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When Colin Campbell attempted to work out an honest figure in 2006, he concluded that the real figure was probably closer to 159.Kuwait claims 101 thousand million barrels, 4 more than it said it had in 1989.

Essentially, there is either something magical happening under the sands of the gulf, or somebody is telling lies.

The answers lie with OPEC, which seeks to control the global oil price by agreeing limits to oil exports.

It sets quotas according to stated reserves – the more you have in the ground, the more you’re allowed to sell each year.

According to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy (pdf), released on wednesday, we still have 1,333 billion barrels out there to pump, enough for 40 years at current usage. So do we breathe a sigh of relief, or do we join Britain’s former chief scientist in saying ‘pull the other one’?

According to Jeremy Leggett, BP’s chief economist literally laughed off a question about peak oil at the launch press conference.

Even a cursory browse might put you in the latter camp.Consider for example, that Saudi Arabia single handedly accounts for almost 20% of the world’s oil reserves.The details of how much is in each field is a state secret, but it claims to have 264 thousand million barrels.This is a little strange, since it reported that it had 262 thousand million barrels ten years ago, and 260 in 1989.Saudi Arabia has pumped around 8 million barrels of oil a day for twenty years, but its proven oil reserves have gone up rather than down.Since Saudi Arabia hasn’t announced any major discoveries in that time, its stated reserves are scarcely credible.

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