Oil: Could the Future Be Even More Bleak?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Oil: Could the Future Be Even More Bleak?

Normally, I wouldn't feel a sense of panic hearing someone make this prediction:
"I believe we are either at or very close to peak oil (production). If I'm right, then we have to assume that five or 10 years from now we'll be producing less oil than we are today. And yet we have a society that is expecting, under the most conservative assumptions, that oil usage will grow by at least 30 to 50 percent over the next 25 years.

"In other words, we would end up with only 70 percent of the oil we have today when we would need to have 150 percent.

"It's a problem of staggering economic proportions -- far greater than the temporary setback of a terrorist attack on energy infrastructure -- that could end up leading to more geopolitical fistfights than you can ever imagine. The fistfights turn into weapon fights and give way to a very ugly society."
But this forecast isn't coming from a flake, an environmental lefty or just another "someone" trying to sell a book. This is the prediction made several months ago by Matthew Simmons, an investment banker and Harvard Business School grad who has cozy Republican contacts.

Not surprisingly, part of Simmons' prescription to deal with this anticipated crisis is dramatically increasing oil drilling (both in ANWAR and off-shore sites).

But his prediction begs a question: Why won't the Democratic Party call for a Marshall Plan-like approach to significantly ramp up the level of federal investment in the research and other incentives needed to produce alternative fuels that will make America energy independent? (Hell, even Bush has decried the level of America's oil dependence; he just hasn't offered any concrete proposals to address it.)

A Marshall Plan to make America energy independent by, say, the year 2013 would also portray Dems as a party of ideas, as a party focused on the future.

It not only makes good policy sense, but I think it can be sold to those Bubba voters as a way to stick it to those Middle Eastern oil barons. And it can be sold to entrepreneurial types as a way to spawn a whole new generation of innovation and business activity.

When we decided it was so critical to land a man on the friggin' moon, we did it. Surely, with so much more at stake today than just American pride, we can free ourselves of the oil addiction.

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