There is only a limited amount of accessible oil under the ground, and oil production has rapidly increased in the last century. Discoveries of new oil fields have been declining in recent years. Many experts predict that oil production will level off and start to decline in the next ten years.
However, demand for oil is expected to continue to rise, and is outstripping supply, leading to a steep increase in oil prices. We have already seen rising oil prices in spite of the stagnant world economy, and we expect this to continue.
The Power Switch organisation was set up in 2004 to promote discussion of peak oil, and their website gives details, including references to the experts. In 2005 they put together an online guide Essential Oil: The Oil Crisis for Beginners. See also the Peak Oil Taskforce website and the Guardian report on a 2008 Peak Oil Taskforce report. The Industry Taskforce said in 2008 that peak oil could hit the UK "possibly within the next five years and as early as 2011" and oil prices could be "much higher than the existing record of $147 by 2013".
The world economy relies on plentiful, cheap oil. Almost everything we do in the developed world uses oil, so when oil prices rise everything gets more expensive. Transport, agriculture and making plastics are directly dependent on oil, so food imports are the worst hit. When oil becomes scarce and expensive, the cost of moving goods and people around the country and the world will go up, so all trade will get more and more expensive. It takes a long time to build up local production, so there are bound to be shortages unless we start now, before the prices rise.
Oil shortages could cause a continuing cycle of recessions and inflation. Rising oil prices were possibly the underlying cause of the current recession. Prices rise but people have no more money, so they have to buy less, so there is less economic activity, and there is a recession. As the recession bites, demand falls and oil prices fall. But when oil prices fall, demand starts to rise and prices go up again.
Please see our downloadable and printable display materials on what peak oil is (PDF 4kB), an oil production graph (PDF 47 kB), peak oil mitigation (PDF 51 kB), the importance of oil (PDF 8 kB), the Power Switch peak oil poster 'Good, Bad and Ugly' (PDF 1.5MB), tar sands and shale oil (PDF 113 kB) and oil and food (PDF 36 kB).
See also the Power Switch website on peak oil, the Peak Oil Taskforce website and the Guardian report on a 2008 Peak Oil Taskforce report. The Industry Taskforce said in 2008 that peak oil could hit the UK "possibly within the next five years and as early as 2011" and oil prices could be "much higher than the existing record of $147 by 2013".