Without any press conferences, grand announcements, or hyperbolic advertising campaigns, the Exxon Mobil Corporation, one of the world's largest publicly owned petroleum companies, has quietly joined the ranks of those who are predicting an impending plateau in non-OPEC oil production. Their report, The Outlook for Energy: A 2030 View, forecasts a peak in just five years.
...Michael Klare, an expert on "resource wars" and the author of the indispensable Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Petroleum Dependency, [in which he] discusses a new bombshell book by oil industry insider Matthew Simmons, and his unsettling news that everything you've heard about those inexhaustible supplies of Saudi oil, which are supposed to keep the world floating for decades, simply isn't so. This is real news and absorbing its implications is no small matter.
If Saudi Arabia really is reaching a limit on accessible supplies, then the timetable gets much shorter. But whether we reach "peak oil" in three years, five years, or ten years, it won't make much difference. As soon as demand begins to exceed supply, the petroleum economy (also known as the world economy) is in for a shock. Rising prices and declining lifestyles could be just a small part of the overall impact.
CRN has written before that "we could have just a few years in which to design and ramp up a new trillion-dollar infrastructure. The only way to do this without severe economic pain is large-scale, general-purpose, exponential manufacturing. And the only technology that appears to fit the bill is molecular manufacturing of the mechanosynthetic variety."
Oil is in the news, and it looks as if it will stay there for a long while. High prices and economic tumult seem almost inevitable. The real question is whether the nations of the world can work together to deal with these problems, or whether continued competitiveness and distrust will lead to a deeply unhappy outcome.
As Chris wrote last November, "This appears to be a fairly strong argument for early development of advanced molecular manufacturing." His words "fairly strong" look more and more like an understatement. All signs are pointing to the urgent necessity for targeted studies of advanced nanotechnology.
UPDATE: Here is an alternate view on the impact of "peak oil" from Marshall Brain. (Thanks, Jay!)