After seeing worldwide production rise an average of 2.3 percent annually since 1965, we may be approaching a plateau beyond which production will not climb. According to the Wall Street Journal, that ceiling could be 100 million barrels a day, and said we could hit it as early as 2012.
Most of the world's biggest oil fields are aging, and their production is falling. There is widespread speculation that the Ghawar oil field in Saudi Arabia, the world's largest, is petering out, which is significant because it likely has produced more than half the oil that has flowed out of the kingdom.
At the rate oil fields are being depleted, simply maintaining our current production of 85 million barrels a day will require producing at least another 4 million daily barrels every year. That, according to the Journal, is roughly five times the daily production in all of Alaska, and doesn't account for any increase in demand at all.