Two International Energy Agency whistleblowers have come forward with startling claims about the world's supply of crude oil, according to a report published Tuesday.
"We have [already] entered the 'peak oil' zone," an unnamed former IEA official told British newspaper The Guardian. "I think that the situation is really bad."
A second whistleblower reportedly claimed that the IEA's current figures are inflated due to pressure from the United States and a pervasive fear that the announcement of falling oil output in the future could cause markets to respond with panic.
The claims come on the same day the IEA plans to publish its annual "World Energy Outlook" report for 2009.
"Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further," one of the IEA sources reportedly told the paper. "And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources."
The agency reported in its 2008 World Energy Outlook that a field-by-field analysis of production trends revealed "that decline rates are likely to rise significantly in the long term, from an average of 6.7% today to 8.6% in 2030."
The whistleblowers see things differently.
"The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year," one of the sources claimed. "The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today's number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this."
In a 2008 interview with Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA, Guardian environment writer George Monbiot reported that the IEA had expected peak oil output to be reached in a decade or two.
"In terms of non-Opec [countries outside the big oil producers' cartel]," Birol reportedly said, "we are expecting that in three, four years' time the production of conventional oil will come to a plateau, and start to decline. In terms of the global picture, assuming that Opec will invest in a timely manner, global conventional oil can still continue, but we still expect that it will come around 2020 to a plateau as well, which is, of course, not good news from a global-oil-supply point of view."
The 2008 World Energy Outlook suggested peak oil would be reached in 2030.
The prediction that peak oil production was approaching in 2020 was enough to "scare the pants off" Monbiot, considering the predicted implications of a global energy crunch in just over a decade. However, if the allegations by The Guardian's whistleblowers are indeed true and peak oil has been reached, dark days loom for the global economy.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the agency is not expected to announce the arrival at such a dramatic conclusion. Instead, the 2009 report due out Tuesday will predict slower growth in demand for oil, the Journal reported.
Reuters added: "While the Paris-based IEA has repeatedly warned that a lack of investment could lead to a strain on supply, it maintains that there is enough oil in the ground."