According to BP, drivers whose vehicles rely on burning oil have a little more than a half-century to find alternate sources of energy. Or walk.
BP's annual report on proved global oil reserves says that as of the end of 2013, Earth has nearly 1.688 trillion barrels of crude, which will last 53.3 years at current rates of extraction. This figure is 1.1 percent higher than that of the previous year. In fact, during the past 10 years proven reserves have risen by 27 percent, or more than 350 billion barrels.
The increased amount of oil in the report include 900 million barrels detected in Russia and 800 million barrels in Venezuela. OPEC nations continue to lead the world by having a large majority of the planet's reserves, or 71.9 percent.
As for the United States, which lately has been ramping up oil extraction through horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, BP says its proven oil reserves are 44.2 billion barrels, 26 percent higher than in BP's previous report. This is more than reported most recently by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which had raised its own estimate by 15 percent to 33.4 billion barrels.
That means shale-oil extraction enterprises in the United States have more to offer than many first believed. The sources include the Bakken formation spanning Canadian and U.S. territory in the West, the Eagle Ford formation in East Texas and the super-rich Permian Basin in West Texas, which alon holds 75 billion barrels of recoverable fossil fuels.
And though Eagle Ford and Bakken seem to hold far less oil, EOG Resources, which has been working Eagle Ford, has increased its estimates of the site's reserves. The Motley Fool reports that its latest estimate of recoverable fuel is 3.2 billion barrels, more than the nearly 1 billion barrels expected in 2010.
Nevertheless, BP is cautious in defining oil reserves. At the top of an introductory web page on the subject, the company states baldly: "Nobody knows or can know how much oil exists under the earth's surface or how much it will be possible to produce in the future."
And while the amount of proven oil reserves, and their extraction, are rising each year, so is concern about how their recovery. Not only do new extraction methods use huge amounts of energy to get even more energy, particularly from shale, they also use chemicals and metals that many fear poison nearby soil and groundwater, and generate huge amounts of toxic wastewater.
Such methods are helping the United States, for example, to achieve energy independence. But that won't apply to China, a huge customer for fossil fuels. BP says Asia-Pacific oil reserves will last only 14 years at current rates. That means China will have to keep importing oil, putting further strain on global reserves.