Petroleum’s end game, part 3

Denis in Boston
6 min readApr 26, 2019

There’s a lot more riding on the climate debate than pollution like provisioning an adequate energy supply for mid-century. That’s why we need to transition from debating the climate problem and begin taking action.

Parts One and Two of this series are also available on this site.

Indonesia was once part of OPEC, the global petroleum cartel, which means it was a net exporter of petroleum. It produced more than it consumed. Actually, the country left OPEC twice. First in 2009 when it became a net oil importer and most recently in late 2016 when it would not go along with mandatory production cuts to help stabilize world oil prices mandated by OPEC, as reported by Reuters.

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, founded in 1960.

Indonesia’s story is at the same time typical and revealing. It was never a big oil producer like Saudi Arabia, Russia, or the US producing only about 1.7 million barrels per day (bpd) at its peak in the mid 1990s. But today production is about half that and declining. Worse, there have been no new oil reserves discovered in over a decade. In oil industry parlance, Indonesia’s older fields matured and then started to die.

It happens. Oil is a limited quantity and it runs out in specific locations and eventually the planet will run out but first there will be shortages and the complexity that goes with them. So, what happened in front of our eyes in Indonesia is happening all over the world but it’s very hard to discern because most nations guard their oil reserves estimates as closely as Donald Trump guards his tax returns.

Look at any list of countries sorted by their oil reserves, you’ll discover that several organizations estimate a nation’s reserves but those numbers don’t change very often. This chart shows estimates from three major sourcesincluding the Energy Information Administration (EIA), part of the US Department of Energy, OPEC itself, and the oil giant, BP. Another good source of information is the CIA World Factbook, a compilation of everything the agency knows (and is willing to reveal that it knows) about the nations of the world.

This chart is more instructive. It shows proven reserves by country over the span of 25 years from 1980 to 2004. You might expect that proven reserves would be declining in any country that pumps oil and you see declines in some of the…



Denis in Boston

Used to write a lot more about science, tech, econ, politics etc. I spend my time reading and painting with exercise for good measure. Looking for more.