Energías fósiles: diagnóstico, perspectivas e implicaciones económicas

L. Ferrari


The global economy developed after the secon world war was based on increasing amounts of cheap energy. Most of this energy ($\sim$80%) has been provided by fossil fuels, which can be considered a fraction of the solar energy received by the Earth during the geologic past. As any finite, non-renewable resource the production of fossil fuels follow a bell-shaped curve described since the 50's by King Hubbert: production increase until a peak when the better quality, easiest and cheaper part of the resource has been consumed; then during the following decline lower quality and more difficult resources are exploited at an increasing cost. Since 2005 conventional oil production undergone a minimal increase (0.1% on yearly basis) as the new fields that come on production in a few countries are barely enough to fill the gap left by the declining and aged fields in most of the producing countries. The marginal increase of the total oil production in the last 7 years (0.8%) has been essentially provided by the unconventional oil, a general term to define a group of resource with lesser energy intensity and higher environmental impact: deepwater oil, heavy and ultra-heavy oil, tar sands and, particularly, the so called tight oil and shale gas. These type of resources are much more expensive of the conventional oil because they have a much lower energy return on energy invested, i.e. need much more energy to be produced. At present the cost of production of unconventional oil is estimated between 65 and 110 dollar per barrel, which represent the minimum oil price to maintain the long term investments needed to produce these resources. Having arrived at the exploitation of unconventional oil, with its high price and low energy gain confirm the hypothesis that the world is entering the second part of the Hubbert curve, with consequence that no economic measure can avoid. Acknowledging this fundamental change imposes a trend reversal and a change in the present development model based on perpetual growth.


Peak oil; unconventional oil; shale gas; energy return on energy invested; global economy

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Revista Mexicana de Física S

 ISSN: In Process

  Non periodical electronic journal published by Sociedad Sociedad Mexicana de Física, A.C

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