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ABC.au: World running out of oil: expert

TONY JONES: For those of you who saw tonight's 'Four Corners' program, that the world has reached its oil peak - that is to say the world is now running out of oil - is an idea that's gaining increasing currency. Up until now, there's been a group of academics and researchers making the claim, but today in Sydney the warning came from inside the oil industry. Dr Ali Samsam Bakhtiari worked for 35 years at the National Iranian Oil Company and he remains a senior consultant there. He spoke today at the Financial Services Institute of Australia, warning that as oil runs short, it could lead to international instability or even war. Tom Iggulden was there for Lateline.

TOM IGGULDEN: Dr Ali Samsam Bakhtiari isn't the first to accuse the global oil business of exaggerating how much oil's left, but this time it's coming from inside the business. He's a chief advisor to the Iranian National Oil Company, one of OPEC's major players. He says we've already reached the oil peak, and predicts a doubling of oil prices in the near term, up to US$150 a barrel. And today in Sydney, he spelt out what that means for the global economy.

DR ALI SAMSAM BAKHTIARI, OIL CONSULTANT: No more No more business as usual.

TOM IGGULDEN: After a rapid rise in production over the last 150 years, world production this year is expected to be around 81 million barrels a day, about a third of it coming from the OPEC countries. The International Energy Agency expects production to continue to rise to about 118 million barrels a day by 2020. But Dr Bakhtiari reckons by then, production will have declined to just 55 million barrels a day - bout the same as 1971. While current levels of production are more than capable of keeping pace with massive increases in demand in the short term, the real concern is the amount of new oil being found. The last major find was in the northern Caspian Sea off Kazakhstan in 1999.

DR ALI SAMSAM BAKHTIARI: We are consuming, worldwide, 30 billion barrels of oil every year. It is an enormous amount. But what is the industry finding? It is finding something between four and six only. So every year that passes, that we have passed in this century, we had a deficit on consumption versus finds.

TOM IGGULDEN: And it's not just the lack of new oil finds that are of concern. Armed with a magic marker on one hand and 35 years' experience on the other, Dr Bakhtiari poured more oil on the fire of doubt surrounding the size of oil reserves claimed by the world's major producers. In the Middle East, he estimates there's less than 350 billion barrels left - about half what's claimed by the world's producers.

DR ALI SAMSAM BAKHTIARI: In fact, the only country in the Middle East which has a great future, in my opinion, is Iraq.

by Fran on Wed Jul 12th, 2006 at 01:27:16 AM EST
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