could be produced at present rates until the middle of the twenty-first century.* However, this does not mean that the resource will last that long, since demand will certainly increase for part of that period, until alternative energy sources are introduced, higher prices bring declining consumption, and depletion of the resource lowers production rates.

In the more immediate future there is little need to consider unconventional oil production, for the potential of conventional techniques has by no means been exhausted. The present price level has encouraged intensive exploration, especially outside OPEC areas. It is too early to say what this exploration boom will turn up. In the United States and Canada the number of new oil wells has increased considerably, but most of these are small and might not have been considered commercial before the recent price increase. Elsewhere there have been further successes in the North Sea and substantial discoveries in Mexico, which may again become a large exporter, as it was earlier in this century. Some other non-OPEC developing countries (notably Brazil and India) are making headway in their efforts at self-sufficiency in oil. However, since the Iranian crisis of 1978 many exporting countries have begun to adopt more cautious policies on expanding production, and it is by no means certain that price increases will evoke as much additional production as once hoped. Mexico, for example, has been talking of a limit on oil exports.

Nothing in sight threatens OPEC’s dominance in the world oil market; that would take at least another North Sea, and quite possibly two. (The addition of another 10 million barrels of crude oil per day—the equivalent of two North Seas—would cut the demand for OPEC oil to a point where allocation of cartel members’ exports would become so difficult that the cartel might break down.)

WORLD URANIUM RESOURCES

Unless public resistance to the growth of nuclear power dictates otherwise, uranium may in due course challenge oil as the leading source of energy. It is not, however, possible to analyze it in as much detail as oil, since data on world uranium resources are even less reliable than those on oil resources. Nevertheless, one recent set of estimates is presented as Table 10–7. It gives reserves at a price of $130/kg of uranium, equivalent to $50/lb of uranium oxide (U3O8) and fairly close to present market prices; the resources involved may therefore be described as reserves. Most of these reserves are found in the United States,9 Australia, South Africa, and Canada; there

*

See statement 10–1, by E.J.Gornowski, Appendix A.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement