Noah Smith says what I said back in May 2012. My words then: “The peak oil people seem to have been half-right. Technology has enabled the world to maintain oil production, and the truth is average production looks set to expand. But technology has not enabled the world to maintain production without using increasingly expensive techniques.”
(More here about U.S. production.)
Anyway, there is another sense in which the peak oil people were half-right: oil production is not going to rise quickly enough to meet demand. (I think that makes them three-quarters right = 1 − half-wrong × half-wrong.) Current projections have Chinese demand increasing through 2030 at around 2.7% per year. (See page 16.)
The problem is that represents a drastic decline from current growth rates, which averaged 7.2% over the last decade. Considering that Chinese consumption is still only an eighth of the U.S. level per capita (hell, it is a fourth of Germany’s and half of Cuba’s oil consumption) you do not need to assume very rapid Chinese economic growth to outstrip those projections.
We might discover enough oil to meet the high demand projections (although I doubt it) but only at much higher prices.
So either somebody quickly commercializes alternative means to power vehicles on a very large scale or we will be paying a lot more for oil. After all, higher prices are how you limit Chinese consumption growth to 2.7% per year absent economic catastrophe ...