The handwringing about running out of hydrocarbons is really quite absurd. The Fisher-Tropsch process is not particularly efficient nor economical but it is perfectly serviceable. In other words the coal resources we have can keep us supplied with liquid fuels for centuries to come. More efficient processes sourcing hydrogen from natural gas rather than water could be developed (they are known to work but no one has yet scaled them up to try industrial-scale CTLs, as far as I know), so the bottom line is that we have ample hydrocarbons for centuries to come. ‘Peak hydrocarbon’ is just not on the horizon nor in the foreseeable future.
After nearly a decade of warnings that the world’s oil supply was running out, Americans now are hearing about technology breakthroughs that can unlock vast U.S. deposits of natural gas, help reverse a 40-year slide in domestic oil production and perhaps transform America into the next Middle East.
But despite the euphoria, there’s a major problem: The looming American oil glut may simply not be enough to sate the United States and the rest of motorized humanity.
Experts say soaring demand from China and India is sure to send oil prices back above $100 a barrel. A supply disruption in the coming years, they say, could trigger panic, gasoline hoarding and perhaps lead to lines at the pumps akin to the 1973 Arab oil embargo and the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Global shortfalls of other fuels also could develop sooner than many people think, as a planet of nearly 7 billion people and more than 1 billion gasoline-gulping vehicles strains the limits of combustible energy resources that are the underpinning of modern civilization.
While oil industry officials take strong issue with these dim views, critics charge that governments here and abroad have been less than candid about future oil supplies and the ramifications of failing to shift to alternative fuels.
One outspoken Energy Department consultant, Robert Hirsch, alleged that the administrations of both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have engaged in a coverup of the likelihood of an oil shortage. Hirsch predicted a shortfall will hit in the next four years and send shockwaves through the world economy, possibly leading to gasoline rationing.