The End of Fossil Fuel


"By the end of this century, nearly all of the economically recoverable fossil fuels will be gone."

You will never see cheap gasoline again. You will probably never see cheap energy again. Oil, natural gas and coal are set to peak and go into decline within the next decade, and no technology can change that.

Peak oil is not about "running out of oil"—it's about reaching the peak rate of oil production.

We are now at the peak rate of oil production. After over a century of continual growth, global conventional crude oil production topped out in 2005 at just over 74 mbpd and has remained at that level ever since.

Oil production is expected to go into terminal decline around 2012. The largest and most-productive fields are becoming depleted while new discoveries have been progressively smaller and of lesser quality. Discovery of new oil peaked over 40 years ago and has been declining ever since despite furious drilling and unprecedentedly high prices.

The IEA estimates the world would need to add the equivalent of six new Saudi Arabias by 2030 in order to meet declining production and growing demand.

Natural gas is likewise expected to peak sometime around 2010-2020, and coal around 2020-2030. Oil, natural gas and coal together provide 86% of the world's primary energy.

By the end of this century, nearly all of the economically recoverable fossil fuels will be gone.

The coming energy shortage is the most serious crisis the world has ever faced, but it could have a positive outcome. In theory, wind, solar, geothermal and marine resources could each provide more than the total energy the world consumes every day.

As fossil fuel prices rise, renewably generated electricity prices will continue to fall. If we are wise and lucky, we will rapidly improve the efficiency of our built environment, deploy renewable capacity and convert to an all-electric infrastructure that runs on it.

If we move fast to re-localize production and proceed with the renewable revolution, we could end the 21st century with a largely carbon-free economy, putting an end to climate change and averting resource wars.

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