Dean of Oil Analysts Maxwell (Part 1 of 4): Oil Shortages Start in 2010; Peak Oil Hits 2012-2015
Posted: February 4, 2008
Nearly 40 years on Wall Street, plus 12 years before that working for a major oil company, equals a lifetime of experience for Charles T. Maxwell, senior energy analyst at Weeden & Co., known as the dean of energy analysts. Now, in an interview that sounded like a preliminary draft of a valedictory address, Princeton and Oxford-educated Maxwell has laid out in stark, uncomplicated terms what might be called the Nightmare on Main Street that he sees barreling toward America and the world.
Every investor needs to pay attention to Maxwells nightmare scenario, because if the deans forecast is correct, its going to influence every investment decision made for at least the next 10 to 20 years. As well see in this four-part series, although Maxwell sees much pain being inflicted on consumers and investors, he also sees opportunities to make a lot of money.
It all boils down to this, Maxwell told EnergyTechStocks.com: We live in a world where there is only about 1.2% more oil available each year, not enough to keep up with 1.5% annual demand growth. Between now and 2010, this supply shortfall will be made up through a drawdown in inventories, helped out by a slowdown in demand in 2008 and 2009 due to a recession or near-recession in the U.S.
But in 2010, Maxwell said, the shortfall will become greater than can be made up by whats still in inventory, and thus will begin a long period of global oil scarcity that will get worse starting in 2012 or 2013, which is when Maxwell foresees a peak in conventional oil production. It gets even worse in 2015, which is when he expects a peak in the production of all liquids, a category that includes condensates, tar sands oil and biodiesel.
Maxwell described the period 2010 through 2015 as the letting down of production. In 2015, he said, the all-liquids peak arrives, after which production starts down, even as demand continues up. He added that production will start down even though new oilfields will go into production, and even if there is only a 4.5% average annual depletion rate from existing fields, which is what Cambridge Energy Research Associates has optimistically concluded. (Others believe the depletion rate is significantly higher.)
As the nightmare worsens, Maxwell sees cities in many countries where people depend on kerosene having to do without this life-sustaining fuel. If this prediction of Maxwells turns out to be correct, one can easily imagine a sharp rise in the number of environmental immigrants flooding into the more developed countries in Europe and Asia. This could lead to excruciating social unrest that produces outbreaks of violence, as some experts have already predicted.
When will the nightmare end? Maxwell said that by 2025, We can create some answers. He explained that both plug-in electric vehicles and cellulosic biofuel made from garbage are wonderful ideas; however, given that it takes 10 to 15 years or longer to turn over the worlds vehicular fleet, such technological breakthroughs wont happen quickly enough to prevent the nightmare from happening.
Which leaves unanswered the question of greatest importance in most peoples minds: how high is the price of gasoline going to go? Well find out what the dean thinks tomorrow in Part 2