IEA sees oil “peaking” in 2020

World oil production could peak in 2020 -- much earlier than expected -- according to the International Energy Agency's chief economist, Fatih Birol. His prediction, made to the Guardian, came as oil producers reduced their spending on new projects in response to declining petroleum prices.


Conventional crude output could plateau in 2020, a development that was "not good news" for a world still heavily dependent on petroleum, said Birol. Some observers believe that unless there are sufficient preparations prior to oil supply reaching its peak, there may be severe economic, social and political disruptions.

The IEA –an intergovernmental energy policy advisor — has never before been precise regarding when oil would peak.  Birol’s comments are one of many signs that the IEA is changing its view about global oil supplies. The agency said only last month that total crude output could peak in 2030. It predicted in its 2007 World Energy Outlook that the rate of decline from the world’s existing oil fields would be 3.7%, only to acknowledge a year later that the decline could be about 6.7%.


"The IEA is very constrained in what it can say — by the demands of its constituent governments — so you have to read between the lines, said Jeremy Leggett, chief executive of solar energy company Solarcentury. "We believe that peak oil will come about in 2013 at the latest but the real concern from the IEA is the adjustment of production figures," he said.


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