From Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin (
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Nevada Petroleum Society, Reno, December 2, 2005

The Future of Global Energy

Scott W. Tinker


For well over a century there has been a predictable global consumption transition away from coal, to oil, to natural gas and other energy fuels. Within these trends lie several interesting clues to help decipher the energy consumption and, perhaps more importantly, production picture. Coal production is on the rise, although its end-use consumption will be in liquefied and gasified forms. Conventional oil production will soon be slowly declining, but unconventional oil production—shale, heavy oil, tar, advanced enhanced oil recovery (EOR)—is abundant and economic at today's prices so that the economic disaster of “peak oil” may already have been adjusted for in today's oil prices. Natural gas reserves are significant, but they require global shipping lanes to open so that natural gas will behave as a global commodity. Unconventional natural gas will be found in many places not associated with oil, which down the road will serve to detach natural gas price from oil price. And through it all, energy demand will most likely increase as the world industrializes and population grows, taking advantage, we hope, of conservation and efficiency measures that are known today.