A great few paragraphs that summarise the problems with oil supplies – it’s the rate of supply we can affordably achieve rather than the total amount available that’s the issue:
Reaching limits of a finite world is a subject that does not easily fit into any one subject area, so the subject tends to be missed by researchers concentrating on one field of study.
The closest fit came in the analysis The Limits to Growth (Donella Meadows et al, Universe books, 1972). This analysis came very close, but did not quite hit the nail on the head because it missed the connection of debt to limits to growth. (The model was of course not expected to be complete.) More recent analyses along this line to miss the debt connection as well, pushing the likely date of collapse forward.
There is much confusion about the question of what limits, such as oil limits, mean. Many people believe that rising oil reserves (which are a given when the problem is ever-more expensive to extract oil, as illustrated in Figure 1) mean that our oil problems are solved. Our problem is not a lack of oil reserves; our problem is that the selling price needs to keep rising, to cover the rising costs of extraction and to cover government dependence on tax revenues. This increase in selling price makes oil ever less affordable, which is our real problem.
Even when oil price drops, this is not necessarily a good sign. It may mean that some oil extraction companies will no longer be able to afford to add new wells, because production will not be sufficiently profitable at the new lower price. It may also mean that some oil exporting nations will not be able to get enough tax revenue from oil operations to fund programs (food subsidies, for example) that prevent revolt.
Reaching limits in a finite world is a scary issue. The book Limits to Growth was not well received when it was published. Governments have tried their best to avoid the issue. No president or prime minister wants to announce, “We have a problem that we have no way to solve.”