FOSSIL FUELS AND THE FUTURE: YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'VE GOT 'TIL ITS GONE (OR DO WE?)
Predicting that depletion brings up the question of accuracy of resource assessments, especially for oil, whose proved reserve base is the smallest in terms of years of future consumption. In 2003, oil represented 42.5 percent of world fossil fuel usage. Global dependency, the concentration of conventional oil supplies in politically unstable regions, and limited ability to substitute other fuels in near-term transportation applications thus represent potential societal vulnerabilities. Predictions of peak oil deliverability in this decade and post-9/11 political realities increase concerns. However, other views, based on refined resource assessment methodologies and the development potential of mature petroleum provinces, suggest that we may yet be several decades away from resource constraints on deliverability of conventional oil. Conservation, efficiency gains, unconventional oil resource development, natural gas-to-liquids, and coal conversion may further add to our time frame for developing significant alternatives to fossil fuels.