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WikiLeaks Saudi Cables Prompt Questions Over Peak Oil

Mary Slosson |
February 9, 2011 | 2:54 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

Saudi Arabian Oil Refinery (Photo Creative Commons)
Saudi Arabian Oil Refinery (Photo Creative Commons)
The world may run out of fossil fuels far earlier than expected and experience a climb in the price of oil, as data in newly leaked WikiLeaks cables suggest that Saudi Arabia has fewer oil reserves than previously believed.

The latest confidential cables to be released come from the American embassy in Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, and claim that Saudi oil reserves were overstated by as many as 300 billion barrels, or nearly 40 percent of its actual reserves.

The former head of exploration at Saudi oil monopoly Aramco, Sadad al-Husseini, stated in the classified cables that “peak oil” – the point at which global production and, thus, consumption of oil reaches its highest possible level – may come as early as 2012.

The Guardian, which published the cables and related material on peak oil obtained via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, also accuses the International Energy Agency of overstating reserves:

The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

Moreover, the United States is accused of having a role to play in the overestimation:

The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.

While the estimations discussed in the leaked cables have been downplayed, the information has alarmed those already concerned about the world’s dwindleing natural energy sources.

Reach Executive Producer Mary Slosson here.  Follow her on Twitter @maryslosson.



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