Notwithstanding that oil demand has increased for over 150 years, it will eventually stop increasing. If oil demand were to reach an actual peak, then the top might be easier to predict. As it stands, the forecast models of demand are likely predicting peak demand far later than it will be.
The so-called balance of supply and demand has always been a moving target, a race to the top in which the two run neck and neck. Imbalances result from out-of-step growth rates and not from movements away from a stationary balance. Perversely, imbalances breed further imbalances as the supply and demand components are provoked in opposite directions but with different timing, magnitudes and inertias. Without sufficient damping, the market has often overcompensated. Of course, there are also exogenous events like political turmoil, policy shifts, technological innovations and demographic changes which can unexpectedly and significantly alter not just the immediate balance but fundamentally shift the way supply and demand curves respond to price movements. The trends are plagued by inherent and irreducible irregularities.
Such a structural change has recently occurred. High prices persisted long enough for the industry in the U.S. to build a larger fleet of modern rigs and to learn how effectively to hydraulically fracture shale wells. It also persisted long enough for new efficiencies to incubate towards maturity, and the Paris accords promised to further reduce carbon emissions through policy changes. By the time that Saudi Arabia finally acted to protect not only its place among suppliers but also, and more importantly, the role of oil in the world economy. The backbone of shale supply in the U.S. was strong, and the seeds of lesser use were established. After these fundamental shifts, the rest of the world realized what Saudi Oil Minister Al-Naimi argued long ago and what Shell Oil has more recently asserted, namely that peak demand will occur long before peak supply.