Rights: The University of Waikato Published 10 June 2008 Download

Adam Vonk explains that oil is a non-renewable resource, which means that it will not be renewed within our lifetimes, and that the predictions are that the world will one day run out of oil.

People are interested to find out when this will occur. Adam highlights that, to answer this, we need to understand the concept of peak oil. Peak oil is a term used to describe a point that is reached when we have found most of the oil reserves and we are producing the maximum amount of oil.

When the amount we produce starts to drop while oil consumption remains the same, then there will be a shortage of supply – and there are fears that the demand can not be met. This would have an effect on the world economics, the price of oil will rise and so will the costs of any industry or service that relies on oil (which is almost everything). To counter this problem, we need to find new oil sources and explore alternative fuels.


Oil is a non-renewable resource that’s produced through geological processes over geological time. The time scale of these geological processes is such that we can't actually replicate that in the volume that we need to.

No matter which way we look at it, oil will run out. The question is: when will it run out? There’s a concept called ‘peak oil’, which means that we found all of the… most of the oil reserves, and we are at the peak of production. And as soon as that production curve declines, and the demand still says the same, then there is a shortage of supply, which will affect the world economically unless we can find alternatives and alternative energy sources, which we are on… on… we’re on the track of doing. But for the next 20 or 30 years at least, the world will still be dependent on hydrocarbon resources to… to fuel its energy needs.