How much oil do we have left?

Oil pump | Photo by John R. Perry/Pixabay

The short answer to this question is that, based on how much oil is left and how fast humanity is using it, a school-aged child today will eventually live on a planet with absolutely no oil left. All of it will be gone no later than 2073. By that time, someone who is a 17-year-old high school senior today will be 68 years old.

Since that teen who was born in 2005 can expect to live until the age of 78 according to the actuarial tables, he or she will at least a decade living on a planet with absolutely no oil.

I want to emphasize that these numbers reflect the depletion of all proven oil reserves on the planet. That means every bit of fracking we can do. That means sacrificing every wildlife reserve and national park that has oil buried beneath it.

All of it.

How do we know all of this, one might ask? Let’s walk through the numbers.

The Earth had proven oil reserves of 1,732 billion barrels at the end of 2020 according to an analysis by BP, one of the world’s largest oil companies. The bulk of this oil — 70.3% of it — is located within the 13 countries that make up OPEC.

1,732 billion barrels does sound like a lot of oil. That is, however, until one remembers that the United States alone currently uses 19.78 million barrels of oil every single day according to the most recent data from U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Globally, humanity used 88.5 million barrels of oil per day as of 2020. Our collective usage is expected to grow to 96.5 million barrels per day by the end of 2026.

With those facts laid out, predicting when humanity will run out of oil becomes a matter of simple arithmetic. If one takes an optimistic outlook and assumes that our global oil usage will stay at 88.5 million barrels per day then we will run out of the stuff in 19,570.6 days from the end of 2020.

That works out to humanity exhausting its supply of proved oil reserves on the afternoon of August 1, 2073. Our hypothetical high school senior from the year 2022 will be approximately 68 years old when this happens.

If one is less optimistic and doesn’t assume that humanity will cap its petroleum consumption at 2020 levels then things are much worse. If our collective consumption does indeed grow to 96.5 million barrels then we will exhaust our proved reserves in only 17,948.2 days from the end of 2020.

This more pessimistic scenario would mean that humanity will have used all its proved oil reserves by the morning of February 2, 2069. Our high school senior will be 64 years old when it happens in this case.

In the final analysis, humanity will exhaust the last of its proven oil reserves no later than the year 2073.

On a personal note, under the more conservative scenario, our last drop of oil be used a few days before my 102nd birthday. It’s highly unlikely that I will still be around when that happens. I will almost certainly have left this world before that happens.

I worry, however, about the children of today who will have to learn how to live on a planet with no oil left.

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