Oil production is taking off, much to the surprise and chagrin of proponents of biofuel. The United States could see a surge in oil production that could make it the world’s leading oil producer within the next 10 years, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency.
Several years ago, experts posited that rising oil prices would make biofuels and other alternatives more competitive, but thanks to advances in technology, methods for extracting oil in hard-to-reach places have exposed previously untapped oil resources.
Shale oil, for instance, which is extracted using the same horizontal drilling and fracking techniques that have flooded the United States with inexpensive natural gas, is contributing to the renewed interest in oil. So, instead of exploring alternative energy, companies have entire R&D departments seeking new, innovative, and cheaper ways of finding and extracting oil.
The IEA’s report speculates that worldwide oil production will reach 103 million barrels per day by 2018, up by 8.3 million barrels per day over the next five years. Total biofuels production will amount to 2.36 million barrels per day, up only slightly from the 1.86 million barrels per day in 2012.
One of the challenges of mainstreaming biofuels is convincing investors to finance new and unproven technologies. In some cases, entire biofuel projects have folded because of unexpected technical challenges or lack of funding.