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Free Market Project

3/7/2006 12:47:26 AM

Updated 02/24/06

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‘War, Famine, Pestilence and Death’
USA Today gives apocalyptic view of declining oil supply before admitting it might not come to pass.

By Amy Menefee
Free Market Project
October 17, 2005

Send this page to a friend! (click here)     The Four Horsemen have finally arrived.

     USA Today’s David Lynch took readers through the “peak oil” debate in an October 17 cover story, and the picture was grim. Though he called them a “vocal minority,” Lynch gave a lavish introduction to those who believe the world is quickly running out of oil – among them a Princeton University professor emeritus named Kenneth Deffeyes. Deffeyes predicted only the worst in store for the earth: “The least-bad scenario is a hard landing, global recession worse than the 1930s,” he said. “The worst case borrows from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: war, famine, pestilence and death.” Lynch followed with, “He’s not kidding.”

     The article’s subheading read, “‘Peak oil’ advocates say brief gas shortages, soaring pump prices could become permanent way of life.” That was only part of the economic devastation the article envisioned, though Lynch included the free market perspective deeper in the article.

     â–Ş Lynch said global demand would keep rising, pitting American consumers against the rest of the world in an oily “bidding war.” He predicted “soaring” prices on all sorts of oil-related energy. However, much farther down in the article, he included energy researcher Daniel Yergin’s view: that technological advances in the free market will continue to change both the supply and demand scenes just as they have in the past. On the supply end, advances in drilling and oil detection have brought the industry a long way, Yergin noted. Meanwhile, consumers are demanding more energy-efficient cars on the other end.

     â–Ş Lynch cited an estimate that “the cost of finding and developing new sources of oil has risen about 15 percent annually.” Yet,
in other media,  oil companies are chided for making profits – profits they could pour back into research. Lynch, however, hinted at the fact that profits drive innovation: “As oil prices – now about $63 a barrel – stay elevated, so-called unconventional supplies of oil become economically feasible.”


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