So, here it is then - the next step in slowly admitting to Peak Oil by the IEA. This time via the Economist.
“The output of conventional oil will peak in 2020 if oil demand grows on a business-as-usual basis.”
- Fatih Birol, IEA chief economist
So, we have gotten from the "No peak ever" to "Plateau by 2050" to "Plateau by 2030" to "Conventional oil peak by 2020".
The question is, will it stop there, or is the forecasting trend going to continue to "Conventional Peak by 2015"?
Of course, they are still playing by the non-conventional + biofuels playbook, as if those are going to be able to be scaled to fill the shortfall in conventional oil. That remains doubtful.
However, recently Jeremy Gilbert (ex-chief petroleum engineer at BP) did suggest that there might be some more oomph left in the enhance oil recovery. Hence, even though demand is likely to grow and there are no new discoveries, the world could squeeze more out of the remaining reserves.
The idea is something like this graph, posted by Shox @ TOD:
This however requires that the service companies and national oil companies get enough of profit and future incentive to invest in new EOR technologies and make the required breakthroughs. The physics as well as the economics however, are against them. One thing is for sure, it is not going to be easy, even if it was to succeed.
The downside (there is always a downside)? With new and improved EOR techniques the cliff-dive after the plateau would be likely to be even more rapid, more like falling off a straight cliff than a mere 6-8% yearly decline.
That's the nature of the underlying geological constraints. No amount of money can fool that. Energy could, but it would be stupid to waste several barrels of oil worth of energy to get out each remaining one barrel of oil.