John Tierney channels his inner Julian Simon to make $5000 (HT: Steven Miller, Dean Stansel, Shikha Sood Dalmia, and Tom G. Palmer). Lo and behold, the average price of oil in 2010 wasn’t over $200 per barrel. Naturally, his victory hasn’t convinced some skeptics who persist in claiming the end of cheap oil. Here are a couple of graphs from the Energy Information Administration (PDF). It’s true that the prices of some fossil fuels have increased in the last decade, but I’m pretty sure that has a lot more to do with petroleum geopolitics than it has to do with resource constraints.
Environmental alarmism is a peculiar brand of apocalyptic mysticism dressed in a lab coat rather than a priestly robe. I’ll have more to say about this in my review of Robert H. Nelson’s excellent The New Holy Wars, which will appear in The Freeman soon. The myth that we are running out of energy (or natural resources) is one that won’t go away, even though environmental pessimism has been found a bit wanting. Here’s a Google Ngram of the phrase “the end of cheap oil” since 1950, which was much more frequent in the 1970s and 1980s than today. For the sake of comparison, here’s another graph of the frequency with which the world “wolf” appeared.