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Faith Birol, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA), believes that if no big new discoveries are made, “the output of conventional oil will peak in 2020 if oil demand grows on a business-as-usual basis.” Coming from the band of geologists and former oil-industry hands who believe that the world is facing an imminent shortage of oil, this would be unremarkable. But coming from the IEA, the source of closely watched annual predictions about world energy markets, it is a new and striking claim.
Despite repeated downward revisions in recent years in its forecasts of global oil supply in 2030, the IEA has not until now committed itself to a firm prediction for when oil supplies might cease to grow. Its latest energy outlook, released last month, says only that conventional oil (as opposed to hard-to-extract sources like Canada’s tar sands) is “projected to reach a plateau sometime before” 2030.
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