, and it is characterized by high cost of production, difficulty in extraction and shortage of output. Hence, we cannot count it as an alternative to the conventional oil supply but rather as a supplement to it.  

In other words, there is no doubt that the production of unconventional oil with its immense proven reserve cannot make up the entire shortfall due to the partial depletion of conventional oil. Therefore, it is a must to establish renewable energy sources at the earliest possible time before things reach a critical stage as a result of the expected shortfall in the energy supply.  

We must realize that the world now drains our oil due to its ease of production and low cost. At the same time, they are planning to pay attention in future to unconventional oil production in which we do not have any stake.  Therefore, it is not logical for us to fall into the trap and share their view that there is a long life for our oil, as believed by some of our brothers. We are concerned only about when our supply of oil, which is the source of our livelihood, will be depleted .

We have to realize that our destiny is linked to conventional oil, and that when it finishes, we will finish with it. We have nothing to do with the so-called large global reserve and other types of oil that are found outside our country, especially when the world is determined to consume our oil first.

Even after this, is it desirable for us to claim that our supply of oil has no end, and that our current situation is fine, without doing anything to ensure a bright future for our coming generations? How many countries have until recently been producing oil in large quantities and exporting the surplus? Now, they have become importers of oil.  Ironically, in the past they sold their surplus oil at a price ten times lower than the current price. Now they are paying the price for their poor planning and shortsightedness. Instead of learning lessons, we have engaged in arguing among ourselves about how long our oil supply will last despite the fact that our oil-based economy is an unproductive one and cannot be compared to that of productive economies.

The solution is clear but we have to act with determination, good management, farsightedness and sound planning, or the day will come when we find that we have missed a golden opportunity that should not have been ignored. 

 
   
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