Concerns about “peak oil” have recurred repeatedly since the resource was first developed, but they reached an unprecedented height in 2007 just prior to the global economic recession. Since then public concern has diminished, partly as a result of shale oil production in the United States. Yet, despite these developments and globally rising reserves, oil prices have almost doubled since 2010 and have tripled in a decade. The ‘peak oil’ debate has not gone away - oil remains critically important, adequate substitutes have yet to be found and concerns about depletion persist.
Steve Sorrell and Richard Miller have co-edited a special edition of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A on the Future of Oil. Both the introductory paper and a second paper by Steve Sorrell and Jamie Speirs are informed by UKERC’s 2009 project on Global Oil Depletion.
The special edition examines the mechanisms, uncertainties, risks and possible consequences of declining production of conventional oil, together with the opportunities for mitigating those risks through enhanced oil recovery, non-conventional oils, biofuels and electric vehicles. Together, the eleven papers provide a comprehensive and interdisciplinary perspective on the ‘peak oil’ debate, demonstrating its interlinked scientific, engineering and economic dimensions and reflecting a range of views. The aim is to stimulate wide debate on this contentious and critically important issue, both within the scientific community and beyond.
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