I am not sure whether it is a good thing or a bad thing that there is almost no oil left anywhere in the world. Out of a sort of childish spite, one is obviously delighted that soon enough countries like Saudi Arabia will have nothing with which to hold the world to ransom. And nothing has caused more environmental damage to our planet than the consumption of hydrocarbons (except maybe that comet which allegedly wiped out the dinosaurs). On the other hand, I am not sure that I wish my children to experience a rapid return to the Stone Age — which will be their future unless we begin to wean ourselves off both oil and, indeed, gas. And with governments perpetually disinclined to look to the medium term — let alone the long term — it is difficult to see how that weaning process will be induced.
I don’t think I’m overstating the gravity of the situation. The American energy expert L.F. Ivanhoe, for example, has said, ‘Permanent oil shock is inevitable early in the next century.’ Oil shock is when the oil starts running out and prices leap exponentially and there is an actual physical shortage of the stuff. And the bad news is that Mr Ivanhoe wrote those words in 1999: that next century to which he referred is now with us.
He goes on to say: ‘The next paralysing and permanent oil shock will not be solved by any redistribution patterns or by economic cleverness, because it will be a consequence of pending and inexorable depletion of the world’s inexpensive crude oil supplies …many of the world’s developed societies may look more like today’s Russia.’
Or take this, from Petroleum Equities Incorporated: ‘New assessments of global oil reserves show that the world faces a relentless oil supply crisis within the next ten years.’