The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. Similarly, the world will probably never run out of oil, coal, and natural gas. But each time we extract a million tons of these finite resources, the next million becomes harder and more expensive to get. It’s like a barrel full of golf balls. At first, it’s easy to pull them out by the handful. But, the farther down in the barrel you have to reach, the more effort it takes to get each ball. At some point, it becomes too difficult and expensive to extract more. The only question is when does it become too hard?
What do experts think? To be super-conservative, we’ll use the forecasts from the industry trade groups that represent each kind of fuel (their answers may surprise you). British Petroleum estimates 50 years of remaining oil reserves. The World Coal Association puts economically recoverable reserves at 150 years. And, the Potential Gas Committee says that 2,817 trillion cubic feet (TCF) remain economically recoverable. At current consumption of 27 TCF per year, this puts us at well over 100 years of gas reserves. For a deeper dive, including the 135-year forecast for nuclear fuel, you can read, If we used this much fossil fuel in Edison’s time, we’d have already run out.
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