Home Quotes Contact Links Vhemt New Zealand PowerLess NZ Resources Experts Essays Running On Empty In Italiano



Website of the 450-member Web forum RunningOnEmpty2



This web site explains that the global oil fields are running empty, and the severe impacts expected.

(Para el mundo latino >>> Version español)




The oil crash and you




This document reveals that within ten years:

Most significant effects:

Difficulty of adapting:

A major part of the problem is that existing equipment is designed only for oil fuels. For example, the world’s 11,000 airliners cannot run on natural gas, nuclear or coal.

By-products of oil:

Cost and decreasing availability of 500,000 known uses of oil: Fertilizers (farms/food supply),medicines, plastics, insulation, computers, asphalt, inks & toners, paints, glues, solvents, antiseptics, golf balls, CDs, trash bags, nail polish, detergents, chewing gum, etc.

Hidden problem:

Not only will the oil supply dwindle, but the shortages and climbing prices will obstruct industry as it attempts to convert society to other forms of energy.

Proof of impending shortages:

Much uninformed literature says oil is plentiful and that better extraction will maintain adequate supply for decades. However, this sheet reveals:

Why alternative energy sources will not prevent shortages:

When, and how bad:

Year when global oil supply first fails to meet global demand: about 2009

Rate of decline of global oil supply:

3% every year from 2009 onward.

Duration of decline:

Forever. Oil takes millions of years to form, in very special geological conditions.

Barrels consumed globally per year:

More than 22 billion in 1999. (About 2 billion barrels per month)

Barrels discovered globally per year:

Now about 6 billion of usual “easy to get” oil, plus about 8 billion of deep-sea and other “hard-to-get” oil. Discovery of oil fluctuates each year, but peaked in the 1960s, and has declined at an average of about 9 billion barrels per year over the past 40 years. We’ve mostly just been using up huge old oil fields.

Pre-1973-discovered oil in use today:

More than 70% of present global supply.

Ratio of oil consumed to oil discovered each year:

Four consumed for every one discovered.


  Discovered Extracted Consumed
USA during the 15 years
from 1977-1991
5 billion barrels 45 billion
(40 billion barrels more than discovered)
92 billion (47 billion were imported)
World during the 10years
from 1982-1991
91billion barrels 221 billion
(130 billion barrels more than discovered
221 billion
(equal to all extracted)


Those figures, & the following graph of discoveries are at: http://users.knsi.com/~tbender/ivanhoe.html

Proportion of global energy provided by oil in developed countries:

40% (1997)


The “invest more to find it” idea

Yet-to-be located oil, globally:

After a century of exploration, the earth’s geology and oil resources are generally well known. When the fields are emptying, money only helps to scrape out the hard-to-reach remainder. There are 210 billion barrels left to discover and 1000 billion barrels left to extract. This is indicated by the 40-year decline in discovery of oil. No amount of money will create oil that simply isn’t there.

Number of oil wells already in world/USA:

More than 500,000. In USA, 80% of the wells now produce less than three barrels a day.

Percentage of oil recovered from a typical oil well:

20% to 60%. It relates primarily to the viscosity of the oil. You get less from a heavy oil than a light one because it sticks in the reservoir.


“Technology will solve it” idea

Challenge to technology:

To compensate for the expected 3% oil decline (at today’s 22 billion barrels a year), create and install, by year 2009, permanent supplies of portable energy, equivalent to 660 million barrels of oil a year. Then as oil keeps declining forever, increase this new energy it until it replaces 40% of the world’s energy supply (22 billion barrels a year) OR reduce energy demand equivalently as the global population increases by almost a quarter million people every day.


The “better efficiency” idea

Increases in efficiency usually fail to reduce consumption (more m.p.g. just causes people to travel more or buy two cars, or other goods) unless they are personally determined to reduce their consumption.


What about nuclear power?

Nuclear is currently being abandoned globally.


Natural gas

Proportion of global energy provided by gas:

20% of global energy supply (1997).

As a replacement for oil:

Demand for natural gas in North America is already outstripping supply, especially as power utilities take the remaining gas to generate electricity. Later in this web page there is a graph suggesting important effects of gas decline (in year 2007 or sooner) on the electricity used for computers, communications and control equipment.

Gas is not suited for existing jet aircraft, ships, vehicles, and equipment for agriculture and other products.Conversion consumes large amounts of energy as well as money. Natural gas also does not provide the huge array of chemical by-products that we depend on oil for.



Present use: 2.3% of global energy supply (1997).

As a replacement for oil:

Very small compared with 40% provided at present by oil. Unsuitable for aircraft and the present 722 million existing vehicles.



Current global use:

24% of global energy supply.

As a replacement for oil:

Is 50% to 200% heavier than oil per energy unit. Bulky and dirty. Would require expansion of coal mining, leading to land ruin and increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Hard to fine-control the rate of burn

Tuning the rate of burn of oil and gas fuels is easy, but coal is different. It is therefore is used in power stations to make electricity, wasting half of its energy content.

Coal mining operations run on oil fuels

Present coal-mining machinery and transportation runs not on coal, but on oil-based fuels.


A single coal-fired station can produce a million tons of solid waste each year. Burning coal in homes pollutes air with acrid smog containing acid gases and particles. Large pollution & environmental problems: (Smog, greenhouse gases, and acid rain).

Liquid fuels from coal:

Very inefficient, and huge amounts of water required.


Solar and wind

Global solar use:

Global wind power use:

0.07% of 1990 global energy supply. As with solar, energy varies greatly with weather, and is not portable or storable like oil and gas. Each wind turbine from Denmark produces an average of 698 kW averaged over a year.



Current global use:

US (only) 1998 consumption is 0.01% of global energy.

As a replacement for oil:


Other sources of energy


Shale, tar sand, coalbed methane, ethanol, biomass (from vegetation), etc.

Effectiveness as replacements for oil:

Huge investment in research and infrastructure to exploit them, plus large amounts of now-expiring oil supply. 6% of US gas is from non-conventional generation.

The major problem is that they cannot be exploited before the oil shocks cripple attempts to bring them on line, and the rate of extraction is far too slow to meet the huge global energy demand.


Food supply

Food production & delivery depends on oil

Food grains now contain between 4 and 10 calories of fossil fuel for every 1 calorie of solar energy. Four percent of US energy budget is used to grow food, while 10 to 13 percent is needed to put it onto our plates. The worsening oil shortages will make production increasingly expensive. Putting food production closer to cities will be vital, feeding animals is questionable.

Percentage of US grain used to feed cattle:



The meat feeds 1/5 as many people as the grain could.

Number of cats & dogs in USA:

131 million

Food given to pets:

North American pet food business is $30 billion/yr, and is growing.

“Future food” being consumed by using gasoline in vehicles:

Gasoline consumed ‘now’ will deprive future agriculture of energy for producing food. Below are examples of how much “future food” a 30 mile-per-gallon vehicle is “eating” now. Also shown is the heavy physical labor humans will have to do in future when gasoline is unavailable for farm/industrial/office/home machinery:


Transportation, business, globalization

Oil for transportation


Will end. (Fuel costs & scarcity).

Oil for industry

Construction industry example: Energy to build an energy-efficient home is equivalent to 6,500 gallons of gasoline.

Number of by-products of oil:

Over 500,000 including fertilizers (they are the most vital), medicines, lubricants, plastics (computers, phones, shower curtains, disposables, toys, etc.), asphalt (roading and roofs), insulation, glues/paints/ caulking, rubber tires and boots, carpets, synthetic fabrics/clothing, stockings, insect repellent.


Government services, economy

City drinking water, government services

Economy and employment

Other serious quality-of-life aspects


Normal business and political posturing

For business and political reasons, there have been very misleading reports of sizes of stocks of oil:

  1. By firstly understating discoveries, and then later overstating discoveries, oil companies have given the false, but pleasing impression of an increasing discovery trend. Investors respond accordingly, and finance more exploration.
  2. The seven major oil-extracting countries have for years reported unchanged reserves (even though they were extracting and selling billions of barrels of oil, and that the reserves would therefore be less each year). See table of “spurious reserve revisions” shown below.
  3. In 1988 five of those countries claimed they each had about twice as much reserve oil as in 1987. See graph based on that table.




The table’s green areas show where countries reported that their oil stocks were “not declining”, even though oil was being taken out, steadily emptying the wells.

The red areas show where countries spectacularly increased the reported quantities of oil in stock, so that OPEC would recognize them as bigger suppliers and allow them to export more, increasing revenues. They were desperately competing with each other to make up their revenue by having a bigger slice of market share, because the price per barrel had plunged to about $12 per barrel. The history graph of the prices is at http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/chron.html

  1. We, the public have enjoyed using up the gasoline, heating oil, plastics, and countless other oil products for decades. The oil kept flowing generously. We “looked on the bright side” and mostly ignored warnings by environmentalists that fossil fuels would run out. Media constantly announced new oil discoveries, and increasing stocks of oil. Emptying wells seemed decades in the future. Nobody planned for it. Now they really are running empty.
  2. OPEC countries need to earn as much oil revenue as possible to support rapidly growing populations where the public health care, education and other services are provided free, from oil revenues, not by taxes. They seem especially frightened of alternative energy sources, even though when examined closely, those alternative sources are drastically too small to compensate for oil. “As a group of fossil fuel exporters, OPEC stands to lose more than most from any proposals that threatens to cut oil consumption,” — Rilwanu Lukman, the Secretary General of OPEC, speaking at the 16th World Petroleum Congress, Calgary, 2000. (Globe & Mail Newspaper, June 5, 2000)


Economic theory says exhausted resources always replaced

Economists have taught us the illusory theory that market demand will always generate suitable solutions. This ignores any physical limitations of the earth, human resourcefulness, or time needed. Example quote:

“Minerals are inexhaustible and will never be depleted. A stream of investment creates additions to proved reserves, a very large in-ground inventory, constantly renewed as it is extractedÉ How much was in the ground at the start and how much will be left at the end are unknown and irrelevant.”

That is from Professor of Economics, Emeritus, Morry Adelman, who has long been one of the world’s foremost energy and resource economists and a leading analyst of international oil and gas markets. The quote is on page xi of his book, The Economics of Petroleum Supply, M.A. Adelman, published 1993.


Personal preparations:

Reduce energy dependence of family, home, lifestyle. The less fuels and goods you consume, the less the impacts will be, and the more we will delay the oil shocks.


Same. Work on it with friends: Workmates, neighborhood, city, governments. The ideal use for remaining oil and mineral reserves is into industries that create inexhaustible alternative energy equipment like windmills, solar water heaters, biomass (vegetation that creates fuels), etc.

Share your feeling with others.

Try to stay positive and active rather than ignore it or blame people for it. Where there’s life there’s hope, especially if we all collaborate and are creative.

“It’s not that new”. Humans have always faced hardships, and many among us do so constantly now. Learn from them.

Special plea to US citizens:

“The USA has the exceptional position as the largest and a growing importer. US imports deny somebody else access to oil. For example, starving Africans result. Tax on gasoline is lower in the USA than in other countries by a large factor. So the US could easily curb its excess. In fact it has no option. The worst thing the US can do is press OPEC to increase production, which will simply make the peak higher and the decline steeper. It is just digging itself into a bigger hole, morality apart.” Colin Campbell, in private email, June 2000.


Documented evidence

You can obtain two versions of the “Convince Sheet” at http://www.egroups.com/files/RunningOnEmpty in various file formats:

Web sites

This paper suggests that decline of natural gas may be the most disastrous event from year. 2007 (or sooner, see updates) because of resultant shortage of electricity for computers, communications and control equipment.



The following sites are conveniently keyword-searchable for research. They have lots of scientific and oil industry literature about energy resources and the ecology generally. They are heavily annotated with authoritative references and links:

Discussion forum — Technical/scientific:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/energyresources (restricted membership at about 450, to prevent newcomers posting material already discussed, but there are nine thousand previous postings keyword searchable.)

Discussion forum — Implications, action:

www.groups.yahoo.com Running OnEmpty2 After 10,000 messages in RunningOnEmpty, this group continued the discussion, reserving R1 as a VIP conference egroup, and as an archive.

Author of the “Convince Sheet” (which is the paper version of this web page):

Bruce Thomson, who is a technical writer in Palmerston North, New Zealand, and is the moderator of that RunningOnEmpty2 internet forum. Members of that group have assisted in the research. There is no institutional financial sponsoring or influence of this web page or the forum.

Some moral authority to expose the Convince Sheet to the public was gained. After weeks of debate (3,100 forum message) there was a poll of 280 members. We all knew the announcement would be disturbing, with possibly serious impacts on the public, the stock market and general business and personal confidence. Of those 280 polled, 62 members responded, and over 85% of them voted in favor of exposing the truth.

Perceived advantages of informing the public were:

You may copy freely to others…