Running Out of Gas

The transition from the era of cheap oil to whatever replaces it will bear with it many grave economic and political consequences.

Issue: Spring 1998

In the not-yet-named era in which we now live beyond the Cold War, a philosophically edged disagreement has arisen among our literati and social seers as to just how dangerous the world really is. Much of the discussion seems to turn on temperament or historic intuition rather than evidence. But of all the dangers cited by the more pessimistic among us--unconventional weapons proliferation, clashes of civilizations, global warming and environmental despoliation, rampant ethno-nationalism, and the rest--one almost never hears of the possibility of a major, world-wrenching energy crisis. And yet such a difficulty is at least as likely as any of these other would-be terrors. Given the false alarms that have been raised in the past, this assertion is certain to be received with considerable skepticism. It is an assertion I intend to justify in what follows.

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