Oil Derrick

Just because gas prices have been steadily declining since March doesn't mean we should all get comfortable with the idea of lower refueling costs and a dependable fuel supply. In fact, a University of Maryland study titled "Economic Vulnerability to Peak Oil" pushes the panic button a bit.

The study, published in Global Environmental Change (GEC), says peak oil production will likely occur before 2030 and has a pretty good chance of taking place before the end of this decade, after which it's theoretically all downhill. And while Peak Oil naysayers point to Canadian tar sands and shale wells as potential oil-production areas, the Maryland study says they will do little to help prevent the potential global economic crisis spurred once oil production hits diminishing returns.

The harder truth, says the study, is that people will need to start finding ways to reduce transportation requirements and push for more organic farming methods to prevent the Doomsday scenario. Of course, there are plenty of people on the other side of the argument. A recent World Energy Council study said that global oil reserves are 25 percent higher than they were 20 years ago. This spring, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that North American oil production will grow "significantly faster than demand" between now and 2018. And for those keeping track, US gas prices are averaging about $3.25 a gallon, down from about $3.70 in March, according to AAA.