The world could run out of oil in 20 years. This grim scenario is not the prediction of environmentalists, but of Michel Mallet, the general manager of French energy giant Total's German operations. In an interview, Mallet calls for radical reduction of gas consumption and a tax on aviation fuel.
... Mallet: Oil production will be technically complex in the future, which makes it expensive.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why?
Mallet: There are hardly any readily accessible oil fields anymore. The fields on the floor of the North Sea, for example, are practically empty. New reserves are only being found deep in the ocean, in remote regions like Kazakhstan or in the form of oil sands. None of this is cheap to produce.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The International Energy Agency is warning of a new mega-crisis, arguing that because the oil companies are not investing enough in production, the price of oil could shoot up to $200 by 2013.
Mallet: A price of $200 would be dramatic for the world economy. If we were to gradually move in that direction, it would be okay. Then we'd have time to develop alternative technologies. But not by 2013. That's not enough time.
... SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is it even possible to increase oil production anymore?
Mallet: About 87 million barrels a day are produced worldwide. In the past, it was believed that this number could be increased to 130 million. I consider that an illusion. Realistically, the capacity is less than 105 million barrels.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: It sounds like the peak oil theory, which isn't very popular among your competitors. It holds that maximum production will be reached soon.
Mallet: The old oil fields are dying. In the future, we will have to invest more and more just to maintain existing production.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is the age of oil coming to an end?
Mallet: No, not really. There is plenty of oil, geologically speaking. The question is just how much can be produced a year.
(14 April 2009)