Some experts believe the age of oil is near its end. Others insist that there are trillions of untapped barrels left and that the future of oil depends more on what happens above ground than below.
We’re getting better at stretching our supply. According to Yergin, the 1970s oil shocks set off three decades of previously unheard-of energy efficiency in the US, allowing the economy to grow 150 percent while energy consumption grew only 25 percent. By the time oil production plateaus, he says, ”I think we’ll be driving cars that get 110 miles to the gallon, 120 miles to the gallon.” To assume we won’t be able to adjust in time, Yergin says, ”means you think the technological revolution that began in the 18th century is going to end.”
Yergin, however, is eager to dispel any charge of complacency. He is concerned about the future of oil, he insists, it’s just that what concerns him is taking place aboveground, not below. Today’s tightened supply, after all, is due not to geology but geopolitics the lack of foreign investment in Iran, the chaos in Iraq, the tumultuous politics of Venezuela, rebel attacks in Nigeria.
”It’s politics within countries, the timing of decision-making, the clash of nations, those are the things I worry about. Finding the oil, he suggests, is the easy part.”