The official release of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2008, has already brought forth a flood of new stories and commentary. Most of the immediate press stories focused on the need to find 64 million b/d of new production in the next 22 years to offset depletion and provide for some modest growth. This was cast in terms of finding four new Saudi Arabias, or a new Kuwait a year. The IEA’s appraisal that depletion rates will increase in coming years as production shifts from giant on-shore fields to smaller off-shore ones received considerable attention. Finally, the IEA’s assertion that a lack of adequate investment will cause a supply crunch by 2015 was widely reported.
OPEC released a scathing attack on the report, apparently disturbed by the implication that the cartel did not have everything under control and would face a huge challenge in keeping up with projected increases in global demand. The Saudis and their friends, however, were delighted with the IEA judgment that the Kingdom’s giant Ghawar oil field was on a plateau and was not in danger of going into imminent decline — thereby “undercutting the claims of peak oil theorists.”
Beyond the immediate press reaction, numerous individuals and organizations have embarked on in-depth analyses, commentary and criticism of the report which clearly breaks new ground in examining the future of the world’s energy supply. The IEA continues to forecast that, given adequate investment, the world oil supply can increase over the next 20 years despite accelerating depletion. Many observers have already called this forecast into question.