What happens to the world if Saudi Arabia runs out of oil?

I guarantee you the royal family has. They’re some of the top venture capitalists in the world.

The everyday people? Probably not so much.

I think people tend to be overly dismissive of the size of this problem. Whale oil is not a good analogy for oil. Oil is a lot more central to our economy than whale oil ever was.

The big one is the necessity of oil in food production. We’re not going to figure out a substitute for food. And we’re not going to figure out a substitute for oil in the production of food. We might use other energy sources to transport food but we can’t make fertilizer out of nuclear or solar or wind energy. It’s a chemical process that specifically has to use fossil fuels. So when we run low on fossil fuels, we run low on food.

When we reach the point where there are eight billion people on Earth and we can only produce enough food to feed four billion people, I anticipate it will be a problem.

Fertilizer is made from natural gas not oil.


Well then, no worries. We have an infinite supply of natural gas. Glad we solved that problem.

There will be temporary uncomfortableness until Other countries take up the slack in production, but Armageddon it ain’t.
Prices will rise, perhaps significantly in the short term but will find a new perhaps slightly higher level within a few years.


We will never run out of oil. As oil gets more scarce, oil will get more expensive. As oil gets more expensive, other energy sources will become competitive, and the demand for oil decreases.

In other words, the more scarce it gets, the lower the demand will be. Hence we will never run out of it. (At least theoretically.)

We build nuclear power plants and switch to battery electric cars (or use the electricity from the nukes to manufacture ethanol).

US gets only about 8% of its oil from Saudi Arabia. The biggest oil suppliers to the US are Latin America, followed by Canada. More here https://www.npr.org/2012/04/11/150444802/where-does-america-get-oil-you-may-be-surprised

So Saudi Oil is important but not that important.

As to Global Warming, I am betting on humans finding a way to keep burning oil and controlling global warming by technologies like global dimming.

Note that the OP says “civilization”. The US is a highly advanced country with an abundance of technology, but as far as being “civilized”, it leaves quite a lot to be desired and is not near the top of the list that I would compile for civilization.

It’s more then you might think because that Saudi oil goes somewhere, and if that stops, that demand for oil does not disappear, and it’s all just dollars for oil, not dollars for ‘Saudi Branded Oil’*, and those dollars can easily be used to buy oil from other nations, which means that the US supply would be disrupted, then add in that 8% disappearing so the US needs to find a replacement for (though usage would go down slightly, but not much, with rising prices).

  • Just want to mention as i understand it there is a demand for ‘Saudi Branded Oil’ as the oil from that area is easier to refine and easier to make into low sulfur fuels, called light and sweet, but overall this is minor in the context of the OP, but is a additional factor.

Not many worries here, see ‘biogas’ http://www.environbusiness.com/eeae/biogas which is mostly methane. With energy (solar, nuke, whatever), it may be possible to create enough natural gas, well biogas, for the purpose of fertilizer. Also as I understand the process the manufacturing of fertilizer needs hydrogen, which is why natural gas is used - it’s cheap hydrogen, (the nitrogen in fertilizer comes from the air, not natural gas) . However there are other ways to get hydrogen, such as the inefficient process of the electrolysis of water, so again with enough energy it is not a technological problem, though it may be a economic one.

As global warming advances, the northern ice shelf will be completely exposed because the polar cap will have melted. That shelf is rich in oil reserves, and greedy, covetous eyes are already fantasizing about the billions that will be made from it. So, we are still a long way from a critical oil shortage and, when it does happen, it won’t be “sudden”. It will be a gradual process.

Also, note that “proven reserves” is a bit of specific jargon that probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. It only counts stuff we absolutely know exists within the earth by drilling and/or seeps and for which we have a high confidence we can recover it at a given cost and under given conditions.

There are also other petroleum systems which are not currently economic or developed, i.e. not ‘proven’, but may become so at $80 or $100 a barrel.

And others we suspect (to varying degrees of certainty ranging from ‘wild guess’ to ‘virtually certain’) are under the ground but haven’t proven by digging under the earth.

Note that much of this oil isn’t in Saudi Arabia.

To an extent, this is punting the problem down the road, i.e. what happens when cost of recovery permanently exceeds $xxx as expressed in 2018 dollars? But Saudi Arabia alone is only notable for the relative quality of its oil and the relative ease with which it can be extracted. In terms of quantity, it’s quite possible (note I’m not saying likely or that it’s proven) Brazil and/or the US have more sitting underground than Saudi Arabia ever had.

The Trump administration has already cleared the way to remove any restrictions to access to ANWR and the apparent vast oil reserves there. Environmental activists have been successful in keeping that at bay for a lot of years. Unfortunately, most Alaskans are in favor of opening it up for oil exploration and extraction because Alaska’s economy is in the tank, having a 6.5% unemployment rate at the moment.