World Running on Empty?

Future fuel shortages are a generation or two away, writes CSIRO official

Published: 22-Aug-2003

Although running vehicles and aircraft on oil-derived liquids may have a limited future, there are many alternatives to heavy oil and oil shale that involve using fossil fuels as intermediate steps to a hydrogen economy (2 August, p 4). The technology for converting gas to liquid fuel is improving constantly and most of the major oil companies now have such plants. Here in Australia most taxis and many cars run on gas, and most modern petrol engines can be easily and relatively cheaply converted.

So the probability of suddenly finding nothing at the pump to put in your car is very low for at least the next generation, and maybe two. You may pay more for it - but the enormous global differences in price at the pump suggest that there is lots of room for price adjustment in the rich economies. Just compare the US price of 40 ยข per litre with the British equivalent of $1.30. Whether or not there is the political will is a different question, of course. Developing countries may have to look at political solutions such as state oil companies to keep prices down and ensure that their resources are fully utilised for the benefit of their populations rather than the benefit of the multinationals' shareholders.

Cedric Griffiths
CSIRO Petroleum
Urrbrae, South Australia

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