IEA says oil output near capacity

Oil rigs in Culver City, Calif.

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KAI RYSSDAL: This was a day of relative calm in world oil markets. After a spike above $135 a barrel overnight crude has tipped back to $130. Lookout, though. Because if the International Energy Agency's right, that might be nothing. The IEA's got a reputation as a straight shooter when it comes to oil supplies. The group said today it's working on a revamp of its current estimates. A survey of how fast we're using up what crude we do have. We asked Marketplace's John Dimsdale to find out whether oil companies have been looking hard enough.


JOHN DIMSDALE: The IEA's review of the world's biggest 400 oil fields won't be ready until November, and the agency won't speculate on the conclusions. But the Wall Street Journal reports the initial findings are that supplies of various liquid fuels will fall short of expected demand by 2030. The reason: aging, depleted oil fields and a lack of investment in new ones.

SARA BANASZAK: It's definitely a move in a more pessimistic direction.

Sara Banaszak with the American Petroleum Institute says as oil becomes more expensive, demand will go down as conservation and alternative fuels become more attractive. Still, she says U.S. companies are pouring plenty of money into finding new oil fields.

BANASZAK: They're doing as much as they can, and they're investing record amounts. But it's also true that the publicly held oil companies of the United States don't control the lion's share of the world's resources.

More than 80 percent are owned by nationalized oil companies.

Daniel Yergin of Cambridge Energy Research Associates says the U.S. should be encouraging those oil-rich nations to open up their industries to foreign investment.

DANIEL YERGIN: For instance, the U.S. government played a very important role in the 1990s, encouraging investment in countries like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan in seeing that the pipeline was developed. And now there's a million barrels a day flowing out of Azerbaijan to the Mediterranean.

It takes 10 or 15 years to develop new oil fields, and Yergin hopes today's high prices and concerns about the future will generate more investments in energy sources of all kinds.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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