Could record high oil prices destabilise the world economy?
Oil prices have reached a record $68 per barrel, as demand rises and concerns are voiced about disruptions to supply.
The latest rise came as the US reported a fall in gasoline stocks, while China said its crude imports had risen sharply.
Protests in Ecuador and Nigeria have affected output in recent weeks, and bad weather may disrupt production in Mexico and the North Sea.
There is also concern that supplies from Iraq will be affected by arguments over the country's constitution.
The director of the International Monetary Fund, Rodrigo Rato, says Asian economies are at risk from the high oil price.
Has oil production peaked? Will prices rise again? How will the global economy be affected? Have you stopped using your car since petrol prices went up?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
OPEC's acting Secretary-General, Dr Shihab-Eldin, answered your questions in our global phone-in programme, Talking Point. Watch or listen to the programme using the links at the top of the page.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Don't believe the hype - there is no shortage of oil. My uncle is a senior vice-president of a large oil company in Alaska. The shortage is in skilled oil rig crews and lack of incentive for oil companies to reinvest this windfall of cash they are receiving at the moment. Also, day traders are to blame for this ridiculous fear driven spike in energy. There should be laws on how oil is traded and take it off the hedge investing block. The sickest thing about the oil prices is not that Joe American can't drive his suv to Starbucks... it's the low income single parent who was already struggling to feed his/her family that is hit the hardest. Just so some over-paid oil exec can get a bigger Xmas bonus... disgusting.
There are definitely more oil sources out there but they are definitely harder to get out. That is the truth. High prices in poorer countries are truly painful, not just annoying as they may be in the West. In Indonesia, which has subsidised prices, a price hike is felt harshly and the price here is much lower than the rest of the world.
John, Denpasar, Indonesia
Of course the hurricane has not really affected oil supplies, but it's a good opportunity for profits to be made for the wealthy and for shareholders. I don't care - my car runs on vegetable oil. I get the same performance as I got on diesel, the fuel is carbon-neutral - so I don't add to global warming, and I declare it to Customs and Excise and pay the relevant duty monthly. If we all did this, where would the fat cats be then? (in veg oil production most likely!). We are not as reliant on oil as we are told we are - it just needs a bit of free thinking.
Glen, Morpeth, Northumberland
High oil prices are, and have always been, an inevitability. I would rather deal with the problem and suffer the effects than leave it to my children to sort out.
Derek Hulley, Frimley, Surrey
I certainly hope that oil production has peaked and that prices are about to go through the roof. The sooner that happens the sooner the world will actually start to take the issue of finding alternative sources of power more seriously
Oliver Adams, Godalming, UK
Oil is a finite resource found only in specific geological circumstances. Talk of new finds vs. the timing of "Hubbert's Peak" distracts from the inevitability of the peak and higher fossil energy costs. Everyone could avoid fast starts, hard stops, and speeding far over the limits, and that would save about 10% on gas consumption.
Jay, Las Vegas, USA
Let's lay some, or a lot, of the blame at the feet of the oil traders. Were it not for profit taking, oil prices would not have risen so sharply so suddenly as oil production itself is not on the decrease and is apparently able to maintain supply for increasing consumption.
E Krzywdzinski, Australia
I cannot say whether oil production has peaked but really, does it matter? It is after all, a finite resource and un-renewable in its use. The adversaries to 'alternative fuels' fail to mention that in its inception, oil used for fuel was horribly inefficient. It's just a matter of research, development and attention to be paid to the alternate sources of energy - be it hydrogen, bio-fuels, etc - that will show similar yields that oil has built to over the past century or so.
Shayaan Faruqi, New Jersey, USA
The United States hasn't even begun to tap its own natural resources of petroleum, due largely in all parts to environmentalists who think everyone works 2 minutes from where they live and all Americans should have a bicycle at the ready for cross-country travel. Reality never occurs to them that hydro-car theory can't be massed produced until said prototype is a reality.
Lisa, Wisconsin, USA
There are already many exciting and innovative alternative energy options, but it seems that global market forces do not want these inventions in the public domain. A little digging on the web results in some startling stories with creators of machines that would enable households to disconnect from the mains, or run cars without ever having to fill the tank, being silenced forever or having their research destroyed.
The price of oil went over $70 because of hurricane Katrina! I ask you, what has this got to do with production peaking? Absolutely nothing, that's what. It's just another excuse for monopolists to milk the public. The price will remain high until ordinary Joe Public (in business or privately) decides not to pay.
Peter, Treviso, Italy
Production has not peaked. There is still significant untapped capacity in Kazakhstan, Iraq and tar pits in Alberta, Canada that we know about, and other unused resources out there. Nor do we have a significant supply shortage at present - most of the movement in oil is speculative and based on projections of future Chinese consumption. Those assumptions are based on direct purchasing and rather linear projections but the reality that China's consumption will ease in coming months: at that point oil will plunge, possibly below the USD 40/barrel mark.
Mike, London, UK
Yes, oil production has peaked. And it is going to decline in the future years. It is only a matter of a number of years when oil will cease to be the dominant factor deciding major world issues. Then the influence of the Saudis will wane and people in the Middle East and Africa will start to enjoy freedom, because Saudi will no more be able to control the world with his oil taps. And I'm waiting for that day. Also, all vehicle manufacturers will be forced to go to alternate energy sources such as battery power, solar power, fuel-cell technology, etc, which are a lot more eco friendly than petroleum products.
SP Al Meyyappan, Devakottai, TN, India
Easily extracted oil peaked some time ago. Newly accessed fields are less cost effective, this coupled with increasing demand from emerging economies can only drive prices upwards. We do not practice fuel economy. We allow cars that can reach 140-150 mph on roads limited to 70-80, and in the UK it is not the oil companies doing best but the Govt where each 10p increase at the pumps results in 8p for the exchequer. Oil companies are spending heavily on research into other fuel sources, if only because their continuing future existence depends on it. But they do not dictate policy. Only governments do this. They will not cap the price because of its benefit to their funds and because there is not (nor is there likely to be) an international agreement. Of course the Asian nations want some of the benefits the West have enjoyed while the West had no desire to relinquish some of these benefits. Future generations will have to pay for this lack of co-ordinated policy.
Tony, Gandia, Spain
Everyone talks about production peaks, yet market analysts keep saying there is no problem for sometime. Has the cost to produce oil doubled in the last two years? No. The rise in prices is due to speculators in the futures market. People need to know how oil prices are set by hedge funds buying futures in New York, London and other markets. Remember the California energy crisis a few years ago? High utility prices were created by Enron manipulating the market. And what about George Soros and Quantum fund breaking the bank of England? Someone, BBC, the government, needs to investigate what is happening in the market and protect the people from what is happening before it's too late.
RJ Gannon, London, England
Oil production has not peaked and the world wide supply (still underground) is plentiful. Our problem is larger personal vehicles and more horsepower. In addition, refining capacity has not kept pace with demand. So we pay for it while the oil companies and oil company execs get rich. We should have converted to nuclear power facilities, instead of relying almost solely upon fossil fuel plants. China is also a major factor. Their adult population is getting off bicycles and buying cars. They alone will suck up a huge amount of oil. The time is now to explore alternative fuels like bio-diesel and others. If all Americans just parked their cars for just one day/week, it would result in huge savings.
Peter Del Bourgo, Croton-on-Hudson, NY, USA
Perhaps windfall profits from the increase in oil prices may fund new exploration. But the bottom line is the oil companies are making out like bandits the way things are right now, and Mr Bush is not going to change that. Why would he? "W" owes his ascent to the presidency to the oil industry leaders who funded his campaign war chest! He was the candidate of Big Business and Big Church, and they do not seem to be complaining about the high fuel prices.
Glenn Havinoviski, Washington, DC
There is a danger record high oil prices could destabilise the world economy. I firmly believe there is more behind these high prices other than problems in oil producing countries. I have certainly cut down on my use of me car. It has been proposed people should every where should not put gasoline in their cars for one day. September 1st has been suggested.
Edward Seyforth, Canada
I do not believe the oil production has peaked, but as the price goes up the oil companies will be able to process the lower grade crude oil. Another way to keep the prices low is to add more ethanol to the fuel, this not only makes it cheaper but also raises the markets for corn in the Midwest. Bio fuel is the answer because Americans will not stop driving.
Jon, Worthington, USA
One way that the global economy will be affected is that transportation costs will become a larger percentage of the final price of any manufactured item. This may stimulate local manufacture of products now imported.
Bob, Taos, USA
High oil prices may be a positive thing in some ways. Hopefully we'll see gas guzzling SUVs and full size pickup trucks replaced by more fuel efficient vehicles on North American roads. In Canada we supposedly have the second largest oil reserves in the world so high oil prices are creating wealth in areas that have oil and for government revenues. Fossil fuels will not last forever though and government and industry all over the planet better soon put some thought into how they'll adapt to much lower oil supplies.
Peter, Borden, Canada
Oil production is far from peaking. There are still areas with enormous amounts of oil we haven't even explored. Alaska and Antarctica comes to mind. While we wait for viable alternatives we can learn something from Cuba and Venezuela where oil is used for physical needs in a bartering system rather than for money. Money, if badly spent, disappears, whereas the impact of doctors in rural areas of Venezuela is real.
Before we stop using oil we have to learn how to use it properly, for real things, not for SUVs in North America and the pockets of suits.
Bjornar Kjensli, Melbourne, Australia
What I'm concerned with is the usages of petroleum other than transportation. It is not just that we won't be able to drive Hummers in a few decades, but also whether we will have enough supply for plastics, paints, organic materials, etc. Electricity will not help with that!
Pooya, Irvine, CA, USA
The oil industry has underinvested in exploration for new reserves for much of the past 20 years and the current high price of oil partly results from this. Further, oil will likely stay high until new reserves which will result from current exploration are brought on stream. Once that happens then we can expect prices to fall from whatever levels they reach over the next 2-4 years. However, the oil industry will need generally higher prices as newly discovered fields are tending to be smaller and more difficult to find. Not only are search costs going up, but production costs will go up too.
Richard, Jakarta, Indonesia
The high price of oil ought to be regarded as a blessing. If we really want to have vehicles that are more environmentally friendly, higher gas prices will only help to encourage the rapid development of alternative energy sources. I don't want the government to "do anything" to help lower oil prices. Higher prices at the pump will have a positive effect on the behaviour of consumers by encouraging them to pursue more energy efficient options. It will spur the development of more efficient vehicles because the high cost of oil will finally make technologies like fuel cells economically viable.
Philip Stiff, Winnipeg, Canada
Yes oil discovery has peaked. Any fields found now, will not be in use for around five years. And those that are being found now hold the equivalent of one weeks worth of oil for the whole planet at last years rate of consumption. There are no more oil fields of any significance to be found anywhere on the planet. Satellite technology has mapped all the resources this planet has left. There is no more oil to be found. Earlier this year, a BP spokesman said 'there is at least 40 years of oil left'. That to me says there is no more to find. And once that lot is gone there will be no more.
Simon Balfre, Surbiton, England
Yes we are at peak oil, Chevron is the only oil company that acknowledges it too, yet US and UK leaders have been profiteering from this turn of events and have failed to implement replacements and new technologies and especially as the world is paying a hyper-inflated price to allow the US to continue wasting vast amounts of the resource. Imagine if the US and UK pulled out of Iraq? How many millions of litres would that save?
Ian Watson, United Kingdom
Oil production has not peaked because as more advanced technology becomes available more oil will be located and extracted. Prices will rise again due to the current demand and the supply will be limited until new reserves are discovered. Prices ranging on items from groceries to large ticket items will be raised to cover costs. People will not stop using their cars in most countries, however people will limit their driving once the price gets to a level that starts to interfere with their other everyday purchases.
Chris, Cupertino, CA, USA
Living 3 miles from the oil refineries at Milford Haven, we pay higher fuel prices than many other parts of the UK. It was 2-3 years ago that the road hauliers blockaded the refineries to complain at fuel rising to 80p a litre. Now it's within sight of £1, where are they now? They predicted doom and gloom then, so why are they as quiet as church mice?
Andrew Lye, nr Haverfordwest, Wales
The only thing that has peaked is the ability to pay for it. We had the so-called gas shortages in the 70s with long lines at gas stations. When gasoline hit $1 per gallon the shortage disappeared overnight. When gasoline reaches a price that has been predetermined by the oil companies, we will all be swimming in it.
As oil will slowly disappear from our daily lives, will it happen slowly enough for us to adapt? Will main functions within society still function or could this be the dawn of a new security crisis due to rapid growing criminality in the trail of a slowly crumbling authority due to the lack and control of energy? Worldwide transportation will come to a halt. Livestock and crops will be produced locally again. Our materialistic life style will change back the way it was just 20-40 years ago when you had your broken things fixed instead of thrown and replaced. Note that all the comforts of today, all of them, have something to do with oil. If oil ceases to exist, we will have a whole new way of living.
Tor Ganslandt, Malmoe, Sweden
Most people can only reduce their driving by a small amount to use less oil. Bigger changes in our "lifestyle" to use less oil would mean massive changes to our cities to make them more pedestrian and mass transit-friendly. This is appealing but for big cities like Houston or Los Angeles this is basically impossible in our lifetimes because of the way these cities are built. Oil is still a powerful, compact energy source for engines. The idea of growing bio-fuel is appealing because people can see what it takes in terms of land area and time to produce the energy they use to get around. People can relate to farming for what they need; they can't relate to mysterious "global" oil supplies and markets.
Jeremy, Atlanta, USA
It probably has peaked, after all this time, the same companies are now chasing harder-to-extract oil deposits and China/Japan are almost coming to blows over it. Prices will continue to rise as the resource diminishes and demand either maintains or grows; one always follows the other. The global economy is based upon moving things around. That requires oil because oil provides energy - either in transport or for power. That there is so much flap going on now indicates that the population isn't being fooled as easily as the oil companies want and the replacement-for-oil technologies are still in crude form. I don't have a car to worry about. I cycle.
Roger Brown, Treforest, Wales
A cocktail of causes have jacked up the price of oil. The fears that oil production has peaked have further added to this climate of uncertainty. The fact that no new oil field has been found in the last 35 years further heightens fears. But we have to look at the other side of the coin and ask some pertinent questions as well before we come to any conclusion if oil has really peaked or not. Could this be just a ploy, a scaremongering attempt by the cartel to keep the prices high for their own benefit? But whether it has peaked or not, we should be looking at alternatives immediately: fossil fuels or nuclear power hydrogen.
Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium
It could be that a much costlier oil will prompt greater conservation, more renewable energy, wiser city planning, etc. On the other hand, it could mean more coal-burning, forests cut down for lumber, more nuclear plants producing more waste that will remain poisonous for tens of thousands of years, more and larger river dams, and so on. It will certainly mean great economic duress for most people, as oil is used to fuel most transportation of goods, and as feedstock for plastics, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, etc. So, maybe, with luck, we will be wiser than at any other time in human history, and do all (or most of) the right things, and maybe not. And I wonder what it will do to globalized commerce, that depends on fuel-oil and jet fuel for transporting goods from, say, China, to say, the EU or the USA.
Oscar, Washington DC, USA
The major oil business analysts agree that we are almost reaching the times of oil production peak. In fact it may take still some years with rising production and may be also some small reduction in oil prices in the short term. After 2015 the situation is predicted to become hard to sustain. Then the production peak will have been reached and the consumption tends to stay stable or grow. What I am saying is that a political attitude should be dictated in order to prevent the disaster that this lack of fuel will bring to the planet. Mainly those countries that depend from oil to generate electricity and for heating, as the northernmost countries are. Nowadays, countries go to war to guarantee their fuel supply. History shows that it had happened before. I don't think a war is the kind of political attitude I am talking about. But there will be a time when even a war won't guarantee this 'commodity'. At this time the power relations in the world will change.
Pérsio Milani, Aracaju, Brazil
In a way we must welcome this trend as the price of oil will force us to seriously seek out alternative energy resources, which in turn will make the world cleaner and safer for the coming generations. It is time to say goodbye to fossil fuels which endanger the very existence of life on this planet.
Srinivasan Toft, Denmark
I would have thought that we encourage the use of petrol by buying goods and food from shops that have transported them over huge distances. I've been down to Southern Spain in the last few months and the farming of fruit and veggies for the UK supermarkets is very intensive. This is then transported to the UK supermarkets. So we're playing a part in petrol consumption through buying goods brought in from long distances as well as by using the car and airplane. Don't you think a lot of the pressure on oil consumption could be relieved by making common sense and conscious decisions about our general consumption without resorting to technological solutions?
Andrew, Madrid, Spain
I don't welcome higher prices in the slightest, but a transition away from our current dependence on oil would seem wise. Electric cars would be very helpful, if assisted by the proliferation of nuclear power stations. This would make a very environmentally and economically sound combination in my book.
Eddie Benton, Northern Ireland
It's concerning that most people think that oil is only good to put in the tank of a vehicle. Pharmaceuticals, plastics and most disturbingly agriculture are massively dependent on oil. Hopefully we will find some equilibrium in decades to come, but the transition will be painful for all.
Rob, Bath, UK
Oil is now being produced to order and the price is artificially high. We are paying double for UK-produced and refined oil for no reason. They should cap the price per barrel. All we are doing is allowing oil companies to make profits. For what? They do nothing to generate alternative fuels. This system is out of control. Oil is no longer a commodity, it is a strategic resource and we need to produce it for ourselves.
Douglas Gibson, Dundee, Scotland
Is oil production peaking? Certainly yes, but that may not necessarily be bad news. Petrol consumption is on the rise which means more emissions, at the same time world forests continue to shrink. The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has a clear upward pattern and climate change is every day more evident. Oil shortages will force us to change our lifestyles and hopefully save our planet.
Nicolas Canal, Bogota, Colombia
Can't something be done to step up the supply of oil in the short-term so the price can come down or at least hold up instead of its continued rise?
Lanre, Ohio, USA
Light, sweet crude peaked last year. Check current production against previous years. Peak is hidden in the fact that overall production of crude has gone up. Petrol will go up beyond crude percentages to reflect increased production costs as it takes more to produce this from heavy than it does from light, sweet.
Roger Clarke, UK
Asking people nicely to conserve doesn't work but as the price of everything rises due to higher oil prices, people will be forced into conservation. It's not a fair way to do it but it works.
Keith, Chepstow, Wales (ex Doha, Qatar)
Oil production has not peaked as yet. But, the current oil prices reflect the future supply-demand gap that the world shall witness. Oil as a source of energy is non-renewable. It does not make any sense in continuing to build a future that depends on such an unreliable source of energy.
Sunil Dhummi, Bangalore, India
It's probably pretty close to that now. It's fairly obviously that demand is getting higher and higher faster than supply can keep up. Oil prices might fall back from the recent highs, but only in the short term, things will go from bad to worse before too long and there isn't much that can be done to stop that now.
M Booth, England
I think we've reached the point where we need to turn away from oil. Of course oil companies aren't going to be happy about that, but with engines available nowadays that will run on anything from vegetable oil to hemp seed oil, it's time we start setting new standards for how we power our world. Instead we're staying focused on oil, and that's the wrong idea. Oil companies have incredible power in keeping oil the norm, but how much longer will we take this constant gouging before we stand up and demand that alternative fuel sources stop being alternative and start becoming mainstream?
Nate Hill, Loveland, OH, USA
Has oil production peaked? We won't know until we've gone past the peak. But geologists think we could be very close now. So if demand continues to grow and our capability to produce refined oil products cannot meet that demand, prices must go up - a lot. At the recent G8 summit there was no mention of "peak oil" probably because they'd prefer people not to know what's coming. Instead we got a vague statement about climate change and Tony Blair likes to appear committed to reducing our CO2 emissions. So why is the government encouraging air travel by building more runways? Air travel is the only business in the capitalist world that has never made a cumulative profit. When oil gets really expensive most airlines will fail despite the billions in tax breaks they get from tax free fuel.
Tim Hodges, Edinburgh, Scotland
Here in Dallas gas is $2.69 a gallon (low octane). I've cut down on my driving considerably. I'm looking out of my office window from my cubicle and for a few seconds I counted the number of SUV on the highway, for every 1 car there is about 10 - 12 large vehicles (SUVs, full sized pick-ups and vans). I can see why oil consumption is high. I see Escalades, Yukons, Ford F350s, Suburbans, Rovers, the list goes on, all high-end gas guzzlers! This is indicative of the materialistic society that I live in.
Viviana, Dallas, TX, USA
Do we really want to see every square inch of arable land covered with 'bio-fuel' crops, which will only add to global warming when they are burnt. The only 'pollution free' reliable source of energy is nuclear power, let's accept this before it is too late. Anything else is just a stopgap measure.
Chris, Telford, UK
How much more money do we want to spend oil and gas? Surely it is time to follow the Finnish, French and Canadian example, go nuclear and replace old with latest design, cleaner and safer reactors. Oil has no peak and nor do our finances. We can't afford this.
Dominic Whittome, London
We have the means to produce bio-diesel now, a fuel which many diesel cars can run on with very few modifications. Yet the one big difference between bio-diesel and regular diesel and petrol is that it will never run out. We can just keep growing the crops needed to produce it. The continent of Africa could become very rich just by growing the crops required to produce bio-diesel and exporting them throughout the world.
David Clorley, Leicester, UK
We should be working towards what South Korea are attempting, that is to have a completely oil and gas free society by 2040. They reckon they can do this by using new nuclear technology where the bi-product of the nuclear generation of electricity is hydrogen
Tim, Aberdeen, UK
As a citizen of a developing country which highly depends on hard currency to meet its daily obligations, oil prices are a burden since it decreases the available hard currency making it even more difficult for Belize to meet its financial obligations. Currently prices stand at US$4.50 a gallon, This make it more challenging to compete on the world stage.
We need oil to cost over $100 a barrel to start to finally get politicians to move towards renewable energy. This is the key to solving (delaying?) global warming.
Not only is oil production on its way to peak, we won't be able to do much to increase the (unusual) availability of cheap energy. I should think this offers a great opportunity for the super consuming first world to re-evaluate the crazy life philosophy we carry on and confront the elites about the real problems facing humanity: climate change, biodiversity loss, chemical pollution and habitat destruction. All of which are driven by the twin evils of overpopulation and over-consumption - fed on cheap petrol.
Anthony, Menlo Park, CA USA
As a disabled person I need my car to do the simple things in life, like shopping, and as the price of petrol rises it starts to limit things I can do because of cost. As we are still the highest taxed country as far as petrol is concerned surely the Chancellor should consider a reduction in fuel duties before it sends our industry into decline, and we all know the results that, that would bring.
Alan Preston, Manchester
I think it's fair enough to put up the price of petrol for the sake of the environment, but let's keep home heating fuel at an affordable price. The cost of home heating oil has rocketed so much over the past year that it is becoming impossible to heat my home for more than four months of the year. I worry about the numbers of elderly people at risk of dying from hypothermia this winter.
Oil is now priced at a level which reflects its true value. We are consuming oil at double the rate at which it is discovered by exploration, and much faster than it's created in nature. This combined with the aspirations of the developing world (particularly China and India) means that the era of cheap oil is over. Perhaps now we will seek to find ways of minimising food miles and other unnecessary travel to conserve this precious resource for premium use activities - chemicals and plastics.
Martin Kubala, Aberdeen, Scotland
Maybe now prices are so high governments will start to consider alternatives to oil. I hope they do but if not then it's really sad that even greed can't make them think about what's happening to the climate.
Nik Marshall-Blank, Linz, Austria
Supply has more or less peaked. The remaining oil is increasingly heavy and polluted with sulphur, and will generate increasing amounts of global warming CO2 for each gallon of petrol produced. Prices will sky-rocket as demand is increasing and inelastic, and the poor will be the ones who will go without, in the First World as well as the Third.
Ralph Williams, Cambridge, UK
To all those who say they don't drive and don't care if petrol prices continue to increase remember this. The petrol price affects the price of almost every product sold in the UK, it has to be transported somehow and increased fuel costs mean increased transport costs and that has to be passed on to the end consumer at some point.
Ben Bell, Canterbury, Kent, England
If you ever wanted to visit somewhere far away, now is the time to do it. The brief period of cheap air travel for all was an aberration. In 10 years flying will once again be the exclusive privilege of the rich. Paddle steamers anyone?
The world still has a lot of oil left, but it is buried far deeper underground, underneath harder rocks and in smaller quantities than current stocks. Therefore the only way to continue producing oil is for prices to skyrocket. However, petrol prices do bear the brunt of this. Why do other products made from oil-derivatives such as plastics, camping gas and so on risen in price so much less than car fuels?
S Murray, Chester, UK
Oil demand isn't going to fall shortly even if its price hikes. We can certainly not deny the fact those vehicles in bulk all over the world runs on what we once used to say 'cheap' oil. Even if researchers come out with alternative cheap fuel it will take long time for vehicular system to cope with it. Petrol run conveyances won't be dumped to accept a new fuel all within a short span. I think that despite oil getting expensive it will remain the hottest fuel at least for next few decades. Mankind has already begun taking gradual steps to tackle future situations and its experimentation is on process in many countries like US, Japan etc.
Shib SenChaudhury, Calcutta, India
I don't drive and don't have much sympathy for those who chose to own vehicles designed as Troop transport and use them for grocery runs. For those who respect this one planet that we live on I have all the sympathy in the world - but I still want to see prices higher. The world cannot sustain this level of consumption and the only way to slow down is to make hurt where it matter most to most people - their chequebooks.
Caleb , Canada
We were supposedly going to run out of oil about 1920, according to estimates about 1905. Gasoline, steam and electric cars were all widely manufactured back then. The more we learn about it, the more we realize our ignorance. For example, a major rig offshore near the Texas/Louisiana state line started at 20,000 barrels a day. Over several years, production slowly declined to 2,000 barrels. Then something shifted and went "bloop" with an enormously loud sound and the rig is pumping 22,000 barrels. This renewed the debate whether oil is really decayed dinosaurs or whether it's some strange mineral product of the earth that we don't understand. I'm surprised at all the lefty whinging and outrage blaming everything on the evil American capitalists. Yes, comrade, everything is George W. Bush's fault personally.
Peter, La Marque, Texas
Oil - or at least petrol - consumption is remarkably price inelastic. People see it as a "necessity" and carry on more or less as normal. Expect very much higher prices before very much changes.
Terry, Manchester, UK
Oil production is most likely at or near its peak. What the effects of this will be on the global economy is far from certain, what is certain is that we need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. I have just changed my car to a diesel for increased efficiency and I plan to make my own bio-diesel as I expect the oil price to climb even higher in the coming months. Peak oil will be the most important challenge of the 21st century.
Rob, Exeter, UK
The Oil production peak will not necessarily be obvious. This is mainly due to the changes in demand caused by recessions due to high prices. What is clear is that we are very close and the consequences are going to be apparent very soon.
Chris Newman, East Dulwich
When OPEC decided that the amount of oil a country could pump depended on how large the reserves were the claimed reserves jumped by two thirds. There have been no significant new oil discoveries for twenty years in spite of the huge increase in sophistication in search methods. I think total reserves are about 25% of what is being claimed and demand can only go up. I believe we have about 5 more years of cheap oil (I mean below $200 per barrel) before scarcity puts prices too high to waste oil by burning it. Civilisation as we know it is about to change and the Middle East is about to become less important.
Keith, Rayleigh England
The current high gasoline prices (relative to what we are used to) in the U.S. may go up and down in the short term, but will continue to increase in the long term. This could be beneficial and serve as a 'wake-up call' to our consumption. Those who don't drive cars often or at all think they may be spared, but every product purchased needs fuel to be transported. Oil is the lifeblood of global commerce...everyone will be affected.
Brian, San Francisco, CA, USA
I would very much like to see oil prices increase significantly. Much of the current wastefulness stems from low prices that do not reflect the environmental cost associated with use of such fuel. Much of Europe pays significant tax, though sadly this is often squandered on things other than alternative fuel technology, public transport, conservation initiatives and environmental aspects. Roll on the day oil is $100 a barrel and petrol $7 a gallon.
Simon, Warwick, UK
I remember back in the 70's in the US when the oil crisis really hit home and everyone suddenly woke up to the fact that we were oil junkies, and our dealers had cut off our supply. At that time everyone talked of alternative energy resources, people started to car pool, there was a lot of talk of alternative energy resources and the trend started moving towards fuel economical vehicles. Now Americans think of cars as a God given right and necessity, where in reality we should have been busy biding affordable mass transit systems accessible to everyone. I have now lived in Hong Kong for 20 years and I remember going through withdrawal symptoms of not being a car owner, but that quickly passed when I discovered life is so much easier without cars and cheaper as well as long as you have good public transport. We are living in a fools paradise if we think we can continue to waste this resource at the pace we are going.
David, Hong Kong
Oil consumption and production is only part of the problem. Alternatives to oil exist but at present governments have chosen not to take them into mass production and why, because Governments and big business have vested interests in keeping the world economy based on oil.
Ian, Bradford, UK
The Swedes have also seen a marked increase in fuel prices over the last month or two. In my view people won't stop using their cars until there's no more petrol. We need to also consider how the oil price increase affects the plastics industry. If there's no more oil, it's not just cars that will stop running - anything containing plastic will no longer be produced.
I believe we are seeing the end of "cheap" oil. Demand is increasing exponentially due to the blooming economies of the Far East and India, and discoveries of significant new reserves are at best, sporadic. More worryingly, there is increasing evidence that proven reserves boasted by many OPEC members have been exaggerated for political purposes. While oil remains so vital to our entire way of life, prices cannot fall. Unfortunately, that same dependence will mean usage will not decrease either - the economy will simply take the hit.
Dan, Yateley, UK
Wasn't that illegal war thing in Iraq supposed to secure loads of oil for the West? Why didn't we spend all those billions of dollars developing renewable energy instead? Maybe then the world wouldn't be in the mess it is now - global warming, terrorism, fragile oil-economies... The Bush administration has a lot to answer for.
Simon, London, UK
It will concentrate the mind and make us a) conserve what we have b) look for alternatives c) re-evaluate our profligate lifestyles.
James Butler, County Kerry, Ireland
It's difficult to say whether oil production has peaked or not. There is no consensus at the moment inside, or outside, the industry. But 2003 was the first year in a long time when no new oil fields were found. What is guaranteed is that consumption will rise dramatically in the next 25 years from 75m barrels per day to 120m barrels a day in 2030. The law of supply and demand means that prices will rise as oil becomes more scarce.
Simon Atkinson, Worcester, UK
The rise in oil prices are nothing more than speculators and suppliers milking the political situations for all it is worth. Everyone wants to make a profit. Living in the USA, I know gas is dirt cheap compared to other places in the world. Have higher prices changed my behaviour? No, because I use mass transit during the week and the trips I make on the weekends are in line with my budget. I do feel for the people that require constant travel for their job. I refuse to believe that auto makers cannot make a clean and fuel efficient vehicle at an affordable price.
GAJ, New York, USA
I doubt that anyone really knows whether production has peaked yet or will do so soon. The official figures for known reserves are very unreliable and in many of the major producers they have not been revised in over 20 years. The cost of developing new fields or even prospecting for them is very high and probably will soon be unrealistic. Consumption is still increasing especially in China and other Asian countries. In the US there is little real conservation of current stocks or reduction in the need for oil as witnessed by the energy bill signed recently by President Bush. The $3 gallon at the fuel pump in the US is soon to be a reality, which is probably a good thing as it may, finally, alert the US people to where their laissez-faire attitude to energy conservation is heading.
Clive, Milwaukee, USA