Can technology help find oil fast enough?
There's no question that technology has revolutionized the oil industry just as it has boosted the overall productivity of the U.S. economy. The use of conference-room-sized 3D labs, for example, has shorted the turnaround time for making decisions on drilling new wells. It used to take weeks, or more, to get various parties at an oil company to weigh in on a proposed drilling program. Now geologists, field experts and financial managers can get in the same room and hash out decisions together.
But is this technology helping expand the supply of oil that can ultimately be pulled out of the ground? Skeptics say no. They argue that recent advances are only helping the industry pull oil out of the ground faster, and that the overall pace of discovery hasn't picked up. That's one reason the debate over peak oil tends to break along generational lines, according to Matt Simmons, a Houston investment banker to the oil industry.
'The old timers basically, who are people that were schooled in the 60s and 70s,' he said, 'tend to be saying that all of this new technology allows you to see a lot more, but that the basics are still the basics. The new generation guys are convinced that we've totally changed the game.'