SOUND BITES and sloganeering just won't cut it anymore. Energy security-defined as reliable supplies at reasonable cost obtained in an environmentally sustainable manner-is no longer assured. All the presidential candidates loudly proclaim that they will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and, as a bonus, curb carbon emissions. Yet these same politicians, for the most part, have overlooked a serious problem. In so doing, they risk missing an important opportunity.
We are on the verge of an oil-production crunch-in which the growth in the global demand for oil will outpace supply. This is expected to occur, if present trends continue, after 2012.
It is important to note that the world is not "running out" of oil. This is, rather, a problem of production capacity, due, in part, to disappointing exploration results in recent years as well as inadequate investment by producing countries. When combined with massive and continuing demand in the United States and soaring new demand in Asia and the Middle East, conditions have been created for a supply crunch. The U.S. appetite for gasoline and surging Chinese oil and gas demand both have proven surprisingly resistant to high prices. The world currently consumes about eighty-five million barrels a day, up from eighty-three million a decade ago, and will need evermore oil in the future.