WikiLeaks meets peak oil: one leaked diplomatic cable warned that Saudi oil production was weaker than that country had claimed.
[B]etween 2007-09, [Sadad al-Husseini, a geologist and former head of exploration at the Saudi oil monopoly Aramco] said Saudi Arabia might reach an output of 12m barrels a day in 10 years but before then – possibly as early as 2012 – global oil production would have hit its highest point.
[A] steady output in decline will ensue and no amount of effort will be able to stop it.
Why does this matter? First off, Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most important oil sources, but is always secretive about their reserves. If they actually have less than they’ve said, prices and even availability might spike more quickly than we thought.
Second, the US government takes this seriously, as far as the cables suggest. This means al-Husseini is less likely to be a crank than one might suspect, and that there are national security implications.
Third, this leak could frighten oil markets today, leading to various bad short-term outcomes: higher prices, national security jitters.
What is peak oil? The theory that at some point we’ll consume half of the available oil on Earth – the easy half. We don’t then run out of oil, but oil gets more expensive, then scarce. The magnitude of this problem will occur to you as you consider just how thoroughly dependent our civilization is upon the stuff. Start with personal transportation, then the transportation of stuff (food, goods). Then consider things made with oil: plastics, fertilizer. Think about how much of our global economy is based on cheap oil. It’s a fearsome exercise.