One of the world’s top journalists, Chrystia Freeland, brings some powerful new evidence forward that supports Via Meadia’s view about an age of energy abundance. Reporting on a Harvard study about the implications of new sources of oil and gas across the world, Freeland writes:
Thanks in part to technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking, we are entering a new age of abundant oil. As the energy expert Leonardo Maugeri contends in a recent report published by the Belfer Center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, “contrary to what most people believe, oil supply capacity is growing worldwide at such an unprecedented level that it might outpace consumption.”
Maugeri, a research fellow at the Belfer Center and a former oil industry executive, bases that assertion on a field-by-field analysis of most of the major oil exploration and development projects in the world. He concludes that “by 2020, the world’s oil production capacity could be more than 110 million barrels per day, an increase of almost 20 percent.” Four countries will lead the coming oil boom: Iraq, the United States, Canada and Brazil.
This echoes what Via Meadia has been saying in a few posts about an upcoming revolution in global energy. The geopolitical consequences of these changes will upend many conventional assumptions — about US decline, the role of energy conflict in 21st century politics and several others.
Freeland has a few words of wisdom for environmentalists:
Political progress in combating climate change has been slow, but the battle for hearts and minds, especially of the younger generation, is being won. That political capital can be lost in an instant if the environmental movement allows itself to be equated with opposition to one of the lone sources of growth – and of good blue-collar jobs – at a time of global economic stagnation.
A final conclusion to draw from the next oil revolution is a little more existential. This is yet another reminder that what both common sense and expert consensus assure us to be true very often isn’t.
In other words, environmentalists need to understand that the rising generation needs growth and good jobs, and policies that aim to block economic development will fail.
Freeland concludes, as Via Meadia often does, that the science is complex, and though at first glance more oil production from unconventional sources has troubling implications for the environment, prediction models can be turned upside down by technologies and developments we can’t foresee.
The new economics and geopolitics of energy are real; they are changing the ground under our feet. Environmentalists are not the only people who will have to adjust to a future that doesn’t match our forecasts.