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Mon 1 Aug 2005 04:00 AM

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The end of oil? Who cares?

The end of oil seems to be approaching sooner than imagined. What was once thought to be the view of a few doomsters is now becoming accepted wisdom.

The end of oil seems to be approaching sooner than imagined. What was once thought to be the view of a few doomsters is now becoming accepted wisdom. Increasingly, neither the producing nor consuming world has much control over the price of oil, largely because no-one can assure the world that the reserves are going to last for generations to come. The latest ad campaign from Chevron Texaco suggests that even the world’s large oil companies are waking up to the fact that they have to look at alternative sources of energy.

“We need your help. There are many factors in the new energy equation, and we encourage you to consider all of them. We call upon scientists and educators, politicians and policymakers, environmentalists, leaders of industry and each one of you to be part of reshaping the next era of energy.”

While the realisation that oil is running out is heartening, how we are going to replace it is a question that alarms consumers and producers alike. Organisations like the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas, for example, can only advise the producing countries to, “take it slow.” However, countries like Oman have shown, through their declining production and expensive methods of recovery, that the era of easy oil is over.

It may seem profitable to pump out all the oil when consumers like the USA and China have demand for it, but what really happens when giants like Saudi Arabia begin declining? Are there alternative sources of energy that we can rely on?

As things currently stand, there are none that are both viable and politically acceptable. If we begin the process of generating ideas today, we may possibly have a solution twenty years hence, when we completely run out of oil.

Another question is who is going to invest the time and money required for this effort. The oil producing nations are busy reaping the benefits of their available resources. Countries like Oman are too busy investing in more expensive oil recovery methods or even changing their operating companies to check if there is a mistake in their stated reserves, while the oil guzzlers like the United States are contemplating suing the Opec countries if they do not produce enough oil for the hungry American consumer.

So, although the time seems to be ripe to search for renewable sources of energy, the people who need to do it may not want or be prepared to.

Perhaps Chevron is right to call upon the general public to solve the problem, since the producers and the politicians don’t seem to have the time nor the inclination.

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