he world is running out of oil. That's the stark warning of British billionaire Richard Branson -- founder of Virgin airlines and numerous other energy-hungry businesses -- who predicts a crisis sometime before 2015. "The next five years will see us face another crunch -- the oil crunch," he writes in an introduction to a new report on the issue. But petro-alarmists have been talking about "peak oil," which they say will push gas prices to $10 a gallon and beyond, for years. How concerned should we be that Branson has added his voice to the chorus? (Watch Richard Branson warn about an oil crunch)
Listen to what Branson says: Peak oil predictions have always smacked of "extreme, near-nutcase alarmism," says Rowena Mason in the Daily Telegraph. But when a "highly respected chief executive" makes such a warning as part of a well-research report, we should sit up and listen. It's debatable whether peak oil is "imminent", but it's "common sense" to ask how prepared we are for such an event.
"You don't need to be a Mad Max survivalist to take 'peak oil' seriously"
Relax. We've got plenty of oil: The "oil pessimists" should relax, says Hana Aladawi in the National (Dubai). "Gross demand" for oil is "well below" world production capacity, and we're still finding plenty of new sources. "Alternative energy" won't take off until it's "cheaper" than producing oil. And when it is, the "transition will take place with" plenty of recoverable oil "left in the ground."
"We're running into oil rather than running out"
Just in case, it's time to build more nuke plants: It's tempting to write off peak oil forecasters like Branson as "self-interested scaremongers," says Patience Wheatcroft in the Wall Street Journal. But "even if the gloomsters should turn out to be wrong, the core of their message surely deserves attention." That means Western governments need to look at "alternatives" — especially nuclear power which offers the best option for weaning our dependence on oil.
"The next crisis: prepare for peak oil"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why I'm a pro-life liberal
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- Why we can't stop procrastinating, according to science
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- If a nuclear bomb exploded in downtown Washington, what should you do?
- How Ukraine can fend off the Russians, in 7 simple steps
- These stunning travel photos remind us that we're all just amateurs with iPhones
- 7 ways to quickly become a master at anything
Subscribe to the Week