WikiLeaks May Have Just Confirmed That Peak Oil Is Imminent

oil jack rig

It's getting more and more difficult to deny that an oil supply crunch is just a few years down the road, especially now that WikiLeaks has released cables revealing that Saudi Arabia's oil reserves have been exaggerated by as much as 40%, or 300 billion barrels. Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil exporter.

Peak oil, or the point when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction has been reached and is about to enter terminal decline, is no longer the fringe theory it was just 10 years ago. Even Jeroen van der Veer, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, has admitted that oil supply may no longer keep up with demand by 2015. But the just-released cables, which detail a back-and-forth between the U.S. consul general and geologist Sadad al-Husseini, the former head of exploration at Saudi Aramco, confirms that the situation is serious.

Here's an excerpt from one cable:

"In a presentation, Abdallah al-Saif, current Aramco senior vice-president for exploration, reported that Aramco has 716bn barrels of total reserves, of which 51% are recoverable, and that in 20 years Aramco will have 900bn barrels of reserves.
"Al-Husseini disagrees with this analysis, believing Aramco's reserves are overstated by as much as 300bn barrels. In his view once 50% of original proven reserves has been reached…a steady output in decline will ensue and no amount of effort will be able to stop it. He believes that what will result is a plateau in total output that will last approximately 15 years followed by decreasing output."

Other cables from the U.S. embassy in Riyadh go on to express fears that "Saudi Aramco is having to run harder to stay in place—to replace the decline in existing production," and that "Clearly they can drive prices up, but we question whether they any longer have the power to drive prices down for a prolonged period."

Only time will tell whether Al-Husseini's predictions are correct, but the possibility of imminent peak oil is enough to make Obama's goal of putting one million electric cars on the road by 2020 a little less overly ambitious.

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  • polysensory

    Wikileaks, this article and comments are what free speech and free press should be. Democracy is peaking as oil is declining.

  • Ian Feinhandler

    I don't know where some of the information in these comments is coming from, but according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, for year 2009 in the United States, electricity came from the following sources: Coal (48%), Nuclear Power (22%), Natural Gas (18%), Renewable Energy (11%), and Petroleum (1%). Figures cited are from the year 2009. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration. These are figures for ELECTRICITY (since the discussion was about how electric cars will be powered), not overall energy consumption. Data is available at

  • W.R. McAfee,Sr.

    .Wind, solar, hydrogen, things unknown are all worthy and may connect eventually—hopefully this century, for sure the next—but they won’t replace fossils as we head down the yellow brick road.

    Not when the planet uses a 1,000 bbl oil a second on all things.

    Hydrocarbons account for 99% of the globe’s transportation platform.

    There is no hydrocarbon shortage. I sat in the gas lines during the eighties and dug into it. There was no shortage then. But there had to be one in order to jack the ppg up. Otherwise America wouldn’t have sat still for the gouge.

    They’re still doing it, there’s no shortage now, and Americans are used to the gougings.

    Past and present cries for oil independence and alternate fuels has been/is a decade-to- decade meme; an energy strawman used to focus our attention on the peak oil lie. Remember when America’s strategic oil reserves were “dangerously low?” Ad infinitum. Alternates in their present form and efficiency can’t replace fossils.

    The boys behind the curtain know this.

    Take the U.S. power generation industry. Their fuel pie looks something like this:

    Coal 50%
    Other Fossils21%
    Nuclear 21%
    Hydro-Elec. 6%
    Alternatives 2%
    Source: International Energy Agency, 2008

    Studies have been done by the industry on utilizing free fuels—old tires, wood chips, paper—to power existing generation facilities and electricity cannot be produced any cheaper than it can be with coal. (The
    U.S. has an unlimited supply and the industry has successfully applied scrubber technology to their stacks.)

    Alternate fuels are not an option. Not now. Maybe not this century.

    If the problem isn’t a shortage hydrocarbons, then the problem is one of the elite handcuffing Americans and picking their pockets at the gas station, looting citizen and business alike.

    Think Wall Street.

    Ever heard of A-biotic oil? Gull Island? The giant Montana/Dakotas field? The current South Central Texas play?

  • bassam

    in the Quran it tells Muslims to teach your kids how to ride horses this could be why it is mentioned.
    it would be a shame to run out of petrol after people have invented so much technology that runs petrol maybe its good thing there will be less obese kids in this kfd up world we live in

  • think

    its the reliable source of energy thats pressing need as of now.its not the distribution of it with electric cars as of now.even though its just a step on the fringes. need to address the core.for instance wiring all the house without the main supply.

  • jaykimball

    I posted the verbatim text of the leaked document, along with some pertinent charts related to Peak Oil and the economy and how high oil prices can trigger recessions. See

  • oceansixtyone

    Nuclear reactors mostly and coal as far distant second place. I am not worried about cars, they will all be electric in the future. I am more worried about the long term US strategy. We are not preparing for this. Other countries like France and Japan will be able to supply 100% of their electricity from nuclear power in the future. They are building more reactors. Even developing countries like Iran are preparing. Why is the US not moving fast enough on this issue?

    The other problem is flying. I don't think it will be possible to make an electric powered airplane, at least for large commercial planes. To live in a world without air travel will be a nightmare. Electric powered high speed trains can not be the only way to travel long distances. I hope there is more research on hydrogen or some bio-fuel for air travel. Something has to be done fast.

  • jack garrett

    You guys brought up topics I haven't researched much. Thought I'd share some information I found out as it's pertinent to the discussion.

    Electric energy sources in the United States (2009)
    (Source: wikipedia - Fossil Fuel Power Station)
    Coal: 45%
    Natural Gas: 23%
    Nuclear: 20%
    Hydro: 7%
    Renewables (solar, wind, tide): 3.6%
    Oil: 1%

    Regarding Efficiencies of Internal Combustion Engines vs. Electric Cars:

    Electric Car efficiency: 80%
    (Source: Wikipedia - "electric car")

    Power Plant Efficiency
    Coal: 33%
    Combined Cycle: 50%
    (Source: wikipedia - Fossil Fuel Power Station)

    Effective Efficiency of Electric Car:
    (80%) x (33%) = 26%
    (Source: wikipedia - Fossil Fuel Power Station)

    Gasoline Engine Fuel Efficiency: 15%
    Diesel Engine Fuel Efficiency: 20%
    (source: wikipedia - Electric Car)

  • Gideon

    Electricity doesn't come from oil.

    In the USA it's majority coal, after that it's a combination of mostly nuclear, natural gas and hydro. The only places that get a substantial amount of electricity from oil (diesel) are islands like Hawaii or Puerto Rico.

    Notice that most of these energy sources are domestic. Switching to electrified transport means we'd be running our cars on domestic energy resources, not to mention the efficiency kick you get going from a heat engine to an electric engine.