Crude oilis a carbon-rich liquid mixture of hydrocarbons, occurring naturally in rock formations. The extraction and use of this fossil fuel is one of the pillars of the modern industrial economy, because oil is the source of nearly all liquid fuels.
Our black gold is the fifteenth non-renewable resource set to disappear thanks to intensive exploitation by mankind.
Remaining world oil reserves are estimated at 164.4 billion tonnes. About half the original energy stock has already been pumped out.
June 2008: at current rates of production, 80 million barrels (bbl) per day, deposits will last 42 years.
Extractable deposits of this fossil fuel will therefore disappear for good in 2050. (Source: BP Statistical Review of world Energy, 2007)
This date is only a rough indication. Sources differ, and it could change with the evolution of our civilisation.
Uses: production of heat and electricity, fuel for vehicles, road-surfacing materials, clothes, plastics, medicines...).
Problems arising from its disappearance will start to make themselves felt well before this fateful date. On this subject, see Hubbert's peak theory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
The reconstitution of oil reserves will take millions of years, which is of course inconceivably long on a human time-scale.
Even if, thanks to advances in technology, we find new deposits by digging deeper and deeper into the Earth's crust, this will afford us only a few years' reprieve and will not make a major impact on the situation.
Oil is a product of the geological history of a region, its formation requiring the following three successive conditions:
accumulation of organic matter, essentially vegetable;
its gradual transformation into hydrocarbons;
its becoming trapped by impervious rock layers.
There will still be some oil shale deposits, but their exploitation will be costly and extremely polluting.
Liquid fuels can be made from organic matter. But if we want to replace all current oil consumption with biofuels, we would need such vast areas of cultivable land, that the 9 billion human beings forecast for the year 2050 would not be able to satisfy their hunger.
There is now talk of second-generation biofuels, due for development by 2020, which will not compete with food cultivation for land resources (algae, decomposed organic waste...), but the quantities produced will be infinitesimal compared with oil.
34 million bbl/day come from the OPEC member countries.
Oil is highly polluting for the atmosphere and our planet. Its use generates 10.3 billion tonnes of CO2 each year, with the result that world temperatures are climbing at an alarming rate (never seen before in the course of the earth's history) and climate patterns are increasingly unsettled.
The ideal solution would be to stop all consumption by combustion, as soon as possible, and to dedicate remaining stocks exclusively to more noble uses, such as the production of plastics and medicines. In this way there would be some left for future generations.
To learn more about oil, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum
Translation Nicholas ROSE
Don't miss reading Point of view by Michel Walter, a programme for the end of our civilisation of wastage.
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