The Breaking Point for the Supply of Oil?

A recent story in the New York Times provides a fascinating and fairly balanced look at worldwide oil supply and demand. In brief, the story is that we don’t know for sure, but the long-term prospects are cause for concern. The issue is whether new reserves can be discovered and exploited fast enough to keep up with growing demand, in particular, as China becomes more industrialized and more dependent on oil.

There are those who go around talking about “peak oil,” apparently suggesting that soon all of us will be riding bicycles.

I am not one of those people.

Cars and trucks are currently the dominate forms of transportation in the United States, and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable future. Even if oil supplies dry up, it is likely that motor vehicle technology will gradually shift to other sources of energy, thus perhaps making oil and gasoline obsolete but not motor vehicles and roads.

But the cost of gasoline will likely rise significantly over time, if not overnight. We are already seeing that with the current high gasoline prices. Of course, we have seen gasoline prices go up before and they eventually came down. Gasoline prices will probably fall somewhat after summer ends. But the long-term trend is upward.

As the price of gas rises, people won’t suddenly stop driving cars and trucks. But failing to plan is planning to fail. And those communities, states or nations that plan for a diversified transportation system that provides multiple practical transportation choices for both people and freight will have an economic advantage over those who don’t.

In particular, Oregon and especially the Portland metro area should strive to provide of a diversified transportation system, for economic and security reasons as well as for environmental reasons. We can and must do better in planning for a strong economic future for Oregon, in part, built on a well-diversified transportation system. To do otherwise would be to bury our heads in the (Saudi Arabian) sand.

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