While the DoE is "not acknowledging peak oil" they describe exactly the scenarios that have been put forward by the peak oil community. The main
difference is that they believe we might enter a plateau of oil production and then a drop-off in 2011. The peak oil community recognizes that we
have been in a plateau since '05.
Washington Considers A Decline Of World Oil Production As Of 2011
The U.S. Department of Energy admits that “a chance exists that we may experience a decline” of world liquid fuels production between 2011 and
2015 “if the investment is not there”, according to an exclusive interview with Glen Sweetnam, main official expert on oil market in the Obama
This warning on oil output issued by Obama’s energy administration comes at a time when world demand for oil is on the rise again, and investments
in many drilling projects have been frozen in the aftermath of the tumbling of crude prices and of the financial crisis.
Glen Sweetnam, director of the International, Economic and Greenhouse Gas division of the Energy Information Administration at the DoE, does not say
that investments will not be “there”. Yet the answer to the issue of knowing when, where and in which quantities additional sources of oil should
be put on-stream remains widely “unidentified” in the eyes of the most prominent official analyst on energy inside the Obama administration.
The DoE dismisses the “peak oil” theory, which assumes that world crude oil production should irreversibly decrease in a nearby future, in want of
suffisant fresh oil reserves yet to be exploited. The Obama administration of Energy supports the alternative hypothesis of an “undulating
plateau”. Lauren Mayne, responsible for liquid fuel prospects at the DoE, explains : “Once maximum world oil production is reached, that level
will be approximately maintained for several years thereafter, creating an undulating plateau. After this plateau period, production will experience a
Glen Sweetnam, who heads the publication of DoEs annual International Energy Outlook, agrees that what he identifies as a possible decline of liquid
fuels production between 2011 and 2015 could be the first stage of the “undulating plateau” pattern, which will start “once maximum world oil
production is reached”.
M. Auzanneau - After 2011 and until 2015, do you acknowledge that if adequate investment is not there, a chance exists that we may experience a first
stage of decline in the “undulating plateau” you describe ?
GLEN SWEETNAM - I agree, if the investment is not there, a chance exists that we may experience a decline. If we do, I would expect investment in new
capacity to increase if there is still demand for oil.
Glen Sweetnam acknowledges the possibility of a close-by and unexpected fall of world liquid fuels production in an email interview, after several
requests of details about a round-table of oil economists that Mr Sweetnam held on April 7, 2009 in Washington, DC.
The DoE April 2009 round-table, untitled “Meeting the Growing Demand for Liquid (fuels)“, was semi-public. Yet it remained unnoticed and unjustly,
as it put forward forecasts that are far more pessimistic than any analysis the DoE has ever delivered.
Page 8 of the presentation document of the round-table, a graph shows that the DoE is expecting a decline of the total of all known sources of liquid
fuels supplies after 2011.
The graph labels as “unidentified” the additional supply projects needed to fill in a gap that is expected to grow after 2011 between rising
demand and decline of known sources of supply that the DoE supposes will start that year. The declining production foreseen by the DoE concerns the
total of existing sources of liquid fuels plus the new production projects that are supposed to come on-stream before 2012.
The DoE predicts that the decline of identified sources of supply will be steady and sharp : - 2 percent a year, from 87 million barrels per day
(Mbpd) in 2011 to just 80 Mbpd in 2015. At that time, the world demand for oil and other liquid fuels should have climbed up to 90 Mbpd, according to
the presentation document.
“Unidentified” additional liquid fuels projects would therefore have to fill in a 10 Mbpd gap between supplies and demand within less than 5
years. 10 Mbpd is almost the equivalent of the oil production of Saudi Arabia, world top producer with 10.8 Mbpd.