When Daniel Yergin published his Pulitzer Prize-winning book "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power" in 1991, China was not a factor in the world oil market.
Since then, China has urbanized at a speed and scale the world has never seen, developing buildings, powerplants, roads and high-speed rail. That’s just one of the major changes that have occurred in the 21st century that have radically reshaped our geopolitical future and our global scramble for oil. This year’s tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, the shifting political sands that make up the Arab Spring, the development of new areas and technology for oil production that could lessen our Middle East dependence and the push toward renewable energy are some of the many factors that are changing the way we think about oil.
While many fear that we’re reaching the end of the Earth’s oil supply, a theory known as “peak oil," Yergin argues that we have decades of future production growth ahead of us – that the peak is more of a “plateau” that we won’t reach until mid-century. But anxiety about oil supply persists, not least because of our increasing appetite for energy. As billions of people become part of the global economy, their incomes and their energy needs increase exponentially. Currently, oil use in the developed world averages 14 barrels per person per year and three barrels per person in the developing world.
How will the world cope when billions of people go from three barrels to six? Do we truly have enough? How does the continuing quest for energy shape our planet’s political and economic future?
Daniel Yergin, author of "The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World," and chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates
Yergin has a talk and book signing Tuesday, October 11 at 7:30 p.m. as part of Zócalo Public Square.