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>> FOR oil enthusiasts who believe that petroleum will remain abundant for decades to come ? among them, the president, vice president and their many friends in the oil industry ? any talk of an imminent "peak" in global oil production and an ensuing decline can be easily countered with a simple mantra: "Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia."
Not only will the Saudis pump extra oil now to alleviate global shortages, as is claimed, but they will keep pumping more in the years ahead to quench our insatiable thirst for energy. And when the kingdom's existing fields run dry, lo, it will begin pumping from other fields that are just waiting to be exploited. This is the basis for the administration's contention that we can continue to increase our yearly consumption of oil, rather than conserve what's left and begin the transition to a post-petroleum economy.
But that might not be the case. In a newly released book, Houston investment banker Matthew R. Simmons convincingly demonstrates that, far from being capable of increasing its output, Saudi Arabia is about to face exhaustion of its giant fields and probably will experience a sharp decline in output relatively soon. He also argues that there is little chance that Saudi Arabia will ever discover new fields that can take up the slack from those now in decline. If Simmons is right about Saudi Arabian oil production ? and the official dogma is wrong ? we can kiss the era of abundant petroleum goodbye forever. <<