1979 My Energy Article
Home BW_pre_Xuna Cover Letter Xuna 1979 (scan) Mailings BW_post_Xuna Exxon


THIS IS THE TEXT OF THE ARTICLE (searchable form).
  • The graphics shown at "Xuna 1979 (scan)" -click on this link, or on the button above- are probably easier to visualize. Please, check that page out!

By: Juan Xuna.  June 1979


It seems to be difficult for humans to admit the reality of the imminent exhaustion of oil reserves. Most people appear to be confused by media reports on oil profiteering which only contributes to blur their overall picture of the energy crisis.


* If we sum up all the scientific findings on:

  • a) the organic origin and bio-chemical evolution of fossil fuels,
  • b) modern seismic studies of geological layers in the crust of this planet,
  • c) satellite picture analysis and
  • d) other sophisticated oil prospecting techniques; 

we can safely conclude that about 80% (and possibly even more) of all the oil deposits in Earth have been discovered.  Based on this estimate, even a 25% error margin would not make any difference in the truth that will be exposed in this article.

* The oil recovered from the already discovered fields will become more difficult to obtain and consequently more expensive as its concentration in the impregnated sands and rocks decreases.

* From -at least- 1930 on -up to 1974- oil deposits have been found at a higher rate than have been depleted.   Statistical data confirms that in 1940 the known proved reserves were estimated to last only 16 years (Fig 3) .  In 1960 -twenty years later- the oil reserves not only had not been depleted, but ironically were more abundant providing for at least 38 years more in spite of more intensive production.  In 1974 proved reserves peaked at 690 billion barrels (Fig. 1) Production in that year was also the heaviest since the beginning of the oil explotation in 1857 in Rumania (followed in 1859 by the opening of the famous Colonel Edwin L. Drake well, near Titusville, Pennsylvania.

* Since 1974, for the first time in history proved-reserves were going downhill.   Nevertheless production is still increasing, fortunately at an slower pace. Most -if not all- giant oil fields have already been discovered (see Fig. 2 for USA), that means that the rate of discovery does not meet the rate of demand anymore.

 Consequently, the expected Years To Depletion (YTD) are progressively shortened.  In 1978 the YTD ratio (Proven-Reserves divided by Yearly-Production) was 34.7 years worldwide (Fig.3) 

* Most people do not follow closely enough oil statistics , the evolution of oil events, nor the most recently developed scientific theories on the subject.  Therefore, they believe that all that talk about oil lasting for only 34 years is the same "song and dance" of the 1930's, 40's, 50's, 60's, or 1970's.

Sorry pals!!  This time they are wrong, this coming oil scarcity is unavoidable!

* You will probably think that oil -so far- has lasted for 120 years, not so, because although the first oil-driven car was made in 1886 by Benz, it was not until the mid 1930's that gasoline-explosion motors acquired significant production levels, boosting oil consumption.  A person born in the 1930s can actually say that he was born at the beginning of the oil era and probably will die at the end of it too. A historic record will be established for the fastest depletion of a massive source  of energy.

* A few weeks ago I met a very literate person who told me that the oil crisis was a hoax, because 3/4 of the Earth's surface covered by oceans are practically non explored, therefore -he reasoned- eventually they will discover huge oil deposits in he ocean's floor.  It was painful for me to have to reduce his expectations to zero.  Extensive deposits are located in the sedimentary layers of the portion of the continents submerged in the oceans (continental shelf), which represents perhaps 5% o the ocean floor.  However the other 95% or so which is igneous rock -rocky magma material- is hopeless. It can not possibly be penetrated by organic greases, which are the ones that after a few million years would become fossil oils.

We should not expect everyone to understand the intricacies and mysteries of oil prospecting, or the geological, physical-chemical , and thermodynamic limitations that tell us how few are the places in the whole planet that met the required conditions to be potentially big oil deposits.

But if we can not demand of everyone to be an expert in this matter -for God's sake- let's give more authority and decision making power to those who know the details of this science, or at least lets hear from them.  And not from those pseudo-scientists, politicians and economists who ignore these revealing studies an only go by their "gut feelings".

*It was unbelievable to read an article ("There is Oil for the Asking in Them Tars Hills", written by no less than the Chairman of the Lefrak Oils and Gas Organization (New York Times 6-8-79) where his message was: "There is oil in the United States and we have to go out here and get it", and continues ... "Exploration rigs are rusting from non-use".

He does not mention that the United States is milked at a rate that makes the YTD ratio equal to 9 years, and irresponsible sort period.  Furthermore, we are over drilled too with 2.240 operating rigs in 1978, versus 1,463 operating rigs in 1974, and 1,014 in 1970.  It is not from the "non use of the rigs" that we are short of oil supplies, but because of the fact that the fields are drying out. In 1970 -for example- the average producing well in the USA yielded 21 barrels per day. Almost "dried holes" when compared with the healthy 279 barrels/day on the average well outside the United States, or the 5,512, b/d in the Middle East wells (data from World Oil, 8-15-72)

 Someday in the very near future, our children and grandchildren will undoubtedly raise some questions to the Supreme Court -and to Congress- on how come laws were not passed to protect their rights to a "piece of the pie".  And articles such as the one quoted might be legally liable for misleading the public.

*Somehow, we have to inculcate an oil-conservation mentality in our people.  Even at the risk of being ostracized.  If West Germany's Energy Consumption per Capita is approximated 160 million BTUs, and Japan's 100 million, why does ours have to be 330 million BUTs per capita? 

Oil companies might be making splendid  profits; OPEC might be asking unrealistic prices for their oil (although this statement is very arguable); the President or the Congress can be wrong right about the different oil related issues.  But all these are somehow meaningless. 

The fact is that the doomsday for oil richness has arrived!   No matter how much noise surrounds you, do not  let anything prevent you from getting a clear picture of the sad reality:  "Oil  is not forever".

Juan Xuna,  6/16/1979

Figures #1, #2, and #3, were scanned from the original article that I submitted to Congress.

I always liked to start my articles on energy with this phrase:

"I know from my painful searching, with its many blind alleys, how hard is to take a reliable step, be it ever so small, towards the understanding of that which is truly significant"  - Albert Einstein