At this point, predictions of peak oil are no biggie. But it seems significant that a Wall Street research and analysis firm — John S. Herold Inc. — is getting in the game. The analysts at Herold …

… have begun estimating when each of the world’s biggest energy companies will peak in its ability to produce oil and gas. Herold’s work shows that the best minds in the energy industry are accepting the reality that the globe is reaching (or has already reached) the limit of its own ability to produce ever increasing amounts of oil.

Since last fall, Herold has done peak estimates on about two dozen oil companies. Herold believes that the French oil company, Total S.A., will reach its peak production in 2007. Herold expects 2008 to be critical, with Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., BP, Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and the Italian producer, Eni S.p.A., all hitting their peaks. In 2009, Herold expects ChevronTexaco Corp. to peak. In Herold’s view, each of the world’s seven largest publicly traded oil companies will begin seeing production declines within the next 48 months or so.

Of course Herold’s specific predictions are controversial, but the firm itself is quite well-respected. Peak oil is slowly but surely sinking into mainstream discourse. If Herold is correct, says Salon:

  • Oil prices — which are already at record levels — will continue rising as demand outstrips supply. In a few years, gasoline prices of $2 per gallon could seem like a bargain.
  • State-owned oil companies like Mexico’s Pemex, Venezuela’s PDVSA (Petroléos de Venezuela) and Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Aramco may be unable to increase their production enough to meet burgeoning global demand.
  • The producers who belong to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and Saudi Arabia in particular, may have even more leverage over the global oil market in the coming years.
  • The United States will be ever more reliant on oil imported from countries filled with people who don’t like George W. Bush or his policies.

Read the whole thing.