The International Energy Agency has ordered an inquiry into whether the world could run out of oil in four years’ time, it was reported yesterday.
The IEA has concerns about what might happen in 2012, when demand for oil, boosted by the rapid growth of the Chinese and Indian economies, is expected to have reached 95 million barrels a day. Global supply at that point is projected at only 96 million barrels a day. Such a thin margin would be vulnerable to any sudden supply crisis in volatile countries such as Nigeria, Venezuela or Iraq, now estimated to have overtaken Saudi Arabia as the biggest oil nation.
The IEA said its inquiries would form part of short and long-term forecasts to be published in July and again in November. Its energy research chief, Lawrence Eagles, said: “Up to now we have believed that supply can cope with demand. One caveat is that we don’t know for certain whether estimates of reserves in countries such as Saudi Arabia are entirely accurate.”
John Waterlow, analyst at oil research consultancy Wood Mackenzie, commented: “Many oil-producing countries are closed, secretive societies where it can be difficult to pinpoint the level of provable reserves.”
The IEA’s inquiry follows last week’s new record high for black gold at $135 a barrel, fuelling inflation and possible world recession.