The Twilight Era of Petroleum
by Michael T. Klare
Several recent developments -- persistently high gasoline prices, unprecedented warnings from the Secretary of Energy and the major oil companies, China's brief pursuit of the American Unocal Corporation -- suggest that we are just about to enter the Twilight Era of Petroleum, a time of chronic energy shortages and economic stagnation as well as recurring crisis and conflict. Petroleum will not exactly disappear during this period -- it will still be available at the neighborhood gas pump, for those who can afford it -- but it will not be cheap and abundant, as it has been for the past 30 years. The culture and lifestyles we associate with the heyday of the Petroleum Age -– large, gas-guzzling cars and SUVs, low-density suburban sprawl, strip malls and mega-malls, cross-country driving vacations, and so on -- will give way to more constrained patterns of living based on a tight gasoline diet. While Americans will still consume the lion's share of global petroleum stocks on a daily basis, we will have to compete far more vigorously with consumers from other countries, including China and India, for access to an ever-diminishing pool of supply.