UPDATE 08/10/09: For a clarification of the Independent's reporting of the interview on which this article was based, see this blog post.
Most of the world's major oil fields have passed their peak of production, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol, has warned.
An IEA assessment of more than 800 oil fields in the world, published in the Independent today, has found that most of the biggest fields have already peaked and that the rate of decline in oil production is now nearly twice predictions made just two years ago.
Fatih Birol said the current consumption of oil was 'patently unsustainable' and that the market power of oil-producing countries was in danger of becoming too strong.
'One day we will run out of oil...and we have to leave oil before oil leaves us, and we have to prepare ourselves for that day,' Dr Birol said.
'The earlier we start, the better, because all of our economic and social system is based on oil, so to change from that will take a lot of time and a lot of money and we should take this issue very seriously,' he told the Independent.
'The market power of the very few oil-producing countries, mainly in the Middle East, will increase very quickly. They already have about 40 per cent share of the oil market and this will increase much more strongly in the future,' he said.