For a while, it seemed like rising oil prices and shrinking supplies might help us kick our greenhouse gas addiction. But if recent research holds true, we won’t be able to rely on the market to rein in global warming any time soon. In a paper published by Harvard’s Geopolitics of Energy Project, Leonardo Maugeri, a former oil executive and current research fellow, concludes: “Oil is not in short supply. From a purely physical point of view, there are huge volumes of conventional and unconventional oils still to be developed, with no ‘peak oil’ in sight. The real problems concerning future oil production are above the surface, not beneath it, and relate to political decisions and geopolitical instability.”
Maugeri does a comprehensive analysis of oil resources and predicts production could increase by nearly 20 percent in the coming decade and prices could collapse, thanks in part to the new opportunities for tapping tar sands and producing shale oil by hydraulic fracturing. “The Western Hemisphere could return to a pre-World War II status of theoretical oil self-sufficiency,” Maugeri writes, “and the United States could dramatically reduce its oil import needs.”
“Leonardo Maugeri’s 75-page report, Oil: The Next Revolution, might be the most important document in public policy today,” writes Bruce Fisher, director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies at Buffalo State College, in Artvoice. “Cheaper and endlessly abundant oil for the next couple of decades means, one expects, that the alternative-fuels industry will get slammed. Energy-efficiency programs will get ignored or at least unfunded. Greenhouse gas emissions won’t be curtailed.” Cheaper oil also means more suburban growth, he writes.
“There is enough oil in the ground to deep-fry the lot of us,” writes George Monbiot of The Guardian, “and no obvious means to prevail upon governments and industry to leave it in the ground.”
The Sierra Club’s blog has a more optimistic take: “Getting beyond oil, it turns out, isn’t something that we’ll do because we run out of it. It’s something we’ll do because we need to preserve our livable planet.”