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I don't know if Card is right about the collapse of civiliation, but he sure doesn't understand the economics of natural resources.

He writes: "There is a finite amount of oil in the world and the free market...cannot create any more oil. Yes, other energy sources will certainly be invented to make up for the missing oil--but there will be a horrible dislocation beforehand with an almost certain collapse of the global economy and the resulting deaths and misery."

He seems assume that we'll just wake up one morning and find all the oil is gone. In reality, of course, we'll notice when known oil reserves start getting smaller (instead of continuing to grow as they have). The price of oil should start to rise many decades before the oil "runs out" (which it will never actually do, because as the price rises we'll use less and less of it as we switch to other things). By that time, scientific progress will likely make it much easier for us to find good replacements. And it's not as if we're not working on replacements right now, it just doesn't make economic sense to switch to them yet.

By his argument, maybe we should never use any oil at all, because even a small amount is unsustainable!

A much much better reason to cut down on oil use is the threat of global warming.

Spoken like a true economist, Ed. Market prices will adjust, consumers and producers will adjust to price signals by consuming less and discovering more (both oil and alternative technologies), and civilization will muddle on for another thousand years. I always get a kick out of the-sky-is-falling biology types who think one day we'll wake up and find we're out of oil or zinc or platinum, as if they know the first thing about resource markets. Although (to mollify the dozens of biologists who read this blog) I have come around to thinking they are more or less right about global warming. Glaciers and icebergs don't lie.

Don't worry. Soon we'll be using cars with hydrogen cells. :) The prophecies about the near future are dark but then things are supposed to get VERY bright.

There are still big problems with hydrogen cars. But remember that fuel cells are really just acting as batteries. You still need a power source. Right now that is primarily oil. Unless there is a major breakthrough in one of the two kinds of fusion we'll still have to make some big decisions regarding power. Personally I think people need to reconsider fission. However the politics is such that I don't know if they well. On the other hand China is about to go big guns in a building spree of nuclear power plants.

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