Conspectus of the Big Rollover

Figure 1
Q!  Are we running out of oil?
A!  Wrong question!  The question is "When is THE BIG ROLLOVER?"

A!  It's when the demand for oil outstrips the capacity to produce it.

Q!  Has THE BIG ROLLOVER occurred before?
A!  On a smaller scale, yes!  The U.S.  ROLLOVER occurred in 1970 (Figure 1, A).  Remember those long lines at the gas stations in 1973?  It has also occurred in the Former Soviet Union (Figure 1, B).  THE BIG ROLLOVER is global, not local.

Q!  Does that mean we are running out of energy?
A!  Not exactly!  It means we are going to be running short of a very convenient form of energy, one that propels our Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!  Up until now, it has been a buyer's market but after THE BIG ROLLOVER, it will be a seller's market (Figure 1, C).

Q!  Whose fault is it?  Who's holding out?
A!  Nobody, just like the 'buffalo' and 'the fish in the sea,' they are just less plentiful.  Same with oil, there is a limit to how much oil the world can produce every day.  We are not running out of oil, it will just become more precious.

Q!  Should we do something to prepare for THE BIG ROLLOVER?
A!  Just like preparing for the Y2K BUG....  talk about it, talk about it, and talk about it!

Q!  What good is talk?
A!  As somebody once said, "You can't solve a problem until you know you have one."

Q!  Then what?
A!  After we get through the finger pointing, then real solutions will come forth from very creative people in science and technology, in business and politics, in city, state and Federal governments, and in our other institutions.  We all are the stakeholders!

Q!  Wouldn't it be better to get started solving this problem before THE BIG ROLLOVER is upon us?
A!  Absolutely!  There's no substitute for planning and implementing that plan before the oil shortage occurs.  We can turn a lose-lose situation into a win-win situation if we start now.

World oil production percentages
Figure 2

Q!  What is the world's oil production now?
A!  The world produces 75 million barrels a day (Figure 2, D), or 27 billion barrels a year.

Q!  How much do we consume?
A!  The U.S.  consumes just over 19 million barrels a day or just over 7 billion barrels of oil a year.  The U.S.  consumes 26% of the world's oil every day!  Or, 300 million U.S.  consumers out of 6 billion world consumers, that's 5% of us, use 26% of the oil.

Q!  How much of that do we produce?
A!  The U.S.  produces 8 million barrels of oil a day, so we import 11 milliion barrels, or 58% of what we use (Figure 2, F)!

Q!  What about Saudi Arabia?

OPEC output

Figure 3

A!  Saudi Arabia has about 3 million barrels a day of excess production capacity (Figure 3, first column).  Depending upon world oil demand, it could last a few more years, but then what?

Q!  Whew!  That's a lot of oil.  With all our technological advances, aren't we finding enough oil to replace what we use?

Decline in Sources

Figure 4

A!  No!  Technology is great, but it can't find what's not there.  In the last 5 years, we consumed 27 billion barrels of oil a year, but the oil industry discovered only 3 billion barrels a year (Figure 4, H).  So, only 1 barrel was replaced for every 9 we used!

Q!  With demand so high, what will the prices do?

Impact of 900,000 barrels/day (1.1%) output hike
on oil consumption and prices
  ACTUAL <------- FORECAST ------->  
1st Qtr 2nd Qtr 3rd Qtr 4th Qtr Actual Forecast
2000 2000 2000 2000 1999 2000
----------------- millions of barrels per day ----------------
World oil demand 76.6 74.5 75.8 78.0 75.3 76.2
Non-OPEC supply 45.7 45.4 45.6 46.4 44.6 45.8
OPEC supply 29.2 30.5 30.7 30.8 29.3 30.3
Total world supply 74.9 75.9 76.3 77.2 73.9 76.1
Dollar per barrel $27.40 $26.70 $26.30 $28.30  $17.90 $27.20
Source:  p. 27 of
Oil & Gas Journal,
April 3, 2000
  27.5 billion barrels consumed in 1999
  27.8 billion barrels to be consumed in 2000
  = 1.1% increase in consumption:  now a major price hike

Table 1

A!  The price of oil is quite likely to stay above $25 per barrel (Table 1, row "Dollar per barrel").

Q!  So when is THE BIG ROLLOVER?

Year of
2003 Campbell, 1998
2004 Bartlett, 2000
2007 Duncan and Youngquist, 1999
2019 Bartlett, 2000
2020 Edwards, 1997
2010-2020 International Energy Agency, 1998
2012   <== Average of above estimates

Table 2

A!  Nobody is sure, but those willing to forecast say somewhere between 2003 and 2020 (Table 2).  Most everybody seems to agree that it will most likely be within our lifetime, and possibly quite soon!

Q!  What should we do to prepare for THE BIG ROLLOVER?
A!  Hang on tight, if we don't recognize the problem soon and deal with it, it's going to be quite a ride!

(NOTE:  For those who can read German, there is an excellent summary of the coming state of affairs by the Jörg Schindler and Werner Zittel in "Weltweite Entwicklung der Energienachfrage und der Ressourcenverfügbarkeit" ("Worldwide Development of Energy Demand and Availability of Supply") as the conclusion to public testimony by industry experts on the German Parliament's Commission on "Long-lasting Energy Supply under Conditions of Globalization and Liberalization," published in Ottobrunn, Germany in October 2000.)

-- Þeedrich (reachable at