NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 9, 2004

There is growing evidence that oil is far more plentiful than we have been led to believe, says Bruce Bartlett.

In a new paper, Michael C. Lynch (Strategic Energy and Economic Research, Inc.) debunks a common theory called the Hubbert Curve, which postulates that the yield of oil fields is inherently limited:

  • The problem, as Lynch points out, is that actual experience in many instances contradicts the Hubbert theory.
  • Its primary flaw is that it views geology as the sole factor in oil discovery, recovery and depletion.
  • In fact, oil prices, government policy and technology play critical roles.

Furthermore, the evidence he presents of oil fields that have yielded far more than the Hubbert Curve predicts is consistent with the abiotic theory -- which says that oil is a product of physical geologic processes rather than biological activity -- and that oil fields can be refilled from sources well below those in which production now takes place.

Of course, higher prices also make known deposits of oil that were previously too costly to exploit, as well as reducing demand. Consequently, it is impossible to ever literally run out of oil. The possibility should not be a factor in the energy debate, says Bartlett.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, "Slick New Oil Theory," National Center for Policy Analysis, June 9, 2004.


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