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December 28, 2010

Ex-Shell President: Gas Might Go Up To $5 a Gallon in 2012

The one good thing is that both parties have a narrative/answer for this -- the Republicans, expanding domestic drilling, including in ANWR, and the Democrats, filling out tanks with starshine and rainbows -- but prices at this level will compel moving on both. The public may still want their starshine and rainbows, but they're not going to be content with only that option.

"I'm predicting actually the worst outcome over the next two years which takes us to 2012 with higher gasoline prices," he said.

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with Oil Price Information Service says Americans will see gasoline prices hit the $5 a gallon mark in the next decade, but not by 2012.

"That wolf is out there and it's going to be at the door...I agree with him that we'll see those numbers at some point this decade but not yet." Kloza said.

"The demand is still sluggish enough in some of the mature economies."

Instapundit quotes John Tierny on oil, and Malthusian pessimism against Cornucopian optimism.

I called Mr. Simmons to discuss a bet. To his credit — and unlike some other Malthusians — he was eager to back his predictions with cash. He expected the price of oil, then about $65 a barrel, to more than triple in the next five years, even after adjusting for inflation. He offered to bet $5,000 that the average price of oil over the course of 2010 would be at least $200 a barrel in 2005 dollars.

I took him up on it, not because I knew much about Saudi oil production or the other “peak oil” arguments that global production was headed downward. I was just following a rule learned from a mentor and a friend, the economist Julian L. Simon.

As the leader of the Cornucopians, the optimists who believed there would always be abundant supplies of energy and other resources, Julian figured that betting was the best way to make his argument. Optimism, he found, didn’t make for cover stories and front-page headlines.

No matter how many cheery long-term statistics he produced, he couldn’t get as much attention as the gloomy Malthusians like Paul Ehrlich, the best-selling ecologist. Their forecasts of energy crises and resource shortages seemed not only newsier but also more intuitively correct. In a finite world with a growing population, wasn’t it logical to expect resources to become scarcer and more expensive?

As an alternative to arguing, Julian offered to bet that the price of any natural resource chosen by a Malthusian wouldn’t rise in the future. Dr. Ehrlich accepted and formed a consortium with two colleagues at Berkeley, John P. Holdren and John Harte, who were supposed to be experts in natural resources. In 1980, they picked five metals and bet that the prices would rise during the next 10 years.

By 1990, the prices were lower, and the Malthusians paid up, although they didn’t seem to suffer any professional consequences. Dr. Ehrlich and Dr. Holdren both won MacArthur “genius awards” (Julian never did). Dr. Holdren went on to lead the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and today he serves as President Obama’s science adviser.

Julian, who died in 1998, never managed to persuade Dr. Ehrlich or Dr. Holdren or other prominent doomsayers to take his bets again.

The Malthusians seem to forget that many limitations on resources are imposed by lack of human will, lack of human energy, and lack of human knowledge, and that rising prices in any particular sector have a habit of increasing those scarce supplies.


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posted by Ace at 04:26 PM

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