10 Fake Scarcities

A freighter passes an oil drilling platform in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Eduardo Garcia/Taxi/Getty Images

"Peak oil" refers to that old saw about how the world is on the verge of running out of the bubbling crude. Alarmists have been floating the idea since the early 1880s. More than 130 years later, worldwide oil demand is expected to grow 840,000 barrels per day in 2013, according to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the cartel that keeps much of the world's supply of black gold on a short leash [sources: Rotman, Reuters].

The continuing rise in oil demand, fueled largely by China, has peak oil theorists fretting once again that the reserves may eventually be tapped out. But detractors say the theory wrongly assumes that there will be no more significant innovations in oil production and new resource development will essentially stop in its tracks. Meanwhile, untapped reserves of Texas Tea have been located across the globe, from off the Brazilian coast to the Canadian oil sands. Even the United States is stepping it up: OPEC says American oil production is set to climb by 490,000 barrels per day as a result of a North Dakota oil boom and increased drilling efforts in the Gulf of Mexico [sources: Rotman, Graeber].