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Is Peak Oil Avoidable?

Fatih Birol, the chief economist for the International Energy Agency, is joining the ranks of those predicting a peak in global oil production fairly soon. "In terms of non-OPEC countries," he tells the Guardian's George Monbiot today, "we are expecting that in three, four years' time the production of conventional oil will come to a plateau, and start to decline. In terms of the global picture, assuming that OPEC will invest in a timely manner, global conventional oil can still continue, but we still expect that it will come around 2020 to a plateau as well, which is, of course, not good news from a global-oil-supply point of view."

That's only eleven years from now. Now combine this with, as Monbiot notes, a 2005 report from the U.S. Department of Energy that recommended "massive mitigation" starting some 10 to 20 years before production peaks to avert a "severe crisis" and "protracted economic crisis." Doesn't leave much room for error, does it?

--Bradford Plumer