Fleet News

Running on empty – when supplies dry up

INTERNATIONAL estimates suggest that the world's oil supplies could run out within the next 50 years. While academics argue over the exact date, the race is on to find an alternative fuel to keep the world moving.

When the fuel protests starved Britain's fleets of petrol and diesel in September 2000 the nation had a glimpse of what life might be like if the world's oil reserves ever run out.

Since the 1970s, when there were real concerns the world's oil wells could be running dry within years, the deadline for exhausting the globe's supply of liquid gold has gone back and back, despite rising consumption.

Latest figures compiled by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, covering 10 key nations, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Kuwait, reveal the world's oil reserves could be exhausted before 2050.

For any fleet manager taking a long-term view of their company's transport requirements, taking an active interest in when the shortages might begin and what alternative transport solutions are available is vital.

OPEC estimates world oil production at 76 million barrels a day for 2000, (one barrel of oil is about 35 imperial gallons or 159 litres). At the end of 1999 world proven crude oil reserves stood at 1,042,536 million barrels, of which 811,526 million barrels, or 77.8%, was in OPEC member countries.

Although these estimates are changing all the time as a result of new oil discoveries, if demand remains unchanged from its current level, the world has about 37 years of crude oil left. However, according to OPEC, its own oil reserves will last 80 years at the current rate of production.

Considering the world's headcount is expanding and China's one billion population is only now developing a mass-market interest in new cars, oil use is set to increase rapidly.

Fleets and the transport sectors in general have two key roles to play in preparing for a new fuel future, according to the RAC Foundation.

Companies can help in reducing their fuel use and also lead the way in adapting new technologies, such as hydrogen-powered fuel cells, that are not based on fossil fuels. In its report Motoring Towards 2050, the RAC Foundation revealed that of the UK's national oil consumption of 65 million tonnes, transport accounted for 53 million tonnes.

It added: 'Within the UK, road transport now accounts for about half of the main pollutant emissions, but about 80% in London and about 70% in other cities. Vehicles have accounted for 20-22% of CO2 emissions and it is the only sector where these emissions are forecast to rise.

'The rate at which non-renewable resources have been depleted has speeded up greatly and finite limits will be in prospect before long, as early as the second half of this century.

'Were patterns of personal mobility now characteristic of the developed world to be replicated generally throughout the developing world, the implications would be unsustainable.'

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