Monday, June 23, 2008

Why we must endure high oil prices

There is no doubt that the continued rise in oil prices will have impacts across our economy and daily lives for quite some time. A decade ago if you were told that oil was going to surpass $100 per barrel, most people would have responded with "I would sell my car" or "the economy would crumble".

We are feeling an impact in the economy but it has not crumbled (not yet at least), and people are still buying cars. Regardless, while it is painful, we must endure these high prices for very good reasons.

The main reason is that we now have a problem. The oil industry has been in a depressive state for many decades; the result is that little investment and innovation is created. North America has enjoyed a long history of cheap fuel prices (except for a few minor blips) and as a result has developed around this abundance of cheap fuel. Big cars, big highways, inefficient transportation are a natural side effect. Why can't we just produce or refine more fuel? The reason is that when an industry has little innovation or investment in technology, don't expect refineries to be built.

Amidst these high prices also exists an opportunity. This is an opportunity for change and innovation. Hybrid vehicle technology and alternate fuel sources have been around for years. Though while fuel prices have been low, there has been little incentive to work towards an alternative. Today, people are starting to make better choices or at least being aware of choices, hybrid and alternate fuel technologies are on everyones mind and I can ensure you that investment and technology becomes a major focus.

This may surprise some, but we will NEVER run out of oil. That is, as long as prices keep going up (even if the supply really is depleting), this increase in price will drive innovation. Problems and opportunity create innovation. At some point, changes in habits and technology will provide a solution to this problem.

Many nations have endured and prospered with relatively high oil prices, and there are many ways of coping. It may mean a few changes, but change in general is painful. For now we must endure high oil prices and the inconvenience that comes with it.

I have my own ideas on how we can cope, and everyone probably has their own. Though I urge those who merely complain to take some action. 

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