A number of commenters argued that I was presenting too rosy a picture by using all-liquids, rather than just looking at narrower definitions of oil. It certainly is true that biofuels and natural gas liquids (NGLs) have grown rapidly of late, so just looking at crude + condensates always presents a slightly more pessimistic picture. On the other hand, as far as consumers are concerned, biofuels do get burnt in engines, and NGLs get made into petrochemicals, also burnt in engines (eg butane in winter gasoline etc), so I certainly think it's legitimate to look at all-liquids.
In any case, what I wanted to argue in this post is that the situation is not qualitatively different if one just looks at crude+condensate (basically fossil-fuel hydrocarbons of molecular weight of pentane and higher). Above, I show a graph based on the EIA's Table 1.1 for this aggregate, for the whole world, OPEC, and Non-OPEC. To show all the trends conveniently on one graph, I have plotted changes from the January 2001 level, and I have circled a couple of regions of interest. The following points should be clear from the graph:
- The 2008 peak was above the 2005 peak.
- The late 2008 decline in world production was largely due to OPEC's cutback (believed voluntary to support prices).
- If OPEC were to restore production to their peak level, with no change in Non-OPEC production, global production would go above the 2008 level.
But the possibility appears to be there.