At the Rate of Oil Consumption Around the World, How Much Oil Is Left? And is the earth running out of it?

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Despite numerous initiatives launched by various charities, alongside global government bodies, annual oil consumption remains rather staggering. In fact, a recent study by oil price found that annual oil consumption has increased from around 200 billion barrels in the 1970s to over 350 billion barrels in the last ten years alone. While this may be viewed as somewhat of a necessity, given that oil is a source of power across the globe – burning oil also presents a significant threat to the environment, alongside human and animal life. For example, burning oil for everyday consumption contributes heavily to global warming, as it releases dangerous gasses into the air. These gasses, known as greenhouse gasses, are key culprits in the destruction of the ozone layer. 

While there are many plans and initiatives in place to combat this issue (and drive down consumption whilst doing so), the ever-increasing demand for what is ultimately a finite resource means that many are questioning just how much oil is left. While it seems as though there is no immediate cause of worry, the answer to this question remains unclear – even to the experts. 

According to data from 2016, there are approximately 1.65 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves remaining on earth. Based on our current consumption rates, this means that the amount of oil left on earth is enough to meet our demands for the next 47 years alone. These figures are subject to change – for better or worse – depending on consumer behaviors or trends. If the efforts of environmental charities are to pay off, reduced oil consumption could mean that our current resources last far longer than the next five decades. However, one thing remains clear, if significant changes are not made before then – we could be facing a rather large problem in 50 years wherein we must seek out necessary alternatives to oil. We will, of course, also have to deal with the economic and environmental fallout of living in a world without oil. For example, many large companies or investors will lose great deals of money, which could cause widespread financial struggles and job losses across the globe. 

Despite this, it’s also important to remember that the exact amount of oil left in the world is unclear – and we may never know exactly how much is out there (though we can make reasonable assumptions based on current data). This is due to the simple fact that crude oil may exist in areas that we simply cannot access, such as deep underground or below the sea in areas we have not yet been able to explore. To put it simply, we might not yet (or ever) have the appropriate technology at our fingertips to tap into these resources. Furthermore, they may simply be too expensive to extract, rendering the entire process worthless.

Nevertheless, many specialists argue that inaccessible oil will always remain inaccessible and does not change the fact that we are running out of resources that we can access. Therefore, with less than fifty years of oil consumption remaining, it is paramount that this issue is tackled sooner rather than later.  

Thankfully, there are various alternatives out there that could be utilized to reduce the amount of oil we consume. For example, the global consumption of oil could be reduced by: 

  • Switching to green or renewable energy supplies, such as solar or wind power. By investing in renewable energy, we could stop viewing oil as a necessity altogether. 
  • Pushing for electric vehicles to become more commonplace on our roads, reducing the demand for automotive oils such as diesel and petrol. 
  • Taking greater precautions to store oil safely, reducing the chances of leaks occurring. 
  • Continue research into oil and oil reserves while also looking further into alternative energy sources. 

In short, there are various steps that can be taken to reduce global oil consumption – but this responsibility is a shared one. For example, while there are steps we can all take in our daily lives to minimize our usage of finite resources, large multinational companies are often the biggest oil users, and therefore have the most work to do if we are to work towards a positive outcome. As such, the appropriate pressure should be applied to these companies in order to encourage them to make a change and ensure that we do not have to consider the possibility of living in a world without oil.

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