Thinking Seriously

America's first energy secretary says we're running out of oil. It is a warning worth heeding.

Issue: Winter 2005-2006

THE RUN-UP in gasoline and other energy prices-with its impact on consumers' purchasing power-has captured the public's attention after two decades of relative quiescence. Though energy mavens argue energy issues endlessly, it is only a sharp rise in price that captures the public's attention. A perfect storm-a combination of the near-exhaustion of OPEC's spare capacity, serious infrastructure problems (most notably insufficient refining capacity) and the battering that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita inflicted on the Gulf Coast have driven up the prices of oil and oil products beyond what OPEC can control-and beyond what responsible members of the cartel prefer. They, too, see the potential for worldwide recession and recognize that it runs counter to their interests. But the impact is not limited to economic effects.

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