Is this good or bad news?

The days of cheap oil wane

Michael Klare reports that:

…the recent release of the 2009 IEO has provided energy watchers with a feast of significant revelations. By far the most significant disclosure: the IEO predicts a sharp drop in projected future world oil output (compared to previous expectations) and a corresponding increase in reliance on what are called "unconventional fuels" — oil sands, ultra-deep oil, shale oil, and biofuels.

So here's the headline for you: For the first time, the well-respected Energy Information Administration appears to be joining with those experts who have long argued that the era of cheap and plentiful oil is drawing to a close. Almost as notable, when it comes to news, the 2009 report highlights Asia's insatiable demand for energy and suggests that China is moving ever closer to the point at which it will overtake the United States as the world's number one energy consumer. Clearly, a new era of cutthroat energy competition is upon us [links added].

Oil's growing scarcity should undoubtedly prove inconvenient, messy and bloody for those who must endure the passing of the oil age. "Big or small," as Klare asserts elsewhere (p. 27), "conflicts over oil will constitute a significant feature of the global security environment in the decades to come." Bloodshed is likely.

Yet, despite the catastrophe that may be awaiting humanity, the anticipated lack of oil could become good news if the destructive and wasteful human species can make a quick transition to environmentally sustainable and politically rational forms of life. That is, the news would be good but only if the growing scarcity of oil proves to be "a" — if not "the" — motivating condition which compels human beings to learn to live within the limits set by first nature and, more importantly, with each other. Thus considered, resource depletion is above all a socio-political problem, and it must be addressed as such if humanity wishes to use effectively its considerable technical know-how to master the loss of this vital resource. Still, given current circumstances and given what we ought to know about the human capacity to generate globally cooperative and inclusive solutions to what are global problems, it would be silly to indulge in a naïve optimism that rising above this specific problem will be easy, for there are no obvious reasons at hand which would prompt a prudent person to expect this happy result to come to pass any time soon.

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