A Brief History of the Future

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At the current growth rate of consumption, reserves will only last another 230 years for coal, 70 for gas, and 50 for oil. For oil, the lack of investment could lead to shortages and significant price hikes around 2020. But we must also take into account Venezuela’s heavy oil, Canada’s oil sands, as well as oil shales. Canada’s oil sands alone could produce as much energy as the entirety of Saudi Arabia’s oil. Even if their extraction has environmentally devastating consequences and requires a significant energy supply, extracting oil from oil shales requires even more energy, in the form of coal, than the amount that can be recovered in the form of oil. Gas, on the other hand, seems more plentiful in the long run, but will require heavy transportation investments, and carries major geopolitical risks. In addition, twenty years from now, it will possible to convert coal and gas into oil products at a reasonable cost, which will double the quantity of oil available. For another century, the availability of oil will remain simply a question of cost.

Jacques Attali.

Excerpt from “Une brève histoire de l’Avenir” (a brief history of the future),

Fayard editions (2007)

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