Break Out the Bicycles: Oil is Running Out, But the West Would Rather Wage Wars than Consider Other Energy Sources
"Some people have wacky ideas," the new Republican campaign ad alleges. "Like taxing gasoline more so people drive less. That's John Kerry." Cut to a shot of men in suits riding bicycles.
The price of oil has been rising because demand for a finite resource is growing faster than supply. Holding the price down means that this resource will be depleted more quickly, with the result that the dreadful prospect of men sharing cars and riding bicycles comes ever closer.
The world's problem is as follows. We now consume six barrels of oil for every new barrel we discover. Major oil finds (of over 500m barrels) peaked in 1964. In 2000, there were 13 such discoveries, in 2001 six, in 2002 two and in 2003 none. Three major new projects will come onstream in 2007 and three in 2008. For the following years, none have yet been scheduled.
The oil industry tells us not to worry: the market will find a way of sorting this out. If the price of energy rises, new sources will come onstream. But new sources of what? Every other option is much more expensive than the cheap oil that made our economic complexity possible.
Perhaps the presidential candidates will start campaigning next against the passage of time.