Out Of Gas: The Disturbing Truth About Oil
Supply Vs. Demand
In 2009, a whistleblower from within the International Energy Agency said the world oil demand crunch is coming much sooner than the organization predicts. The high level official claimed the IEA was under pressure from the United States to paint a rosier picture to avoid a worldwide panic and another, more severe economic collapse.
And Americans have the farthest to fall. The United States uses 19.4 million barrels of oil per day, with about forty percent of that going to fuel its motor vehicles. Though China's thirst for oil is rapidly rising, Americans still consume 25 percent of the world's petroleum.
The United States is pursuing unconventional oil sources as a way to minimize the country's dependence on foreign sources of energy. According to the Department of Energy, the country has vast untapped resources in the form of oil shale deposits (which can be converted to fuel) in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. About 1.8 trillion barrels of oil shale is considered recoverable from deposits in the Western United States.
But the hydraulic fracturing used to draw the chemical kerogen from rocks is just as controversial. Commonly called fracking, the process involves shooting high pressure liquids into rocks to create fissures that increase the release rate of kerogen. Environmentalists say the process also releases carcinogenic chemicals and contaminates groundwater. Also oil shale is far more expensive to reach, process and convert to a usable fuel than conventional oil. Peak oil researchers say oil shale will at best briefly delay the oil price shocks and a global economic implosion.
Again, not everyone agrees oil production is peaking now. In an interview with truTV, Michael Lynch, an energy consultant and former director for Asian energy at MIT, told us that fears about oil running out have existed since the first well was tapped.
"The Bronze Age started roughly 3500 years ago, and we haven't run out of
copper yet," Lynch said. "In fact, the only shortages are of renewable, 'infinite' resources, like tuna, sharks, etc. So, population growth and rising demand will not stress the oil resource base for decades, by which time our technology will be significantly different."