U.S. diplomats worry that Saudi Arabia might have overstated its petroleum reserves by 40 percent, according to confidential cables released by WikiLeaks. The cables, dating from 2007 to 2009, cite a candid assessment from Sadad al-Husseini, a Saudi official who predicted "a plateau" in total oil output, followed by a steady but unavoidable decline. Another cable from the U.S. embassy in Riyadh questions whether the Saudis can produce enough oil to keep prices low. Is Saudi Arabia really running out of oil, or is this just a false alarm? (Watch an Al Jazeera report about the controversy)
Yes, the world's oil supply is dwindling rapidly: The news that Saudi Arabia's oil production may have already peaked should come as no surprise, says Kevin Drum in Mother Jones. And if it's true, a slide in the worldwide production of crude "is most likely not too far away." The main hope for ramping up our oil supply is Iraq, "which certainly has more production capacity if it can develop it."
"WikiLeaks: Saudi oil may have peaked already"
No, there's just some confusion here: The Saudi oil official was simply misunderstood, says Angus Mcdowall in The Wall Street Journal. His own account of what he told Americans is less alarmist than the cables imply. Sadad al-Husseini says he was just drawing a distinction between the amount of oil estimated to be underground and the amount that could actually be extracted. If so, "the world of energy looks pretty much how it looked yesterday, with Saudi Arabia set to remain the world’s biggest producer for some time yet."
"Saudi oil reserves and the WikiLeaks Chinese whispers effect"
Either way, prices may go up: Oil producers know that their supply won't last forever, says R.A. in The Economist, and will inevitably start reducing production so that they can take advantage of the market once prices have skyrocketed. In other words, "the world doesn't need to experience declines in potential oil production to see a rise in oil prices."