Eric alluded to this in his last post, but I think it bears repeating:  a major global review of petroleum industry trends found that worldwide oil production fell last year.

Of course, the decline was so small—0.2%—Oil well mural - Great Valley Center - Flickrthat it may fall within the margins of error of the measurements. You might think that oil production figures would be pretty rock-solid, but apparently there’s always a bit of slosh in the data. When it comes to oil, even the numbers are slippery.  (Yuk, yuk.)

Still, if the data are close to accurate, the news is sobering.  Market theorists say that high prices should encourage the global petroleum industry to open up the taps, and start pumping more oil.  But apparently, the market theorists were wrong—and some other forces are now in play. 

Lots of folks are claiming last year’s production figures are a sign of a near term “peak” in oil production—a point when geological limits kick in, and global oil production declines no matter what the oil industry wants.  (More on peak oil here, and lots of other places on the internets.)

Of course, oil industry analysts scrambled to claim that the geological peak is a long way off, and that last year’s shortfall was due to economics & policy:

“Political factors, barriers to entry, and high taxes all play a role here.

They might well be correct, of course; human decisions may have had a role in production shortfalls.  For example, if I were an oil-producing nation or company, and I thought that oil would be more expensive next year than this year, I’d probably try to cut back a bit on production.  That way, I could save my oil for next year, when it would command an even higher price.

Then again, that’s exactly the sort of reasoning I’d use…if I thought that oil was nearing a geological peak!

Image courtesy of Great Valley Center Image Bank’s Flickr account under a Creative Commons license.