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Is our luck running out on oil supplies?

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Keppel Offshore & Marine/Reuters/File

(Read caption) Scarabeo 9, a Chinese-built drilling rig, is seen in Singapore in this file photo. Some experts believe that our luck in finding new oil reserves may soon come to an end.

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In an excellent new paper, Jim Hamilton asks whether the “phenomenal increase in global crude oil production over the last century and a half” reflects technological progress or good fortune in finding new reserves. The two aren’t completely distinct, of course. Better technology helps find more resources. But the heart of the question remains: have we been lucky or good?

Based on a careful reading of production patterns in the United States and around the world, Jim concludes that we’ve been both and worries that the luck part may be coming to an end:

These arguments should be familiar to anyone who’s followed the peak oil debate, but Jim brings a welcome rigor to the discussion.

And he discusses how oil prices affect the economy. All in all, a great survey.

P.S. If you are interested in the details, Jim’s post over at Econbrowser sparked some thoughtful comments.


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