The End Of Oil Within 10 Years?

Capitalist Exploits's picture

By Chris at

"We are on the cusp of one of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruptions of transportation in history."

So says Stanford University economist Tony Seba in a detailed report.

The report paints a pretty grim picture for oil bulls, and an even grimmer one for one horse economies such as that of the Saudis, who without oil under their sandals would be largely indistinguishable from the typical inhabitants of downtown Detroit - living in abandoned houses littered with empty cans of Vienna sausages, old beer cans, used needles, and rags stained with things best not mentioned in polite conversation.

"We are on the cusp of one of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruptions of transportation in history. By 2030, within 10 years of regulatory approval of autonomous vehicles (AVs), 95% of U.S. passenger miles traveled will be served by on-demand autonomous electric vehicles owned by eets, not individuals, in a new business model we call “transport- as-a-service” (TaaS).
The TaaS disruption will have enormous implications across the transportation and oil industries, decimating entire portions of their value chains, causing oil demand and prices to plummet, and destroying trillions of dollars in investor value — but also creating trillions of dollars in new business opportunities, consumer surplus and GDP growth."
You can read the entire report here. It's a bit of War & Peace at 77 pages long but full of interesting nuggets that exercise the grey matter. I recommend it.

Let me say for the record that I'm often skeptical of published reports by academia. Too often academics live in a world where the number of letters behind their name is inversely correlated with real world experience, leading to all sorts of silly and often dangerous theories. Just look at Krugman... I rest my case.

Fortunately Tony Seba, the author, comes from the real world, having spent a couple decades successfully building, running, and managing businesses. As far as I can tell, he's got a lot of practical knowledge and understands the real world:
"Oil demand will peak at 100 million barrels per day by 2020, droppingto 70 million barrels per day by 2030. That represents a drop of 30 million barrels in real terms and 40 million barrels below the Energy Information Administration’s current “business as usual” case.
This will have a catastrophic effect on the oil industry through price collapse(an equilibrium cost of $25.4 per barrel), disproportionately impacting different companies, countries, oil elds and infrastructure depending on their exposure to high-cost oil."
How do you spell catastrophic?
  • The impact of the collapse of oil prices throughout the oil industry value chain will be felt as soon as 2021.
  • In the U.S., an estimated 65% of shale oil and tight oil — which under a “business as usual” scenario could make up over 70% of the U.S. supply in 2030 — would no longer be commercially viable.
  • Approximately 70% of the potential 2030 production of Bakken shale oil would be stranded under a 70 million barrels per day demand assumption.
  • Infrastructure such as the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines would be stranded, as well.
  • Other areas facing volume collapse include offshore sites in the United Kingdom, Norway and Nigeria; Venezuelan heavy-crude elds; and the Canadian tar sands.
  • Conventional energy and transportation industries will suffer substantial job loss. Policies will be needed to mitigate these adverse effects.

I can already hear the dismissive crowd. This Tony is loony?

But Before We Dismiss the Idea...

"What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?" - The Quarterly Review, March, 1825
"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share." - Steve Ballmer, USA Today, April 30, 2007
Below is a detailed chart of the growth of iPhone market share ever since:
The fact is history is replete with examples of stodgy old men in chunky jumpers scoffing at new technology and being taken seriously by the establishment, only to find themselves years later being laughed at as "the old fart who got it so wrong". The consequences, other than their progeny having to change their names and move to Venezuela, have been profound.
This list of man made life changing technologies which were never "seen" is not a short one.
The internal combustion engine, the printing press, penicillin, wave theory, surgery, public key cryptography, gene therapy, crypto currencies, parabolic geometry, biochemistry, computational fluid dynamics, physics, graphene, satellites, the string bikini. Life changing stuff.
Clearly it happens. Is Tony onto something?


There are two main factors the report points to though:
1. The economics of transport-as-a-service (TaaS), and that it offers a vastly lower-cost transport alternative — four to ten times cheaper per mile than buying a new car and two to four times cheaper than operating an existing vehicle in 2021.
Sure, we can point to Peach and her husband Storm, raising their 2.4 snowflakes in an off-the-grid house made of hemp and recycled toilet rolls, being desirous of air they don't chew before swallowing it. They're simply modern age hippies.
Plus, on the other end of the spectrum we can argue that there is no way that Billy-Bob will take Betty-Sue out in anything other than something that when accelerating is the closest thing to a mobile orgasm you'll find. Neither of these people matter when subjected to the gravity of economics.
More than a move towards electric vehicles the main economic driver suggested in the report is that of transport-as-a-services (TAAS).
Essentially, this is Uber and any transportation-on-demand service. If we look at how readily and rapidly internet users have adopted to using the cloud then we can see the same process potentially unfold.
In 2012, ride sharing was when you asked your buddy for a lift to work because he was going that way and you were too hungover to drive yourself. It wasn't an industry. Today, it's a billion dollar industry which has gone global.
Below, some stats from Statista:
As I was reading through the report I recalled a conversation I'd recently had with my sister in law who no longer owns a car and instead regularly uses something called GoGet. Here is a screen grab which shows what they're doing.
They simply station a number of vehicles around the city and you search for the closest one to you in order to book it for your day out or whatever you need. Indeed, why own the damn thing if you don't need to?
This brings me to the second factor:
2. The rise of use of electric vehicles
The report also argues that insurance of autonomous vehicles will be lower as they are proved safer. This is already happening, causing the spread between human driven and autonomous vehicles insurance premiums to widen.


Jesus, where do I start?
Geopolitical: What happens to the Middle East, Venezuela, Russia, Norway?
Industry: What happens if demand collapses for personal cars? The entire value chain, auto loans, auto servicing, dealerships, vehicle insurance... Poof! We're not talking small numbers here.
What do you think?

Tony Seba Poll
Cast your vote here and also see what others think the future holds

Please drop your thoughts in the comments as I'd love to hear all arguments either way.
- Chris
"Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born." — Alan Kay


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wide angle tree's picture

The demand for oil will drop when we can't afford it.

Electric cars and robot cars are solutions where there isn't a problem.

I have two cars cause they are so cheap and affordable.

oncemore's picture

Dear author, I do not buy bridge, which you offer.

besnook's picture

this guy forgets the foundation of human nature is independence and freedom. mass transit, car sharing and ride sharing are used when convenient not when independence and freedom are easier to obtain.

a driverless car is inevitable(more freedom).

new energy sources are inevitable as a function of technology but the market is not efficient so the adoption of new energy sources is a function of legacy energy providers' ability to protect their market. the technology to vastly improve vehicle gas mileage has been around for decades.

Turdy Brown's picture

Guy is smokin' dirty crack: Oil is here to stay for at least another 50-100 years.

mobrule's picture

It seems that only Elon Musk sees the synergy between solar power and electric cars. As photovoltaic cells and batteries become more efficient, we will see many more solar panels on roofs and more electric cars in garages. Went to Munich recently and every other house in Bavaria already has solar panels on it. When prospecting for solar power investments, I looked at photovoltaic cell efficiency, and uncovered some names of university labs and independent labs doing the cutting edge research. Digging deeper, found that financial backers of the labs included lot of big money – Apple, Google etc.

techpriest's picture

Millions already see it. However, when you do the math and it costs 3x what conventional energy requires, only enthusiasts and preppers would go for it. I am both, btw, but my eyes are open on this matter.

Get it to 0.5x and everyone will opt for it. Of course, some would just raise the price of conventional until solar is 0.5x, which means that the poor can't afford energy. Way to go leftists.

aliens is here's picture

Another hype? What is he selling now, more electric vehicles or horse wagons?

Downtoolong's picture

Driving. Just another remaining freedom our overbearing government can't wait to take away and control us with.


overmedicatedundersexed's picture

this oil nut may be right, but it will be because demand was killed, when the majority of humanity was exterminated..human populations will drop to pre 15th century levels --perhaps pre ice age levels.. do you not see the madness overtaking our societies??

the importation of muslem's into EU is just an example..Transgender laws taken as normal, not insane rantings? as another..


Humans today are acting like all those over population studies done in the 1950's which showed mass insanity in animal populations and mass die offs..


VangelV's picture

Wow.  The way I see it, this couldn't be further from the truth.  The simple fact is that economic reserves of oil are in DECLINE as discoveries peaked decades ago and additions to reserves come from recognition of resources found in the distant path.  The oil shale scam has run its course as the industry has been unable to produce positive cash flows for more than a decade, even when prices were above $90 a barrel.  The alternatives scam has also run its course as the industry would collapse without taxpayer support and taxpayers are tapped out.  The way I see it, we need ways to reduce oil demand because the supply will be coming down whether we like it or not.  

Lyman54's picture

Self driving cars, especially electric ones, don't work in the middle of a blizzard when a human has a hard time seeing a road never mind a GPS guided computer.  They have tried the ride share concept with bicycles and it didn't work.  Most of the bikes ended up stolen.  Light rail  transit cannot compete with the private car, that is why cities have to subsidize the operating costs.

Volkodav's picture


      William R Catton Jr

MoreFreedom's picture

I agree. It makes no case that people will travel less using AVs rather than personally owned cars. Secondly, can you imagine the problem of getting an AV when leaving a football game with 60,000 people there? Will there be enough AVs around to handle that kind of peak load, or during rush hour?

Finally, it makes no case that electric vehicles will be preferable to gasoline powered ones. There might be a business plan to charge these electric AVs during non-peak hours for using during peaks, but that remains to be seen.

But I do think there's a case that it will have an impact on the insurance market. People who go out and drink will find AVs to be a good option.

honestann's picture

How much oil does Venezuela have lying beneath the ground and sea?  If memory serves, more than 10 years of world consumption.  Does anyone believe that reserve will not be tapped?  Seriously?  Academics make me sick.

PS:  How much coal is there?  Does he forget clean coal to liquid fuel technology?  I'm sure he does.

PS:  How much biofuel can be created with ocean algae?  Lots of work to be done in this area.

PS:  How much solar energy impinges upon Saudi Arabia and vicinity?  Solar ===>> Liquid.

PS:  Sigh.

VangelV's picture

"How much oil does Venezuela have lying beneath the ground and sea?  If memory serves, more than 10 years of world consumption.  Does anyone believe that reserve will not be tapped?  Seriously?  Academics make me sick."


It is a matter of economic returns.  If the extraction energy is greater than the energy produced you have a problem.  Even if it is positive what matters is the net return and we also have a problem on that front.  

"PS:  How much coal is there?  Does he forget clean coal to liquid fuel technology?  I'm sure he does."


The returns matter.  You can't get much oil out of the process because too much energy is consumed producing that oil.


"PS:  How much biofuel can be created with ocean algae?  Lots of work to be done in this area."


I know about this.  Again we have the return problem.  Industrial production is not a lab experiment; it is an engineering project.


"PS:  How much solar energy impinges upon Saudi Arabia and vicinity?  Solar ===>> Liquid."


Solar is too diffuse and not economic.  Ever see a sand storm?  Imagine what it does to solar panels.

honestann's picture

You forgot to add AT CURRENT PRICES to each of your paragraphs.  There is NO REASON that energy need remain as cheap as now.

You also forgot to consider whether it is impossible (or inherently too expensive) to make solar farms that tolerate sand storms.  As a matter of fact, that technology already exists... and isn't very expensive.

The truth is, one year of the military budget of the USSA is sufficient to create solar-electric systems for everyone in the USSA.  And almost ditto for the rest of the world at current power consumption levels.

Furthermore, over 30 years ago a friend of mine invented a technique that makes solar electric with [almost] conventional solar-cells 5 to 10 times cheaper.  This technique is still not implemented, but only becomes more and more practical and efficient as time passes.

What the world has a shortage of is:

#1:  brains plus a little creativity.

#2:  willingness to invest in new approaches (including those that are already proven to work).

Ban KKiller's picture

Algae, since 1955 folks have been shooting this plan around. Yes, it "works", but not in any real world application, way to many problems in production. Every few years someone makes fuel from algae, in the lab under perfect conditions at tremendous costs. Ha ha ha ha.

honestann's picture

Because oil is still cheap enough to be more efficient... AND... insufficient money is directed at many areas it should be (and boy is that true in spades).

Centerist's picture

I read that report a few days ago.  It is not an analysis of the future but a fantasy description of what the author hopes to see.

As many have already posted, petroleum products will become increasingly easier to extract, and any technology that we have to generate electricity or make renewables relies on fossil fuels.

Lumber is the only renewable fuel.  Unless the author expects a steam punk world, there will not be a renewable fuel that comes into wide use.

Any existing renewable fuesls cannot fuel the processes to create themselves.

besnook's picture

actually, hemp is a much better renewable resource than wood.

Centerist's picture

Anything that grows and requires minimal processing to use as a fuel works.  I have seen wild "hemp" bushes in the Central Plains, and they certainly are resilient.  Rip them out for documented destruction at the police station, and they come back.

VWAndy's picture

 Modern society is built around personal transportation. Its not going anywhere. Even if we ran out of easy oil we would simply make the fuels we need. Its not really all that hard to do. F/T fuels can and would fill any void for the next few centuries if need be.


MalteseFalcon's picture

Modern society will adapt.

Then it will be called "old timey" society.

JailBanksters's picture


Somebody is trying to push the price up again.

They said the same thing 20 years ago and 10 years ago

It's Bullspit

King of Ruperts Land's picture

These academics are idiots. Their predictions are ludicrous and their "solutions" are silly. They should be embarrassed of their work.

DEMIZEN's picture

only about 30% of oil is used for transportation. If we had a healthy global growth in real production, the lower transportation fuel demand in developed world wouldnt make a whole lot of a difference.




AGuy's picture

1. Convential Oil drilling has basically dropped dead. In the past 4 to 5 years all knew production originated by Shale, which requires an expensive process to release the Oil. Shale well have a short lifecycle (about 5 to 6 years) before the are no longer economical.

2. The low in Oil prices has cancelled dozen of large oil projects (in Artic and deep water). It usually takes about 5 to 7 years to develop these projects.

3. The Middle east has been producing Oil since the late 1920s. Much of the supergiants that supplied the world with Oil are watering out. The Whole Syria conflict was driven by the need to build NatGas Pipelines into Europe so that they can continue to generate revenue once ME Oil production begins to fall.

4. Its likely that auto sales will collapse because people will no longer be able to afford them. A news article was recently declared that the mass would no longer be able to afford new vehicles by 2030. Consider that most people need loans to buy new cars and many are using long term loans to buy them. The terms of the loans are now exceeding the life of the vehicles they are buying.

5. There will never be a EV revolution to replace Petro powered cars, as the costs for such vehicles is 1/3 to 1/2 more than the cost of Petro vehicles. If Petro vehicles are un-affordable, EV are even less affordable.

6. Lets see if the Industrialize world even survives the next 10 years: Unsustainable deficits, mountains of debt, aging populations, and unfunded entitlements/pensions. Then there is the specter of world war, as the world entered an new arms race and cold war. The Era of Proxy wars is coming to and end, and all sides prepare for direct confrontation.

cougar_w's picture

There is no magic energy unicorn here, physics still applies. The electricity to charge the electric vehicles will come from fossil fuels; if there is oil not being refined for gasoline then it will be burned directly as fuel for power plants generating electricity for EVs.

If you want to say now that the energy will come from solar panels, then the proposed [half million square miles of new] solar panels will be made via fossil fuels exactly as they are today. The solar panels will thus just be an energy transducer -- oil to electricity -- and not a very good one.

I don't drive a car. I ride a bicycle. I am 100% convinced that climate change is real and is 100% caused by human activity in particular the burning of fossil fuels. Those are my credentials. And yet I stand by everything I have written above. Electric cars -- autonomous or otherwise -- will doom us to absolute climate-driven destruction via continued emission of CO2. Period. This is absolute madness.

AE911Truth's picture

Energy will come from concentrated solar panels. The light source will be the BrilliantLight Power SunCell, which will provide energy to the solar collectors 24 hours per day, every day for 20 years, after which the materials can be recycled into a new unit. Energy from this device will be ten times cheaper than current prices. There is no fuel cost. The device will power our homes, cars, and businesses.

Ban KKiller's picture

Yeah, our star has no effect on our weather? Ok, it has effects on the weather....actually it is the major force on our weather or do you deny that? If so you are duped. See Suspicious 0bservers for some real science, not algore carbon tax bullshit.

Singelguy's picture

I am curious to know who convinced you that climate change is 100% caused by human activity. You fail to realize that planet earth is not isolated and depends on the sun for its energy. There are also other stellar influences that affect life on this planet. NOAA and NASA have recently suggested that there have been changes in solar activity that will likely cause global cooling for a period of time. There is absolutely no conclusive evidence that human activity is the cause of climate change. Volcanic activity releases more gases into the atmosphere per year than all the trucks and cars combined and this has been going on for thousands of years. If you are so concerned about just CO2 emissions, plant more trees!

As far as oil is concerned, not only do the laws of physics apply, but the laws of economics as well. If oil becomes more scarce, the price of oil will rise. At a certain point, the price of oil and gas will make other forms of energy more attractive financially. Nuclear energy is still a long term alternative. Bear in mind that 98% of France's electricity is nuclear generated. It is one of the few things they got right. Solar and wind energy are still in their technological infancy will become more efficient in time. Mankind is very resourceful and creative and will adapt to physical changes. The only madness is that man is sometimes a little late in realizing the problem.

cheech_wizard's picture

>I am 100% convinced that climate change is real and is 100% caused by human activity in particular the burning of fossil fuels.

It's statements like this that prove humanity is just too fucking stupid to survice.

The earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old. Humans have been around for:

Are you going to post in a public forum that the climate of the earth was completely static until man showed up? (Despite enormous amount of geological evidence to the contrary?)

Care to rephrase that, or are you going to admit you just went full retard? What was it, an overabundance of narcotics in your youth? Too much alcohol? Electro-shock therapy?

Standard Disclaimer: Yes, entirely too stupid to survive.

cougar_w's picture

100% convinced. 100% human-caused. And 100% certain there is nothing anyone can do about any of it now or forever.

No excuses required, and none given. Physics wins. Prepare for the fire.

MalteseFalcon's picture


So you buying potential waterfront property in Idaho?

Apeon's picture

I do not have the data, but I think that most 'electric vehicles' are bought with a gov subsidy, and by companies who get to write them off.


ALSO---the extraction and distribution of oil will get more efficient


In another article here---CHINA just discovered enough fire ice to equal known carbon deposits.


And the Guy who figures out how to clean up coal will make Bezos look like a piker.

MisterMousePotato's picture

China didn't 'just discover' methane ice at the bottom of the sea. (Its existance has been known for decades.) But it appears that China may have come up with a way to harvest it. (Frankly, I had no idea it was any more complicated than using a bucket and a shovel, but what do I know.)

Anyway, since combustion is fungible, that's a real game changer. If I heat my house by burning methane ice, then I don't need to use gas, oil, propane, or electricity, do I?

Sid Davis's picture

I agree that there is a huge change in transportation coming.

My bet is that horses, buggies, and feet will be the next big thing in transportation, simply because every day on average it requires the expenditure of more energy to get a new BTU of energy. We can't spend more energy to acquire a unit of energy than is in that unit acquired, so oil, coal, and natural gas will be phased out as sources of energy, and without these basic fossil fuels, wind, solar, nuclear, and any other current energy acquisition method will falter and collapse.

Riding the industrial age up has been a hoot, but riding it down will be make every day the worst day of our lives, that is for those who manage to survive the carnage brought by this huge paradigm shift.

This economists is in lala land.

deoldefarte's picture

Horses are not only ideal for transportation, but also as a supply of fertilizer on my tomatoes.

Wind power only works in windy  areas.  A few years ago, Germany went full hog on wind(after shutting down their nuclear reactors)  and is

finding out that without government subsidies, they would be shut down by now.

Solar power only works in areas that have a lot of sun.

Additional water power (dams) will not work, as the little shrip like fish like to hang out in those areas.

And we do not want to decimate these little God's creatures.

So it is nuclear and/or natural gas for new power plants.  As we have a substantial opposition to nukes,

my bet is on natural gas.

But hey...what do I know???Probalby nothing.


LibertarianMenace's picture

Take note of the new buzzphrase, the perpetual whisper that "fill-in-the-blank - as a service", supposedly to reinforce the point that in the hereafter the "ownership" model is dead. Twas an unnecessary extravagance. Excepting of course, for those who own the service.

anomalous's picture

Also note the economic fallacy of EVs. Even with free electricity the cost of delivering energy to the.motor/engine, I.e. Fuel tank vs. battery pack, really stresses the proposition for EVs. Our shortsightedness is being exploited biggly.

Tom Green Swedish's picture

I wouldn't count it out, but it does seem out of the blue doesn't it? After all 10 years ago would you have believed the maority of the population would have been zombified by smartphones. Also coming from Stanford it just might be a possibility. Most of the people live in urban environments where their cars are only used 5 percent of the time. You drive it 5  miles then park it. It is a very unefficient system. It would appear we are headed towards some type of hybrid market structure with technology. Whoever correctly addresses what technology can do to benefit a society and actually implement it will reap the highest rewards. All in All it would prove to be beneificial to the USA. One can already see the shift away from foreign cars and the ideology that foreign cars are destroying our nation. I believe the major automobile manufacturers here know they have to act first this time or suffer the consequences.

SithApprentice's picture

Last year Obama was in Austin during SXSW, opening day.  He parked airforce 1 at the airport and no one could get into the airport for hours.  Traffic was backed up miles.  Smart people got out of their cars and walked to the airport.  Have you been by LaGuardia lately.  Traffic frequently stops for miles.  Autonomous cars will stop that.  They'll be programmed to stay away from the airport.  And you will miss your flight.  And the idiot writer of this article wants that?

roddcarlson's picture

I'll probably be getting away from gasoline engine, thinking about making my own coal burning engine that doesn't use steam/water.   Actually have a fairly good idea how to make that hapen along with a jet engine with no moving parts.  I won't be a scram jet either, laughs.   I always thought it would be cool to do a trip of a couple thousand miles using nothing but coal as the fuel.  Anyway I'm curious to see if peak oil happened.  Many people claim it so, I suspect it true, but I mean I doubt what I'm talking about would have much earning potential.  It's just kind of like I'm going to do it because I always thought I could.

roddcarlson's picture

Speaking of cars I'm just about done with repainting our old pickup truck.  Buffing and waxing and it looks like glass, the car had a facelift of about 20 years its age.  I'll be hiring out to reupholster the seats in leather.  Then I'll be making a new dash out of fiberglass to accomodate new electronics.  Finally, I'll rebuild the engine.  It already looks soweet and I'd never ever do that kind of detailed worked on the body.  Everything from removing dents and cracking bondo caused by it being to thick on a wounded area.  But so far it feels quite nice to make something old into something very new at 1/20th the price. You know I figure that when something treats us good why not give it a new life, and that is how I think God thinks of us.

But anyway, on the article I'm a bit perplexed because if the cost of oil drops it should cause the demand to increase as more people would then be able to buy autonomous cars themselves?  It seems kind of self regulating.  But then the government comes in and I think we can already see in areas that Portland that they want to take your drivers licenses for the smallest offenses.  Yes there seems to be a push to make people into renter peasants that can never escape from the big debt cycle and always be one check away from being in the streets. At least with a car you can sleep in it if you have no other place, done that.

This all seems to be a city problem.  I just don't see this kind of mass transit working in small rural areas.  I hope and think I'll be spared to see any of the ideas being implemented.  I'm actually putting greater odds that a thrid world war start.  But that isn't to say that the stuff in this article won't happen in big cities.  I think it most likely will happen.

OverTheHedge's picture

In an average week, I can expect to put any number of smelly/revolting/muddy/alive things in the back of my pickup. I also put it in 4 wheel drive just to get to and from the paved road. How is UBER going to cope with me as a customer?

"Hi, I would like to arrange pickup of 3 pig carcases please, and tomorrow I would like to collect 20 50kg sacks of sheep manure.  On Monday, I will be cutting down an almond tree, if the weather is good, so I may or may not need a flatbed trailer to take the logged wood home, and on Tuesday I need to pick up the last 20 crates of Apple's for this year's cider."

Reckon I will get special rates for being a regular user?

Hikikomori's picture

My 81 year old, and very active mother lives in a city with a company similar to GoGet - and she uses it regularly, and is not in the market for a car.  My 20 year old millenial daughter has told me that when the (hybrid) car she owns now wears out, she plans on buying a self-driving car.

ironmace's picture

"owned by eets, not individuals"


what's an eet?