Retiring the Oil Rhetoric

Published August 7, 2006

Dear Editor:

Your editorial on “Oil’s twilight” [August 6] sounded the alarm over declining oil reserves and raised the specter of “an apocalyptic post-petroleum world.” Missing from the column were some inconvenient facts, such as:

  • Supply limits aren’t likely to restrain consumption until the middle of the century or later, allowing 50 years or more for a gradual and economical transition. Much greater changes in technology and lifestyle have occurred over much shorter periods.
  • Billions of dollars are already being spent every year to find and commercialize alternative fuels and ways to achieve greater fuel economy. These investments are paying off: For example, we could all choose to buy a car right now with twice or three times the fuel economy of the car or truck we now drive, but current fuel prices (even at $3.29 a gallon) make the savings worth less than the power, comfort, safety, and other values we would have to give up.
  • The economies of the world’s developed countries are rapidly “de-carbonizing,” meaning they use less fossil fuel to produce a dollar of goods and services than they used to. That process, driven by markets and not by government or newspaper editorials, will diffuse and avoid any future energy crisis.

The “running-out-of-oil problem” needs to be marked “clearly understood” and “already solved,” and not dusted off every few years and hailed as a new crisis in need of immediate and urgent action.


Joseph L. Bast

Joseph L. Bast ([email protected]) is president of The Heartland Institute.