End the Oil Age Now
By Glen Hiemstra, 2003
We have written in the past about the critical importance of accelerating the end of the age of oil. ‘The stone age did not end for lack of stone. The Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil.’ (Quote attributed to a Saudi oil minister.) In fact, asking when oil will run out is exactly the wrong question. Perhaps the most critical question for our time regarding the future is: how vital is it that we accelerate the end of the oil age and how might we do so?
‘The stone age did not end for lack of stone. The Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil.’
An excellent thought piece on this appeared in The Economist, October 25-31 issue. In fact, The Economist features an editorial calling for the end of the oil age, as soon as possible.
We see three reasons why it would be wise to initiate a crash program to develop and deliver the next energy era within a decade or two.
First, it is of obvious value geopolitically. Even assuming there is another 40-50 years of oil supply, and even assuming that new resources are developed in Russia, the Artic, and elsewhere, Saudi Arabia and its four near neighbors will continue to control about 75% of the world’s oil and this share will increase in the next three decades. Is there a more unstable region in the world, looking ahead? By one estimate, Saudi and OPEC manipulation of oil supply and thus price has resulted in American consumers alone loading an extra $7 Trillion dollars above real market prices into big boxes and shipping them to the Middle East in the last thirty years. It is time to invest those trillions in the next energy age.
Second, while some alternatives to oil such as coal are potentially damaging to the environment, many are not, particularly hydrogen. We are well aware of the challenges of all the alternates, and dimly aware that science on the edge is dabbling with exotic energy such as magnetics. Meanwhile the evidence for a warming planet grows. Virtually all alternatives to oil can be less damaging to the environment, in particular global warming, and it is urgent now to accelerate these developments.
Third, from the vantage point of competitive advantage, the nation or nations which break out first into the next energy era, probably the hydrogen economy, will gain an incalculable lead as the 21st Century unfolds. If not us, who? It is time to get moving, not with small pilot projects that co-opt political pressure for a while, but with a bold initiative. The Economist advocates a gradual but steep increase in gasoline taxes, offset by other tax reductions to be tax impact neutral, in order to encourage a decrease in oil usage. A substantial portion of these gas tax resources ought to be devoted to a rapid shift into the future of energy.
Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, author, consultant, blogger, internet video host and Founder of Futurist.com. To arrange for a speech contact Futurist.com.